The Herts for Learning KS2 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 Y5/6 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 Y5/6 cohorts, this means getting to grips with the demands of the texts in the KS2 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!
How Cats Really Work by Alan Snow
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this comically illustrated picture book doesn’t contain some challenging reading material. Choose a double-page spread that is dense with text: the ‘Control of Humans’ section works really well. Be sure to convey the sense of irony when providing your modelled expert read.
Why is Snot Green? by Glenn Murphy
This collection of question and answer texts provide a wealth of material for a fluency session. The texts appear a little less formal on the surface, but each contains some fairly long and challenging sentence constructions which may cause a struggling reader to come unstuck. Try ‘what do people taste like to sharks and tigers?’ and see how the children get on. This probably represents more of an entry-level text for the purpose of the fluency project. We would urge project participants to rank up the challenge at a pace.
The Wonder Garden by Kristjana S Williams
The number of text types on a double page of this text gives scope for variety within one text. I have seen the ‘The Great Barrier Reef’ page used for a fluency session, and the children responded well to the required changes in prosody throughout the piece.
Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
This is a challenging read! Many of the sections within this text work well for a fluency session, but we have seen the ’Sprites: Family Cordimundidae’ section in use many times, and it never fails to delight. The children will be keen to seek this book out from within your book corner following a fluency session focus.
The Spider and the Fly, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi
Following on from the poem itself, the letter at the back of the book – penned by the spider – is perfect for a Y5/6 fluency session.
Home From the Sea
The above are taken from Short! by Kevin Crossley-Holland
All of these are perfect in length and ‘punchiness’ for a fluency session. There are other good options within this text, but don’t use too many as the format of the texts within the compilation can become a bit too familiar to the children.
The Immortal Fly is Tired by Dave Eggers
Challenging short story – we guide project participants towards using this as one of their final texts on the Y5/6 project. It sets an ambitious expectation and ends the project on a high! Not only is it a great read that is sure to provoke a reaction (I challenge you not to laugh at the end!) but you may notice that it is littered with grammatical features that match the Y5/6 Programme of Study.
Find the text here.
Fowlers Yard by Pie Corbett (available via Teachwire)
Fast-paced and atmospheric – the children are taken straight into the action with this highly engaging text.
A Sea Above the Sky by Thomas Wright (from a short story compilation, Mystery Stories by Helen Cresswell)
This intriguing short piece will no doubt give rise to a discussion about ‘urban myths’. Other stories within this text, although too long for a fluency session, would be perfect for an end-of-day read-aloud. ‘The Scythe’ by Ray Bradbury is a superb short story.
A Stellar Job by Elizabeth Quigley age 13
This 500-word competition winner is always a hit with the children and project participants. Not only is it a great short story, but it reminds the children that they can be authors too!
Find the text here.
Ex Poser (taken from a short story compilation, 13 Unpredictable Tales) by Paul Jennings
This has a little more dialogue in it than we would normally advocate for a fluency session text, but this short story is so sharp and rewarding that it is well worth including.
The Nameless Holiday from Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
Just as we would expect from Shaun Tan, this short story provoke more questions than answers. This is just the kind of quirky tale that should leave the children pondering the meaning of the text long after they have finished reading it.
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