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Isabel Porter outlines her approach to using current affairs in guided reading sessions with Y4 pupils at of Fittleworth Church of England Primary School in West Sussex…
In the summer term last year, we started using current affairs and the news to support reading. At that time, the big stories were the general election, the war in Syria and the birth of Princess Charlotte.
In the past we had used fiction books, but some reluctant readers did not always respond well to this. Sometimes it was the story that did not appeal; on other occasions, it might have been that the length of the text that overwhelmed them. Having decided to try a new approach, we opted to use the children’s newspaper First News to introduce current affairs into our guiding reading activities.
My guided reading sessions included one high achieving group, a low ability SEN group and two groups of average ability. Our work was based around the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, which had taken place earlier in the term, and the subsequent search for survivors.
We used differentiated activities for reading comprehension. For example, one question for the lower ability groups was, ‘Which country has had an earthquake – Norway, Nepal or Namibia?’ For our higher achieving group we used more demanding questions, such as ‘Earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do – Can you explain this?’
To start with, I would sit with the groups, help them to decipher the text, read out the questions and ask them to find the paragraph containing the information they needed. Once they had some experience of this they were able to work more independently.
The more challenging questions required an understanding of inference, and reading between the lines to deduce the correct answer. Having used First News report of the earthquake as the basis for the comprehension task, we were then able to ask further questions such as, ‘Looking at the opening paragraph which tells how many people have died, why does it start with the words, ‘As First News went to press…?’
This introduced the idea that newspaper reports are often a work in progress – and that unlike fiction, what is written is not final, and may be subject to change.
While one group worked on comprehension, I would lead a discussion with another group to help them recall what they had read and take ideas from the text to substantiate opinions. There were three other carousel activities – quizzes, working with pictures and skimming through the newspaper to find stories which appealed to them.
The picture activity was differentiated, so lower ability groups could look at pictures, talk about what was happening in them and explain why they might make a good news story. My more able readers had to find a selected picture in the paper and write a summary of the news story.
The quiz section focused on single words. Sometimes it was a crossword, and at other times it would involve matching a keyword and a definition. Sometimes pupils were given an article with blanks and had to insert the correct words, which helped them with reading for meaning.
Using current affairs and news has brought the wider world into our classroom. It’s made reluctant readers more willing to read aloud and to try to answer questions.
Using a newspaper allowed our pupils to flick through and read anything that caught their eye. The children didn’t need to start at the beginning, as they would with fiction. News articles are also much shorter, so any reader can feel they have made progress.
I’d recommend any teacher thinks about using current affairs to support guided reading.
First News is a weekly national newspaper for children aged 7 to 14; this month sees the launch of the First News iHub,– a digital news and activity tool to help with literacy linked to the news every week. For more information and details of how to sign up for a free trial, visit www.firstnews.co.uk/ihub
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