Tag: reading

Raising Attainment – Sharing Good Practice Nationally

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Falkirk Council recently shared their approach to raising attainment in literacy at the National Literacy Network. Our Literacy Strategy was shared, with examples of good practice from each work stream. Colleagues from across sectors and from all over Scotland attended the session and feedback was extremely positive.

St. Bernadette’s pupils stunning rap demonstrating the 6 reading comprehension strategies was shared and was really well received. Colleagues really liked the way the pupils demonstrated their understanding in a very creative way.

Active Literacy work from Bonnybridge Primary School was also shared and colleagues were impressed with the range of active literacy strategies which were shared.

Colleagues were impressed with the work Falkirk is carrying out to support parents and carers. We shared some of our you tube animations for parents/ carers and parental leaflets. We also shared the you tube training videos which are available 24/7 for teachers to access to support the delivery of active literacy in the classroom and outwith.

Our key successes for this year so far have been populating the work streams of our Literacy Strategy, a consistent approach to teaching higher order reading skills and consistency of approach. Our next steps are to take the strategy forward even further to continue to raise attainment and close the gap.

It was a really enjoyable morning sharing good practice and engaging in professional dialogue with colleagues.

We are really excited to take this forward in the future.

Sharing Reading Approaches with Parents and Carers at St. Bernadette’s RCPS

parents 1 st bsParents and carers from St. Bernadette’s RCPS engaged in an active learning reading session on Thursday 26th February. Pupils from across the stages participated in the session sharing their knowledge and understanding of reading skills and strategies with both parents and visitors from St. Ninian’s Primary School in Stirling.

Falkirk Council’s Literacy team delivered the session sharing the good practice embedded in the school and two P6 pupils confidently and competently delivered a short presentation which included a very impressive i-movie and musical rap demonstrating reading skills.

Parents took part in a thinking reader session using the text ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’.  The strategies and key ideas to support children at home were shared and explained.

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The six strategies are:

1) Prior knowledge and understanding

2) Metalinguistics

3) Visualisation

4) Inference

5) Main ideas

6) Summarising.

The visitors were then treated to a marketplace style tour of pupil work from across the stages.

Feedback included:

  • This was enjoyable, fun, great insight into children’s learning. It’s amazing to have the evidence exhibited in children…. Amazing
  • Good to show how the kids learn and the wide variety of text. Learned how important the kids understanding the text is and understanding of words.
  • Very informative so impressed by the work of the pupils. Fab!
  • The session was very helpful. Helps me understand more about how reading is taught and delivered in school! Will use at home.
  • Very useful allowed insight into strategies employed within school (would be helpful having “bullet point” newsletter on this.
  • I really enjoyed this session. I find it incredible and inspiring to realise the skills the children are managing to acquire at such a young age.
  • Reading is a wonderful life skill so anything that encourages it is a great idea.
  • I found the session helpful in relation to encouraging reading skills to my grandson. Maybe an information night for grandparents/carers would be beneficial.
  • Really good to see such creative children that seem to really enjoy what they are doing.


Closing the Gap

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Falkirk Council: Closing the Gap

A number of Falkirk Council schools are in the first phase of a Partnership Project that is funded by Education Scotland’s School Improvement Partnership Programmes (SIPP).

The SIPP is a collaborative school improvement strategy that promotes new ways of working across classroom, school and local authorities. Data and collaborative enquiry are used to innovate, test and refine new approaches to tackle the attainment gap.

Falkirk Council is currently one of 7 local authorities funded to work with the Robert Owen Centre, University of Glasgow. Projects across authorities are wide ranging and are very different but the main focus of each is to use collaboration and enquiry to tackle educational inequity and ‘Close the Gap’ for pupils.

Falkirk Council’s identified task is to pilot a staged intervention approach to low attainment in literacy in the upper primary, involving the building of family capacity in areas of relative deprivation.

This is an exciting joint initiative between Schools and Community Learning and Development. Seven primary schools within Falkirk and Grangemouth clusters have signed up for the project. These schools are using a systematic literacy intervention programme called High Five (Family Fischer trust) with small groups of pupils in P7 who have attained lower literacy scores. Alongside this, the Community Learning and Development team are providing additional opportunities for the pupils and their families to encourage motivation and ambition. Opportunities for enhanced transition to High School are also being explored.

The literacy intervention programme will run for a minimum of 20 weeks. Some parents have engaged with the process and have signed up for additional CLD activities.

Robust quantitative and qualitative data is being gathered and will be presented to SIPP, and pupil progress will be tracked from P7-S2.

So far, pupils are enjoying their experiences using age appropriate strategies and structured reading materials.

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Active Literacy – A Probationer’s Story

farmer duckAlix Thomson, a P3 Probationer teacher at Victoria Primary is delighted to share her experiences implementing active reading in her class. Here is Alix’s story:

This term my P3 class, at Victoria Primary, have been working on developing their comprehension skills, with a particular focus on summarising. The lessons have been successful and the pupils have really developed their skills, so I thought that I would share them with you as you said to send on anything that was working well.

The class began developing their summarising skills by focussing on key words. They used key words in lots of different ways.

  • Picking out key words in reading books: choosing the most important word on each page and explaining why; covering up words to see if they were essential for understanding the sentence.
  • Using different forms of text to further our understanding of the importance of key words: using shop catalogues as their text, pupils had to pick key words to describe an item to a partner without using the name of the product – could their partner work out what they had chosen?; watching or listening to news stories and noting down the key words.
  • The class also started including key words in our Busy Starts: key words from a well known story or film were displayed on the smartboard and pupils had to work out which book or film it was; this then progressed into pupils setting challenges for classmates – what film were their key words describing?

Then pupils developed their understanding by using key words to help them to summarise texts.

  • Note taking: whilst watching a short video clip of our class book (Farmer Duck), we took notes on a whiteboard, trying only to note down key words; these notes helped us to create storyboards summarising the story.
  • One sentence summaries: pupils had to write a sentence to describe their reading book; this skill was then used throughout all curricular areas with pupils using one sentence summaries to describe any of our lessons, or to recap on learning during a lesson.

Literacy Strategy Celebration of Success

Monday 12th January saw over 100 people attending a celebration of Falkirk Council’s Literacy Strategy event at Camelon Education Centre. Representatives from all of the 8 work streams including parents, pupils from Bonnybridge Primary and Grangemouth High School, teachers, Education Scotland, Library Resource Services,  businesses, partners, Falkirk Herald, Forth Valley College, the author Stuart Reid, librarians, development officers from neighbouring authorities, Scottish Book Trust, Employment and Training Unit, Moneywise Project, Entrepreneur Me and Renella.

Key note speakers Helen Fairlie, Literacy Development Officer, Education Scotland and Anne Pearson, Acting Director of Education started the celebration event off with positive news about how Falkirk Council are raising attainment in literacy.

After hearing the key note speakers, participants broke off into work stream groups to engage in professional dialogue and share their contributions to the literacy strategy to date. They then examined next steps and further ways forward to support ‘zero tolerance to illiteracy’.

Here are a few samples of photographs from the event:

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Active Approaches to Reading at Early Level


Falkirk Council’s Early Level literacy mobilisation team have been working hard on support materials for Early Level staff. The focus is on early reading skills and the team have produced a short document outlining approaches to support the teaching of early reading skills. The document provides examples and photographs of ‘The Thinking Reader’ in action at this level. Sharon has been working with a number of nurseries including Larbert Day Nursery, Denny Primary School Nursery, Hallglen Nursery, St. Margaret’s Nursery and Nethermains using this approach. St. Francis RCPS have taken the Thinking Reader approach which is embedded across the school and adapted it within their nursery. St. Francis have produced wonderful work included in a ‘Thinking Reader’ floorbook which they are sharing at a good practice literacy event across the authority.

To access this document, please click here: Active Approaches to Reading Dec 2014

Thinking Reader at Bainsford Primary


Emma Cuthbert, Interim PT at Bainsford Primary School is delighted to share the wonderful work her P2/1 class has been carrying out in relation to higher order reading skills. 

The class have already studied Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers and completed a thinker reader booklet. The start of this session has been spent on Book Detective skills and roles and comprehension related to their reading books.

They have recently studied Pink – again by Oliver Jeffers and you can see some evidence of their hard work here.

Emma and her class are making an extremely valuable contribution to the Literacy Strategy and plans to go onto applying these skills to other texts. Sharon Wallace, Curriculum Support Officer is really impressed with the quality of reading here and has invited Emma to share this good practice at an authority CPD event.

Can you spot the 6 comprehension strategies in operation here?

1. Prior knowledge and understanding – what do you already know about penguins? What do you know about pink?

2. Metalinguistics – can you spot the tricky words or phrases? Can you find the word ‘penguin’ in the text?

3. Visualisers – can you draw of a picture of the story so far?

4. Inference – reading between the lines questions

5. Main ideas

6. Summarising

The children really enjoy the Thinking Reader approach and here are a few quotes to share:

“I really enjoyed ‘finding the evidence’ in the book” Ella

“Can we do these again for a different story? They are fun.” Jack

Embedding Reading Strategies Across Bonnybridge Primary School

Bonnybridge Primary School have been working really hard to embed active literacy  across their school. In this post, we are taking a look at how Bonnybridge are improving attainment in reading. In active literacy reading, there are 6 comprehension strategies which are:

1. Prior knowledge and understanding – what do the pupils already know about the text/ main theme/ author

2. Metalinguistics – what are the interesting words and phrases? Which words do you like? Which words are you unsure of? How can we check the meaning?

Here the pupils are using a range of strategies, but you can see how they are analysing the words and phrases in this online newspaper report and using a dictionary to support their understanding. The pupils are using an active reading approach called ‘The Thinking Reader’ here:

3. Visualisation – can you produce a visual image in your head of the story/ plot/ character? Younger pupils will record this as a picture or drawing. Older children will produce more complex mind maps/ diagrams.

4. Inference – reading between the lines – what is the message the author is trying to convey without actually saying? What is the difference between what the character is thinking and what the character is saying?

Look at this wonderful work showing results of applying their inference skills about an advert #widertext 

5. Main ideas – what are the main ideas relating to plot/ character/ setting/ themes? Here we can see the pupils from P6/7 of Bonnybridge Primary School using their knowledge of the main ideas to formulate a theory of their own.


    6. Summarising and paraphrasing – can you summarise the text in less than 20 words? Can you summarise in a tweet? Can you paraphrase the story? Can you provide synonyms and antonyms?

Look at these wonderful summaries of Danny, Champion of the World:

All of these 6 comprehension strategies combined are a very powerful toolkit for pupils who are then required to apply across a range of curricular areas in a range of new and unfamiliar situations.

Here is a quote from the Head Teacher commenting on the impact of active literacy across her school:

“A greater understanding and confidence by staff in delivering literacy across the school. Engagement of staff in the use of media to enhance learning and teaching is much more evident. This in turn has developed a deeper understanding for pupils of their learning.” – Jill Stocks, Headteacher

What does the DHT say about active literacy?

“This session, part of my remit is to develop Literacy and English across the school. We have worked hard as a staff to implement the principles behind Active Literacy. I find that reading has moved significantly away from ‘hearing reading’ to ‘teaching reading.’ At all stages in the school, the children are actively involved in their learning, working with the six comprehension strategies to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the texts that they are reading, watching or listening to. The use of Blooms Fans in the upper stages has encouraged deeper thinking and questioning of texts. A wide variety of learning contexts to which the children can apply their comprehension strategies has helped the children to transfer their reading skills across the curriculum.  In addition to reading, writing has improved with the implementation of the genre specific targets in Taught Writing, Core Writing Targets in Taught Writing, Daily Writing and Writing Across The Curriculum jotters. Some classes have also introduced Personal Writing Targets where children are encouraged to set their own areas for improvement. The contexts for writing are relevant, purposeful, enjoyable and link directly to IDL themes where appropriate.” – Andrew Watson – DHT

Here is a quote from one of the class teachers:

“I have seen a vast improvement in Literacy over the past year. The implementation of spelling strategies have enabled the children to meet core targets within everyday literacy tasks. The children learn to spell actively which allows the words to come alive and while there is still very much a place for writing / spelling the words correctly, this has allowed the children to embed their learning,

The comprehension strategies are firmly implemented within all reading tasks. The children are fully aware of what each strategy is and how each strategy helps them  to progress their learning and fully understand any text, whether it is a novel, film or a tweet. The children are more engaged with their literacy and are not only improving in literacy but are very much focussed on doing so.”- Michelle Cairns Class Teacher

“There has been a definite improvement in the literacy skills of the children over the past term.  The children are much more engaged in their learning and I feel they have gained confidence in their own abilities. Over the past year the children have developed a more secure understanding of the 6 comprehension strategies and are much more confident using these independently.  The inferencing skills in particular of the children in my class have improved and they are now more able to show a deeper understanding of the text as well as recognise and include inferencing  within their own writing.  My class really enjoy using a variety of texts such as film clips, articles etc and I feel that because of this the quality of discussion has significantly improved.” P6 Class teacher Emma Stanners

“Both myself and my class have learned a lot through active literacy this session. It has been a delight to provide a context for active learning and then to watch as the children take the initiative with their own learning.

The six comprehension strategies help to make reading more interesting for the children. They gain a deeper understanding of their texts and, consequently, enjoy it more. I have had parents come and tell me about how surprised they were that their child has suddenly developed an enthusiasm for reading at home and I believe active literacy played a huge role in this.

Similarly, I have been able to see many children develop and interest in their writing this session through active literacy. Much of our writing has linked to practical activities that we engage in prior to putting pencil to paper and so the children have been actively thinking about their task before even writing about it. As a result, they are eager to write.” Class teacher P6/7 Sarah Burns

What about the pupils? What do they have to say about active literacy? Here is a sample from P3K:

“Reading is different this year because we’ve got chapter books, with harder words. In Primary 2, we didn’t do inference, but now we do. I like reading because it’s quite fun and I like finding the clues. Inferencing is my favourite thing because we find everything”  – Lucy MacFarlane P3K

 “I like reading because it’s fun to do. I like doing summarising because it can be hard to find all the main points. It’s fun because you get to see good books like Boy Racer and you can read about who wins and who’s not good and who sticks up for them. It’s basically just fun!” – Zaak Budzinski

“I like reading because you get to learn loads of stuff from the books. I like doing main ideas. Sometimes it’s really hard, sometimes it’s really easy.” – Laura Little P3K Matthew Morrison P3K

“Prior Knowledge is everything that’s already inside your head. You use it so you can read.” – Ellie Wyatt P3K

“I like reading because you learn new things and you get harder words now. The book is longer too.” – Rory Bateman

Active Reading Animation for Parents and Carers

As part of Falkirk Council’s ‘Zero Tolerance to Illiteracy’ strategy, the Curriculum Support Team have been working on a number of ways to support parents and carers in this area. It is very important to us to share the strategies used to teach reading with parents and carers in order to improve attainment in this area. Reading workshops have been delivered a number of Falkirk Council Primary Schools and these have been really well received with really positive feedback.

A short animation has been recorded to support in this area and is available on Falkirk Council’s You Tube channel. We are very grateful to a P7 pupil from Airth Primary for recording the voiceover on this, showing us her excellent reading skills in action! It can also be accessed from here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ef1zKq6zm3U

For more information, please contact your child’s school to see if they are holding an active literacy reading workshop.

Active Literacy Update Session 2013 – 2014


Each year, as part of Workstream 6 of the Literacy Strategy, a report is prepared relating to Workstream 1 – ‘Embed active literacy in every establishment’.  These reports can be viewed here:

Please click this link to access Active Literacy Strategy July 2013 for Session 2012 – 2013.

Please click this link Active Literacy Strategy July 2014 to access ‘Active Literacy Update’ for Session 2013 – 2014.

For further information, please contact literacy@falkirk.gov.uk