Sunday 23 August 2015

Whole-Class Reading FAQs

Recently, my school has moved away from carousel "guided reading" lessons and we have been teaching reading skills in whole-class lessons. It has been an interesting process and we are still adapting and tweaking to improve; it is by no means a perfect solution. I've blogged about it throughout the way and have shared resources but people often have questions about certain elements. Here, I will try and answer some of the most common questions.  Some answers will link to previous blog posts so all links will open in a new tab so you can keep reading here as well. 

What is whole-class reading?
Very simply, it is when reading skills are taught in lessons similar to maths, science, art and music, with the teacher teaching the whole class and ensuring all children are challenged through differentiation of language, instructions, activities etc. as appropriate.  

Why move to whole-class reading?
Rhoda covered this in her post called Our Solution To The Problems With Guided Reading.  The two biggest reasons people consider moving is because it takes up much less teacher planning and preparation time and children produce a lot more work than in carousel lessons. 

How do whole-class reading lessons work?
I've answered that in this blog post. You can see a sample plan and download a blank version and all the resources for the lessons.

What is RIC?
RIC is a character which I made to help children remember the most important reading skills: retrieval, interpretation and commenting on authors' choices.  He is a Screen Bean and is used in the logos I made to brand the main reading objectives of the new curriculum.  You can download all the RIC resources here.

What are the main reading objectives for the new curriculum?
For KS2, I have adapted to the old APP AFs for the new curriculum. They are: retrieve, interpret, (author's) choice, viewpoint, perform, review. You can read more about how they came about in this post.

Where do you get the learning objectives from?
We take them directly from the new National Curriculum, using the RIC assessment sheets to help us.  You can see more about the assessment sheets and download them here

What is a RIC starter? 
It is a short activity used at the beginning of reading lessons to help children use the important reading skills (retrieve, interpret, choice) to answer questions about some form of media; it could be a short paragraph, a poem, a song, a film clip or trailer, a photograph or cartoon or one of the short films from The Literacy Shed.  The idea is that all children can answer the retrieve and interpret questions and that children add to their answer as they hear others' responses.  The "Choice" question can be about the author's choice or a creative choice made by a director, photographer, lyricist or artist.  There are a lot of examples of RIC starters to view and download here and a whole blog post about creating RIC starters here

How often and how long?
Mostly, we have one-hour lessons twice a week. Sometimes we have had three sessions in a week and occasionally we have long RIC sessions (half an hour rather than the normal ten minutes) if there's a really good one from which we can get a lot of high-quality discussion. 

Are the lessons extra to your English/writing lessons or as part of those?
This really requires a whole other blog post about how our English lessons are organised.  Our reading lessons are in addition to any writing or SPAG/grammar lessons. 

What about the really poor readers?
You need to ensure every child is challenged at their level.  That means, for children who struggle to read, you may need to adapt the activity so they can still meet the lesson objective.  It could mean using a smaller extract or changing some of the words.  They might have a matching activity or filling in the gaps to simple retrieval sentences rather than writing a paragraph in response (as your highest ability might).  Their activities tend to focus more on word reading and understanding rather than the interpretation of texts.  Think about what you would do in maths for those who struggle and transfer that to reading; it's not that dissimilar.  To help you, there's an example of a lesson with some very poor readers here.  Also, it's important to mention that these children still get phonics input each week or day (as appropriate to them) on top of the reading lessons in class.

How are the higher ability stretched?
We have found that whole-class lessons demand more complex written responses to texts from children. We have seen analytical paragraphs from 8-year-olds, including quotes and explanations of texts, that we ourselves wouldn't have written until we were at secondary school. 

How do you assess Reading in whole-class lessons?
I feel there are three types of assessment which we do in relation to reading lessons. Firstly, during the lesson we circulate and give advice, address misconceptions and ensure children are suitably challenged.  As with other lessons, we look at books and mark according to children's success and next steps.  Finally, we get our reading assessment data using the RIC assessment sheets which you can download and read about in this post here.

How do you choose texts?
There are three main ways in which we choose texts. Either we focus on word level, our current theme or the children's interests.  Books like Charlotte's Web and Matilda have been chosen because they contain many words from the year 3/4 word list and language of a similar complexity as well as being just above the general reading ability. We have chosen texts about ancient Egypt or Rome when studying those civilisations and likewise have used river poems or mountain-based news articles during geography themes.  We have also been known to plan single lessons on subjects like ballet, horses, Lionel Messi and dragons at the request of children - they love learning reading skills through their favourite things! With all texts, we use the curriculum word list as a basis for the difficulty we look for.

How do you resource books/texts?
We have used a variety of texts in year four over the last two years of whole-class reading. We've done single lessons or a short series of lessons based on poems, song lyrics, newspaper articles, online articles and blog posts, none of which require any money.  Also, being a school, we have made use of the 5% of books that we are allowed to copy so have copied sections of books for each child - most of the time is this a paragraph or double page.  Each year, we have bought a half class set of books to focus on for a few weeks.  We have 16+ copies of Charlotte's Web, Matilda and Romans on the Rampage.  These we have bought with travelling book fair money or through the English (Reading) budget.  When we are focusing on one book for a period of time, we let the children know in advance what it will be and some of them choose to bring their own copy in or to get it out their local library; this increases the amount of copies we have in school. 

Who reads the text?
Sometimes it is the children independently, or in pairs.  At times children read paragraphs aloud or read a sentence at a time and occasionally the adults read the text aloud or play an audio version of the text.  It all depends on what the objective is and what is most appropriate for what we want children to achieve. 

What do KS1 do?
I will try and get a KS1 year leader to write a bit about what they do when we start back in September but I'll do my best. Currently, our KS1 children have daily phonics lessons; we use RWI and children are streamed.  Year One have added in a few whole-class phonics sessions to ensure all children get exposure to all the relevant content for the (stupid) phonics screening.  KS1 children also do some RIC activities as a class every week. 

How do whole-class lessons fit into your timetable?
We have two hour-long reading lessons each week and we fit in two independent reading sessions.  During these, teachers and TAs listen to children read and we can pick up on any misconceptions and help children choose new books.  Below is a sample weekly timetable so you can see how this fits in around other subjects.  English-based activities are in pink.  Maths-based are in blue. For Theme lessons, I've indicated which subject is being covered.
Click to enlarge.

Can I come and see a lesson?
The simple answer to this is yes you can.  I'm near Brighton, if you can make it to me then I'm happy for you to come and watch a lesson, nosey in some books and have a chat. Many people already have.  Contact me on Twitter or email me if that's something you'd be interested in. 

If you have a question that hasn't been answered here, please leave it in the comments below and I will add it in! 


  1. Hi I love this idea! I am a primary NQT and have found it really difficult to get adjusted to carousel style guided reading! However, I am currently reading non-fiction texts with my 4 groups, how would you do a whole class lesson session with a non-fition text?

  2. I am struggling to workout how you fit every subject into the week if you are doing two or three hours of reading in addition to English /writing lessons.

    1. Hi,
      We were doing 30 mins Guided Reading each day before = 2.5 hours. So our 2 hours is less than we were doing. Most people tend to do at least 2 hours total carousel sessions each week so this works out as less.
      Hope this helps,

  3. Hi, I love this idea and have been trialling it in Year 5 -hoping to roll out to whole school from September. We are a Primary school so I was wondering if there is anywhere that your KS1 teachers have written a bit more about what they do in their classes?

    1. Hi Lissa,

      A post about KS1 will be going live very soon on so please keep an eye out or sign up to receive new posts to your email inbox.


  4. What has been the impact of this approach in your school? Has it proven to raise standards and, if so, has the improvement been significant?

  5. Hi I've been reading your blogs and am really interested in using this in KS1...Im wondering do your KS1 children have any form of guided reading or just the ric part??

    1. Hi Nichola,

      A post about KS1 will be going live very soon on so please keep an eye out or sign up to receive new posts to your email inbox.


  6. Hello

    We have started to implement your approach in our school. Thank you so much for the inspiration.

    Up to now it is working very well. Our only concern is that when we did guided reading we got to hear every child read whereas with this approach we are struggling to do this.

    Any ideas on how to go about this? How does your school fit in listening to the children read (especially in ks1)?

    Thank you in advance


  7. I was wondering this too to be honest-really interested in trying it out after Christmas!


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