As mentioned, in my previous posts, it is vital for teachers to understand the processes that underpin reading and teach them to children explicitly.
Reading can be thought of as reading for pleasure and reading for meaning. Of course, it is vital to instil a love of reading in children and I am very much a believer of children being empowered to be in control of their own RfP (with, of course, the guidance to signpost authors or books, etc.) In general, I allow my children to read what they like if it is for pleasure. There are so many ideas to build a love of reading in children online so I am not going to go too deeply into it.
Reading for meaning, however, is different. If we want children to become competent readers, we need to make sure the skills required to become one are modelled and taught.
One of the fundamental skills that children need is a stamina for reading and a resilience to keep reading even if it isn’t necessarily easy or hugely enjoyable in that moment. I want to help give children the skills of reading to learn.
Basically, if children don’t read for long enough, they may not get the full benefits from what they read.
Stamina was a huge issue encountered in my first year of the KS1 reading SATS. The children just lost interest.
So how could we build this in KS1? Again, I am no expert. I am just sharing what I do in my Y2 classroom in case it helps anyone else as a lot of resources online are aimed at KS2.
As well as building an ethos of re-reading books at home (see previous post), we have been trialling sustained silent reading in class in KS1.
The idea is that a regular slot is timetabled in for the children to silently read. It needs to be at least twice a week and last year, from Christmas onwards, in Year 2, we did this every day, straight after lunch.
We teach the children how to read. We teach the children what a good reader looks like. We might model this in this session, or in other areas (for example, when reading our class book and we gasp and giggle, I might point out that this is what a good reader does – expresses their emotions when reading, etc.)
We started off making it a bit of a game. We talked about what we thought a good reader did and we made a list of these things and had it viewable throughout each session. This is an example that the wonderful Year 1 class came up with.
Then, for short amounts of time to begin with (one or two minutes), the children would practise being a good reader whilst myself and my LSA walked around and made little distractions (tapping, asking a child a qu, whispering, etc.) We would celebrate and praise those children that were able to remain focused on their reading. The idea being, that they practise being able to read without being easily distracted.
Once the children were used to reading in a more focused way, we then built up the time gradually (by the end of the year, the class were able to read silently for 15-20 minutes and often groaned when it was time to put our books away!)
The role of the adults are vital in this silent reading time, It is not a time to kick back and think, “Phew, I can mark some books!” Early on, sometimes we would model good reading by reading ourselves at that time but the most effective use of adult time is getting around the children and talking to them in the moment about their reading. Depending on the child, this intervention can be personalised. This may be decoding work, it can be vocab checking, it can be fluency work, it can be inference work. It can be anything that that child needs you to help them with with their reading. Often, it was just discussing their books with them and building up a really good idea of them as a reader which helped me recommend more appropriate books to them.
By the end of the year, I can honestly say, that I felt like I knew each of my children as readers so much better than I ever had before and this timetabled silent reading time really helped.
Over a week, both my LSA and I could listen and talk to every child so that is at least twice a week each child has that time.
Another important aspect of the silent reading time is to sometimes get the children to respond in some way to their reading. This can be used to check if they are actually reading for meaning or check understanding or even to help keep them focused during the time. We are building stamina for a reason so it is important to sometimes get them to respond to what they have read.
Sometimes, I would put a task up on the board, e.g. think of a question you want to ask about what you have read, so that they have goals. Sometimes, I would ask them to draw a picture of something they had read. Sometimes, we would have table discussions. For KS2, there are reading response journals that could be adapted for KS1.
One of my favourite ways of asking chn to respond (and is great in KS1) is to use a name grid. I used them all the time in science and English, but the course I went on (mentioned in my first reading post) reminded me that it would be great to use for reading response too!
Have squares with each child’s name in that are big enough to stick a post it note on. Then ask chn to create an individual response, they stick it on their name and, hey presto, you have a really quick way of scanning your class’s response to something.
Below is a picture from science (it’s great for asking children to make predictions!)
When the children sat the end of KS1 assessments, there was no panicked looks at the length of the texts. There was no huffing and sighing. Admittedly, I felt the papers were SO much better this year in terms of length and number of texts, but I definitely feel I had set the children up so much better to be resilient readers (not just for the assessments, for their lifelong journey of readers to learn.)
Silent reading time has been a really important part of my teaching of reading for meaning this year and is definitely something I will continue to review and reflect on next year.