I was writing a generic post on improving reading in students recently when my Head of Department, the tremendous Louise Ford, recommended a book that delightfully disturbed me: Reading Reconsidered (Lemov).
Having trained and taught in the UK comprehensive school system (albeit in York), I am well-versed enough with the NLS and NC approach to teaching reading for all. I know about the issues of students not reading the texts (something that occasionally happens with Oxbridge First Class degree students, too!), and teaching the texts as if they are being read for the first time. There wasn’t really a problem in what they prioritised (word and sentence level understanding), but rather in what was deprioritised (whole-text coverage, expectation and appreciation).
Reading Reconsidered seems a cohesive and challenging and aspirationally pragmatic programme for teaching reading in schools. I urge any teacher to read it. Just on one two-day read it struck me with very many useful ideas for teaching reading:
- Provide non-fiction texts and extracts for students to grant cultural capital and context for fiction text, and for comparison. Do this regularly.
- Drill understanding of comprehension and plot. The top grades may be possible with the generic gist understanding of some literary discussion, but prioritise ideas and content and theme more than language analysis (a significant shift for me).
- Develop a common canon in the school of texts that demonstrate literary principles through a simpler form (e.g. students understanding switching narratives in Holes, allows them some understanding of this before reading Frankenstein).
- Managing independent silent reading through ways of students highlighting the texts.
- Developing comprehension questions that are occasionally informal and verbal in vernacular (e.g. highlight the adjectives in the the first paragraph. Which one is most interesting? The most unusual? Notice anything familiar about them?).
In terms of planning reading comprehension, it seems more rigorous than the the task-based schemes of work you will find on TES and TeachIT.
Once the administration of impending exams is out the way, we will return to this with intent.