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Curating a reading curriculum

2021-07-22T16:31:46+01:00July 21st, 2021|curriculum, reading|

One of the roles of a school is to curate a sequences of encounters which students have a entitlement to experience before they leave. For many students, school may be the only time in their lives when they are given no choice but to navigate their way though events that are unfamiliar and intellectually demanding. Selecting a sequence of books which students will have read to them is a powerful way to force children to confront people, places and events way outside their narrow lives and ensure that they experience the expression of thoughts and ideas which would otherwise have remained [...]

Echo reading: Building a bridge between text and meaning

2021-06-22T17:50:38+01:00June 22nd, 2021|reading|

As a student I was one of those kids who was desperate to be picked to read. When we studied Romeo and Juliet I got to read Mercutio, a part, I felt, I was born for.  I threw myself into it and felt I really connected with both the character and the play. This was obviously how to do things. Fast forward to my PGCE. For the first weeks of my first placement I got to watch a lot of lessons. Being a complete novice I felt very able to criticise the lessons of many of the seasoned veterans I got [...]

A reading curriculum: Gap-widening vs gap-narrowing

2021-03-24T12:24:23+00:00March 21st, 2021|Featured|

The idea that education acts as a Matthew Effect that disproportionately benefits those who start with most is an uncomfortable but well-understood phenomenon. Everything we do in schools either widens the advantage gap between the most privileged and least privileged students, or narrows it. This is, I think, a real dichotomy: anything that, on balance, appears net neutral is in fact acting to keep the gap a yawning chasm of inequity. This allows us to look at any potential intervention or policy and ask whether it's likely to widen or narrow the gap. Take, for instance, Renaissance Learning's ubiquitous quizzing software, [...]

Q&A: Five Things Every Teacher Needs to Know about Reading

2021-10-03T11:58:18+01:00June 21st, 2020|reading, Webinars|

If you missed it, here's a link to the presentation I gave in my webinar on Five Things Every Teacher Needs to Know about Reading. There were a number of question that I didn't have time to answer during the webinar, so here are my thoughts. Q: Do you think schools should be pushing for subject specific reading in every lesson and subject? My school wants this but some subjects, e.g. Dance, think it is not relevant to them. Is there benefit? A: The idea that there should be reading - subject specific or otherwise - is deeply flawed and leads [...]

A reading of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped

2020-05-20T12:18:29+01:00April 25th, 2020|Featured|

When my daughters were younger I used to read to them every evening. Over the years we read all the Harry Potter books, the Narnia stories, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland, most of Alan Garner's output and various others. As they got older we read most of Jane Austen's novels together. I'm not sure who enjoyed all this most, me or them. But sometime in the last three or four years our nightly readings ceased. They're teenagers now and not minded to indulge their father's keenness to read aloud. So, for better or worse, I've [...]

#ProjectParadise: A group reading project

2020-05-26T09:08:21+01:00April 20th, 2020|Featured|

Well. A few days ago I ran a poll on Twitter to find the most popular long poem for a group reading project and the clear winner, with 44% of the vote, was John Milton's seventeenth century epic, Paradise Lost. OK. If you were to take part in a group reading of a long poem (like the celebs are doing with Rime of the Ancient Mariner' which of the four below would be your first choice? — David Didau (@DavidDidau) April 18, 2020 I've been inundated with volunteers eager to read a section aloud and that is exactly what we're going [...]

Is reading comprehension even a thing?

2020-03-23T12:40:44+00:00October 5th, 2019|reading|

UPDATE: In light of this post on Timothy Shanahan's blog, I am persuaded that reading comprehension is a thing, but the advice below still stands.  Most of the schools I visit are unsurprisingly keen to explore ideas to narrow the gap between their most and least advantaged students. Whilst there are also sorts of complex chains of causation which go some way to explaining why children from wealthier backgrounds outperform their less fortunate peers, one particularly vexed question that I'm frequently asked about is that of reading. The case I'm making here is that reading comprehension should be more properly thought [...]

Why ‘just reading’ might make more of a difference than teaching reading

2020-06-30T11:36:23+01:00June 22nd, 2019|Featured, reading|

Few people would disagree that improving children's reading ability would be a good thing. Not only would it open up greater opportunities in life, it would boost their cognitive development and increase the likelihood of them being able to access an academic curriculum. One barrier to children being able to comprehend what they read is the finding that an estimated 20% of children leave primary phase each year unable to decode with sufficient fluency to read the kinds of texts they will encounter at secondary school. Essentially, the more slowly you read, the more working memory capacity is taken up by [...]

Why do some children struggle with reading?

2019-10-01T13:58:04+01:00September 20th, 2018|literacy, reading|

Janet and bloody John! When I was about 7, my primary school teacher told my parents that I would probably never learn to read. Apparently, the suspicion was that I might be mentally subnormal. My mother wasn't having any of that. Although she had no experience of teaching reading, she took me out of school, borrowed a set of the Janet and John reading scheme and set about teaching me to read. We spent several hours a day ploughing through the mind numbingly tedious 'adventures' of the flaxen-haired tykes. God I hated them Some weeks later she took me [...]

Reading aloud might boost students' memories

2017-12-07T10:26:28+00:00December 7th, 2017|psychology, reading|

In the latest edition of the British Psychological Society's Research Digest, Bradley Busch writes about a new study which compared the effects on memory of reading in silence to those of reading out loud. Noah Forrin and Colin MacLeod's paper, This time it’s personal: the memory benefit of hearing oneself, explores what's been termed the 'production effect' - a neat name for the memory advantage of saying words aloud over simply reading them silently. The speculation is that the effort of saying something out loud appears to make information more cognitively 'sticky', creating stronger schematic connections in long-term memory. This advantage appears [...]

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