This little piggy…

By Margaret Allen, Strategic Education Manager

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home.

This might be a fun and traditional English language nursery rhyme, but we can use it to draw some light hearted parallels with how reading is approached in primary schools today:

This primary teacher had guided reading,
This primary teacher had whole class,
This primary teacher got to use iPads,
This primary teacher did not,
And this primary teacher went wee wee wee wee all the way home… to spend hours marking!

Obviously this is intended as a bit tongue in cheek, but hopefully it illustrates my point that reading can be approached very differently in any two primary schools – in the same way that any two pupils can have a different starting point when it comes to their reading ability (think Assessment without Levels…).

During my most recent time in the classroom, I taught at a school where guided reading was the preferred approach, and while it was very labour intensive (even with the support of Teaching Assistants) it was without doubt an extremely effective teaching method. The one-to-one reading time gave me the opportunity to better understand progress individuals were making and identify where they needed support.

I’ve also seen whole class reading used as a productive and engaging way of inspiring a love for reading. What seems to be quite a popular approach currently, whole class reading affords the opportunity to stimulate group discussion and a fun forum where you can also hold group quizzes on various parts of the book content. In these circumstances, it is harder to determine individual pupil progress, which is why programmes like Accelerated Reader can really help as the child can take a quiz after reading a book and the instant feedback on progress can be provided by the technology.

In my experience, somewhere between guided and whole class reading probably best balances good practice and practicality… and based on this, I wanted to share a few pointers that I have found particularly useful over the years:

  • Create a culture of reading in the classroom – encourage the class to read anything and everything. Have a number of book boxes per table which each contain a different type of book (ficion and non-fiction, picture books, comics and cookery books). Each day during a quiet reading period, say after lunch, ask the children to choose a book from the box. The next day rotate the boxes around the tables. In my experience this approach helps to support reluctant readers and children who need help ‘getting started’.
  • Try something different – kids will naturally seek out the more popular authors like Roald Dahl and David Walliams… introduce lesser well known authors and promote a termly focus on them. Encourage this ‘lesser known author’ by reading the end of day story/book from them. Their enjoyment of the book with you reading it will not only encourage them to reread it, but it will help broaden their horizons and help them be more adventurous in their future choices.
  • DEAR – Drop Everything And Read. Admittedly I only tried this a few times, but it was only effective when I also read with the children, as the ‘modelling’ effect came into play.
  • Lean on your library – these days it is not as easy to arrange a trip out to the local library, what with health and safety and parental permissions, etc. So why not invite your local library in to visit you? They are crying out to get involved with communities and schools, so ask them what they can do to support your reading activities… it can also help to lighten the load with coming up with new ideas!
  • These are obviously just based on my own experiences. What I would really love is to hear how other primary teachers are creatively addressing the reading challenges in your classrooms, and inspiring even the most relucant readers to engage with turning a page… If you’d like to get in touch, please do via our Facebook page.

    In the meantime, this little piggy is off to make a cup of tea!

    Margaret Allen
    Strategic Education Manager

    Margaret Allen is Strategic Education Manager for Primary schools at Renaissance Learning. She uses practical experience from her time teaching in primary classrooms to help teachers across the UK to get the most out of Accelerated Reader.

    Monthly newsletter