The Reading Culture at St Dunstan’s
At St Dunstan’s we recognise that promoting reading for pleasure is a vital part of education. Reading fluently allows access to cultural capital as well as developing imagination, vocabulary and general knowledge. A good grounding in reading is essential for making links between subjects, understanding social and cultural codes and, of course, enhancing success in formal exams. The average reading age required for GCSE texts is 15 years and 8 months and so developing the ‘reading muscle’ in the years leading up to GCSEs is a marathon rather than a sprint - after all, none of us would turn up to participate in an elite athletics event with no training! Training to read well is as important as training for physical prowess.
One way in which we promote reading in our school is through our DEAR programme - Drop Everything and Read - every morning for the first ten minutes of the day, students read a book of their choice during tutor time.
Accelerated Reader is a more formalised programme to foster fluency in, and enjoyment of, reading for pleasure. The starting point is a self adapting reading assessment which is taken three times a year by Key Stage 3 students; the first assessment establishes a reading age and a range within which students are recommended to choose books; all the books in our library are linked to the system so students can clearly see which books are suggested for them. As each book is finished, students take a quiz on the computer system and each quiz that is passed contributes to their overall word count. Awards and prizes are given for achieving statuses such as ‘word millionaire’ and the quizzes allow students to recall knowledge of the books read thus building their ability to retain information and enhancing their progress. The regular tests measure progress in students’ reading ages.
Reciprocal Reading is a new strategy being trialled at the school with year 7. Reciprocal Reading focuses on the ‘Fab Four’ skills of good readers - ie Summarising, Clarifying, Questioning and Predicting. By using the technique of ‘name it to tame it’ we make clear which skills we can employ to help us read more fluently (a good analogy is learning to drive; when we first start we have to remind ourselves of every step - by the time we have been driving for a few years, the steps become automatic. The same applies to reciprocal reading.) With the pilot groups we have seen real engagement with reading and great progress has been made by the students involved. Reciprocal reading strategies are equally effective for fiction and nonfiction, so they are a great boost for comprehension and retention of knowledge. Watch this space for a video for parents to show how you can support your child in using the ‘Fab Four’ at home!
Nessy is an educational, multimedia computer game which is designed to help students of all abilities learn to read, write, spell and type. It is particularly beneficial for students who have dyslexic characteristics, have phonological issues, have English as an additional language or whose reading age is two years or more behind their chronological age. After an initial phonics, reading and spelling baseline assessments students are assigned personalised reading and spelling targets.
Tailored for the specific needs of each individual there are 10 levels which continually recap and review previous work. Multisensory activities are used to teach reading and spelling at the same time. It is a highly structured, sequential, cumulative and systematic phonics based learning programme which students can work on at their own speed and ability.
Students make their own avatar and collect Nessy nuggets as a reward for their efforts. The Nessy programme gives detailed reports on each student clearly identifying progress and areas for development.
Nessy will primarily be aimed at students in Year 7 and 8 who struggle with reading. They will have four, twenty five minute sessions per fortnight run by the HLTAs and TAs. The aim is to allow students to access reading confidently and to enjoy reading for pleasure as well as information which, in turn, will allow them to retain and build on knowledge shared in the classroom.
Read, Write Inc is a literacy programme which builds on students’ knowledge and understanding of phonics, spelling, reading and comprehension; it also includes reading speed words and proofreading.
Star reading tests are used to identify those students who might benefit from this type of intervention. Students are then given a second test which is a single word spelling test (WRAT). Read, Write Inc is suitable for any students who have a reading age below their chronological age. Working in threes and fours, students will complete 5 modules over 10 weeks.They will usually have two fifty minute sessions per week under the supervision of an HLTA. Students are able to access this support as long as they require it. Read, Write Inc is another effective strategy for encouraging students to become fluent readers thus allowing them to become more confident, access texts and retain knowledge as well as developing their ‘reading for pleasure muscle’.
As a school, we also celebrate World Book Day and World Poetry Day.
World Book Day sees events such as a whole school assembly; staff and students dressing up as their favourite characters; literary treasure hunts around the school and ‘guess the mystery reader’ competitions. On World Poetry Day, staff start lessons with lines from their favourite poems and staff’s much loved favourite poems are shared across the school via the briefing sheet in tutor time.
Another key focus for St Dunstan’s is to have visiting authors come and work with students. Visits include discussion of the authors’ books, how they came to write them and writing workshops to help students develop their writing skills inspired by books they have enjoyed.
Future planned events include book exchanges, reading week and shared books to be read in tutor time.