The Herts for Learning KS1 Reading Fluency project prescribes that teachers work with a group of struggling readers – those working below, and often well-below, age-related expectations – for a period of 8 weeks. Throughout the 8-weeks, the teacher meets with the small group twice a week. Session 1 focuses on fluency training; session 2 allows for discussion of the text. Each week the group turn their attention to a new text.
One aim of the project CPD is to support project teachers in selecting quality texts to use across the 8-week intervention period.
Below are some of the factors for text selection that we cover on the training, along with some recommendations for tried and tested texts that have worked well on the Y1/2 project:
- The texts have to be hard! They should be in line with the challenge expected by the end of the key stage. In the Y1/2 cohorts, this means getting to grips with the demands of the texts in the KS1 SATs and choosing texts that work towards reflecting this challenge.
- The texts have to be good! This sounds obvious but it is an important point. We ask our young readers to work really hard in these sessions. They should be rewarded with a text that packs a punch: whether that be in the form of a quirky take that provokes a belly laugh at the end, or a text so tantalisingly terrifying that the reader cannot help but shiver. With this in mind, complete short stories are our text of choice.
- The texts have to be diverse. We don’t want the children to get better at reading just one type of text. Instead, we support them to hone their reading muscles on a range of texts that look, feel and sound remarkably different to one another. Variety is the key here!
Mr Big by Ed Vere:
This heart-warming picture book tells the tale of a huge gorilla who overcomes his self-consciousness about his size, to rise to fame as a musician in a blues band. There is plenty to plunder in the beautiful language used: ‘His music drifted out through the open window and into the evening sky.’
Eat Your People by Lou Kuenzler and David Wojtowycz:
This deliciously naughty book delights young readers on the project as we see a large monster family tucking into little people for their dinner. It works particularly well as there is a most satisfying and grizzly conclusion!
The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers:
This text is wonderfully accessible for children on the project, but there are plenty of long sentence structures to challenge and, as we expect from Jeffers, big themes to explore in subsequent discussions.
Amazing Animal Journeys by Chris Packham:
This is a fine example of an information text for KS1 that is packed full of literary features so that it feels like narrative at times. Not only do children delight in their success with the challenging sentence lengths and vocabulary in this book, they are rewarded with fascinating content which the project strategies allow them to digest.
The Story of Life. A first book about evolution by Catherine Barr & Steve Williams, illustrated by Amy Husband:
I have seen extracts from this gorgeous book used a number of times on the project. Children love the technical vocabulary and find it accessible through the wonderful literary language used throughout: ‘Ever so slowly, over millions of years, cells got more complicated’. I recently heard a child in year 2 exclaim, “Wow. This is so interesting!”
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts:
The rhyming couplets in this picture book cry out for an expressive read. The detailed illustrations are delightful and it is packed full of rich vocabulary to explore.
When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne:
We suggest that project participants use at least 1 poem over the course of the 8 week project and this collection is perfect for KS1. Poetry, by its very nature, facilitates re-reading and expressive performance. There are plenty to choose from within this title; children on the project have particularly enjoyed Water-Lilies, The Island, Market Square but this list is not exhaustive. The archaic language used in places raises the challenge, and children delight in rising to it.
A First Book of the Sea by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton:
Nicola Davies has written a number of information texts for KS1, covering a variety of subject matter. Many of them are used on the project as they are wonderfully descriptive and lyrical. This particular title is great as it can be opened at almost any point for an extract of perfect length.
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Alex Scheffler:
This is a favourite amongst project children as Julia Donaldson is familiar territory, but this title is perfect for a fluency session. There is plenty of vocabulary to explore: ‘…shimming ice and coral caves and shooting stars and enormous waves.’ and children love the illustrations which take us on that journey with the snail.
For more tips on text selection and to receive further text recommendations, join us on one of our fluency training sessions. Forthcoming dates and venues are published on our project pages.
Penny Slater: National Project Lead & KS3 Project Lead
Kathy Roe: KS1 & KS2 Hertfordshire Project Lead
Michelle Nicholson: Herts and national project adviser
Jane Andrews: Herts and national project adviser
Michael Gray: Herts and national project adviser