Gaps in the reading market #2: Less able 10 year-old boys

I wrote about my first gap yesterday. My second gap is not so much a gap anymore, because I think it has been filled. But let me explain anyway.

There are a few boys (and possibly some girls too), who don’t get reading at 6 or 7 when they’re supposed to. I’ve met them over the years and they present with a range of reasons for why they can’t read. Family breakdown is probably the main thing, with medication coming in second – either having too much or not having enough. I suppose it’s difficult to focus on reading a book at home when your father is beating your mother regularly and then leaves you, never to be seen again. Similarly with medication: drugs do work, but if they dosage is wrong they really don’t, and this can have a catastrophic effect on learning.

By the time these children get to books the schemes that exist in the infant part of the school just doesn’t suit. The English may be at the right level for them, but the themes are not. These children are watching drama like Eastenders and have lived through some tough stuff themselves. Reading trite stories about animals that can talk can be a little demotivating.

So there was a gap in the market here. Books with easy texts but an early teenage theme to them. And then Rising Stars made Dockside and the gap was filled.

I have to declare an interest here – we use Dockside at my school and it’s brilliant. For the one or two readers who did miss the reading boat the first time around, Dockside has really helped them catch up. They will be going on to secondary school being able to read, instead of pretending that they can.

Rising Stars – A company that make me want to get back into the classroom

The amount of my teaching varies. Sometimes I’m in class a lot, sometimes I’m not.

I have a office and a desk. Sometimes I have a classroom and a group of children. The constant is the desk, not the classroom and I often miss the whole teaching a class thing – taking a class of children in September, teaching them a varied and interested curriculum, watching them develop and grow over a year, forging positive bonds with their parents and all that.

However recently the thing that has made me miss teaching more than anything has been Rising Stars, or more specifically, 3 things that Rising Stars sell:

  1. Writing maps – these are the kind of open-ended resource I love. They’re a picture prompts for story writing – full of images that can prompt discussion around vocabulary and story ideas. They’re just the thing for children who are struggling to unleash their imagination or when I’m finding my own imagination is petrifying with tiredness towards the end of each term. You could conceivably base much of a term’s work on one map, depending on how much detail you want to put in to each map.
  2. Challenge Cards – more open ended resources. A picture or a saying on a card to stimulate discussion with guidance and vocabulary on the back to help the teacher. The longer I teach, the more I am convinced that much of education is is giving children more words to describe things with. Some people criticise excessive verbosity, but just because you have a load of words doesn’t mean you need to use them in every situation.
  3. Dockside – Teaching mainly older primary children, I have always struggled with motivating those older children who are behind in their reading. The thing is that many of the books that help them learn to read have concepts and themes that are too infantile to motivate these 9, 10 and 11 year olds. These books are set to the six stages of phonics as decreed by the government as THE WAY THAT CHILDREN LEARN TO READ (which is another debate, for another time). But even better they have the kind of themes that you get in Eastenders – really engaging for older children. We’ve already had great reports coming back from our Year 5 class who are trialling them at the moment.

And guess what. In September I am teaching. 3 days a week. I have a lot of other things to do in the remaining 2 days like being Senco, ICT coordinator, maths leader, performance management responsibilities and all that. But I’m excited about the teaching and it’s partly down to the fact that I’ll finally be able to use these great resources from Rising Stars.

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