It was back in October that Sway Humphries and I started to use Skype with a couple of our guided reading groups. Each week, we’d call one another and discuss a shared text in addition to guided reading sessions. The results were broadly positive – see here.
Post-Christmas, we decided to change the groups around. I looked at children who had made less progress than expected, as well as those who I felt could benefit from more discussion.
The average point score (APS) data for the Skype children is below (remember that this group have worked with Skype since Christmas).
|Entry to y5||Autumn||Spring||End of year|
|Skype group 2||23.5||25.00||27.00||28.5|
|Class without group 2||22.93||24.25||25.23||26.79|
As you can see, the children were initially around the same mean APS as the rest of the class. By Christmas, they were starting to slowly pull away. However, by Spring the progress was double the rate of the rest of the class. Summer term has seen this progress slow a little – I would argue the summer term has been much more ‘bitty’ than Spring for a variety of reasons (see Problems).
Over the whole year, the Skype children had made around 5 points progress compared to 3.8 points for the rest of the class. Remember that 2/3 of their time has been spent working with Skype.
It should also be noted that the first group of Skype children have seen their progress slow slightly, from 2 points per term to 1.5 points in the same time.
Data can be made to say whatever you want of course, and I am well aware that my sample size isn’t great. Additionally, two or three children have not been included in this brief analysis as they were a bit of a revolving cast!
Nevertheless, I have trialled two groups, as has Sway, and we have both seen clear progress with our children. Why is this?
Purpose and Audience
As with writing, the children have responded to having a clear purpose and audience to their guided reading sessions. They are no longer reading with me and their peers, but instead working with another school. Put simply, they want to impress. They know they need to have read the appropriate chapters in order to take part in the conversation. They know they will be put on the spot. They know they will not be able to shy away.
This has been developed further as we implemented Reciprocal Reading. I had never tried this before so Sway led the way and shared her resources. Reciprocal Reading essentially means that the children take charge. Each child has a job – Boss, Predictor, Clarifier, Questioner and Summariser. Through rotating these jobs, each child is able to focus on one aspect of their reading, and throws this into the conversation. Again – purpose and audience.
Reciprocal Reading has generally worked well and has led to amusing conversations between the groups, particularly when deciding if a character was secretly somebody else’s Dad – it all got a bit Eastenders. However, the children were able to back up their thoughts for this being a potential plot-line! What is clear is that the children have enjoyed these roles. Sway organised a Socrative to gather the children’s thoughts about the Skype Reading experience. All said that Skype had helped them to learn, to enjoy reading and one even mentioned they were now able to ‘clarify and question’ – brilliant!
You can see the Socrative responses from my class below.
‘The Spoken Language’
Because of the expectations that Reciprocal Reading brought, I saw a definite increase in confidence in my children. One of the quieter children remained quiet, but involved herself much more through asking and answering questions, making notes as others spoke and referring back to points that had since passed. This made me think about the area of the English curriculum formerly known as Speaking and Listening – the Spoken Language. At staff meetings we have looked at how this area has changed, and one stand-out point was the expectation that children not only speak clearly, but actually listen and respond to others, not necessarily in a ‘linear’ fashion. The child I mention above was showing this brilliantly, even if she didn’t realise it. Could this be an avenue to explore when working on the spoken language in future?
As Sway detailed in her blog post, there have been inevitable problems. Our agreed time was decided after much deliberation due to contrasting timetables. In addition to this, INSET days, one-off curriculum events, technical glitches and an absence of somebody to cover the class has meant that sessions have been cancelled, shortened or made more difficult. That said, the children have always been ready and have been able to take part in at least 80% of the planned sessions.
Sway and I have not yet spoken about whether we will continue to use this approaching reading, but I certainly hope so. I would also encourage others to try it, even if it’s just for half a term, for the following reasons:
– primarily, the children have enjoyed using Skype and working with others.
– there is a clear purpose and audience for them when reading.
– they are developing speaking and listening skills
– the data backs it up 🙂
I would be more than happy to work with anyone interested, and I’m sure Sway would too.
It has been interesting but definitely worth it.