Trial to explore how teachers should read stories aloud

Researchers to assess whether pausing to ask questions while reading to a class is more beneficial for pupil progress

Catherine Lough

Trial explores the best way for teachers to read stories aloud

A trial is set to explore which techniques used by teachers when reading stories aloud have the greatest impact on pupil progress.

The Story Time Trial, commissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and evaluated by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), will look at whether pupils benefit more from a sustained reading aloud of a book – described as a "GO! Approach" – or a reading with pauses to ask questions – a "STOP! Approach".


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"Reading the story without pausing is a popular way of reading aloud that builds on an established tradition of sharing stories, exposing children to a wide range of texts and seeking to instil in pupils an enjoyment of, and motivation for, reading," the NFER said.

Storytime: What's the best way for teachers to read stories aloud?

"In contrast, there is evidence to suggest that reading the text and pausing to ask questions may help to model to children the implicit processes that accomplished readers undertake when reading, helping them to develop these skills for themselves."

The randomised controlled trial will recruit Year 4 and 5 classes until the end of this month, with the techniques carried out in schools during the second half of the autumn term. Teachers will use only one of the reading approaches for approximately three weeks.

As part of the intervention, teachers will read a copy of The Iron Woman by Ted Hughes with their classes.

The classes must be mixed ability and schools will need to confirm that participating classes have not read the book before.

The intervention must also be led by teachers rather than heads or teaching assistants, and the approach to be used will be randomly allocated.

"In order to understand how the different storytime sessions have had an impact on pupils’ attainment, we assess their progress compared to a baseline. In this instance, we aim to use their previous year’s summer assessments as a baseline," the NFER said.

"We know that in the summer term 2021, some schools will use standardised assessments in the normal course of their practice. We might use this data for the evaluation and, if so, will gather it directly from the assessment providers."

Following the intervention, the NFER will send follow-up test booklets and a survey for each pupil, administered by the teachers and completed by pupils in November and December.

Participating teachers will also be asked to complete an online survey following the trial to provide their views about the different approaches, and a sample of schools will be invited to take part in observations of the approaches in practice.

The NFER said its researchers would also like to gather pupils’ views about their reading sessions and attitudes to reading through interviews and group discussions during visits to a sample of schools. 

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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