Secondary English – Best Reading Buddies

I have two big problems with my reading lessons, at present. Firstly I am becoming increasingly frustrated by students saying ‘I don’t like ANY of the books in here!’ as they point vaguely at the library shelves containing hundreds upon hundreds of books. Next on my list is that although Ofsted now officially approve of reading for pleasure (“Schools that take the business of reading for pleasure seriously, where teachers read, talk with enthusiasm and recommend books, and where provision for reading is planned carefully, are more likely to succeed with their pupils’ reading.” Ofsted, 2011), we still need to prove the impact of reading lessons on our students’ learning. So, what’s a teacher to do? Turn my whinging students into Reading Buddies.

The first stage of this experiment was to do a reading audit with my year 7 class. The audit asks basic questions about their favourite genre and how much they enjoy reading. (Download the printable audit here). I then used the audits to pair up the students in my class. The theory is that students will be firstly paired according to their favourite genre(s) of books and then by how much they enjoy reading, with more enthusiastic readers paired with a less fervent one. The result is hopefully going to be that students can now advise and enthuse each other about what books to read in a much more effective way than me dragging them round the library and pointing out all the books I feel they should enjoy. In order to encourage this affiliation, all students will need to recommend a book to their buddy, which they will then need to read and write a short review on before the end of the term.

The second stage of this experiment is designed to prove the impact of reading in these lessons.  I have put together a reading journal, which asks students general questions on all of the Reading Assessment Focuses. Students have a choice of questions to answer in the second half of the reading lesson and then they will take part in a self and peer assessment activity. This should hopefully aid students in becoming more analytical about their own reading choices with the help of their reading buddies. Download the reading journal to try with your own classes here.

I think this will all work best if the relationship between the reading buddies grows into a positive collaborative partnership. To aid this I am going to intersperse these activities and silent reading, with paired reading; recommendations of the ‘best bits’ from the lesson’s reading; along with some other reading games so that working together becomes less of a duty and more of a joy. Hopefully then my reading lessons will finally become about ‘reading for pleasure’ (in a measurable way, of course).

Naomi Hursthouse
Advance Skills Teacher 
Steyning Grammar School

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