Thursday 7 January 2016

"Don't simply let them read, because what are they learning?"

In my encounters with teachers I have sometimes come across teachers who've told me that either school management or Ofsted have said things which indicated that it was a waste of time to let children do silent reading in school time and/or to do open-ended story-telling or poetry reading if there are no questions for the children to do. Some of this, they told me, was to do with making 'learning objectives' and 'learning outcomes' explicit.

Anyway, I put out some feelers this morning to see if anyone could or would confirm my encounters.
What you read below came from teachers. 

Just to be clear:
1. I am not knocking teachers. Teachers have to do what they're told to do. If they don't, they risk getting the sack, or not getting a bonus.
2. I am not saying that what you read below is going on in all schools. I don't know how widespread or how exceptional it is. I have no idea. 
3. I am not saying that many schools are not doing precisely the opposite; and believe in giving children time to do 'free reading' or 'silent reading' or 'choosing books' or 'listening to stories and poems' galore. 
4. I am not going to write out here and now why I think this kind of free reading is important. I'm going to guess that most people  reading this know that, and anyway, I've written about it many times elsewhere, including on this blog. 
5. If you would like to contribute your version of the quotes below coming from your experience, please let me know. You can write to my email. It's on the top right hand corner of my website. 


"Many of the children had little or no access to books at home. Silent reading (so, having scheduled time to just sit quietly and read) was removed from the timetable because "there is nothing to assess" and "you can't show progress".

I was asked to teach a Year 5 literacy unit on Michael Morpurgo's War Horse, but there were no copies of the book available. I queried this and the Head said, "Use the DVD. Nobody reads books any more. They just wait for the film to come out"."


"Was told explicitly not to simply 'let them read' because 'what are they learning?'"


"I was told by my head that I shouldn't do story time in my year 1 class when ofsted was there the next day. That day, they had observed my colleague in the other year 1 class and couldn't see the 'learning' during story time. Ridiculous!

Since then, I've worked more in junior settings. We were told the same about silent reading and had to chop it from the curriculum. It appears that unless children have a learning objective (and can explain why they're doing what they're doing and how to be successful at it) that we are seen as not doing our jobs correctly."


"Silent reading and other chances to read are going on but it’s almost a clandestine affair. As teachers, we know and understand the value of reading but it’s almost like we feel guilty doing it. As you say there are no specific learning objectives for reading. If a teacher is being observed there is NO WAY they would let the kids read as the teacher would be unable to ‘show progress in learning’ which would automatically give that teacher an needs improvement/inadequate teaching observation result, which then has a knock-on effect to any pay progression that teacher might get."

Teacher (re told not to do silent reading):

"I've also been told this. They said it was because I couldn't be sure they were actually reading & not day-dreaming!

During guided read, 1 group a day had a 'read for pleasure' activity. Teachers provided a lovely box of comics, football programmes, recipe books, catalogues, anything to grab their interest. The children loved it when it was their turn. When our school got an academy 'principal' I was observed and told I needed to give the children a focus, something like 'choose a non-fiction book and write 5 facts'. Yet more writing, and it certainly got rid of the 'pleasure' bit....æ