A move to whole-class reading

From September this year, our four UKS2 classes changed from the typical carousel method of Guided Reading to a whole-class method.

Why we changed to whole-class

I’ve never been a fan of the carousel method, so this was a welcome change for me! After experimenting with a few different ways of using the carousel and failing to see sufficient impact/progress, I turned to the internet to see what everyone else was doing. My mum (@LMisselle1 – year 6 teacher of… forever) has been using the whole-class method for years, and has always sung its praises; however, I wanted to see how whole-class was approached by others – here’s where @MrsPTeach comes in.

Mrs P’s blog has been a *godsend* throughout this whole process. If you are considering it, you must read these:

  • Our solutions to the problems with Guided Reading
  • Guided Reading and the new curriculum
  • How do whole-class reading lessons work?
  • Assessing reading in the 2014 primary curriculum (KS2)
  • Whole-class reading FAQs

I presented the idea to our two reading coordinators and our HT at the beginning of the summer term last year. Our HT agreed we could try it in the two year-5 classes and one year 3/4 class. Instantly, this was so much easier – instead of planning five books in detail for five groups in each class, my partner teacher and I shared the work of planning one book for both classes, which covered us for three weeks. In those three weeks, we studied a book in great detail, allowing all children to access the higher-level questions and hear modelled answers from the HA pupils. We also learnt how to construct a PEE paragraph as a way of constructing a high-level answer.

How it works for us

There are, of course, still a few bumps to be ironed out. But I (and I think the rest of my team) am loving it so far. There are four year-5/6 classes and we all use the same text/stimulus, so planning time and the workload is massively reduced.

Our timetable couldn’t accommodate the two one-hour reading lessons that Mrs P talks about in her blog, so we’ve had to adapt the method to suit us. We have daily 25-minute lessons, with Friday being a ‘reading for pleasure’ session.

The new assessment focuses (again, created by Mrs P) are displayed in all our classrooms and are referred to throughout the lessons: RT (retrieve), I (interpret), C (choice), V (viewpoint), P (perform) and RV (review). The children have already remembered what each “code” means – a lot easier than trying to remember arbitrary numbers and their relevance to the type of question being asked (AF1, AF2, AF3 etc.)

I made this document myself to clarify to my reading coordinators how these new “AFs” relate to the new curriculum.

Here are some extracts from a plan I’ve written for late next term – this is one for some of the songs from Oliver! (I thought it would be fun to learn some of the songs from the musical after we’ve studied the book!)

So far this year in our reading lessons we have analysed a newspaper article, poems, a fiction text and a video clip (the children loved this one – as the skill of decoding was removed, all children could access it from the same level and just focus on their skills of comprehension!)

A typical reading lesson

The lesson would start with a question about the children’s learning the previous day, e.g. “Can you summarise Chapter 5 of Book X in five sentences?” or, “What do you think is going to happen next in the text?” or “Who can describe X and Y’s relationship so far in three words?” or “Can you name five features of the layout of a newspaper article?” and so on.

We would then read the next section of text together on the carpet – a mixture of the teacher and students reading aloud and discussing and language the children don’t understand. We then look at the questions of the day (displayed on the board), what they mean and how the children might answer them. (E.g. in the case of session 4 above, “This is an ‘RT’ question – what does that mean? Retrieve! So the answer is right there in the text somewhere, you’ve just got to find it!” etc.) The children then return to their tables to either continue reading before starting their work or getting straight on with the questions.

My three lowest ability children work with my TA, who works through the same questions as us but with more support. I also take those three children once a week for a reading comprehension intervention, and one is also working with the SENCO on more focused phonics work. My point is that the whole-class method doesn’t hinder the progress of my lower-ability students.

I have grouped my English class into four groups, and each day I take a different group to work with more closely. Again, we look at the same questions but we discuss how we could construct high-level answers. I also ask them more questions about the text to check their understanding.

The ‘extension’ question/s are also displayed on the board so all children can have access to them. When studying The Railway Children at the beginning of the term, we used an abridged version of the text, but for the extension task, we photocopied extracts from the unabridged version for the children to use. Alan Peat’s (@alanpeat) Guided Reading questioning app has been brilliant for helping us think of higher-order questions for the extension.

Using this method, the children now have written in their Guided Reading books every day, which is of a much higher standard than before, when they were only using their books for “time filling” tasks once a week.

The two extension tasks in this book above were to write the video clip as both a diary entry and as a play script.
This is an example of independent work from one of my lower-ability students.

As you can see from these pieces of work, the children write the “assessment code” in the margin next to their answers. I then pink or green these codes depending on whether the children have understood the question/given a sufficient answer or not (this will help us when it comes to our assessment – which “codes” have been “greened” the most in each child’s book?)

I try to mark their GR books every day – it is so easy to mark because every child has answered the same question. A class set of GR books takes me a maximum of 20 minutes to mark. (Funny story – I missed a day once, and a child said, “Oh Miss, why haven’t you marked our books?” I apologised and explained how busy I was last night (marking their other books!) and another child said, “Don’t worry, our Guided Reading books were never marked last year anyway!”)

I can already see an improvement in the way the children are answering the questions now compared to the beginning of the year. Since they’ve realised I’m looking at their books every day, the quality of their writing and presentation has also improved.

Existing problems

Of course, this isn’t the be-all and end-all of teaching reading. We are constantly adapting the way we do things and will continue to do so until we are happy with everything. For me, there are currently two main issues:

1) Resources – it’s fine when we’re doing anything other than a book, as poems/newspapers/articles/reports rarely require much more than one piece of paper between two children. However, when it comes to narrative texts, we do not have enough for one class set (which would work if we rotated plans between the four classes), let alone four class sets.

2) Time – our GR sessions are supposed to be 25 minutes, but it often runs into our English lessons as we get so involved in discussing the text and allowing the children enough time to write developed answers.

Whole-class vs. carousel method

I know the whole-class teaching of reading isn’t for everyone. I’ve had a fair few discussions/debates on Twitter and some people swear by carousel – and if they can make it work for them, great! Here are a few more things I read before convincing my HT/reading coordinator to let us use the whole-class method across the whole of UKS2.

Guided Reading vs Whole-class Reading (opens as a PDF)
Looking Back to Move Forward with Guided Reading (opens as a PDF)
…did I mention Mrs P’s blog? šŸ˜‰

You can read further posts by Miss_RQT (formerly @MissNQT) by clicking here

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