The thing about books…Let’s TALK about books.


“I will say a prayer, just while you are sitting there
I will wrap my hands around you
I know it will be fine
We’ve got a fantasy affair
We didn’t get wet, we didn’t dare
Our aspirations, are wrapped up in books
Our inclinations are hidden in looks”

Wrapped up in books Belle and Sebastian

In primary school books are the most important tools we have at our disposal . What worries me is we seem to have lost the time to explore them…The time to talk about them…the time to make links and connections to our knowledge…the time to draw in the pieces and make our own sense of them.

Question… How much time do you give to children talking about books?

Sadly I see loads of comprehension activities online. Lots of comprehension questions that create one answer. What I rarely see however is people talking  about children talking about books in their classroom.

There is currently an ongoing debate about whole class reading and guided reading…not even going there as actually they do different things and great guided reading is still probably the most powerful tool we have at moving children’s reading forward (please don’t confuse the flippin’ carousel with guided reading)

What I think is being lost however are the  climates in our classroom’s where we can talk about books. The Reading for Pleasure agenda seems to have been sidelined in the need to improve test scores. Reading in our classrooms seems to be driven more by how children answer a question rather than whether they enjoy reading.

Question…Do you let children explore their understanding about books?


It is however there in black and white as part of the National Curriculum.

“The national curriculum for English aims to ensure that all pupils: read easily, fluently and with good understanding. develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information. … use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas.”

National curriculum 2014

Like many schools, we identified that under achievement in reading impacts on children’s progress across the curriculum. Whether due to reluctance or an inability to read, it remains a barrier to their learning. We had to stop and ask ourselves some key questions and ask ourselves some hard truths.

What is our goal?
Do we care only about reading test scores, or do we want our students to have a positive attitude toward reading and choose to read on their own?

(Tip personally I think if you get the second right then you get the first)

Ask a secondary colleagues about which kind of reader they would want transitioning to them, pretty sure they’ll tell you it’s a child who is curious about books and enjoys reading.


There are some problem inherent in this and the answer isn’t as simple as your heart would suggest. There are some pupils who may never truly be switched on by reading. Teachers need to KNOW about books. If teachers don’t know about books then how can we hope for them to be able to drive those more open conversations about books.

This won’t just happen by chance. If you want teachers to be knowledgeable about books you have to give that the time it needs to happen. Teachers need to talk books and share books as much as the children do. Having an advocate that drives this is key.

Top Tips in creating a Reading for Pleasure and Purpose (thanks Alex) climate

  1. Read to your class everyday (Make it a valuable time not a throwaway time, make it special.)
  2. Make books an integral part of your curriculum. (Encourage exploration)
  3. Guide but don’t limit  (Don’t be snobby, doors can be gateways they often offer way more than we think they do)
  4. Teacher Readers (Knowledgeable staff being a role-model for pupils, make time for this to become a reality)
  5. Escapism (Give children  time to just immerse themselves in a book)
  6. Time for talk (Create opportunities to talk about books, not ask questions but genuinely talk about books)
  7. Books ahoy! (Make your school swim with books)
  8. All aboard (Does your SLT make it important) Primary reading – ten questions (excellent document for SLT from the North Yorkshire Literacy Team)
  9. Involve parents. (Getting parents onboard is ultimately the key)
  10. Think about knowledge that will help children dig into a book more effectively  (knowing stuff around the book they’re reading helps them explore better)


I’ve also included a link to the CLPE reading scale, it’s a fantastic document for helping you think about the needs of individual readers and well worth a look if you haven’t seen it.


Finally from Michael Rosen courtesy of @jdurran

a) We should make time for asking questions for which we don’t have an answer.
b) If ever asking questions for which we do have an answer, we must ask ourselves why are we asking?!

Now stop reading this and go and read…your choice.


Bonus Post… Parklands Subject Leader Ofsted Prep Questions via @ChrisDysonHT

Prepping your team well is a key ingredient to a successful Ofsted. Here are Chris Dyson’s Subject-Leader questions.  (Download link at the bottom)

Maths and Literacy

Questions all Subject Leaders should be able to answer?

  1. What are the standards of your subject from July 2017?
  2. You will need the key info from Raise and cross reference with H/T and SEF to ensure ‘all singing from the same hymn sheet’. NOVEMBER
  3. Can you make a judgement on these outcomes e.g. ‘attainment’ is RI (below National ) ‘progress’ is Good (Be able to support these 2 answers with evidence)
  4. What are standards (attainment) currently? (if over half way through the year….. ARE % ….GLD estimate…. Y1 Phonics est….. Y6 and Y2 predictions) ALTHOUGH OFSTED DON’T WANT PREDICTIONS – its good to be forearmed
  5. What was the progress judged to be last July/currently? (evidence based)
  6. What is in place to ‘boost’.
  7. What are the main strengths?(all of your responses no matter how dire should be littered with HOWEVERS i.e. strengths/positives/green shoots etc)
  8. What are currently the main areas of concern in your subject? Which YG … may be BvG or PP v Non (Evidence of some triangulation analysis i.e. data/books/planning)
  9. What are you doing about it and have you edited your action plan? (Not War and Peace, simple/manageable/doable)
  10. What impact is your action plan having on provision/standards/progress?

( Are you using the same system as the H/T annotates the SIP?)

  1. What are you currently monitoring in your subject and what does that entail? (E.g. make sure it’s not scatter gun approach but very focused, and a s a result of book trawl/ triangulation/ ch interview)
  2. What about next steps/long term plans(ensure you know the direction of travel of national picture/school and more importantly pupils’ needs… ie 2 years to be hitting 85% ARE – spelling and HW focus to raise eXceeding)

Try brain storming these answers succinctly on an A3 sheet then check the facts where applicable. Now formalise each one of your punchy short answers on A4, rehearse it, and practice the script with SLT. Update when needed.

Recent OFSTED Q (May 2016) asked to Maths Co ordinator

  1. How long have you been in the post?

    2. What year group do you teach in? (being in Y1 or Y6 isn’t an excuse for not knowing about maths in the rest of the school)

    3. How do you rate maths in school? (Be positive – don’t dither – give a definitive answer – plump for ‘good’)

    3. Where is the weakest maths teaching in school? (Ofsted spent an awful lot of time on this!… how do you know… what support have you given…. What would you do next? HT – capabilities if no change after support)

    – why was it weak?

    – how do you know it was weakest?

    – what have you done to improve teaching? (You may want to use lots of evidence for this – so try have a paper trail ready on monitoring you have done… she didn’t want to look at data or books)

    – how do we know maths had improved in this area? (ARE increasing….. gap BvG closing…)

Questions all Subject Leaders should be able to answer (1)

Stop…Ask yourself a question …Reflect …Act.


This is a micro-blog. Having had an inspiring week thanks to some brilliant challenge from @Enquire1, then finished off by a great day of learning at #LLL17. I thought I’d share a couple of key questions. These are questions for anybody in a school and they are really worth the time to stop and reflect on.


What three words would be written in the middle if  you cut your school in half?

Supplementary question from @GazNeedle

Would everyone agree?

Finding those three words that act as a lens on everything you do is an incredibly powerful way of looking and judging the actions you take.  Thanks @GaltVicky for this.


Question 2 inspired by the Carter Report.

If someone comes round your school what will they take away as the things that your school does well?

What are the things that make your school unique?

What are your signature pedagogies?


The discussion and thought around the questions is more important than the answers. Enjoy.

Have a great Sunday