Bradley Green Power of Reading Enquiry
How does the Power of Reading make a powerful contribution to our Curriculum?
Making Learning Memorable
Putting high quality text at the heart of the curriculum has had a huge impact in classrooms across Bradly Green. We observed the skilful use of those high-quality texts by teachers. This enabled children to suspend belief and enter the story. Empathising with the characters and their feelings and developing their own ideas about where the story might go to next. We saw huge levels of engagement in those classrooms, children often going beyond being simply engaged and becoming totally enthralled by the time and place those stories took them to.
Those texts, as well as drawing children into wonderful stories what we also observed was the utilisation of high-quality texts to bring challenging issues in to the classroom. Enabling children not just to explore those issues but also to become involved. Creating opportunities to take strong positions and argue passionately for a point of view.
The children’s emotional engagement with texts in both of these cases made learning memorable for those children. Talking to them about the books they had engaged with and what they had learned from them as well as their sheer enthusiasm they were able to talk in animated fashion about the characters in those books and the situations they found themselves in. Having got those fabulous levels of engagement, teachers were also able to utilise the texts for children to develop a deepening understanding of how language work. Both studying how authors use language to create effect and developing their use of language in their own writing.
A Community of Writers (and Readers)
One of the most striking aspects of the learning we observed in Bradly Green was a sense of togetherness adults and children working collaboratively to create the best outcomes they can. The teacher would stop the class, ask for everyone’s focused attention then conduct a session where some of the great ideas which had been generated were shared across the classroom. Someone suggested that there was ‘something in the air’, a community of writers (and readers) embracing the challenges presented to them. We encountered energised children, energised learners, energised writers. There were no passengers, every child in the class was totally involved and supported by their peers to create a great outcome.
These classrooms were shaped by the intense modelling of adults. Stepping in to explore word choices with children. Modelling through talking their thinking. Demonstrating to children the processes to work through when making those choices for themselves. Celebrating with children when they had created something of significance and sharing those things across the classrooms so that children could hear and learn from the best ow what was emerging. As those adults stepped away, we observed children debating word choices with one another. Applying what had been modelled so powerfully to them by adults.
Striving, an Ethic of Quality
A key outcome of that sense of a community of writers working together to create great outcomes was the way in which children were striving for quality. One comment made was that there was no dumbing down. Even the youngest children were able to use ambitious language and showed great pride in how clever they were becoming with words. Further up the school we observed children using powerful words to elicit powerful emotional responses. The rich vocabulary contained in the texts had become a source for children to draw upon as they developed their own pieces of writing.
An ethic of quality, children striving to do their very best is something established by the teacher leading the classroom. Watching and listening to those teachers what also emerged was how strong their subject knowledge was. High levels of challenge, enabling children to make ambitious choices was built upon the strong subject knowledge of the adults in the classrooms.
Adults Professional Relationships
There were also occasions when the adults demonstrating that strong subject knowledge were the support staff in the classrooms. In those classrooms the children experienced those high levels of challenge and support which ever adult was working with them. There were lovely moments when the two adults in the classroom played off one another. One light heartedly prompting the other, modelling to the children how to take their ideas forward. One of the benefits of having two strong adult contributions was the time those adults were able to dwell. To engage deeply with a group of children around a table. Intense teaching absolutely focused, in the moment, on the needs of that group of children.
Resources for Writing...
As children worked on crafting their pieces of writing around them were resources to support the process. Sometimes these were on their desks. Some were scaffolds to help them shape the pieces they were writing. Others were the ideas they had generated in collaborative conversation with one another. As well as the resources on tables many of the classrooms had walls for learning. Walls which had been built up over time as the writing process evolved. These were provisional walls, full of ideas; always current, relevant and meaningful to the task in hand. And children were able to speak about how they used those walls to draw upon ideas as they worked upon their writing.
Assured, Aware, Confident
Part of the ongoing conversation throughout the day was about how we felt the children to be. Both in the classroom and in the conversations we had with children they were invariably assured, aware and confident. This manifested itself most strikingly in the way they talked about the books they had engaged with. They talked about what they found engaging about those books and were able to make critical responses to what they liked about a book and how it was written. So many children were able to use sophisticated 'literary' language confidently. In one fascinating episode the outcome of children’s engagement with a text was to create a piece to perform. The performances were fabulous, but what was equally impressive was their critique of those performances. Done with sensitivity, they were able to give constructive feedback to their peers both about the performance about their word choices.
Children’s confidence and awareness also manifested itself in their resilience. Their preparedness to go back and find a better way to express themselves. Children were confident being tentative. We could hear them using oral rehearsal to test out their ideas. Often bouncing those ideas off a learning partner, but also using that oral rehearsal as a means of self-checking. Standing back watching the work ethic in those classrooms the ability to self-reflect wasn't the domain of a few but something that pervaded the whole classroom.
Acquiring Authorial Habits
“Let's feel the effect that has on the whole class.”
This was an invitation from a teacher to a child to read out the paragraph she had just constructed. The piece she read out was really impressive, but so was the ensuing whole class conversation about what made it impressive and what might make it even better. It was a great example of how teachers across the school used children’s emerging ideas to model what a high-quality response included. In the process they were often also inviting children to test out authorial intent. Does the language chosen fit the authorial intent of the piece was a recurring conversation? Modelling to children how to be consciously 'in control' of the words they were using and the choices they were making. From the child to child debate we heard it was an obvious that children took enjoyment in being playful with words.
An overriding thought from the day was that wherever we went we felt that children, whatever their starting points, believed they were writers. Writers engaged in the process of creating a piece of writing for a specific audience and a specific purpose. The sense we felt across the school was that whatever the age and ability of the children they were acquiring authorial habits.