As it becomes clear that school won’t ‘return to normal’ for a while yet and many of us will be remote or hybrid the pressure on the curriculum continues to mount. Whilst student and staff safety and well-being must come first, some estimates place effective curriculum delivery at anywhere from 30-60%. Certainly for our school, Aga Khan Academy Maputo, we know reopening is complicated and likely to take time. It’s impossible to argue that any one age group is more severely impacted as the challenges faced are different for everyone. But what about the children learning to read, so that in time they can read to learn?
No matter what reading instruction and support a school can offer, managing expectations for all is important. So many key pieces are missing when we teach reading online. Small reading behaviours, the emotional connection of sharing a book, the power of proximity for learning and more are all so hard to replicate. Access to books is a real and significant challenge for so many. However, all is not lost. If we reframe our goal slightly to focus on building a reading culture and a love of books there’s a lot we can still do.
Building a Love of Reading
A strong focus for our school now is to foster a love of reading. Teachers read daily (in multiple languages), we read in assemblies, we do photo challenges to share books we’re reading, we assigned our primary houses an author each to explore and celebrate, and so on. Reading is a great way to feel connected to the world, even when we must stay apart, and a place to escape to when this is all to much so we promote and celebrate this as often as possible.
One recent assembly (via Zoom) included a game of ‘Who loves this book?’ in which we showed a book and 2 teachers; students then voted by standing up or sitting down. We did this in both our official school languages and followed it up with a video of which teacher was reading each book and some recommendations.
We vary our books, from powerful messages (such as All Are Welcome and Have you Filled a Bucket Today) to fun and silly (Aliens Love Underpants/Os Extraterrestres Adoram Cuecas). We also mix up readers, from teachers to assistants, coordinators, principals, librarians and we hope at some point to have parents read too!
Practice Skills Explicitly
Just as we would in Guided Reading, we still focus on skills. Our teachers and myself all create videos and lessons via Seesaw that target skills – we share these across classes to boost our differentiation so that each child receives skills to practice that benefit them. Generally, our week of reading progresses like this;
Monday – skill focus lesson from the teacher and modelling practicing this skill during a read aloud
Tuesday – guided practice of the skill using levelled reading material (in both languages)
Wednesday – independent practice (in both languages), the child records their reading or Zoom calls a teacher to read aloud to them
Thursday – celebrating reading/literacy driven assembly (in both languages)
Friday – consolidation and review (in both languages)
This is not the same as we would manage in class, and some of our children won’t progress at the same pace we may expect in ‘normal’ school – but we are all reading, learning to love reading and sharing these moments together.
Access to Reading
One of the most significant challenges is making sure every child has reading material. We are fortunate to have a RAZ Kids subscription and supplement this with other digital resources (Epic, Tumble Books, Children’s Digital Library, etc.). We also provide daily read alouds so that all of our children can hear reading too.
We cannot replace the classroom, but in the meantime we will do our best to support our children to develop the skills to read and a love of reading that we hope will see them through this and far beyond.