The 'simple view of reading', in the Independent review of the teaching of early reading (the Rose Report), identifies two dimensions to reading: word recognition and language comprehension. Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading but this goal cannot be achieved unless children can recognise the words on the page.
There are a range of language skills and cognitive resources that play a part in developing reading comprehension, including the important roles of inference and deduction (reasoning), imagining and predicting. The explicit teaching of certain strategies such as summarising and recognising degrees of importance can support the reader's comprehension.
Reading comprehension is a highly interactive process that takes place between a reader and a text. Individual readers will bring variable levels of skills and experiences to these interactions. These include language skills, cognitive resources and world knowledge. Any act of reading occurs within a particular sociocultural and emotional context. This consists of elements such as the child's home culture, their previous experiences of reading and being read to, their expectations that reading should carry meaning, their motivation, their view of themselves as a reader, the purpose for reading the text, the cultural value placed on reading and the reading environments the reader experiences. While the purpose of this document is to concentrate on looking closely at the development of comprehension skills, this broader context and its influences should be borne in mind.
(From DCSF, 2006, Primary National Strategy)
We want to encourage children to become enthusiastic, autonomous and thoughtful readers who not only decode the text but understand and engage with what they are reading. Teaching is central to this. Literacy lessons provide the context for direct teaching and application of reading comprehension strategies across the primary age range. The strategies can be applied to picture books as well as more complex texts. The wider reading environment in the classroom and school provides further opportunities for extensive reading.
Demonstrate how to use a range of comprehension strategies:
Plan direct instruction so that children can:
Support children as they:
Scaffold opportunities for children to use different reading comprehension strategies, for example using the strategy modelled in the shared reading session and applying it to a new text. Encourage children to explain how they solved a word problem. Encourage personal response and reflection.
Expect children to:
Encourage extensive reading:
(From DfES, 2005, Understanding Reading Comprehension 1)
Children are grouped on the basis of their reading ability. Each child has their own copy of the text, chosen to match the group’s reading level. The teacher selects a text which is at ‘instructional level’ 90–94% accuracy). This means that the children should have difficulty with no more than one word in ten, so that comprehension is maintained and reading does not become a struggle. The reading level appropriate for the group and the movement of children between groups will be decided by the teacher, based on continual assessment.
The teacher identifies specific reading strategies on which to focus, determined by the needs of the children and evidence from previous sessions. The adult leads the session, preparing the children for reading, reinforcing reading strategies, giving focused attention to individuals as they read independently and guiding response to the text. The aim of every Guided Reading session is to encourage and extend independent reading skills.
Research suggests that reading comprehension development can be improved through regular use of specific strategies. These strategies are designed to actively involve the child with the text to create meaning. Below is a list of strategies to support readers in understanding, responding to and reflecting on texts. Some will be more appropriate as pre-reading strategies, others used during guided reading sessions and some may be used as post-reading activities.
There are many ways of encouraging children to bring to the forefront of their minds knowledge that relates to the text they are about to read or are reading:
Creating visual images is claimed to improve comprehension by linking prior experiences to the new idea thus building richer schemas;
As we listen to and read stories so, our knowledge about stories grows and we can draw on this to help us predict and understand what is happening, and is likely to happen in new stories. This accumulating knowledge of story texts develops in us a set of expectations for the structure of a story, helps us facilitate our understanding of stories and improves our memory/recall of a story. This gave rise to several classroom strategies, such as story mapping and story structure charts.
These encourage the reader to relate to, identify with or respond to a text.
Imagining how a character might feel and identifying with them. There are many strategies that require children to make explicit their response to and knowledge of a character. These include;
Alongside the effective teaching of phonics there are many other elements in learning to read that are essential in supporting children in their journey to becoming competent readers. Such as;
Children need a range of opportunities to develop as fluent, enthusiastic and critical readers. A balanced reading experience should include a range of the following throughout the day/week:
Reading aloud to children for their pleasure and interest should build enthusiasm and enjoyment. Children should experience a range of different genres throughout the week including stories, rhymes, poems and non-fiction. It serves as an important step towards independent reading and introduces children to different styles of writing, to new vocabulary and tunes them in to book language.
This provides opportunities for the practitioner to model fluent, expressive text reading to the whole class and to demonstrate book behaviours, for example directionality of print, the function of punctuation, reinforcing phonemes, CVC words and high frequency words which have been previously taught in the discrete phonics session. Shared reading sessions also provide an opportunity to explain and explore new vocabulary, which in turn helps to develop comprehension. These sessions are crucial for children learning English as an additional language, who are often able to decode new words but may not understand their meaning.
‘This extends the opportunities provided by shared reading with a sharp focus on the targeted needs of a particular group with similar reading abilities and needs, including vocabulary development.’ (Early Reading CPD resource- The National Strategies). At the earliest stages of guided reading it is important to carry on with teaching ‘book behaviours’. As the child begins to apply phonic knowledge, texts should be selected with some words that can be decoded using existing knowledge (90%) and some that provide a degree of challenge (10%). Careful assessment of children during the discrete phonics session and through observations of children engaged in all areas of CLLD will help the practitioner plan for guided reading. A guided reading session which focuses on word recognition could be centred around reading a sentence or caption from a familiar story, or from a simple recipe written out for a cooking activity. Alternatively a session which focuses on comprehension may use real objects or story props to stimulate conversation and the teaching of new vocabulary.
It is important for practitioners to support children’s development in communication, speaking and listening, as good speaking and listening skills give children confidence in reading and writing. If children become familiar with a range of core texts and are able to retell them confidently, they will be able to apply these skills to reading unfamiliar texts. Knowledge of book language and the way that stories are sequenced also helps children with their creative writing skills.
Developing children’s ability to tune into sounds is a crucial element of reading. If children are able to distinguish between sounds in words and are aware of rhyme, rhythm and alliteration, this will help with reading skills. It is important that children are familiar with a wide range of rhymes and rhyming books. Instrument sessions will also support children to develop phonological awareness by helping them to develop a sense of rhythm through clapping along to a nursery rhyme or clapping beats in a name. This will help children when they need to break down long words into units or syllables.
In a high quality EYFS learning environment there should a wide range of opportunities to apply reading skills, for example: alphabet mats, alphabet charts, name cards placed in the writing corner or in the ICT area, print in the environment, food packaging, clearly labelled resources and questions on displays and in the learning environment. This should continue in the outdoor environment with signs for role play areas, road signs, a book area or a reading tent.
It is important to have well-resourced home reading books. This will encourage parents to read with their children at home, to reinforce the development of their reading skills. Parents can be informed about early reading and writing through parents workshops and by having a shared dialogue through reading diaries. A range of books can be sent home, including core books, library books and guided reading/scheme books. Many EYFS classrooms encourage parents to come and read with their children at the beginning or end of the day or invite parents in to carry out story sessions in their home language.
(From The Early Reading Experience in the Early Years Foundation Stage, 2011)
Document outlining the level of learning and development expected by the end of the EYFS in reading. Examples of reading are provided along with observations and commentaries.
Below shows the overarching statements defining the Assessment Focuses and what they mean in practical term in the classroom. The statements are generic so the level-specific indicators need to be accessed on the APP guideline sheets.
AF1 Use a range of strategies including accurate decoding of text, to read for meaning
AF2 Understand, describe, select or retrieve information, events or ideas from texts and use quotation and reference to text
AF3 Deduce, infer or interpret information, events or ideas from texts
AF4 Identify and comment on the structure and organisation of texts, including grammatical and presentational features at text level
AF5 Explain and comment on writers’ uses of language, including grammatical and literary features at word and sentence level
AF6 Identify and comment on writers’ purposes and viewpoints and the overall effect of the text on the reader
AF7 Relate texts to their social, cultural and historical contexts and literary traditions