This week’s blog post has been written with teaching assistants in mind. Read on for 10 tips on how to get the most from hearing children read aloud.
Are you sitting comfortably?
Where do you like to read? I have a few favoured places to read. In the summer, I like to read at the bottom of my garden under the dappled shade of our oak tree. On cold winter afternoons I like to sit on our small sofa in front of the fire. And when I read in the evenings I like to crawl into bed , pull up the duvet and put my nose in a good book. I don’t like reading at a table and I don’t like reading standing up. I am a person who needs to be cosy to enjoy a good read. The reason that I’m sharing these personal reading habits is to illustrate the importance of environment for reading. So what does this mean for hearing children read? I appreciate that you can’t wheel in a few beds or necessarily stretch out under the canopy of the trees. What you can do though is to make the most of the environment that you have. Wherever possible, find somewhere comfortable and not too noisy so that you and your children can make the most of reading together.
Less is more
Everyone in education is under pressure. Pressure to get things done; to raise attainment; to have impact…Getting through the readers can be another pressure on our lists. If this is the case for you, try to resist the temptation to rush through your readers. I’m a firm believer in doing less well as a means of avoiding transferring our pressure to the children with whom we work. So, consider hearing fewer children read so that those you do hear get a quality experience, or hearing each child read less but at a more leisurely pace.
Time spent preparing to read is time well spent. Before asking children to read, consider doing some of the following ideas as a way of building their confidence.
- Provide children with pronunciations for new character and place names. It’s incredible how many children lack confidence over the pronunciation of names so this is a quick way to help them tackle new texts and ally their fears about the pronunciation of names.
- Consider doing a ‘walkthrough’ or ‘picture walk’ of new texts so that children build familiarity with the text before they start to read.
- Take the lead by reading a small part of the text to the child. This approach is reassuring as it ‘gets the reading going’ by establishing what is happening in the narrative.
Ready, get set, go
Ask each child if they are ready to read. This includes going to the toilet before they begin, getting a sip of water if they need it and of course gathering their book and reading diary. If you check these things before you start there is less chance of them being used as a reason for a quick break! Revise any strategies that the child has been working on such as using phonics or ‘getting their mouth ready’ for reading and you should be ready for the off.
Revisit and review
When hearing children read a text aloud we’re not always hearing them for the first time. Sometimes, they’ll have taken the book home, read all or some of it to a parent and by the time they come to use they have a considerable amount of knowledge about the text. Do ask them to recap what has happened, to find parts of the text that they enjoyed, encouraging them to give reasons for their opinions.
Patience is a virtue
Demonstrating patience is a challenging asset to develop. Fledgling readers need us to provide time and space so that they can read the texts we give them. Resist the temptation to correct too quickly by counting to ten in your head and seeing if they can correct their errors themselves. If they are unable to self-correct with a little thinking space then by all means offer them the required support.
Try to ask open questions about the text and encourage children to respond with the phrase ‘find it, prove it’. Children tend to rely on pictorial prompts for their responses to text so also try to direct them to put their fingers on the words supporting their answers.
Ensure that assessment notes are more than ‘read nicely’ or ‘needs to work on expression’ by trying to also comment on the child’s ability to express their understanding of the text, on the author’s choice of vocabulary and on the way that the text is organised.
I sometimes think how I would feel if Mr Clarke chose my books for me. Now, I do like the odd bit of sci-fi and every now and again I enjoy a good Scandi-noir crime novel but I do enjoy choosing y books myself. This is how it should be for children: they should be able to choose the books they would like to read from within their own book-band. Guiding and supporting their choice is good but restricting it to the next book in the scheme removes the independence that we want out young readers to acquire.
Learning to read is hard work and confidence can be brittle so, praise, praise and praise again so that the children you hear read come to view themselves as successful, competent readers.
Our Teaching Assistant CPD Programme includes a session on hearing children read and can be booked via firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Clarke: Director – Primary English
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