What is reading?

The first thing, as teachers, we have to do is fully understand what reading actually is.

It’s easy to think that just by giving children ‘reading comprehension’ after ‘reading comprehension’ that they will become better readers when this is really not the case.

A reading comprehension exercise is your absolute final endpoint in a lot of ways, particularly if each question has a different skill set that needs to be applied.

In order to successfully teach reading, we need to understand what the elements of effective reading are and make sure we explicitly teach these to our children. We should know the progression of these elements and why children need them taught well to become competent readers. As with everything I teach, the question I always ask myself is why? Why am I teaching the children this? You can usually track the progression of that element through to KS3/4 and beyond. One thing I love as a KS1 teacher is being the first to plant that little seed in  child’s mind.

Of course, what underpins the whole system of a good reader is a pleasure of reading and a stamina for reading.

There are so many amazing ideas on how teachers can inspire children to love reading online and I am constantly amazed at how my peers pass on a love of reading to their children. It is such a vital part of the whole ethos of hopefully creating effective readers.

In my first year of Year 2, I was so shocked when my lovely class sat down to complete Reading Paper 2 and … it was horrendous. There were THREE very dry, very chunky texts and my children just didn’t have the reading stamina or resilience to cope with it. I felt so sad that I hadn’t prepared them well enough for that. Many could ‘do the skills’. They simply did not have the resilience or the stamina to cope with so much text at once. As a result, this is something I have really worked on this year.

Of course, in order to read, children need to be able to decode and in KS1 this is a huge part of our reading education. However, I’m really passionate about one thing:

If the objective you are working on is not decoding, read the text to the children, even if they can’t decode it themselves.

Reading is not just about decoding and it is absolutely vital that we ensure we have high expectations for all children and we don’t ‘dumb down’ texts to fit decoding level when children need to be exposed to high quality texts to build reading skills.

Something that is so often missed is fluencyIf we can get children to read a text to a fluent level, we can free up so much of their ‘brain power’ for developing other reading strategies. If you haven’t done this, I implore you to give this a go! I promise you you will be amazed at the difference in children’s ability to think deeper about a text. Herts for Learning have completed great fluency projects and would be a great place to start.

Then we have the comprehension type strategies for reading: making sure we activate prior knowledge, how we teach children to read for meaning, teaching children how to gain an understanding of new vocabulary and, of course, inference.

In order to develop a greater understanding of what is read, children also need to be able to make plausible predictions, to generalise, to make links and to summarise texts. To do this children also need to be taught how to navigate a text efficiently.

Over the next few blog posts, I will try to detail how I teach these strategies to my children (appropriate to KS1, of course!) Like I said, I am not an expert, I reflect and change all the time, so be kind and this is just in response to people asking me about reading in KS1 as a lot online is based on KS2.

A massive issue I know we all have is time! Again, everyone needs to do what suits their schools and classes but just to give an idea of my Year 2 class, this is my rough timetable for a typical day.

8.45-9am Rolling registration / Early Morning Work

9-9.25am Reading

9.25-10.10am Maths

10.10-10.45am Assembly / Break

10.45-11.05 Phonics / Spellings

11.05-11.45 English

11.45-12 Story time

12-1 Lunch

1-1.15 SSRT (Sustained Silent Reading Time)

1.15-2 Lesson 1

2-2.45 Lesson 2

2.45-3 Maths Meeting

3-3.15 Home

I tend to cover decoding in phonics / spellings rather than in my reading lessons and also try to listen to a table of readers each day in SSRT which may focus on decoding for an individual reader but again, I adapt that for the needs of my class each year. Reading unlocks so much of the curriculum so there is a big percentage of our timetable given over to it. I appreciate that this may not be possible for other schools.

Over the next few posts, I will explain how I teach reading in my Year 2 class. Hopefully, it helps someone 🙂



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