What I Did With My Year 8s Yesterday…

love to read

…below is an e-mail I sent to the rest of the English department yesterday.  Having started #edread a little over a week ago and being a little tired after BBC School Report the day before I arrived in school on Friday morning caught between wanting to engage with my Year 8 class (my only KS3 lesson of the week) but also uninspired by the thought of either a grammar lesson or making them sit at desks and read within the confines of my classroom.

Instead of allowing either of these scenarios to be the start to my Year 8s’ Friday or mine for that matter I took them to the Learning Resource Centre (LRC) for their lesson – this is the grand title that is given to our school library.  I wanted to go and make use of it, I wanted to free them of the classroom and I wanted to focus them on reading for pleasure rather than reading the book they had been assigned.

Several of my colleagues replied to the e-mail offering positive feedback and saying that they were going to do something similar.  On reading through those comments this morning as I caught up with e-mail it dawned on me that here-in lied a blog post.  So here is the e-mail that I sent yesterday:

What I did with my Year 8s today…

…being up to date with Grammar lessons and my students being well on track with their class readers I did something different today.  When I taught a lot of KS3 I would regularly take my students to the LRC. So, that is what I did.

I talked to them about the fact that I had concerns about the amount of words my top set knew and understood and that I felt it was because 1. Some of them don’t read and 2. Some of them read the same thing all of the time – level of ability or genre.

I challenged my Y8 class to go out into the LRC and find something to read that they would not normally pick up and gave them 20 minutes to read.  I let them sit wherever and however they wanted – leaning against the book case, on the floor, in a comfy chair or at the table as I explained that I don’t sit and read at a desk but sit on my couch or read when I go to bed.  They were wonderful – absolutely silent as they read.  I think Emma (a cover supervisor & ex-student) who was in covering for Andrea (our wonderful LRC Manager) was in shock when she saw how perfectly they read and behaved!

I then did a short activity with them to get them thinking about what they had read – I asked them to answer openly and honestly the following questions:

  1. What is the name of the book you read?
  2. What genre is it – if you can’t put one word on it just describe it.
  3. Why would you not have normally picked up that sort of book?
  4. Did you / Did you not enjoy it?  Why?
  5. Even if you didn’t enjoy who would you recommend this book to – is there anyone in the class who you think would enjoy it.

I finished the lesson discussing “what” and “how” they read with them and challenged them to read one new text a week – be it a paragraph or two from a newspaper; to watch a documentary instead of EastEnders; to download a book to their iPod touch or iPhone – whatever works for them but to think about reading and to do it to enjoy it.

Just thought I would pass this on.  The LRC is a wonderful resource and space and we should (I feel) make more use of it.

Any thoughts, comments or ideas please pass them on.



Image courtesy of Carlos Porto on Flickr.

Help Them Take The First Bite!

tree of knowledge


The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less.

~ Arthur Miller

Not only am I eager to help my students take the first bite of the apple, I’m literally clambering to help them rip the apple from the tree in the first place. Knowledge is power and attaining it is a challenge; even in the age of Google.

Teach your students to question, define, discuss, imagine, share, criticise, explore, speculate, evaluate and most importantly…to enjoy doing it. Teach them “to see more, not less”!

Image courtesy of j4mie on Flickr.

#edread – An Update!


On Thursday I began a ‘crowdsourced’ discussion about getting kids to read, titled #edread.

The purpose of this post is to:

  • Add clarification to the purpose of #edread
  • Clarify how you can get involved in the discussion
  • To show how many great ideas and resources have been shared already.

(Perhaps I should do a weekly update? – I will give this some thought!)

1. What is the purpose?
I have started the discussion to develop a fuller understanding of how to engage students in reading and to also collate a bank of resources that can be used for this purpose.  While starting the discussion it became clear that there were three different types of student who I wish to focus on:

  • The student who does not read at all and does not see any value in it.
  • The student who wants to read but is afraid as they feel that they simply “can’t read”.
  • The student who knows they can read but is happy to coast along reading the same (level) book rather than challenging themselves with higher (level) material.

2. How do you get involved?
Simply share any ideas, thoughts, links or resources on Twitter using the #edread hash tag.

I have set up an archive of #edread tweets here.  And there is a dedicated page to #edread here on my blog.

3. Ideas and resources shared on Twitter so far:
Thank you to everyone who has gotten involved already. Here is what has been shared so far. (I have removed the #edread hash tag and also done some cleaning up – replaced abbreviations with full words, changed grammar etc.)

  • kvnmcl Make time to read to the class every day – whether it be from a book, comic, newspaper, child’s story – read to them and read well.
  • joysimpson “Book displays deeply affect the mindset of those who see them” – Aiden Chambers. Book corners/displays in classrooms matter.
  • joysimpson Lists available such as – if you like..(Tracy Beaker.).then you might like these… Librarians to help and use of Google docs to create.
  • missbrownsword children are never too old to be read to, brings books to life for them.
  • missbrownsword get authors into school.
  • daveterron When having silent reading, read a book as well. Set an example and they’ll follow. (Sound advice, I have done this since I trained to teach.)
  • missbrownsword use reading journals to encourage kids to engage with what they’re reading.
  • Joga5 In Primary have storytelling at break and lunchtimes – could be MDSAs, staff, volunteers (1 school I know has crowdsource events!)
  • DKMead @missbrownsword have you seen peelweb.org. It has a great structure for reading logs encouraging thoughtful interaction with texts.
  • Joga5 Remember that reading has to be uncomfortable and challenging at times (challenge, subject matter, genre etc).
  • Joga5 (Primary) Swap teachers around to read to classes on regular occasions.
  • Joga5 Kids aren’t stupid. Don’t restrict an emphasis on reading to World Book Day & Book Week – be consistent with fun splurges of events.
  • missbrownsword when I was a bookseller I often went into schools to do reading workshops, teachers – make friends with booksellers!
  • missbrownsword RT @MichaelRosenYes My 20 point ‘how to make a book-loving school’ at www.readingrevolution.co.uk.
  • damoward RT @jamesmichie: use a wide variety of texts in lessons 2 let them experience different types of writing & language.
  • jamesmichie use wallwisher as a book review page to encourage reading – get students to write a short summary, opinion and include a picture of the book.
  • jamesmichietake your new Year 7s to the library often, teach them how to select a book to read – encourage them to explore.
    • BiancaH80@jamesmichie That’s a great idea. Sounds so simple but it’s so important. I haven’t taken mine once. I will next week.
      • jamesmichie @BiancaH80 thanks, when I had a Year 7 class I took them at least once per half term – I sat with them & discussed their choices.
  • jamesmichie when studying a class novel get students to buy/download it – ownership of the text helps them to value it.
  • BiancaH80 We do literature circles at our school – started last year. I’d like to do it once a term. Mini-bookclubs.
  • BiancaH80 These bookmarks are great: http://bit.ly/d1Z7IH Get them to write you a letter about their book.
  • IDrumly Make a museum of artifacts as you read. Encourage food, clothes, diary. Design FaceBook pages for characters. Choose actors for a new movie adaptation.
  • jamesmichie great presentation about reading strategies by Bill Boyd: http://bit.ly/3hZ7rJ and lots more great material on his blog: http://bit.ly/fUgdG.
  • AntHeald My school is using AR – http://bit.ly/9URFR8 Definitely working for some.
I hope that if you are reading this you are finding it useful?  If you have not contributed yet please join the discussion and share your ideas via Twitter using the hash tag #edread.Image courtesy of Hannes Treichl on Flickr.

#edread – A Crowdsourced Twitter Discussion About Getting Kids To Read.


It is easy to feel despondent as a teacher.  It can seem that an insurmountable list of problems face us as educators in the 21st century.  As an English teacher I feel that I am attempting to address the short comings of a society in which reading is under-valued, to engage students who fail to see the value of reading, having grown up in a world of XBOXs and iPods and to deal with a growing number of students who do see reading as valuable but due to the fact that they find it too difficult have completely disengaged from it.

However, I believe that we should not feel despondent.  In fact, I believe that we have a duty to feel hopeful looking upon these issues as challenges and opportunities to be addressed rather than just problems to be bemoaned.  My students’ vocabulary does not measure up to what my own was like at their age. Okay, this does not make me happy but if that’s the case then I need to do something about it. I need to get them reading! How am I going to do it? I don’t know exactly (because each case is different) but I do have some guiding principles:

  • I can not expect my students to want to read so I need to inspire them and help them to see the value in it.
  • I need to teach them to overcome their fears about reading and to overcome the barriers that are there stopping them from becoming good readers.
  • I must not cut off routes to understanding simply because it does not fit in with my own value system – if they don’t want to use my Oxford dictionary to look up a word but want to use Google instead then that is fine by me.
  • I need to offer them the opportunity to read the kinds of texts that they will come into contact with in real life.  Every lesson does not have to be about Shakespeare, Austen or Dickens!
  • I have a responsibility to read myself and model good reading.  The best reader in the room is me so I should not be a lazy teacher and ask them to read all of the time – sometimes they need to hear the words come off of the page as they were meant to.

These are my core beliefs as an English teacher who is passionate about reading and one who tries very hard every day to help his students enjoy and value reading.

Getting kids reading is firmly on my departments’ agenda at the moment. Having been involved in the undoubted success that was #movemeon (via @dajbelshaw)  I would like to engage my Twitter PLN in a discussion about how to help young people value reading.  I have identifed three types of pupil:

  • Those who never read and see no value in it.
  • Those who want to read but believe they can’t.
  • Those who read the same thing over and over again rather than challenging themselves.

This then calls for three questions:

  • How do you help the student who never reads and does not see the value in it?
  • How do you help the student who wants to read but won’t because they believe that they can’t?
  • How do you help the student who is happy to coast along reading their way through Tracey Beaker or Alex Rider but is unwilling to challenge themselves and read something more involved?

I am going to use the hash tag #edread and have created an archive here at Twapper Keeper to record all of the tweets. I hope that you will help me out and get behind this project.

[Update] I have created a dedicated page here to keep a record of the project – featuring links to any related posts and an archive of all tweets tagged with #edread. I may also turn this into a book – most likely an online pdf but I have not fully thought this bit through yet.

Crowdsourcing seems to be the model of choice at the moment and I am not about to argue with that.  I think it is the most effective way for us to collaborate and share ideas. What’s more I thoroughly enjoy it.

Should you have any questions please contact me @jamesmichie.

Image courtesy ofsolbronumberone” on Flickr.  Found using “Compfight“- a Flickr Search Tool via @iusher.