by Thomas Dodgson, Year 3 teacher and Primary Coordinator, Asker International School, Oslo, Norway
Having trained and worked as a Primary School teacher in London prior to moving to Norway, I was aware of CLPE and their fantastic training and resources but never had the opportunity to attend any courses. When I mentioned to my Deputy Headteacher that I was interested in finding out more about it, he offered me the chance to fly over to London and attend the “Power of Reading” training in the 2019-2020 academic year. Being an IB (International Baccalaureate) School, I immediately started to envisage all the ways that we could embed the programme within our learning at AIS (Asker International School).
My Year 3 students were immediately engaged with the fantastic graphic novel, “Arthur and the Golden Rope”. They were both excited and eager to hear more by the way we slowly revealed the story of Arthur, the most unlikeliest of heroes. Activities such as freeze frames, thought tracking and conscience alley had a huge impact on the engagement of the students and their excitement about reading and sharing stories. The other thing that really struck me was the increased opportunities for meaningful and incidental pieces of writing which gave the students purpose for writing a letter or re-writing part of the story.
Much like the UK, Norway also went into lockdown for 6 weeks earlier on in 2020. Myself and my partner teacher decided to teach our Unit of Inquiry from home using a “Power of reading” approach. The central idea for our unit was “Earth's structure is constantly changing through forces and processes that impact society”. The text that we chose was “A Pebble in my Pocket”, a non-fiction text about a pebbles journey through time. It was a perfect way to timeline the changes that the Earth has gone through over millions of years. I used the text to read aloud on zoom calls, share the beautiful illustrations on Seesaw for the children to respond to and even as a way to write stories about the pebbles' journey.
Developing the Power of Reading in our school
We have now developed the Programme into Year 3, 4 and 5 through peer support sessions. I also held a training session for all of the Primary staff to share what I had learned during the training and how I had implemented the ideas in my own class. The staff response has been overwhelmingly positive and all of the teachers who are now teaching the Power of Reading have talked about the increased engagement of their students within their reading lessons, the excitement about the range of new and interesting activities and the high quality of the recommended texts within the programme. We are excited to continue to embed the Power of reading into our Units of Inquiry and our reading lessons.
I asked my colleague, Sophie Arnold, who has been working on implementing the Power of Reading in Year 4 to write a little about how it has impacted her teaching...
"The Power of Reading teaching approaches have revitalised the way I plan and teach different reading skills and helped give them real purpose. Students have been captivated by the different high quality texts and are far more motivated and enthusiastic readers and writers as a result.
In a recent unit of work on Children's Rights, Grade 4 students read 'The Boy at The Back of the Class' By Onjali Q Rauf. The book follows the story of a refugee child called Ahmet who is new to school and doesn't understand English. A group of his friends make it their mission to befriend Ahmet, find out about his story and go on an adventure to help him to find his parents. This led to some fantastic discussions about the treatment of refugees, and was also a perfect book for many of the students, who, only a few short years ago, found themselves in a similar position to Ahmet as a new child in a new school who doesn't understand a word of English.
The Power of Reading chosen texts are both enjoyable and relatable for children of all backgrounds and nationalities."
How does it differ in an International School?
The plans are all designed to cover the content of the UK National Curriculum, however the lessons and particularly the tasks and activities also lend themselves to IB curriculum. The inquiry-based nature of activities such as freeze-framing and thought tracking allows the children to look at different perspectives within a story, conscience alley encourages the children to be open-minded and strong communicators and the innovative ways of teaching poetry and performance lets the children to be risk takers and to express themselves.
So far, the Power of Reading has been an incredibly positive experience for our students and staff and I’m looking forward to continuing our development of the reading programme.
The children wrote letters to Arthur to explain why he should, or should not go on his quest.
We also wrote letters to Professor Brownstone to ask if we could visit his vault.
We created and performed strip poems about what books mean to us.
During our staff training session, the teachers practised Readers’ Theatre