Primary Primary Literacy

Primary – helping capable readers

Activity One – Give Them Responsibility

One of the key complaints from strong readers is that they know how to read and find reading to themselves or to the teacher or parent quite boring. To overcome this you need to give them different challenges and you can do this by identifying opportunities for reading to different audiences. We identified several ways they could do this.

Recitals

We often have music recitals for parents called ‘Tea Time Concerts’ where the members of the school choir or those taking music lessons can play to their parents. We decided to set up a reading recital for our stronger readers. They were asked to choose a chapter of a favourite book and practice reading it aloud for expression, pace and accuracy. They then had to prepare a synopsis of the book and an account of the events that led up to the chapter they were going to read. In the first one hour recital we organised, we had twelve pupils take part and the feedback from the parents was excellent. The pupils found it a little unnerving but loved the experience and we now hold recitals every half term.

Examinations

Drama organisations such as LAMDA operate exams in reciting poetry and prose from nursery and reception right up to age sixteen. There is often a set syllabus the children can choose from and they have to practise, ready to perform in front of an external examiner. Successful children earn certificates they can be proud of.

Reading in Church or at Assemblies

Our school has links with the local church and we have services for the pupils and parents there three times a year, once at the start of the school year, once at Christmas and once for leavers. At each of these there’s an opportunity for children to read a prayer or to read a lesson from the bible. Strong readers who need challenge can be asked to do this. Less confident ones could be asked to read a passage or prayer in assemblies.

Activity Two – Newsround

Readers need practice at different styles for different audiences and situations and this activity helps.
Ask the children to watch an episode of Newsround or another TV news program and to listen to the tone of voice and expression of the newsreader. They should notice a difference when the newsreader is telling about news where deaths or injuries have occurred, where the news is serious but no harm has taken place, sports reports where a team or sportsman has won or lost or a fun item of news.

For a little bit of practice with sports news we listened to the reading of the football scores recorded from a Saturday ‘Final Score’ program and found that we could predict the result from the sound of the reader’s voice.

Now ask the children to research and prepare a news report on a serious issue, either in school, in their town, nationally or internationally and read it to the class sat at a ‘news desk’. You should record their efforts and can even put together a ‘newsreel’ by linking a news program introduction from YouTube with their video using Windows Live Movie Maker. If you need to convert files, they’re easy using the free service www.zamzar.com whilst to make it more life-like you can also use a free, easy to use teleprompter at www.cueprompter.com.

Now you can play the news clips back to the class and evaluate them.

Activity Three – Reading With a Difference

There are lots of other forms of reading to help add variety to children’s reading, try some of these:

Reading classics

Many classic authors wrote books or stories that are accessible to better readers. Not only will they get the chance to read stories written in a different era with subtle and not so subtle differences in style, language and content but they’ll also have the knowledge that they have enjoyed books read by countless children over the years. Good examples are Moonfleet by J Meade Faulkner, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

Other forms of reading

Try getting some magazines and newspapers into school such as the National Geographic Kids, First News, football or music magazines so the children can see that reading isn’t confined to the book and that some forms can be throwaway or in instalments. You can also try instructions reading, asking the child to explain how something is done in their own words having got to grips with a set of instructions. You can use this is cookery lessons asking them to follow a recipe, in science carrying out a procedure for an experiment, or in sport to explain the rules of a new game.

Dave Lewis
Primary teacher

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