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Comprehension revitalised

Even I was getting bored by my teaching of comprehension skills to Years 7 and 8. The tried and tested method of working through a comprehension together - which I had slavishly followed at school - seemed tired and tedious, and certainly didn't encourage the students to take responsibility for their learning.

Now I produce a comprehension format with the help of the class: we discuss the length of the passage, the type of question asked, the variation of questions, the mark scheme, and so on. Then, either using our class reader or choosing their own reading material, they have to find a suitable passage and design their own comprehension questions to go with it. I encourage them to ask open-ended questions rather than getting bogged down by the specifics of what the answer is.

When collected in, the work can be put into pairs, which form the basis for different working partnerships within the group. Each student gets one of the comprehensions to do. Then they pass it to their partner to mark. I create a comprehension myself so I can pair myself with another student.

Anyone who doesn't get their own comprehension completed in time, has the incentive of doing mine to spur them on!

This exercise allows the students to see comprehension work from the point of view of the teacher and marker. It gives them control of their own learning, as well as effectively differentiating between the students.

Claire Trethewey, head of Year 7 and gifted and talented co-ordinator, Bury Grammar School (Girls), Bury, Lancashire

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