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VIEWS & OPINION Why whole class shared


reading is key to catch-up Comment by GARETH DAVIES, Senior Consultant, Literacy Counts


This term, schools welcome back their children to post-lockdown education where reading and being read to is now more crucial than ever. Research tells us that


vocabulary size correlates to academic success, and it is printed words that offers a richness of language that feeds vocabulary growth. However, children’s reading experiences in the past six months will have varied considerably and disadvantaged children will have fared worst. So, what are the research-based practices that make the greatest difference to


progression and allow children to re-engage with reading? And what as a leaders can you do in your school to help drive standards and close gaps in reading attainment? One significant solution is whole-class shared reading which can also help bridge the gap between those that can and do read well and those that can’t and choose not to. This pedagogy also enables children to explore texts beyond their


reading age and learn from the expert reader – the teacher. In short, it is the teacher who reads to the children, with the children and for the children on a text they may well find too difficult to decode or comprehend alone; whereby easing the cognitive load for the learners and allowing them to focus on developing all important knowledge of vocabulary and comprehension skills. It is, by design, meant to offer high challenge with low threat. Whole-class shared reading, by its nature, is about teaching


comprehension skills and strategies that children need to internalise. Proficient adult readers make inferences, predictions and connections automatically ‘in the moment’ of being a reader, however primary readers (and struggling readers) often don’t and need to be shown. Effectively modelling the skills and strategies involved in being a


reader to children is key to the success of the whole-class reading sessions. As a leader it would be important to consider then what are the skills and strategies your children are being taught and if your reading curriculum offer is progressive and sequenced to enable this. Reading lessons of this nature also profit from starting with the


activation of prior knowledge and a focus on fluency. Explicit teaching of vocabulary as another prerequisite that helps children engage with and explore rich and varied texts more easily prior to the reading of it. This thereby ensures that potential barriers to understanding of words and nuances of language are immediately addressed. Texts are not to be differentiated and benefit from being beyond the children’s independent reach as teachers are there to guide learners and navigate a path to understanding. Quality text choices are vital and need careful consideration to allow teachers to model the fundamental metacognitive processes of how to navigate, explore, respond and question a text effectively. This breadth of reading experience should develop their understanding of the printed word in all their forms and help develop reading preferences. To this end, a broad range of sophisticated texts are the gateway to


progression; children’s ability to engage with these is crucial. Making sure that teachers have the skills and knowledge to teach reading confidently will be crucial for school leaders this coming year. In driving standards across the school, leaders should carefully consider: why would children want to engage in your reading curriculum? What is the quality of whole-class shared reading like? And, how do you know?


September 2020


Streamlining assessment and prioritising student progress


Comment by HAYLIE TAYLOR, education consultant at EducationCity


Assessment is a vital part of the education experience, helping teachers to monitor progress and ensure students are not only on the correct pathway for meeting academic objectives, but doing so to the best of their abilities. Yet, with Covid-19 causing school closures, and little to no face-to-face support, this has meant students have had to rely on existing provision and processes to aid their studies. It has also limited ways for teachers to effectively capture data and ensure the right tasks are being assigned to each individual.


Edtech has played an important role throughout Covid-19, not least in helping to engage students and continue their learning at some level. However, with an emphasis on ‘catching up’, we need to ensure we have effective systems in place for supporting assessment and evaluation practice, so that we can address individual strengths and areas for development, and successfully contribute towards closing the gap.


While large digital statement banks are often used to track student progress, these tend to operate independently to the curriculum and teaching methods, meaning these systems lose sight of individual student performance and result in generic statements. Just as personalised learning is an effective way of catering to all students, investing in integrated, automated, and personalised assessment tools is key to completing the learning circle, and guaranteeing edtech also provides individual evaluation and assessment mapping. This will be particularly important for schools as we look ahead to ensure that regardless of the circumstances we may face in the future, this investment in edtech will be significant in making sure the gap doesn’t grow, and students can be accurately assessed and supported as much as possible.


It is more than likely that schools will have a combination of multiple digital and paper systems in place to manage and gather student data. However, this can be problematic for visualising the insights and accurately informing personalised learning; data siloes automatically make it harder to effectively carry out student assessments and evaluate their understanding across the syllabus. Instead, teachers will need resources which enable them to streamline growing workloads while also delivering individualised responses to every learner’s needs.


With schools currently assessing their infrastructure capabilities and considering further investment in digital technologies, it’s important for them to understand which resources will provide them with the most effective and comprehensive functionality.


The best digital tools will provide teachers with a complete 360-degree view of student data. This includes setting up curriculum-aligned assessments and providing automatic marking and feedback features; all of which better evaluate student progress at a formative and summative level while easing the strain on workloads and providing a more streamlined view across student activity and progress. This is invaluable in being able to visualise pupils’ levels of understanding and consequently identifying what areas need to be developed.


Regardless of where a student might be based – whether it’s in the classroom, at home, or in another environment, it is imperative that teachers have the tools and support to monitor progress and subsequently create tailored and personalised plans to ensure the attainment gap doesn’t increase any more than it already has.


www.education-today.co.uk 21


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