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What is effective reading to pupils?

Having looked at some of the criteria to consider when choosing books to read to pupils, we will now focus on what makes an effective reading.

Zevenbergen and Whitehurst¹, Biemiller², Beck and Mckeown³ and Vaahtoranta et al.⁴ have all researched ways in which reading to pupils can maximise acquisition of vocabulary. Whilst there are some differences between the methods, the similarities can be summarised as:

Reading the text more than once to the pupils.

This is more difficult with older pupils but could work with parts of a longer text. Three to four repeat readings are generally suggested. Some researchers suggest using the pictures as you go through the reading, Beck and Mckeown suggest showing the picture after you have read a section because not all images support the meaning of the written text.

Defining unknown words for pupils.

Some researchers argue for this during the reading, others at the end of the reading. In contrast to this, Vaahtoranta et al used elaborative storytelling which included rhetorical questions, elaborations and synonyms to support understanding but did not define words. For example, if the word ‘purloin’ was used in a text a definition you might say that purloin means “to take something from someone. For example, a thief purloins money from other people.” If a paraphrasing synonym was used you might say “He really prevented his brothers from taking the honey from the bees!” Both defining and elaborative story telling had an impact on children’s acquisition of vocabulary.

Interacting with the text through open-ended questions that require description and explanation where the answers are often followed up with another question.

Using background knowledge to support meaning and context.

Doug Lemov et al in Reading Reconsidered⁵ argues for reading linked fiction and non-fiction text in order to support meaning and context. For example, when reading Blackberries and Bombs by Julia Donaldson, a play about evacuation during World War 2, you might also read a non-fiction text which provides more information about the process of evacuation.

Relating the text to the pupils’ lives.

Depending upon the familiarity of the book, some work with pupils may have to be undertaken to link their lives and experiences with events in the text. Often with young children we use books that have familiar settings and branch out from this as they get older.

Think about the last time you read to your pupils. Reflect on which, if any, of the above principles you used during the reading.

Identify the next book you will read to your pupils and use the comments to say why you have chosen that book and how you will read it to your pupils?

Don’t forget about our fantastic Reading Lesson Ideas and Phonics Resources to help with your child’s learning

  1. Zevenbergen, A. and Whitehurst, G. (2007). Dialogic Reading: A Shared Picture Book Reading Intervention for Preschoolers. [online] Citeseerx.ist.psu.edu. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/798lnw6 [Accessed 20 Feb. 2019].

  2. Biemiller, A & Boote, . (2006). An Effective Method for Building Meaning Vocabulary in Primary Grades. Journal of Educational Psychology - J EDUC PSYCHOL. 98. 44-62. 10.1037/0022-0663.98.1.44.

  3. Beck, l & Mckeown, M. (2001). Text Talk: Capturing the Benefits of Read-Aloud Experiences for Young Children. The Reading Teacher. 55.

  4. Vaahtoranta, E. & Suggate, S. & Jachmann, C. & L., Jan & Lenhard, W. (2017). Can explaining less be more? Enhancing vocabulary through explicit versus elaborative storytelling. First Language. 38. 014272371773745. 10.1177/0142723717737452.

  5. Lemov, D., Driggs, C. and Woolway, E. (2016). Reading reconsidered. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Brand.

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This article is from the free online course:

An Introduction to Teaching Vocabulary

Babcock Education