Posted on: 10/11/2021
At the Literacy Tree, we are always on a quest to find new books – either modern or classics - which will make great teaching texts. The Literary Curriculum, our overview of books from reception to year 6, certainly has a wide range from: novels, novellas, short story collections, poetry collections, picture books and non-fiction – and this list is by no means exhaustive. Children need a rich and varied diet of literature as they grow as readers and a hearty part of this diet is the challenge of reading longer chapter books.
We all want primary children, no matter their reading ability, to have the experience of finishing a longer text. We want them to experience that feeling of achievement and success so that these books seem less daunting in the future. It is therefore important we plan to use these as part of our literacy offer so children can have this experience, especially in KS2.
However, this can prove a two-fold challenge for teachers. Firstly, making time to read through the bulk of the text and still have time in the lessons to write. Secondly, “brokering” the text so that all children can stay engaged, active and that vocabulary does not become a barrier to their enjoyment and comprehension.
We have spoken to many teachers on our travels about how they manage this and here are some of the tips we have collated over the years.
Whilst we always advocate finishing a book with children, we acknowledge certain chapters may need to be précised for children. In fact, in our latest Literary Leaf, The Wonderling by Mira Bartok, we provide summaries of certain chapters to support with this. The important thing here is to read ahead to judge which chapters could be summarised and which are essential for comprehension and writing.
2. Create a story map on the wall
When reading the book with children, keep a story map on the wall of the main plot points covered so far – a bare bones outline if you will on some sugar paper. This will help if you need to skip lightly over a few chapters as these could be plotted on the map so children can still track the progress of the narrative easily.
3. Plan for a balanced diet
It is essential schools plan which books are being used for reading and writing over the year. This overview can take into account the length of texts so teachers are able to balance these. If teachers are using a longer text for writing, then perhaps a poetry collection for reading comprehension would be in order. Furthermore, a lengthier text could be used for both writing and reading comprehension. Some of our longer texts such as The BFG and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe have both planning sequenced as well as Literary Leaves. Classic texts such as the Witches or Treasure Island can have graphic novel adaptations too.
4. Make it your reading text
Everyone loves to end a busy school day with some time to simply read and enjoy a book. When using a lengthy text for teaching, make it your class novel as well so you’re not taking on too much. Plan time at the end of the day to read it with the class. Primary children need to hear their teacher as well as other adults read to them every day. Children could take certain copied chapters home to read also as hearing their parents read from the same text would further enrich their experience of the text.
5. Give children a focus to keep them active
Sometimes with lengthier chapters the challenge can be to keep children engaged and responsive. We may want to give them a focus activity to do whilst we read, this is especially effective if you have a class set of the books. Activities could range from: making a note of any adjectives that they hear which describe a character; noting down any figurative language; completing a Role on the Wall; noting questions that they may have about the plot or that they’d want to ask a character. Encourage children to make notes and annotate on post-its as they hear the book being read.
Before beginning to read the next few chapters, take some time to prepare children. Ask them to recap on what has happened so far and with they predict might happen next. Make sure they are familiar with the geographical or historical context and gauge their relevant background knowledge. Have any tricky words that are going to arise on the board so you can quickly go over these with children. Children can keep a note of any new words at the back of their book or on a bookmark.
We know it can be a challenge to read lengthier texts but we hope these tips do help lighten the load whilst allowing children to develop their reading stamina and sense of achievement through reading.
KS: Upper KS2
Year Group: Year 6
KS: R & KS1
Year Group: Year 2
KS: Lower KS2
Year Group: Year 4