Learning from this project
Learners who engaged with the project were able, with close English tutor guidance, to use the time and effort being offered them productively. The best means of engaging learners appeared to be discussing their interests with them, finding out their interests and, drawing on their own knowledge of fiction, try and connect thematically with available texts.
Occasionally the most useful strategy was simply to take a text from a shelf, engage the learner with the ideas prompted by the opening sentence and see if that could engage them. Modelling this kind of textual-interrogation gave them encouragement to continue reading and appreciating how such narrative hooks could be useful.
The potential distraction of phones was ever-present, which meant that tutors had to acknowledge the existence of the distraction and then gently encourage students to return to reading. One way was simply to ask a student what text they were reading, ask them questions about why they thought characters behaved as they did, and then leave them to regain their reading momentum independently.
The project should continue to engage students in reading for pleasure reasonably effectively provided the activities offered fit their needs, that is, more graphic texts and perhaps online reading. English tutors and the librarian effectively predicted this, as shown in their summer purchases, and they will continue to invest in texts according to student interest.
Learners are always most engaged when being listened to, so to encourage more effective engagement we might consider either discussing students’ choices as shown in the texts they have chosen to read, or perhaps getting some kind of qualitative feedback through their rating and evaluation of texts.
Whereas progress in Reading Age has been limited it is noticeable that the very facilitation of a programme organised around Accelerated Reader has benefitted many learners by rekindling their appreciation for reading fiction.
Encouraging learners to engage in the activities as a test-led exercise was the least effective way of engaging students in the activity; encouraging them to see its benefits as indirectly improving critical thinking influenced a few more so but this happened only after protracted debate.
Accelerated Reader proved to be an excellent tool to track progress but turned out to be challenging when used over a very short period of time. However, feedback can be used to encourage learners to see how their learning is growing: this can readily be seen in their response to quizzes which, when done regularly, brings out their competitive side.
More non-fiction texts and more graphic novels can be added to the stock in order to best engage learners. Furthermore, discussion of texts might be suggested for group-wide interaction and engagement.