KS3 (Year 7) Reading Fluency Project: text selection guidance

    Published: 17 November 2020
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    The Education Endowment Foundation: Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools document states, as one of the top recommendations that  ‘Training focused on teaching reading is likely to help secondary school teachers teach their subject more effectively’ and that, ‘Schools should expect and proactively plan to support students with the weakest levels of literacy, particularly in Year 7.’ The KS3 Reading Fluency Project aims to support secondary practitioners in meeting this aim.

    Find out more about the HfL KS3 Reading Fluency Project, including impact data.

    The Herts for Learning KS3 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 focus on 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 with Year 7 pupils:

    • The texts have to be hard! They should be in line with the challenge expected by the end of key stage 2 – this will represent significant challenge for pupils entering KS3 below age-related expectations in reading.
    • 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, or a text so tantalizingly 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 build their reading muscles on a range of texts that look, feel and sound remarkably different to one another. Variety is the key!


    For text suggestions for Year 5/6 fluency groups, read KS2 Reading Fluency Project: text selection guidance

    For text suggestions for Year 3/ 4 fluency groups, read KS2 Reading Fluency Project: text selection guidance years 3 & 4

    For text suggestions for Year 2 fluency groups, read KS1 Reading Fluency Project: text selection guidance years 1 & 2

    Text recommendations:

    Spells for home by Stephanie Burgis (from The book of hope: words and pictures to comfort, inspire and entertain)

    Regardless of whether you choose to use this text as part of the intervention, simply owning this book is a must. It is full to the brim with quality short stories from an enormous range of superb authors, each offering a different voice and taking the reader down a new and unexpected path. The title selected above is mysterious, tender and thought provoking – perfect to pique the interest of our young readers. Please note that there is a link to, and further details of an online version of The Book of Hope at the foot of this blog.

    A short history of nearly everything by Bill Bryson

    Specifically, the opening chapter, ‘How to Build a Universe’. This chapter, up to the line on the second page, ‘And so, from nothing, our universe begins’ is just the right length, and contains just the right amount of interest and challenge to engage our young readers. In typical Bryson style, the writing is entertaining and witty; moreover, Bryson is able to write about impossibly complicated topics in a way that makes then appear somewhat more accessible. This may be the child’s first foray into the writings of Bill Bryson, but after this introduction, I am hopeful that it won’t be their last!

    Who’s who? from Short! by Kevin Crossley-Holland

    This is perfect in length and ‘punchiness’ for a fluency session. Because it is slightly more accessible in terms of length and pitch than other recommendations in this list, this short story would be perfect as the first text to use with the fluency group in week 1 of the intervention. There are other good options within this compilation, but don’t use too many as the format of the texts within the compilation can become a bit too familiar to the children.

    Alert but not alarmed 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.

    Why don’t penguins’ feet freeze (and 114 other questions)? New Scientist

    This collection of question and answer texts provide a wealth of material for a fluency session. You can rummage through and consider which questions might appeal to your group. As a start, I would recommend exploring the ‘Live Wire’ question on page 12. John Davies from Kuwait poses the question: ‘Where does the force come from when you are thrown horizontally across a room after touching a live electrical connection? I thought there was a reaction to every action, but there is no obvious push from the electricity’. The answer is fascinating!

    I used to live here once by Jean Rhys

    At all times, we aim to choose texts that are capable of provoking a reaction from our young readers. Bearing in mind that the pupils within our project group may be hard to provoke to offer a reaction to a written text, the texts have to be suitably punchy and rewarding. This text fits the bill perfectly. More than once I have seen this text used with a fluency group and the excitement that occurs when the children (or perhaps just one child in the group initially) works out the mystery within the text, is a joy to behold.

    Thanks to the kindness and generosity of all concerned, The Book of Hopes is available without charge on the Literacy Trust website.  The following text is taken from the linked page below:


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    ‘Completely free for everyone to read online, this extraordinary collection of short stories, poems, essays and pictures has contributions from more than 110 children’s writers and illustrators, including Lauren Child, Anthony Horowitz, Greg James and Chris Smith, Michael Morpurgo, Liz Pichon, Axel Scheffler, Francesca Simon and Jacqueline Wilson.


    The collection, published by Bloomsbury, is dedicated to the doctors, nurses, carers, porters, cleaners and everyone working in hospitals. The Book of Hopes is also available as a beautiful hardback gift edition, with 23 never-seen-before stories, poems and illustrations. The Book of Hopes is available to buy now from all good book retailers. A donation from the sale of each book will go to NHS Charities Together, in gratitude for the incredible efforts of all those who worked in hospitals over the quarantine period.’

    The Herts for Learning Primary English Team would like to offer our thanks to all concerned for this supremely generous undertaking.

    For more tips on text selection, as well as how to run effective fluency sessions, join us on one of our forthcoming  fluency training events.

    One-day training events:

    KS2/3 Reading Fluency Project: implications for classroom practice 26th January 2021

    Full project:

    The KS2/3 Reading Fluency Project launches on 12th January 2021

    Other events:

    Reading Fluency Expo! 2021

    A full-day online event, with a range of speakers, workshops and events to keep you engaged and motivated from start to finish. Bringing together informed voices from the UK and beyond, delegates will be able to hear from academics, advisers, plus a range of KS1-KS3 classroom practitioners who are keen to share insights into what has worked in their settings to improve reading comprehension for all. With a focus on fluency and its ability to kick-start the comprehension process, contributors will share theoretical insights as well as reams of practical advice and guidance. Delegates are sure to leave feeling informed, enthused and eager to get back into their classrooms to try new techniques.

    Key note speaker: Pie Corbett – ‘The Big Picture Within Which Fluency Sits’

    Additional contributors:

    Dr Tim Rasinski, professor of literacy education at Kent State University and director of its award winning reading clinic. Dr. Rasinski is the author of the fluency chapter for the Handbook of Reading Research.
    Kate Charlton, Teaching and Learning Advisor for Central Bedfordshire Council – Kate and her team have run the HfL KS1 & KS2 Reading Fluency Projects in their LA and have dug deep into the project data, revealing some fascinating insights.

    Classroom contributors:

    Lauren Haines, English Lead from Gloucester Road Nursery and Primary School
    Emma Bailey, English Subject Lead from Maple Cross JMI and Nursery School
    Nicola O’Brien, English Subject Lead from St Johns Catholic Primary School in Rickmansworth

    KS3 contributor: to be confirmed

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