In recent years, we have implemented several initiatives to create a strong reading culture within the school, and provide students with the foundations for future academic study.
We regularly assess each student's reading ability throughout the year using the 'New Group Reading Test' (NGRT) – a test which compares students' reading skills against the national average. We use these results to set up academy-wide support, such as reading intervention groups, to help all students reach and exceed their chronological reading age.
Creating a reading environment
We have re-structured the library into a well-organised space where students feel comfortable interacting with displays, reading materials, and technology. Students have timetabled library time each week, and Year 10/11 students have a dedicated study space to help them prepare for their GCSEs. We also run a school-wide weekly book club; this term we are reading We are All Made of Molecules by Susan Nielsen.
Additionally, we are excited to introduce e-reading to our students! All students have access to a shared reader, 'Overdrive books', both at school and at home. Students can access school-purchased Library material together with the wider Ark network library on the SORA app.
Encouraging Reading for Pleasure
As well as dedicated 'Reading for Pleasure' lessons during English lesson time, we have also created our own tutor group reading sessions inspired by the ‘Drop Everything and Read’ campaign (also known as DEAR). During these sessions students read authors of popular fiction, including S.E. Hinton, Benjamin Zephaniah, Morris Gleitzman, Malorie Blackman, and Anthony McGowan. These weekly sessions help students to cultivate their oral reading skills in an entertaining manner, and also introduce them to world issues, helping them to critically consider the world around them.
During lockdown staff also encouraged reading for pleasure through our EGA Reads recordings, where they took turns reading chapters from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. These recordings have been uploaded to our SPArk library webpage for all to enjoy as part of our digital enrichment programme.
Reading within the Curriculum
- All Key Stage 3 students have access to the Fresh Start programme, run by the librarian in conjunction with our LSA and English teams. This programme helps students develop confidence understanding the lengthy texts they encounter through their time at the academy and in further education.
- This year we have also made Lexia PowerUp available to all students – a computer-based reading support program tailored to individual strengths and weaknesses. Students participating in our Lexia groups have in-schools sessions once weekly and complete sessions at home twice weekly.
- We have a school-wide vocabulary strategy in place, where each lesson students learn the meaning of new key words, and then apply these in a targeted activity. This year, we are also excited to introduce guided annotation and vocabulary development through the Ark strategy, ‘Inside, Outside, and Beyond’.
- In lessons we use close reading, which links reading with vocabulary acquisition, decoding and comprehension. Close reading is set at least 3 times per term in all subject areas.
- Finally, we have introduced Academic Reading to students, challenging them to read difficult texts which go beyond the scope of their normal lessons, with specialised texts selected by each department. Academic reading is provided as homework at least once every three weeks.