Saturday, 9 January 2016

Free Whole-Class Reading Texts

After blogging our move from carousel Guided Reading lessons to whole-class sessions, I get lots of messages asking which texts we use.  I compiled a list of over 350 books which teachers around the UK use in their primary classrooms but there are also many free ways of finding texts to help children practise reading skills.  Most of these free texts require an internet-enabled device or print out for each pupil or pair.

Please be aware of copyright laws and licenses when photocopying these or posting them on a shared server.

Song Lyrics and Poems
If it's on a website, you can always provide children with the link rather than printing copies - just remember to check on a school computer to ensure any adverts are appropriate. We have occasionally used lyric videos on YouTube to help with this - most of these have some errors which are interesting to talk about. 
There are often brilliant examples of imagery, metaphor and style in song lyrics and poems.  When we use song lyrics, we generally introduce it as a poem and don't mention that it is a song.  It is then a pleasant surprise for the children to realise that songs are poems.  We have explored some grammar fails which writers have used in songs to make the words fit the tune and have explored the double meanings.  Some examples which we've used are:
  • Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson
  • The Show by Lenka
  • The Climb by Miley Cyrus
  • Red by Taylor Swift
  • The River Is by Valerie Bloom
  • The Scribbleboy Rap (from Scribbleboy) by Philip Ridley
Free Publications
Again, these can be downloaded and printed out or uploaded to a school server for use on a screen.
Many organisations publish free e-books or leaflets which can be downloaded as PDFs or read online.  Some examples we have used are George The Sun-Safe Superstar, The Third Shakespeare's Globe and DigiDuck's Big Decision.  There are lots of free e-books of varying quality available to read online or download at FreeKidsBooks.org.  We have also used Tom Palmer's live Football and Rugby World Cup stories which are set out like serial dramas running parallel to the real-life events and outcomes of the games.  Rumour has it he may be doing something similar for the Euro 2016 finals too.  You can view and download all of Tom Palmer's free publications here, including some sports-related short stories. 

Historic Newspapers
Go to the Historic Newspapers website (Education section), choose a pack and email Tom with your request.  He will send you the PDF which you can then use for teaching.  He can also send you a hard copy if you send him your address.  
These newspapers can be uploaded to your school's server (we use Google Drive) so the children can access a copy on their device (we use Chromebooks) or you can print copies of the page(s) you want children to look at.  Because these are high-quality versions of original prints, everything is authentic, including some brilliant advertisements and interesting unrelated articles which can be used to get children think about persuasive devices, the style of newspaper writing and retrieve information.  

Information Websites
Remember to check these whole sites over before letting kids loose on them. Beware of updates to the websites which could ruin your lesson - check the links are live and appropriate each year before reusing plans.  
Sites like NHS Change 4 Life, this BBC Interactive WW1 Trench and BBC Mummy Maker are designed in a really simple, attractive way so they are as useful as a non-fiction book but without the cost or need for storage space.  Children also love using these sites and finding extra information hidden among the images.

Fairly Reasonable Paid-For Sites
  • Twinkl do lots of information books, cartoons and stories as a PDF download.
  • First News send their weekly child-friendly newspapers in PDF format along with lots of teacher resources.
  • Fiction Express releases a chapter every Friday at 3pm and readers can vote for what happens next.  Texts are written by children's authors and run in line with school terms. 
  • Curriculum Visions publish non-fiction print books in class sets but also have all their books and more available in digital format online.

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