Our ethos

Whole Class Reading

Rationale behind whole class reading: we know that there are various strategies that a teacher can use when reading a text with a class.  This includes, amongst other strategies, “Teacher-led, whole-class reading”, “Whole-class reading where children are selected to read individually in ‘round-robin’ style”, “Choral reading”, “Paired reading and “Individual silent reading”.  Although children at Hillfort get the opportunity to engage in the individual silent reading through their Accelerated Reader practice, we lend greatest emphasis to teacher led, whole-class reading. 

As Quigley (Closing the Reading Gap, 2020) explains, in this approach the teacher reads with the appropriate degree of fluency (e.g. pace and expression) and explanations/questions are interspersed during reading alongside checking vocabulary and monitoring interest.  This approach offers the benefits of modelling of fluent, expert reading – something our children don’t necessarily have access to in other environments.  The teacher can plan to concisely explain vocabulary, ask questions or offer clarifications during the act of reading, as well as more specifically controlling the task.  For some less skilled readers, they may struggle to follow the text and listen to the reading simultaneously, so you may see occasional children simply listening to the text being read.  Our teachers are particularly alert to ensure that children don’t become too passive by using our home-designed bookmarks to follow along in the text.

  1. Encouraging reading for pleasure

We want children at Hillfort to love Whole Class Reading. They love listening to their teacher using their storyteller voice whilst they follow in the text. They love the choice of books. Consequently, we spend the majority of the session reading, with less of an emphasis on relentlessly deconstructing the language features of the text.



Children show pleasure in the session.

Children are engaged in the text.

Teachers are reading with a storyteller’s voice, giving characters voices/intonation and modelling their own pleasure when reading the text.


  1. Teaching the skills of reading – through a range of modelling, guided practice and independent practice.

As teachers read the text, they model the skills of the reader, often pausing to comment on the plot, the action or authorial intent. At this point, they don’t ask children to give their opinions as it would slow the pace of the reading too much, but they do ask children to have a think. Children will practice these skills in their own independent reading.

In addition to this general modelling, teachers will have a specific focus for each session. This is the skill which children will deliberately practise in the session.



Teachers regularly pause, only for a few moments, to model the skills of the reader. At this point, children are not invited to share their thoughts (to maintain pace in the lesson.) but they may be given a few moment to think, they may share with a partner, they may be asked to show an emotion on their face.


Plot –‘So they started in the passageway but now it seems like it’s turned into more of a dungeon.’  ‘I think they want to find out who was there before them.’

Character – ‘He’s not being very nice to his sister is he.’

Prediction – ‘I wonder if they will…’

Inference – ‘The way she said that tells me that she’s really cross…’ ‘ This place sounds a bit creepy…’  

Authorial intent – ‘I love the way that sentence sounds.’

Once during each lesson children take part in a task. This may be a discussion or a written activity. Some written activities will be on a whiteboard, some will be in the reading response books. This activity will focus on one of the skills of reading.



  1. Introducing more vocabulary within a context.

At Hillfort, we recognised that there is a significant word gap affecting our pupils – especially those from a disadvantaged background. Evidence shows that vocabulary is taught best when it is within a context. Therefore, we have taken the decision to try to introduce as many new tier 2 words within a context as possible. This means that we don’t stop to learn dictionary-style definitions which would significantly reduce the number of words we could cover. Not all children will remember all the words that we introduce but over time, they will know the general gist of more and more words which will allow them to access more texts. Teachers will choose some words to add to the vocabulary wall which they will the use again.



  • Each session will start with a slide of vocabulary. Teachers will choose words for this slide which would be difficult to explain as they read or would slow the pace mid-read. This includes words where a picture would best explain the meaning of the word. The words on this first slide are not deemed to be more important than others; they are chosen to allow pace within the read.
  • As the teacher reads, they will regularly drop out of the storyteller’s voice, just for a moment, and tell children the meaning of a tricky word.
  • The teachers’ copy of the text will have the tricky words underlined with alternative words written in the margin so that the teacher doesn’t have to stop and think.
  • Children will not be asked to share the meaning of unfamiliar words. Eg what do you think x means, unless the focus of the session is how to work out the meaning of an unfamiliar word in a context.

Teaching the skills of reading – through a range of modelling, guided practice and independent practice.


Reading Concepts


Seek understanding from what is read

Reading for pleasure

Reading for information

Reading for personal growth

Reading Skills

Decoding & Fluency

Vocabulary – use and explain



Summarising & sequencing


Explain how meaning is enhanced through choice of words

Make comparisons within and between texts

Explain how content is related and contributes to meaning as a whole


Reading concepts are modelled by the teacher as they read.

Reading skills are modelling by teachers and practised by children.


Decoding and fluency

Standard decoding using phonics is taught within RWI, however, teachers will model decoding tricky words.

Fluency can be a focus of a whole class reading session – especially when a passage is challenging in terms of new words or sentence structures. Teacher will read a passage and then think out loud, ‘that was a bit tricky to follow. I’ll read that again.’ The teacher then reads it again and then asks children to read it aloud themselves. The teacher checks that the children’s intonation is correct.

Vocabulary – use and explain

There are different ways of focusing on vocabulary in a session of whole class reading. 

‘Find and copy one word’ questions can be useful to assess that a child has understood a word but they aren’t really helpful in teaching new words. This type of question is actually more of a retrieval question than a vocabulary question. However, this question style could be used to check for understanding especially if it is word that the teacher has explained in this session. Eg Before the read, the teacher the meaning of the word acrid. It means a nasty, bitter smell but the teacher also takes the opportunity to introduce the synonym pungent. As the children meet the word acrid in the text, the teacher reminds them of the meaning – a nasty, bitter smell. At the end of the session, the teacher ask children to find one word on p. 34 that means the same as pungent. This technique will help children to embed new words and is quicker than writing a definition.

A useful way of teaching vocabulary would be to focus on a particular word in the text – especially if it has been used in unfamiliar way. Children might write a definition in their reading response books and write their own sentence using that word. The teacher must be careful what word they choose to work on, ensuring that it is regularly used or has more than one meaning. Eg In the text, it has the sentence, ‘His leg buckled underneath him.’ Buckled has two distinctive meanings. Children are taught both and write two sentences, each using one meaning of the word.  The metal buckled in the earthquake. The man buckled up his suitcase. Teachers should support children in writing a correct sentence. It’s not an assessment.

It can also be useful to focus on idioms – especially as part of inclusion for children with ASD. For example, in the text it says, ‘He wore his heart on his sleeve.’ The teacher would explain what this idiom means as they read. At the end of the session, they may introduce more idioms that mean the same or idioms using a similar word e.g. black-hearted, heart-broken, he’s got his heart in his boots.

Teachers may also focus on a specific prefix and then introduce children to other words using that prefix.  In the text, it may use the word universal. Teachers may teach that the prefix uni means one and introduce other words using uni – university, uniform, unicorn, unicycle. Children could record these in their reading response books.

Teachers could choose to focus on the root word of an unfamiliar word and then introduce children to other words using that root word. Eg In the text, it may use the word inhabitants. Teachers may teach that the root word is inhabit and link e.g.that to habitat and habitable/ unhabitable. They would also take time to explain that the word ‘habit’ as in bad habits isn’t linked.  Children could record these in their reading response books.

It is helpful for the teacher to revisit key important words. This should not ask children to give definitions of words but may be a match the word to the meaning.


There are two distinctively different ways of teaching retrieval.

The first, which is a key skill for the reader, is when the teacher models looking back in the text to check on a detail which has been read before. This is particularly pertinent when a character does something unexpected or a place isn’t what was expected.

The second is retrieval within a ‘comprehension’ context. There is a danger that retrieval can be replaced by memory so teachers must be careful not to choose a question which is too easy. Sometimes this can be overcome by doing retrieval questions at the beginning of the next session rather than at the end of this. Another way to prevent it being a memory question. is to ask a question about a less significant detail eg ‘How was the rug described?’

It must be noted that the skill of retrieval is paramount to answering all sorts of questions including vocabulary and inference questions so children will be able to practice retrieval even when it is not being specifically taught.  Breaking down the skills of retrieval may be more helpful – looking specifically at scanning for a specific word, skimming and scanning for a similar word and reading around the found word for the answer.



Teachers will model the skills of inference throughout the read, but some sessions will focus on inference.

When inference is the focus, teachers should look more closely at specific words which provide clues for the reader. Ie ‘How is Andrew feeling?’ not ‘Which words tell us that Andrew is feeling sad?’ which is a retrieval / vocabulary question, as the inference that Andrew is feeling sad has been given in the question.

This should not be confused with find and copy the word which tells us that Andrew is sad, but might be how is Andrew feeling – let’s look for clues. A useful way of achieving this is to use the iPad to capture the text on the screen and then underline the clues.


Summarising and sequencing

Summarising and is a skill most often associated with non-fiction texts. However it does have a place within fiction too. Summarising is often done at the end of a chapter or session. Eg Summarise what has happened in this chapter. There is a danger that children will be asked to summarise without being taught how to. For this reason, consider teaching summarising over two consecutive lessons. In the first lesson, the teacher models how to summarise a chapter. In the second lesson children practice doing it themselves.

However, summarising ad sequencing can also be achieved after an event eg What events lead up to Edmund helping the white witch? In this context, summarising and sequencing are linked with inference.

When sequencing children need to be taught how to find the key points the wish to sequence. This could be done over a whole text, over a chapter or even over a relatively short section of text. For example, in Pig Heart Boy, the friendship between two characters changes during the story. The children could, with support of the teacher, look at that relationship and sequence the events which lead to the change. Children should be able to summarise and sequence 4 or 5 events.


Predicting is a skill which hardly ever makes it into the KS2 SATS paper as it’s difficult to create a mark scheme around something which hasn’t actually happened.  However, it would be a mistake to side-line it within WCR. Predicting is a key reading skill which often drives the enjoyment of reading. A plot twist wouldn’t work unless the reader is predicting that something else is happening.  

Predicting should not be confused with guessing and as such if predicting is the focus of the lesson, children should be taught to predict based on specific evidence in the text.

Make comparisons within and between texts

Making comparisons within a text is an important skill in deciding how characters, relationships or settings may change or develop within a story. It links closely to summarising and sequencing as without looking for themes it’s not easy to compare.

It’s also not a skill which is easy to regularly evidence within a WCR session, although teachers can model making these comparisons more often without it being the focus of the session. Eg ‘This reminds of the last book we read when…’

Making comparisons between poems within poetry units can be a useful skill.

Explain how content is related and contributes to meaning as a whole

This is another skill which rarely features within a KS2 SATs paper but is an important reading skill. Children often show their use of this skill when they realise something about a character that had been previously hidden. For example, in Operation Gadgetman! there is a moment when the villain is subtly revealed by the way they are drumming their fingers. The children could easily say how this small action contributes the meaning as a whole.

Further use of this skill links to summarising, sequencing and making comparisons within a text. If you are relating content you are making comparisons.

Explain how meaning is enhanced through choice of words

This is an important skill for readers who want to be good writers. Looking at specific words and how they help the reader to visualise things in a particular way, it is fantastic vehicle to choosing good words as a writer. It also helps children to have a deeper understanding of vocabulary.

This is a skill which can be evidenced in the reading response books after modelling by the teacher. For example, in the text it says, ‘Ahead, smoke was laddering from the harbour.’ The children could discuss how the word ‘laddering’ helps the reader to visualise the smoke. The teacher could then model how to write the answer. The word ‘laddering’ suggests the smoke is going upwards in a narrow stream. Once the teacher had modelled the skill in a few lessons, children should be able to answer these types of questions more independently. The teacher may still need to support children to understand how the how unfamiliar words enhance the meaning.


Frequency of teaching the skills of reading


Modelling within the read phase

Focus of the session

Decoding and fluency

Most sessions will involve the teacher modelling how to decode a tricky word – especially in lower year groups. In higher year groups, teachers should capitalise on modelling decoding when suitable words appear. This will probably overlap with use and explain vocabulary.

Once to twice per half term, children should be tasked to reread a section which the teacher has already read – guided fluency.

Vocabulary – use and explain

All sessions will involve the teacher explaining the meaning of words in context.

More-or-less once a week, the main focus should be the meaning of words. This may refer back to words from previous sessions.


Retrieval isn’t a skill which is regularly modelled within the reading phase.

More-or-less once a week, the main focus should be retrieval – using skimming and scanning techniques to find details in the text. The teacher avoids asking a question which can be answered through memory. Avoid inference questions if the focus is retrieval.


This hugely important skill should be modelled throughout the reading phase – with the teacher dropping out of the story teller’s voice for moment.

More-or-less once a week, the main focus of the session should be inference. This is when the teacher will model how clues in the text tell us something and children will practise these skills.

Summarising & sequencing

Teacher models this at the beginning / end of most sessions.

Children have a go more formally once to twice per half term.


This hugely important skill is modelled by the teacher in most sessions using ‘I think’ or ‘I wonder if’ rhetorical questions. Children’s engagement is kept om task with these type fo questions. The teacher may give children 10 seconds to tell their partner what they think, but the teacher won’t ask children to share their views, unless prediction is the main focus of the lesson.

Once to twice per half term, predicting is the main focus of the session. This will nearly always be a discussion task as recording predictions is a length process which adds little to children’s skills.

Explain how meaning is enhanced through choice of words

This skill is modelled by teachers in most sessions when they share with children how particular words make them visualise the story.

Twice to three times per half term, this should become the main focus of the lesson when children learn to write responses to questions.

Make comparisons within and between texts

This skill is modelled by the teacher when appropriate in the text. For example, if a character trait has changed or a setting has changed.  

Once to twice per half term, children should be guided to record comparisons. This is usually towards the end of text.

Explain how content is related and contributes to meaning as a whole

This skill is modelled by the teacher when appropriate in the text. For example, if a particular event.

As and when it’s appropriate, children should discuss key moments in the text and how they contribute to the plot as a whole. More likely to be discussion than written response.


Other key lessons

First lesson

Key skill focus: summarising

Teacher models the excitement of a new book, notes the author and comments on why it’s been chosen. Suggests what kind of book they think it is. Eg I think it may be an adventure story.

Start reading as soon as possible after the vocabulary slides. Do not pause to stick anything in the reading response book at the beginning of the session.

After reading, summarise key features if the text.

Who are the main characters?

Where and when is the story set?

Children then stick in a picture of the front cover and write key characters and settings. If it’s already clear from the first read, children could split characters into heroes and villains, or in older year groups, protagonists and antagonists.

Last lesson

Key skill focus: make comparisons within and between texts

Discuss the text as a class.

Teacher asks questions such as…

  • How did the main character develop? How did the relationship between character a and b change? How were character a and b different?
  • What were the key moments in the plot?
  • Which bit or a character did you like best?
  • Was there a bit that surprised you?

The teacher models how to put the children’s answers into sentences. For example…

At first x was… but after y, they changed to…

Character a was … whereas character b was…

The bit I liked best was… because…

The most surprising but was… because I was expecting…

Children write a response to one of the questions.

They rate the book out of 5 stars and write whether they would recommend it to a friend and why or why not.

The class vote to place the book in the ranked chart.