English - Texts put to the test

16th November 2012 at 00:00
Quizzes keep children hooked on books, as one school finds

Imagine if reading was a chore and that each time you read a chapter of a book you were asked to explain, out loud to friends, what your impression of it was. Would you love reading or hate it more with each passing day? It is a problem we have struggled with for years at our school but we think we have finally found a solution.

At our community academy in Basingstoke some children arrive with reading levels below the national average, so we knew we needed a reading intervention scheme. But it had to be an effective assessment system that would not put them on the spot in front of their peers.

We now make sure that our pupils in Years 7-10 spend 25 minutes a day reading with their form tutor, with an extra 30 minutes spent reading on their own. We back this up with Accelerated Reader software, which quizzes the pupils on the title they have read, calculates whether they have read the whole book and understood it, and gives teachers vital information about what level the pupils have reached.

A pupil who has read one of the Harry Potter titles or a book from the Time Riders series by Alex Scarrow might be asked 10 questions about the main plot. Against the general perception of assessment in schools, these quizzes have encouraged our pupils to read. The biggest motivator is successfully passing the quiz, but Accelerated Reader also has built-in reward systems, including "100 per cent" boards and a word millionaires' club, which lists pupils who have read more than a million words.

But Accelerated Reader is not about prescriptive reading lists. Pupils can choose from thousands of popular books within their correct reading range, as identified in end-of-term assessments. These ensure that pupils select books that suit their reading age and interest level. It would otherwise be easy for them to choose books that were too difficult or too simple, which would quickly demotivate them.

We now have an extremely positive reading culture and the results speak for themselves. Our pupils have read 1,900 books in the past five weeks - more than 1.5 million words a day. And assessment results over the past school year show that Year 7 pupils have improved by nine months, Year 8 by 15 months and Year 9 by 11 months. More importantly, our pupils now recognise and respect the beauty of books.

Julie Rose is executive principal of Everest Community Academy, Basingstoke. The British Educational Suppliers Association and Renaissance Learning, creators of Accelerated Reader, will be running an open debate on reading and assessment at the TES-backed London Festival of Education on 17 November. For more information on the event, visit londonfestivalofeducation.com

What else?

Encourage pupils to become passionate about reading with mirrymir's reading journals.


Or use Miss_s_k's reading skills lesson to turn pupils into successful readers.


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