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Overcoming adversity: Building a reading rich curriculum to support pupils to thrive in challenging times.

Published on: 
Monday, 23 November 2020 - 9:04am
Charlotte Hacking

A recent article in the TES, highlighted the Education Endowment Foundation’s view that a high-quality, reading-rich curriculum can offer the means for pupils to thrive after their time away from the classroom. They go on to point out that it can be the best way to close attainment gaps widened by Covid disruption, and also calm teachers’ stress, exacerbated by coping with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

We absolutely stand by this view at the CLPE. Throughout our almost 50 year history of researching practice in language and literacy development, we have always known this to be the case, which is why this approach is at the heart of and runs throughout the training, publications and resources we provide for schools.

This is also why, In July 2020, we produced and released our recovery curriculum teaching notes, which we made freely available, to support primary children with the transition back into school in September. These notes are based on Oliver Jeffers’ incredible and important picturebook Here we Are.

We were delighted that over 13,000 teachers registered to receive the notes and used them in their classrooms. We produced the notes because we wanted shared reading to lie at the heart of every pupil’s return to the classroom and to encourage a sense of community across the entire school, to help teachers and children reflect on the last academic year, and help whole schools look forward to the future in a positive way.

The notes made sure that reading skills and strategies, including the contexualised use and application of phonics, inference and deduction, empathy and critical thinking were developed alongside children’s creativity and imagination, ideas and voice for writing, as well as making purposeful links to other curriculum areas, including Personal, Social and Emotional Development.  This is, in fact, one of the resources used and referred to by EEF Literacy specialist Caroline Bilton as being successful in her original blog for the EEF, quoted in the TES article.

We’re keen to build on the positive response to this by continuing to focus on CPD and resources for teachers and schools that emphasise the importance of a reading-rich curriculum to support the learning, progress and attainment of pupils across this academic year.

But how do we fit in time to develop our knowledge and understanding about what this means in practice? Time for staff meetings and CPD training may feel pressed in the current climate, and current guidance may mean meeting together is impossible in larger schools.

Our after school programme of webinars is designed to help you to provide and manage CPD effectively at this time. Staff may want to take part in webinars in year group bubbles, looking at issues specific to their year groups, whilst also exploring how progression builds across the school. All the sessions are planned at staff meeting length and run from 3.30-5.30pm. We also run a 1.00-3.00pm slot, which could be perfect for PPA.

Our Understanding the Reading Journey webinars take teachers through the practice and provision that will enable children to succeed and make progress as readers throughout the primary years, developing decoding and comprehension skills in EYFS and KS1 and moving through to children being fluent, critical, confident and truly independent readers by the end of KS2, with the skills that will enable their future success in KS3 and beyond. The courses are designed to stand alone for specific phases, but the knowledge builds across so you can be confident of a cohesive and progressive approach across the school.

Our Understanding the Writing Journey webinars take staff through the equivalent journey to enable progress and development in writing. They will explore the early motor skills that build handwriting; phonics, spelling and vocabulary development and idea and imagination building, which allow children to succeed as writers in EYFS and KS1. The sessions for Y3/4 and Y5/6 build on this to cover the knowledge of language, grammar, vocabulary and authorial intent needed to write independently with a distinct voice for a range of purposes and audiences by the end of KS2.

You may want to look at a specific area of development for all your staff, based on the research from our current book, The Power of a Reading Rich Classroom.

Our Reflecting Realities: Nurturing Reader Identity webinar investigates how our Reflecting Realities research, awarded the Brenda Eastwood Prize in 2019, could make impact on the children in your school. Teachers will learn how to take a critical look at the nature of the texts available to children and whether these allow them to find their identities as readers and develop their voices as writers, developing high level skills in preparation for secondary, such as empathy and critical reflection.

Poetry in the Primary School draws on the findings of our Power of Poetry research programme. We'll look at how Poetry can support children’s literacy development across the primary years, starting from early phonological development, linking print to meaning and expressing yourself in writing in EYFS, through to building reading fluency, developing inference and deduction and writing independently and expressively in Key Stage 2. We’ll explore a range of quality poetry texts for children of all ages, focusing on how these support specific skills and strategies for reading and writing and the range of resources that teachers can draw on to support children’s learning on our Poetryline website.

In our Picturebooks in the Primary School webinar, you can investigate how Picturebooks support children of all ages to develop sophisticated skills as readers and as writers, looking at the role illustration has in making meaning from texts and how this supports deeper levels of comprehension. Drawing from our Power of Pictures research programme, recently part of an Education Endowment Foundation Randomised Control Trial, you’ll explore what makes a quality picturebook and look at a wide range of examples to engage and support children of all ages. You’ll also see how picturebooks support children’s knowledge of narrative structure, developing them as independent writers.

Non-Fiction in the Primary School explores a wide range of quality non-fiction texts for children of all ages, looking at how these kinds of texts encourage questioning, research and note-taking, and idea building, as well as investigating rich cross curricular learning and the language, grammar, vocabulary and voice involved in writing non-fiction. We’ll explore what makes a quality non-fiction text, so that teachers can be discerning in the choices that they make for the classroom, ensuring that children meet texts of the very highest quality.

All these courses will provide you with examples of one of our quality teaching sequences, so that you can immediately implement learning in your school, as well as links to other supporting resources.

For longer, more sustained training, we know that face to face is virtually impossible at the moment, especially for the kind of CPD recognised by the Teacher Development Trust as being most effective.

With this in mind, we have developed an online version of our flagship Power of Reading training. This programme gives the same opportunities to train you in recognising high quality texts and creative teaching approaches and a deep knowledge of how to use these to develop a broad, rich literacy curriculum across your school, which raises engagement and attainment in reading and writing.

Participants will be involved in this sustained improvement programme over two terms, understanding how to relate new ideas with their own experience and the particular demands of topics and pupils that they teach, engage in discussion around both the theory and practice of new ideas, test practices and ideas out in classrooms in carefully planned gap tasks. They will see practices and teaching approaches expertly modelled by our teaching team and will investigate the intended impact on pupils, using our Reading and Writing Scales as a formative assessment measure. These virtual sessions will enable participants to engage with teachers from a range of settings in processes that both challenge and extend their thinking around how best to develop a curriculum that supports progress and attainment in reading and writing in their own schools.

A subscription to the Power of Reading website will give you access to over 250 teaching plans for high quality texts from EYFS-Y6, saving teachers valuable time in planning effective whole class English lessons and making sure that quality children’s books and effective practice in reading and writing lie at the heart of your curriculum. Sessions in the plans can be easily adapted for both the classroom and to be delivered virtually, and our Take 5 home learning resources, which accompany texts, are designed to develop reading and writing skills for those learning at home. These proved hugely popular in the first lockdown. You can read a blog by Jamie Wraight, English Leader at Westmeads Community Infant School, on the effectiveness of these materials in practice.

We still know that face to face training is the most effective form of delivery, and as soon as it is safe to do so, we will be recommencing sessions at our beautiful Literacy Library, where you can explore over 23,000 children’s books as part of your CPD experience. Our range of long and short courses cover a much wider range of subjects, from phonics and spelling to developing historical enquiry through quality children’s literature and provide opportunities for you to reflect on, review and develop your current practice in a supportive and thought-provoking environment, guided by the most recent and relevant research.

Until then, we hope that our new online programme will support you in developing the best practice and provision for children that will enable them to succeed and thrive in these difficult times and that you’ll also be able to make use of our huge range of free resources that all exemplify how to create a reading-rich curriculum in your school.