Moving to a whole class shared reading model.

February 24, 2018


Over the last few years, the raised expectation has hit all core subject in the primary curriculum; ask any primary practitioner and I’m pretty sure they’ll say that reading has been the biggest uphill struggle, both in terms of ensuring the attainment pupils make and the progress.

Up and down the country, for years on end, teachers advocated the Guided Reading model, which (excuse the flippant description here) gave between 6 and 8 children approximately 20 minutes of focussed teacher time per week, whilst the remaining children in the class (at least 22 children on average) completed what I call a “holding task” that normally entailed practising spelling, an independent reading comprehension or silent reading to themselves. All of which, unfortunately, had little impact on their learning – Reading or otherwise.

Much research has been done into the allocation of curriculum time, the most comprehensive of which is the OECD Education at a Glance in 2013.

It showed that whilst reading, writing and literature accounted for 26% of curriculum time, only around 8% of this time was dedicated to the teaching of reading.

Logic tells us that dedicating approximately 17% of our time to maths and writing will yield better outcomes in those subjects, ensure better attainment and lead to enter progress.

Guided reading obviously was not working. This was confirmed with our 2016 End of KS2 with only 31% of our Year 6 cohort achieving the Expected Standards (EXS).

Having heard a great deal about shared reading, this was a natural area to investigate. And so we did, well our Teaching and Learning Lead (now Assistant Head for Whole School Development) go to work on setting up a curriculum for reading.

We were fortunate that we had some flexibility in our lesson timings and identified that the morning could be altered to include an extra lesson: a dedicated, daily reading lesson.

After much research, based heavily around Reading Reconsidered by Doug Lemov (@Doug_Lemov), we designed a curriculum that promoted high expectations of the teaching of reading and that would hopefully boost attainment and progress by the end of KS2.

Initially rolled out to Y5 and Y6, our reading curriculum focussed on 4 key aspects:

1. Reading harder texts – A steady exposure to harder texts and to the experience of struggling, over the years leading up to KS2 and beyond is critical to the success of a reader. Below is a selection of text which we presently use in KS2:

2. Close reading texts rigorously –Close reading is providing children with a set of tools readers will use to “solve” text when it is challenging and out of their comfort zone. For us, this focussed on a Reader’s Toolkit and Marking Key.

3. Reading more non-fiction – Non-fiction poses a special set of challenges. It relies more on background knowledge and is among the most useful tools in building background knowledge. When unfamiliar, they create yet another barrier to comprehension.

4. Writing in response to reading – Writing for reading. Writing is the “coin of the realm”. True, learning to write directly in response to reading develops the skills of writing but, more importantly, it shapes what children take from the text.

Our model evolved considerably over the first academic year of its introduction. We refined and developed the planning format, which, in its current form, includes the following aspects:

Hook – how do you gain that instant buy in from pupils? We sometimes use a video clip, an image or pose a question.

Open Response – this is a read of the section of text under scrutiny during the lesson. The reading is done aloud by pupils, pre-selected* and at random, as well as the teacher, modelling effective reading. It is important to note here that every pupil has their own copy of the text and tracks the text with a pencil, held upside down. This can be easily flipped to “stop and jot”. Not only does this promote engagement, but encourages accountability as pupils are actively encouraged to “mark-up the text”. This is done with a set of common annotation marks know as our “reading toolkit”. (

Zoom In – after the open response, a smaller section of text is chosen for detail scrutiny. As a School, we chose the reading skills that we needed to develop in our pupils.

  • Word building
  • Retrieve and record
  • Inference
  • Summarise
  • Predict/compare/explain

Written response – each lesson must result in pupils providing a written response to what they have read. This can be an independent response, a paired response, group response or a whole class, agreed response. To mark/assess these responses, we tend to use self and peer assessment based on a set of criteria as we were acutely aware that by adding another lesson into a teacher’s timetable, it would create another set of books to mark.

Having started the model with only Year 5 and Year 6, it became very clear that the model of shared reading could be applied to Lower Key Stage 2 and by Christmas of 2016, years 3 to 6 were working on the same model. Moreover, colleagues in KS1 have experimented with shared reading and are currently integrating guided reading with shared reading.

So, I’ve gone the whole post without mentioning “impact”. We took a risk abandoning what we knew in the hope that it would have an impact on our end of KS2 results. In one academic year, our results in reading went from a disappointing 31% EXS+ to an impressive 63% EXS+.

Although not completely down to the change from Guided to Shared Reading, it did contribute significantly to our improvements, something which we can now maintain and improve on year on year.