The last year has been challenging for all schools and the sector as a whole has been forced to navigate ongoing disruption from local and national lockdowns, to Covid-19 cases in the classroom, to track and trace responsibilities.
Keeping pupils, especially those in the early stages of their educational development, engaged and motivated has been particularly important. At Tor Bridge Primary School we know a child’s reading skills impacts all of their other learning. Reading helps a child build their own vocabulary and improve their understanding, but it also helps them to develop their creativity, imagination and empathy.
For the very young children in Early Years and Key Stage 1 we wanted to ensure they had the opportunity to continue learning their phonics whether they were at home or in school. We also found that children really benefited from seeing the familiar face of their teacher, it allowed them to stay connected to the school.
Our Early Reading Leader and Key Stage 1 team filmed lessons covering the entirety of the Phonics programme for the children to watch at home or in school. This meant each child was able to view daily phonic lessons suited to their individual stage of development, delivered by a familiar adult wherever they were learning.
Staff from across the school got involved, including the catering team, the admin staff, teachers, Teaching and Learning Assistants (TLAs) and the senior leadership team also filmed themselves reading their favourite ‘Bedtime Story’. We found that our youngest pupils really benefited from being able to see the faces of their teachers and hear their voices reading stories. This helped them stay engaged with the reading process and maintained their love of reading.
Our slightly older pupils in Key Stage 2 also benefited from this, they could access the novel they were supposed to be reading that term either online by listening to the teacher recording, or they were delivered hard copies of each chapter so they could read along. Children were then provided with a Bitmoji of their teacher, designed to look like their class teacher, which they enjoyed reading to and even using as a bookmark.
Variety is key
We know from using EdTech programmes Accelerated Reader and Star Reading, by Renaissance, that providing children with a wide range of books to choose from, at their appropriate reading level, is so important for maintaining their confidence and enjoyment of reading. Accelerated Reader calculates each child’s ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ and recommends books that will challenge the child as they read them but not to the extent that they feel demotivated.
With social distancing continuing and Covid-19 still impacting the school day, our ‘Book Vending Machine’ Project has been a great way to keep our pupils reading.
During lockdown our English Leader took it upon herself to reach out to local councillors and local companies to see if they would be willing to support the Book Vending Machine so that all our children could have access to a wide variety of high-quality texts.
She was successful and the project is now utilised as part of our reading reward system. The books come at no cost to the children or their families but add excitement and give each child a sense of achievement on their reading journey.
As a school we pride ourselves on holding reading at the heart of everything that we do and our staff remain dedicated to this mission during this unpredictable term. We were delighted to be recognised at Renaissance’s Lockdown Learning Awards for this.
Olivia Bartlett, Assistant Headteacher at Tor Bridge Primary School, Plymouth.