“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
understanding the written word
Understanding the Written Word examines the research on reading comprehension to reveal what really makes a difference to children’s understanding. You will learn how, by applying simple principles founded upon the evidence, you can deliver research-informed reading comprehension teaching that will improve your children’s ability to understand the written word.
You will be guided through the five ‘pillars’ of reading to understand how successful comprehension is held up by these pillars. Should one or more pillar be insecure, then comprehension will suffer. And addressing comprehension difficulties is unlikely to be successful without securing unstable pillars.
You will learn the crucial difference between reading skills and metacognitive reading strategies. Many reading programmes are founded upon the application of a set of the former (inferring, predicting, finding the main idea, etc.), but the evidence simply does not support investing time into generic reading skills. Ironically, teaching inference skills, it turns out, doesn’t improve children’s ability to infer. Teaching metacognitive strategies that help children to monitor and address their understanding, however, does improve reading ability.
Improving fluency, and building word- and content-knowledge is the key to improving comprehension, and should be the focus of comprehension lessons to improve outcomes for every child.
And Understanding the Written Word is no dry walk through dusty research, but an engaging exploration of the implications reading research filled practical examples. It aims to change how you think about reading, and show you how all children can understand the written word if only we invest time in those things that really make a difference.
To find out more about how children understand the written word, do take a look at these blog posts:
selecting the right texts
When it comes to reading comprehension what you choose to read matters at least as much as how you teach. Reading high-quality texts results in greater comprehension gains than poorer quality ones. So what exactly constitutes a high-quality text? Which books will result in deeper learning? Which books should we be using to teaching reading comprehension. Selecting the Right texts answers these questions and more.
You will explore six criteria for selecting texts that challenge thinking and improve children’s reading ability, and understand why these criteria really do matter:
- vocabulary: texts that introduce children to a wide range of useful new words
- knowledge: texts that build upon and expand children’s knowledge, that take them beyond their experience to connect with the wider world
- cultural capital: texts that are widely read, widely referred to and form part of our cultural identity
- sentence complexity: texts that develop children’s ability to understand increasingly complex sentence structure
- curriculum cohesion: texts that support and build upon curriculum learning
- awe & wonder: texts that represent the very best of what has been thought and written
You will also learn how to create a cohesive half-termly unit of reading that provides children with the cloud of knowledge that mature readers use to read challenging texts, that cleverly interweaves fiction and non-fiction, engages children in the reading process, and improves attainment.
To find out more about selecting the right texts, do take a look at these blog posts:
Close Reading teaches your children to read texts more closely to better comprehend the written word. It uses a simple two-part structure: children first get the gist of a text before they dig deeper to understand the nuances.
The two-part structure allows for whole-class teaching: it supports weaker readers and stretches the more able. And everyone reads and learns together. No need to have five books on the go, or keep an eye on what the rest of the class are doing while working with a group. It is simple to deliver but effective.
Close Reading first focuses on getting the gist by focusing upon three powerful keys to unlock the meaning of even the most complex of texts:
- vocabulary: understanding, exploring and using words
- content: building knowledge by focusing on the content of the writing
- summary: understanding key information in each paragraph to create a mental map of the text
This establishes a secure foundation of understanding and ensures no one is left behind before digging deeper to explore the subtleties of text at three levels:
- word level: why do writers choose some words and not others? What do those words convey beyond the basic meaning?
- sentence level: how do words combine to create meaning within and between sentences?
- paragraph level: how does the structure and sequence of paragraphs shape meaning?
You will be guided through the two-part structure using engaging texts and lots of practical examples that clearly demonstrate how Close Reading works in the classroom to improve reading outcomes for your children.
improving reading fluency
“If we could make all the kids as fluent as the best second-grade readers, 70% of the differences in reading comprehension would go away.” (National Institute for Child Health & Human Development, 2002)
Children who read less fluently, struggle with comprehension. They may be decoding accurately, but unless they do so effortlessly, comprehension will suffer. With Improving Reading Fluency training, you will learn about the three components of reading fluency and how to plot a child’s journey through them towards effortless reading. You will also learn how to teach reading fluency to those readers who are developing at an appropriate speed, and to support those who are struggling to build that fluency.
You will have a clear understanding of the three pillars of fluency: accuracy (reading words without mistakes), speed (reading at an appropriate pace) and prosody (reading the melody of the words), and will learn key techniques for teaching each aspect to children across the primary age range and ability, from those who are still reading slowly word-by-word with many mistakes to those who are grouping words into meaningful phrases and are beginning to use expression to communicate meaning.
You will learn how to use reading partners to support fluency, how to model and teach ‘phrased reading’ to help read effortlessly and with prosody, and how to use reader’s theatre and text marking techniques to build expression.
And you will learn how to support struggling readers through a structured one-to-one reading programme of support to enable them to make sustained reading progress.
writing 4 reading
An analysis of over 100 studies found that children who write about what they read improve their comprehension (Graham & Herbert, 2010) more than if they had simply read alone. Writing 4 Reading shows you how to harness the power of writing to improve reading comprehension.
Writing 4 Reading provides children with a structured approach to responding to reading through writing as a tool for developing children’s thinking about, and improving their understanding of, what they read.
Children learn to structure writing about their reading using 26 carefully crafted Writing 4 Reading sentence frames grouped into 11 themes, each targeting a different aspect of comprehension.
a first impressions frame: My/our first thought(s) about [x] is/are of [y].
Each frame is customisable with a variety of interchangeable elements. This leads to hundreds of possible sentences frames that can be used across the primary age range. For the above frame after reading Macbeth, children might write:
Our first impression of Macbeth is of his bravery in battle.
Our initial thoughts about Macbeth are of his bravery in battle.
You will be guided through the three phases of using Writing 4 Reading sentence frames successfully: gathering ideas and note taking, crafting an initial written response, and introducing variations.
With Writing 4 Reading your children will respond to their reading through writing with maturity and a depth of understanding that improve their reading comprehension.