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High quality reviews and training

Guest Column - April/May 2022
Andy Samways
10 reasons why reading aloud matters

The simplest sentences are often the most impactful. That was certainly the case in Roy Blatchford's monthly column in March:

"If you read no further than the end of this sentence, please watch the YouTube video Frank Cottrell-Boyce supporting the Essex Year of Reading - Essex County Council."

So I did.

I watched, listened and have been thinking ever since. That which Roy ignited and Frank fuelled encouraged me to draw together further resource.

#1: For much of history, reading was a fairly noisy activity.

On clay tablets written in ancient Iraq and Syria some 4,000 years ago, the commonly used words for "to read" literally meant "to cry out" or "to listen". "I am sending a very urgent message," says one letter from this period. "Listen to this tablet. If it is appropriate, have the king listen to it."

#2: The ancient art of reading aloud has a number of benefits for adults, from helping improve our memories and understand complex texts, to strengthening emotional bonds between people.

Listening to someone else read can benefit memory. In a study led by researchers at the University of Perugia in Italy, students read extracts from novels to a group of elderly people with dementia over a total of 60 sessions. The listeners performed better in memory tests after the sessions than before, possibly because the stories made them draw on their own memories and imagination, and helped them sort past experiences into sequences. "It seems that actively listening to a story leads to more intense and deeper information processing," the researchers concluded.

Read more: Why you should read this out loud (Sophie Hardach, BBC Future)

#3: In order to understand and be able to write continuous prose, we need to spend a good deal of time immersed in it. One way to do this is to hear it read out loud.

The way we speak is very different from the way we write – especially from the way we write continuous prose. When we speak, we hesitate, we contract phrases (as with "wouldn't've"), we repeat ourselves, we often leave gaps for others to fill in. Or we might just tail off. We use intonation and gesture to indicate or colour meaning. We use more pronouns than we do when we write, because we can specify who we are referring to with gesture and tone. We use a lot of ums and errs and "you knows" to give ourselves time to think or to hold a listener's attention. And we avoid front-loading sentences with phrases and clauses that delay getting to the main point. Continuous prose flows without hesitation.

Read more: Why reading aloud is a vital bridge to literacy (Michael Rosen in the Guardian)

#4: Giving a child time and full attention when reading them a story tells them they matter. It builds self-esteem, vocabulary, feeds imagination and even improves their sleeping patterns.

Reading is a great habit. Like all habits, it needs repetition and regularity to establish itself. Because it needs quiet time, and our lives today are very short of this, parents need to create it for their children. This means consciously making time and keeping interruptions to a minimum.

Read more: Reading to children is so powerful, so simple and yet so misunderstood (National Literacy Trust)

#5: Every classroom - all grades and all subjects - could benefit from a healthy dose of Read-Aloud.

Reading aloud should be an integral part of any successful reading programme in order to expose students to texts and ideas significantly above their reading level, model fluent reading for students, and instil a love of reading and a love of literature in our students.

Read more: Reading Reconsidered (Lemov, Driggs and Woolway)

#6: The teacher reading aloud and expertly modelling fluency (pace, expression, volume) is likely a better bet than selecting under-practised pupils to read.

Given reading aloud in class is part of the fabric of teaching and learning, there is inevitably a legion of daily practices that attend the act of reading in the classroom. And so, we must ask, are we clear which reading practices we should do more of and which practices we should adapt or stop?

There is evidence to suggest that we should carefully adapt the common act of ‘round-robin reading' (RRR). RRR describes the all-too-common act of selecting pupils at random to read aloud one after another - e.g. every pupil on the register reads that week - but no significant practice or rehearsal is involved.

Read more: Who should read aloud in class? (Alex Quigley)

#7: Research shows that reading aloud to your students - even long after they're reading independently - benefits learners of all ages.

All too many educators abandon read-alouds past primary school, but research shows that the practice can have a powerful impact on older kids too. From teachers modelling their thinking process while reading in front of the class to parsing academic texts in other subjects, creating a culture of reading starts with reading out loud.

Listen to/watch more: Why Reading Aloud Never Gets Old (2.47min Edutopia video clip and transcript)

#8: When reading aloud, it is the physical (pace, fluency, intonation) and social-emotional (audience awareness) strands of oracy which are at the forefront.

The Voice 21 Oracy Framework illustrates how the cognitive and linguistic strands are integral to reading comprehension; during booktalk, it is through the cognitive strand of oracy that students learn the predicting, clarifying, summarising and questioning skills so crucial to reading comprehension.

See more: The Oracy Framework

#9: It is a way to be creating moments of connectedness and joy.

Rebecca Bellingham speaks of the magic of reading aloud and how it creates the chance to connect and talk together, in consistent and meaningful ways … so that children not only fall in love with books and reading, and get better at it, but they also learn to think deeply, to consider other points of view ... learning to listen and look up.

Listen to/watch more: TedTalk - (9mins)

#10: EEF recommendations outline how reading aloud plays a vital part in developing pupils' language capabilities and supporting pupils to develop fluent reading capabilities.

The EEF Guidance Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2 highlights:
  • collaborative learning activities where pupils can share their thought processes; reading books aloud and discussing them, including use of structured questioning.

  • extend pupils' vocabulary by explicitly teaching new words, providing repeated exposure to new words, and providing opportunities for pupils to use new words.

  • develop pupils' fluency through guided oral reading instruction - teachers model fluent reading, then pupils read the same text aloud with appropriate feedback.
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To close, I turn to the wise words of Marc Rowland (‘Addressing Educational Disadvantage in Schools and Colleges: the Essex Way') …

'The language gap and links to socio-economic disadvantage are well documented. Every moment in school needs to be a language development and comprehension moment. The presumption of language can leave pupils isolated in the classroom. Language is key to success in addressing the curriculum, in participating in lessons, in developing background knowledge that binds learning together, and in developing relationships with adults and peers.'
As an integral element of classroom practice, reading aloud surely stands tall as a best bet to empower all pupils, impart a love of reading and set them on a path to life-long learning.

Andy Samways is Director of Teaching School Hub and Research School, Unity Schools Partnership

10 reasons why reading aloud matters (April/May 2022)


Guest Column - February 2022
Tom Duckling
Learning Strands
It is the start of term and for INSET day an engaging and inspirational speaker has been booked. It is a financial investment but they have a great reputation on the conference circuit and some glittering reviews.
Learning Strands (February 2022)

Guest Column - January 2022
Samantha Smith
Lead as yourself
When I was starting as a headteacher, I was given the advice, Remember to lead as you.
This is a most valuable piece of advice and one I often return to. And it has never been more important than in the past two years, when we have all been asked to give more than we ever thought we would.
Lead as yourself (January 2022)

Guest Column - December 2021
Jean Gross
Reaching The Unseen Children
This is an extract from Chapter Seven of Jean Gross's recently published 'Reaching The Unseen Children'
The seven secrets of self-efficacy
This is the most important chapter in this book. It is important because it introduces a concept which is relatively unfamiliar to educators, but profoundly important in improving outcomes for disadvantaged children.
Reaching The Unseen Children (December 2021)

Guest Column - November 2021
David Bartram OBE
Leading great SEND provision in schools
We appear to be making the leadership of SEND increasingly complicated. The danger of creating this overly complex approach is that it persuades teachers across the country that they may not be sufficiently expert enough to help children experiencing difficulty.
Leading great SEND provision in schools (November 2021)

Guest Column - October 2021
Cameron Mirza
The learning scientist
The critical success factor in the education system will always be the teacher. It is essential today that teachers are supported to develop the skills, subject knowledge, attitudes, behaviours, pedagogical content knowledge and digital skills required to thrive in the classroom environment. The recently published teaching report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Microsoft, laid stark some sobering data.
The learning scientist (October 2021)

Guest Column - September 2021
Harry Hudson
At the cutting edge
Teaching is moving at a pace, and there has never been a more exciting time to become a teacher. We know more now than we have ever known about how the brain works, and teachers can be more confident than at any time in history about the science of learning. What's more, there is still so much left to discover.
At the cutting edge (September 2021)

Guest Column - June 2021
By Old Cobbler
Great news! Primary languages are rubbish!
Ofsted blog: schools, early years, further education and skills
As the subject lead's blog on the Ofsted website explains, inspectors recently visited 24 primary schools, all rated excellent at their latest inspection, to assess the quality of their languages teaching.
Great news! Primary languages are rubbish! (June 2021)

Guest Column - May 2021
Dr Michael Lightfoot
Rethinking assessment: in praise of ePortfolios
The long-term impact on education systems caused by the Great Pandemic of 2020/21 will take many years to play out. Emergency remote teaching became the mode through which education systems tried to overcome the impacts of school closures, and most schools turned to EdTech for solutions.
Rethinking assessment: in praise of ePortfolios (May 2021)

Guest Column - April 2021
David Ingram
Shaping the legacy of COVID-19
During a particularly difficult stretch of the lockdown, my professional coach invited me to engage my curiosity. This prompted me to consider the enormity of the pandemic from an entirely different perspective. I remain curious. Necessity may have been the mother of invention during lockdown but as the world returns to a semblance of normality, school leaders will need to ponder next steps.
Shaping the legacy of COVID-19 (April 2021)

Guest Column - March 2021
Harry Hudson
Changing the image of teaching
Education is in the spotlight in a way it hasn't been for decades, and much has been said about how teaching can 'build back better' after the pandemic. Yet step back from all the talk of 'catch up funding' and ways our classroom practice can be improved by having taught online, and there's an even bigger picture.
Changing the image of teaching (March 2021)

Guest Column - February 2021
Marc Rowland
Culture
The most effective strategies give teachers and other staff the capacity, expertise, knowledge and development to meet the needs of their pupils and improve them as learners. Teacher agency and buy-in are fundamental to success. They all complement one another, working together to support the development of a culture of inclusivity where pupils' needs are understood and assessment drives action.
Culture (February 2021)

Guest Column - January 2021
Malcolm Wheeler
Online passages from India
The pandemic will be remembered in the words of Dickens as "the worst of times" and, in the most unintended ways, also "the best of times". Before the lockdown, the challenge for our kind of schools was finding the sweet spot between theoretical and experiential learning. After the move to virtual learning, it has become about finding our collective 'ikigai', or finding our reason for being.
Online passages from India (January 2021)

Guest Column – December 2020
Keith Grainger, Principal, Garth Hill College
The case for the defence: online learning
In a week when the government has threatened councils with legal action over decisions to switch to online learning over coronavirus fears, I feel the urge to celebrate the considerable merits of online learning. Such threats almost cast a slur on the very concept of online learning and, given our positive experience as a state secondary school, I am compelled to make a case for the defence.
The case for the defence: online learning (December 2020)

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