Firm Foundations

A guest post by @claireupton, EYFS leader @VicParkAcademy

I come from a long line of construction workers  – men who believed in hard work, getting it right first time, and who took a pride in their craftsmanship.  I firmly believe that as teachers and teaching assistants we are also builders, working hard to form strong and sturdy children who are well equipped to withstand the elements of adult life. Staff at Victoria Park Academy work hard to be master craftsmen in our construction of a meaningful and purposeful education for the children who come to our school.   What is particularly special at Victoria Park Academy is the way in which we view children as co-workers, supplying them with their own tools to help them to succeed in education and beyond.  We equip them to become the best that they can be.

Any building should be based upon firm foundations. Architects and builders understand the need for strong footholds. Even very young children know that a tower built with wooden blocks will fall if the blocks at the bottom are too small.  This concept applies to education also. As we are all aware, reading is a fundamental skill in achieving well at school and beyond, and as such it lies deep within the foundations of what is a sound education. Being able to read well is a vital skill in allowing other aspects of learning to be possible, in allowing the acquisition of knowledge to become a real possibility. Having taught GCSE English for many years, I understand from experience just how valuable reading skills are.  Much of my teaching time at key stage three and four was spent ‘spoonfeeding’ information to students who were not equipped with the necessary skills to extract information from texts themselves.  Had my students been more independent readers there would have been more time for the stuff that really extends our thinking –  debate and exploration.

I recently asked a sample of students across years 1-6 within our school to complete a short questionnaire concerning their reading habits and attitudes towards reading .  Their answers show an encouragingly positive attitude towards reading, with only 6% saying they would be embarrassed to be seen reading out of class.  However, there is still work to be done in securing a sound and enduring love of reading in our children.  This is where RM books can be extremely useful in supporting our more reluctant readers.  By allowing the children to choose their own RM books to read, we are giving them control and responsibility for their learning.   By asking individual children to feedback the information that they have found out from their reading to their peers, we are giving their reading a concrete purpose.  When asked whether they read books to find out information, 83% of children responded yes.  This shows that our children already understand that books are a source of knowledge, and RM books can help us to build upon that understanding.  By giving children ownership and responsibility for bringing the information they have found out from their independent reading into class, we are supporting them in being responsible for their own learning, and affording them an element of control over the learning that takes place within the classroom. In this respect RM books can be an effective tool in helping us to build strong and capable readers well placed for their next stage of education.

And as my father, his father, and his father before him knew only too well,  good tools are the key to  a good job!

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