At Hexham Middle School, we strive to promote a lifelong love of reading and are proud of the reading culture we have within our school. We want to create curious, independent and fluent readers in order to prepare pupils for the next stage in their education. The library is at the heart of our reading focus and each class visits the library for a reading lesson on a weekly basis. In addition, our novel-based approach to many of the units across years 5-8 means that a broad range of modern and older literature (fiction and non-fiction) is explored as pupils move up through the school. The literacy across the curriculum policy ensures that all staff are teachers of reading who promote a love of literature and who effectively engage pupils with reading material appropriate to their subject when required.
The aims of our Reading Policy and Action Plan are:
- To provide structured opportunities for all, but especially, the weakest 20% of readers* to develop their reading fluency;
- To provide a consistent, curriculum-wide approach to developing reading skills, that supports all, but especially our weakest readers;
- To help teachers develop their pedagogical expertise surrounding reading, in relation to the 10 Elements of Great Teaching;
- To commit (finance and time) to providing pupils with a range of resources to stimulate their desire to read.
During the weekly library session, each pupil has the opportunity to borrow and return books (both fiction and non-fiction), audio books and DVDs. Coloured book bands help to support our weakest readers select material which is appropriate to their reading age, allowing them to progress at a rate appropriate to their ability. Regular reading-age testing to track the progress of our weakest readers informs of book band changes and allows pupils to see the progress they’re making over time.
Over four years, our pupils are gradually exposed to a diverse range of fiction, both modern and classical; exciting non-fiction works; poetry and drama. Teachers use our dynamic canon of literature to create meaningful opportunities for students to develop their reading fluency and comprehension of a range of texts. Structured opportunities within English lessons for group and whole-class reading teach pupils the skills needed to be astute and critical readers, promoting improved comprehension and sharing of thoughts and opinions related to literature studied.
Teachers across all subjects use the VIPERS acronym when exposing pupils to subject-specific reading material to ensure consistency in approach and to allow all pupils to practise the key skills of: vocabulary definition, inference, prediction, explanation, retrieval and sequencing/summarising. Form classes read together at least once a week and enjoy discussing the novels they share. In KS2, the whole class reading approach is embedded into form class time and English lessons, so that pupils are immersed in high-quality texts allowing them to engage in the vocabulary and context and to develop a shared love of reading. 1-2-1 reading with targeted individuals allows the weakest readers the opportunity to read aloud to an adult regularly and volunteers from the local community come into school to provide reading sessions for pupils, where appropriate.
In addition, our school’s culture of reading is supported through a wide variety of events such as author visits, participation in literature quizzes, trips to locations studied and to the theatre; all of which help to instil a life-long love of reading within our pupils.
In Key Stage 2, termly (at least) summative assessments check pupils’ understanding of texts and help teachers to inform future planning for the teaching of reading comprehension strategies. When forming extended responses to literature, pupils in years 5 and 6 write using ‘PEPE’ paragraphs to allow them to make points backed up by evidence from a text.
In Key Stage 3, each unit of work allows for extended response to literature which are formed using ‘PEEACE’ as a structure. This allows pupils in year 7 and 8 to make clear points, find evidence which is then explained in detail, analyse in depth then comment on context and effect on the reader. These in-depth responses support the teachers’ own judgements as to their reading ability.
Bi-annual terminology and writing assessments in Key Stage 3 help to support teachers’ own judgements on pupil attainment and ensure that the weakest pupils are supported with appropriate interventions in a timely manner, where necessary.
For struggling learners, we teach a systematic phonics programme which helps to address any gaps in early reading development and to build confidence, fluency and phonological awareness. Pupils are supported to develop fundamental reading skills which allows them to access a wider range of texts across the curriculum. We use external reading assessments to identify children who need additional support to develop their reading.
It is important that, when responding to literature in any lesson, teachers assess formatively (or summatively, as appropriate). To do this, we use the acronym VIPERS to assess pupils’ understanding of: Vocabulary (Buzzwords), Inference, Prediction, Explanation, Retrieval and Summarising or Sequencing. Where formative assessment shows a misconception or lack of understanding, teachers then work with pupils on closing gaps in knowledge to accelerate progress.
Talk is a fundamental aspect of assessment in all subjects and teachers will question and observe interactions in lessons. As a result of any assessment, pupils are supported and challenged where required and teachers amend their planning and approaches to ensure that any gaps in learning are covered. In addition, we commit to regular author visits, literature quizzes, engagement with the Hexham Book Festival’s wide variety of events and offer a multitude of trips and experiences to our pupils- which link to texts studied – and add to the pupils’ enjoyment and appreciation of literature.