Power of Reading - A Teacher's View
A year ago my school started our journey with the Power of Reading, and if I am being totally honest, at first I was quite sceptical. We had just completed a successful year in year 6 with some very positive results, and I didn’t see why we needed to change what had worked so effectively beforehand - I am one of those who believes if it isn’t broke why try and fix it!
Nevertheless, the journey has become one that I can now reflect on with a sense of joy. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but what this year has shown me is how wrong I can be. As education providers, we should always be striving to bring out the best in our children and ourselves, pushing boundaries and asking ourselves what more can we do. What the Power of Reading has succeeded in doing is driving our Year 6s forward, moving them beyond even the high standards of last year. As a teacher, it has shown me that the best planned lessons can still be improved and that we shouldn’t always stick to what we know - risk taking is important and can often bring about triumphs.
There are multiple reasons why the Power of Reading has been such a success for me this year. For one, the vast range of enriching texts available has left me like a child in a sweet shop with so much choice. My teaching partner and I have been able to explore all the texts available, taking on board suggestions from the Power of Reading team, to select those we felt would engage our more reluctant children. Our cohort this year was weighted heavily with boys who have previously found reading and writing a chore, as well as low attainers who have often not been able to access whole class texts. We have provided inspiration to all children with texts such as Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne and its links to the First World War.
One text, The Last Wild by Piers Torday, I would not have known about had it not been for its inclusion on the Power of Reading website, let alone be able to reflect on its engagement factor for our year 6 children. They found themselves on tenterhooks as each chapter progressed and there was a buzz of excitement in the classroom whenever I opened the book.
‘A barrier to reading is the children’s enjoyment’. This message was first put across to us before we started by the Power of Reading team as a reason to adopt the programme. Now I can reflect on how powerful this quote is, as the differences I have seen from this year to last are as a direct result of every child’s enjoyment of the texts we have read. We have even had reluctant children going out and buying the sequels (or books by the same author) the day after we have finished the first texts; this really shows the power of reading.
The Power of Reading teaching sequences plans are clear, packed with engaging activities and adaptable to suit the needs of individual classes. The reading of the text is intertwined with the learning of reading skills and our children have never enjoyed English lessons so much.
The teaching sequences allow children to immerse themselves in the text with the variety of activities. As a consequence, when it came to their writing, their minds were filled with ideas from the rich language and scenarios, allowing them the space to focus on mastering the writing techniques required to reach the framework standards. Their reading skills have been developed due to the exploration of author language, meaning, predictions and summarising which have been supported through comprehension style activities that have been woven into the children’s learning. The most obvious impact of this has been the children’s confidence when faced with reading assessments.
There is no getting away from the fact that year 6 is fraught with the pressures of external assessment and as teachers, I think we can become too easily overwhelmed by this - but why should we allow this to determine the children’s level of enjoyment in their learning? What the Power of Reading has shown me is that children can still reach the high standards required as a direct consequence of the rich texts on offer, engaging activities that develop confidence and well-structured sequences that logically develop children’s learning.
Most importantly, children have been keen to engage with their learning and are challenging themselves to achieve their potential. As teachers this is exactly what we want. I now know I am sending confident individuals off to secondary school where they will have gained, through the Power of Reading, the skills that will help them to thrive. If only I could go back a year to tell my younger self to remove his doubts, be more positive and embrace what has turned out to be an eye-opening, enjoyable and successful year!
Year 6 teacher, Southborough C of E primary