Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Making revision work

Over the years I have run numerous revision sessions to GCSE groups.  I have run Easter revision sessions, after-school revision sessions, online Twitter revision hours and one to one revision intervention groups.  I have taught students the benefits of revision and the process of how it happens through leading our Year 9 Learning to Learn course.  I have led revision assemblies for all Year 10's and 11's.  I have even worked with staff to develop effective revision techniques that tie in with key ideas on how the brain works and stores information.  I would be confident in saying that I believe I can run an effective revision programme that benefits students.  However, this year I have really looked at my practice and refined (and pruned) the way that I approach teaching in general.  This has allowed me to focus on what is essential in great teaching and revision is no different.  As I approached the critical 'exam prep' season, I was very concious that I wanted to do away with all of the gimmicky 'activities' that probably take twice as much time to set up but have half the impact than other simpler ideas.  I wanted to ensure that what I did had the key elements of effective learning.  Any revision session I chose to construct had to allow me the opportunity to question students, check their understanding, provide feedback and feedforward, allow them a chance to act upon any comments, make improvements to their work, practice exam technique, allow the opportunity to model good exam structure, work collaboratively whilst revising with others and force students to make an action plan of areas in their knowledge that needed addressing.

Focusing on these key elements led me to reading a number of interesting posts.  Each post highlighted a different key aspect which when combined, would allow me to create a structure to my revision session that I believed would help students.  The first of these posts came from Alex Quigly (see here) and focused on 'testing for learning' and using tests in revision which ultimately have a positive impact on learning.  The use of tests or exam drills must be teamed up with repetition and skilled feedback for students.  As Alex says, 'the act of retrieving information for a test is proven to recall more than simply restudying information'.  Using exam questions with students can be tedious, but is bread and butter in terms of preparing them for the real thing.

The second post I read was also from Alex and talked about the evidence behind revision techniques and helped me select the approach that I was going to use with my class.  The post which is an excellent read can be found here and is well worth taking a look at.  It really helped me filter out activities that had little or no impact and allowed me to focus my attention on using what works.

The next post wasn't based at all on revision but instead on effective use of feedback and how to 'close the gap'.  It is written by Tom Sherrington here and summarises his visit to Saffron Walden Community High School and the approach to feedback policies that they use.  The article got my mind thinking about how effectively I provide students with feedback and how I could implement it (especially the marking key) into my revision sessions.

The next post was from Annie Murphy Paul and can be found here.  In her article she summarises the perils of re-reading work as a revision strategy, using the work of Daniel T. Willingham as the basis of her post.  It is a very thought provoking piece of writing and one which reaffirmed my own beliefs on the subject.

The penultimate post was a one that I had used last year and inspired my to design a SOLO stations lesson.  It is written by @DVPLearning and explains an observed revision lesson where the teacher used a method called 'Teach, Do, Review'.  The full article can be found here but explains how the teacher split the class into three groups based on their competency in that particular topic, and then gave each group a different revision activity.  The method he talked about resonated with me and allowed me to provide a differentiated revision lesson that allowed students to move between tasks in order to progress or recap a topic.

The last post was tweeted out by Darren Mead and talked about a PEEL task called a 'Five out of three' activity.  A link to it can be found here.  The activity encompassed so much of the core lesson essentials (questioning, feedback, time to act upon feedback, checking content knowledge....) and was one I would definitely use in my revision programme. 

So, with all of these combined ideas, I created a 'Teach, Do, Review' lesson.  The session is designed to draw upon the key points from the blogs above and ensure that the revision that takes place is both productive and meaningful.

Teach, Do, Review (with a five out of three starting point).

It is probably important to point out at the start that this lesson was a 2 hour double theory lesson.  This allowed me to run the full process.

The starting point of the process involved me ascertaining the level of subject knowledge that student already had for my chosen topic area.  It is important to find out what students already know and what areas still need refining.  Wasting time covering a topic that students are already competent in is time not spent covering a topic that they are not.  With time a very precious thing in the exam prep period, it is important I use it efficiently.  Using Alex's advice in his post on using tests to retrieve information, I decided to use the 'Five out of three' PEEL task as the basis for this.

As students arrived I grouped them into paired teams based on their previous assessment levels.  Similar ability students based on data would therefore work together and allow me the chance to tailor my feedback to their needs.  The process of the session would be extremely simple.  Students would receive six exam questions taken from the unit topic we were covering (physiology in this case).  Students were able to choose any question to tackle first, therefore allowing them to prioritise them and create their own order.  Students worked with their partner to answer the questions one at a time.  They would not be able to use any resources (text books, note books...) at all.  Everything had to be as a result from memory retrieval.  When they had answered a question, they would hand it in for marking/feedback.

Each question varied in marks (from 1 mark all the way to 4 marks).  They are low enough for the lesson to keep pace, selected carefully enough for me to check understanding (hinge questions if you may), varied enough to cover all aspects of the content and brief enough to allow me to mark them quickly.  As the questions are marked, they receive a specific score out of three, irrespective of how many marks were on offer.  The scores were as follow:

  • 1/3 = Answer was poorly answered
  • 2/3 = Answer is fine but lacks detail, terminology, definitions, examples...
  • 3/3 = Answer is as expected in the exam mark scheme.  It would receive full marks in the actual exam
  • 4/3 = The answer is above and beyond what is expected.  
  • 5/3 = The best answer in the class for that particular question

The use of the 4 and 5 out of 3 elements allows my more able students to stretch and demonstrate their content knowledge.  As I allocated a score, I also added an annotation taken from my marking/feedback key inspired by Tom Sherrington's 'Close the gap' post.  This would allow students who received low scores to know what needed improving, without giving away the answer (it forces them to reflect, think harder, question each other....).

Students scores were then placed on a score table on the board which provided an element of safe competition.  This aspect worked extremely effectively with my students.  It also gave them feedback based on the outcome/their scores (knowledge of results).  Students could then decide, if their score was low, to come and collect their marked answer and improve it using the marking key feedback (knowledge of performance).  They could then resubmit it for marking again and hopefully improve their score.

This process lasted approximately 45 minutes of the first lesson.  The nature of the task, and the instant marking, allowed me to quickly identify weak areas of content with students that I would therefore need to address in the future.  Through the marking/feedback key and scoring, it also helped students improve their subject knowledge.  The depth of questioning between partners was excellent as they tried to remember the answers.  It only took one key word or memory trigger for the answer to come flooding back.  I then addressed a few exam question weak points and modelled on the board, how to structure this type of short answer question in the future.  The process of modelling the answer with the students helps develop and form good exam technique and habits.

I then asked students to categories themselves, based on their confidence in answering those questions, into three groups.  The students who felt that they had clear gaps in their knowledge of this topic area would work with me in the 'Teach' group.  I would spend time with them going over the key content and explaining it again.  I would be there to answer any questions and provide examples to help improve their understanding.  Based on the assessment from the 'Five out of three' task, I could cover any obvious weak areas.  At any point, if a students felt that they had covered the areas they were most concerned about, they could leave the 'Teach' group and move on.

The second group was the 'Do' group.  This group felt confident in the topic area but would benefit from covering a few areas again independently.  Their tasks were based on Alex Quigley's post and included the use of concept maps, along with gathering key definitions and terminology they were missing.  The importance of making links within a topic were also important and students were encouraged to find connections/relationships with the information.

The last group was the 'Review' group.  This group would review their content knowledge by answering exam questions (based on the post here) in an effort to demonstrate their understanding and thinking.  They would have to leave an equal gap under their answers to allow them to redraft if needed.  Once they had finished the questions they had them critiqued by a peer (already established in my class as explained here) and annotated using our marking/feedback key.  Students would then act on this feedback instantly and 'close the gap'.  The redrafted answers would then be critiqued again until their content knowledge was secure and demonstrated in their answer.

The process has been an enormous success and has been used in our departments Year 11 exam preparation.  The combination of the various posts detailed above, as well as listening to warnings on what not to do, have allowed us to combine and create a revision procedure that has made the process of revision effective and beneficial.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Creating a culture of Critique

A while ago I wrote a post reflecting on how I probably don't structure sequences in my practice to allow students the opportunity to properly act upon feedback.  I then put a plan into action and wrote a post about how I would therefore create dedicated times in my lessons for students to do something with the comments that I or their peers had given them.  As a PE teacher I'm not the best at remembering to do these sorts of things so I came up with a few ideas to ensure I did.  The one idea that shone through was using a process called 'Critique'.  This method of getting work analysed and unpicked sounds very similar to traditional peer or self assessment.  And there are similarities.  What critique does differently though is develop the process by getting the feedback and feedforward more specific and refined.  It forces the feedback that is given to be more focused on specific features or elements.  All of the comments are designed to allow the writer/author/artist to take away that particular draft and know exactly what elements need focusing on.  The feedback becomes similar to that of a set of instructions, all with the purpose of driving forward the quality of a piece of work.

Critique also goes beyond an end of lesson activity and with simple protocols, makes the giving and receiving of feedback the culture of the classroom.  It pushes you to deliver a dedicated lesson which involves only the process of critiquing work, rather than "Right, swap books with your partner and give them two stars and a wish.  You have 5 minutes to do this".  It requires the teacher to model the method of critique using actual student drafts or exemplars, and can be done in a number of ways including an 'In depth class critique' or 'Gallery critique'.  The end result of doing this process over time is students critique each others work naturally and seek feedback independently of teacher instruction.  Here is where the culture is developed.

So why do I love the idea of critique?  Well, based on the various sources of research, evidence, blog posts, discussions of Twitter and so on, feedback is a big deal.  In my eyes, quality written/verbal feedback ranks higher than the giving of grades and levels although it is often the other way around with students.  Effective feedback that specifically highlights exactly what is good about a piece of work (so can be repeated and become habitual) and what exactly needs to be improved (to drive this piece of work towards excellence) is such an important component of the learning process (much more so than knowing a grade or level).  But so often in my own practice, there have been times when the feedback I have written is never followed up.  There are also still those fixed mindset students who are grade focused (as excellently explained here by @joe__kirby) .  This is where the process of critique is different.

As a number of teachers are increasingly engaging students to peer or self assess pieces of work, we need to first teach them how to do this.  The research from G. Nuthall talks roughly about how 80% of feedback students receive is from their peers.  But 80% of this student-student feedback is wrong  ties into this.  The rules, protocols, modelling, dedicated time and culture surrounding critique is therefore a great method for avoiding this low return rate.  So what is it that makes critique different?  Well, if you haven't already, I would highly recommend that you buy and read Ron Berger's 'An Ethic of Excellence'.  In this book, Berger exemplifies the process and breaks down the structure for forming effective critique sessions.  He is driven towards getting students to value their work and create pieces of excellence.  The mantra of 'If it's not perfect it isn't finished' echoes some of his values.  There are a number of additional factors (such as publicly displaying work, having an authentic element to the work and so on that add to this) but the core foundation of critique is key to producing excellent work and ensures that feedback is given and acted upon.  And as I said before, make critique part of your classroom culture rather than an activity or task.

So how do you do this?  There are a number of methods but the core principles stay the same.  I would recommend reading Berger's book or read this guide from the Innovation Unit.  The following tips are how I adapted and implemented the critique process during my PBL project.

Before you even start the critique process, it's important to establish the following steps:

1 - Examples of excellence: Introduce a piece of exemplary work similar to what students will need to complete (an example of excellence).  Critique it with the class.  Draw out what it is that makes this piece such a high standard including key terminology.  Create a success criteria for the piece of work which students use to complete it.  You will use this in your first critique session.

2 - Drafts: Call the work students create 'drafts'.  This may seem irrelevant but it actually gets students into the mindset that the work they are completing will be critiqued and it will be redrafted.  By calling it a draft it explains that work is not finished and that improvements can always be made until you do get to a finished product (providing your success criteria is strong enough).


Infographic by @saidthemac
1 - Give critique time!  Usually a whole lesson should be set aside for a critique session.  Time is needed to model the process, allow for detailed analysis, the giving of feedback and acting upon it.  Don't rush it!  What about the time element though?  If I have only 6 weeks to cover the content of a unit/module/scheme, I don't have time to review work.  Well actually, critique improves the quality of the work and reinforces the content if you ask students to focus on this.  By actively seeking out errors in content, it develops the level of their understanding.  Once again, set aside time!  It really will benefit the process.

2 - Establish the rules:  Berger uses three very simple rules when using critique.  These rules ensure that the quality of the feedback is improved.  They are:

Be kind:  All comments should focus entirely on the work.  No personal comments at all. No sarcasm or put downs.  The comments can be challenging but the creator of the work should feel that the feedback is work orientated and happy to receive it.  Hard on content, soft on people.  

Be specific: Refined and precise dialogue with detailed explanations on positives and steps to improve.  Comments should explain exactly what needs to be worked on (like a set of instructions) which the writer can simply take away and use.

Be helpful: If the comments don't benefit the work, the learning, the learners or the class, don't share it.  Everything you provide feedback on is there to help make the work better.

3 - Model the process: Using a piece of work or exemplar, model the process of critique to your students.  Show them exactly the how to critique work.  This is normally done by the teacher and in the form of an 'In depth critique' to the whole class.  Share terminology that you are using.  Refer to the success criteria from when you first set the work.  Demonstrate exactly how you are focusing on key details.  Scaffold what good feedback/feedforward comments actually are.  Get students involved in this and see if you can refine the comments further.

4 - Banned words:  Promote the use of specific terminology that you drew out of the initial exemplar piece of work.  Promote the use of these words and the success criteria whilst critiquing the work.  We are trying to develop students vocabulary and make the feedback they give specific and helpful.  Also encourage any topic specific terminology.  For instance, if you are creating a piece of music, use actual words that the industry and composers use.  Create a list of banned words.  Get rid of 'It's good' and 'I like it'.  They are not specific and definitely not helpful.

5 - Allow students to critique:  Using what you have just modelled, allow students to critique each others work.  Use the success criteria to structure what it is students focus on.  Focus on one element at a time.  This may be asking students to look at the opening paragraph in an article they have written and see if it answers the Kipling's questions (who, where, what, when, how, why - basic guidance from local journalists that all articles should start with).  You may simply ask students to critique the spelling, punctuation and grammar.  Maybe ask them to focus on the shape of the wings (as shown in Berger's video above).  The important thing is to make the elements you want critiqued to be clear.  Ask students to critique too much and the specific nature of their feedback/feedforward gets confused.  Critique sessions can also take on two forms:

Formal in depth critique:  This is similar to the process that you have just modelled.  Students look at each other work and focus on an element at a time.  They identify good points that match the success criteria, and pick out specific parts that need improving (or if tweaked, could make the work better).  A copy of the critique sheet I use (which is differentiated) can be found here.

In depth critique - from my Year 11 GCSE lesson

Gallery critique:  This is where work is displayed in a gallery style (on a wall, laid out on tables, on presentation boards).  Ask students to individually walk around and look at one or two pieces of work.  Ask them to focus on one specific element.  Students write feedback on a post it note or feedback slip and place it below the work.  Snowball this and ask them to discuss their comments with a peer.  Move on and repeat the process on another piece of work, either with the same or different focus.

Gallery Critique: Picture courtesy of Jamie Portman.

6 - Critique the critique:  Particularly in the early days of introducing critique, get students to review the comments that have been given to them.  Are they refined enough?  Are they specific enough?  Do they pinpoint exactly what needs improving?  If anything is unclear, model how to develop it with the class.  Use examples of good and bad critique comments with the class.  This is taking peer assessment to the next level so knowing how to give effective critique comments needs support.

For the more able students in your class, get them to use questions in the feedback they give to the recipient.  Comments such as 'Could you eliminate the number of redundant words in your final paragraph to conclude your argument....' make those individuals who are able to, really think about amending their work.

6 - Redraft:  This is the vital element!  Dedicate actual time, in that session, for students to begin redrafting their work.  They need the guidance, the support, the ability to question those who gave them the feedback, the teachers careful eye.....all to help structure the redraft process.  Don't simply let this be done for homework.  It can be but initiate the redrafting section in your class.  Students need to get into the mindset that work needs reworking if it is to become something of beauty.  As Berger states, you wouldn't put on a school production without practising it over and over again, making improvements after improvements, until it was perfect.  Unfortunately some students will not initially see the benefit of redrafting.  To combat this, get students to keep every copy of their drafts.  Get them to number them and point out the improvements and developments they have made as the go through their multiple drafts.  This is where keeping portfolio's for students makes sense.

7 - Culture:  It takes time but creating a culture with your students is so important.  We need to make students value feedback.  We need to get students to want to seek it out.  We need to make students want to make the work they are producing better and better.  We need to help them develop their content knowledge and actually look at the feedback given to them.  We need to help them actively read the feedback they are given and make the improvements identified.  We need them to see the benefit of this effort and hard work improves work vastly (providing the feedback is good).  It does take time, and there will be some reluctant students, but creating beautiful work and developing content knowledge is important.  And it is from structured feedback, not necessarily grades, that ensures this happens.  Incorporate this regularly into your practice and maybe the quality of feedback in your classroom will increase.

The following links may help you develop your understanding further about the process of critique.  They may also help you understand the difference between critique and traditional peer assessment.  Please look through them and see the benefits that dedicated critique time can have.  The first presentation are quotes from teachers using critique.  The video is from a session where I delivered a critique introduction to all staff. The final presentation is what I referred to during that presentation.

Video of the T&L briefing I gave to all staff on critique.

Critique presentation from davidfawcett27

David Didau blog on critique:

Darren Mead numerous posts on critique:

Darren Mead additional posts on critique:

Tait Coles on critique:

Tait Coles post and videos from #TMClevedon on critique:

Ron Berger on critique:

Ron Berger (part 2) on critique:

Alex Quigley post on gallery critique:

Russell Hall numerous posts on critique and work of Berger:

Martin Said blog link to the amazing Infographic from above:

David Price OBE blog post on creating multiple drafts and using critique:

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Engaging students with texts

During my recent Cycling project (my first attempt at PBL), I really tried to consciously drive literacy through everything I did.  I've recently seen the benefit of stepping away from my reliance of text books and using alternative resources instead.  I've also tried to include extended writing tasks wherever I can and make the move away from short ended and sometimes meaningless 'activities'.  I have to be honest and say that using a wider range of sources and getting my students to challenge themselves with a piece of writing has truly seen the benefits.  Examples and answers in lessons have become contextualised and more authentic, and the level of their answers for long answer exam questions (essay style) has come on leaps and bounds.

One of the simplest things I did when working on that project was carefully select a number of articles and texts for students to read.  The idea behind these sources was to allow my students to learn the content I was covering, but at the same time use something more current and relevant than excerpts from our standard text book.  I spent hours tracking down articles and news reports from various news media websites.  I delved into the deeper world of cycling and found reports and texts on various technological developments or political debates within the sport.  Now some of these texts went into far more depth than needed, but what they did with a Year 11 GCSE class, was give them authentic examples and stories to support their knowledge.  The fact that many of them used what they had read in their own work and in discussions was amazing to see.

But then I had a conversation with a colleague that made me think.  At our recent INSET day we had the second part of our Literacy seminars.  I signed up for 'Accessing and engaging with texts' with our amazing English teachers Sarah Paige and Polly Williams.  The first question they asked us was along the lines of 'Before you even analyse a piece of text, or even get students to answer questions on it, what is it that you do to get your students to engage with it?'.  I was stumped and the only thing that came to mind was a conversation with one of my students who (when we looked at these text during the project) said that he hated reading.  As he was the only one that actually said this I worked with him one to one but never considered the way I had introduced the text to him.  Did I have a strategy up my sleeve to help him read it?  Did I sell the text to him to make him motivated to read it?  The answer is probably no and mainly because as a PE teacher these questions had never crossed my mind.  I took the word of the majority of my students (who happily got on and read) and forgot those who may need extra support.  In fact, the only strategy I could think of at the time was to 'silently read it' as a way to engage with the text.

The seminar really inspired me and as a group we came up with a number of ideas to first and foremost get students to read texts in your class.  What is about to follow is a list of ideas that was created on the day and some additional ideas from my project.  I will apologise now.  I am sure some of these ideas will have a few teachers shouting at their screen, considering whether they are gimmicks or devalue the process of reading.  I am sure some of them are but the aim is to share ideas.  What they are though are ideas to get students to initially engage with a text (before setting analysis or comprehension tasks) and get them reading it.

Finding interesting texts:  So obvious.  Now I know some people will say that unfortunately, sometimes students just have to get on and read something even if it isn't interesting.  I agree.  Some of the most insightful and educationally beneficial text can sometimes be a bit tedious.  But as a hook to the project  I tried very hard to find a number of very interesting texts to use with my students.  I looked for articles that talked about the most fantastic technological developments, insights into the workings of a cycling team, scandals regarding sponsorship and role models in the sport.....  In fact I tried to find as many different perspectives about the topics I would be covering in order to enthuse students about the topics and then engage with the content that was within them.  Maybe to initiate the reading process, some lead in articles with high interest levels could be the way forward.  The 'heavy' stuff can come later.

Differentiating texts:  This is something I was doing clumsily and will do more consciously in the future.  I now realise that my class is full of different reading abilities as well as comprehension levels.  It would therefore be beneficial to seek out similar articles for your students that vary in language use, vocabulary and depth of content.  Allow students to choose the article of their choice and move up or down difficult reading as they require.  Another way is to simply assign different levels of texts with the different sets of students in your class.  Those that need extending can work on the detailed and technical text, whereas those that need support can use a similar text which is pitched at a lower reading level.  If using the Internet, Google advanced search has a 'reading level filter' which can help distinguish the difficulty of texts.

Google reading level filter:  Google has for some time had a 'reading level/age' tool.  Simply use the search bar to find sources of a particular topic.  Then using the search tools drop down menu, click on 'all results' and then 'reading level'.  This will then allow you to select advanced, intermediate and basic texts on the subject you were searching.  Teach students how to use this and they can differentiate the texts for themselves.  A link to Google's support centre explaining this tool can be found here.

Varying texts:  When searching for my cycling project articles I tried very hard to find a variety of different writing styles to share with my students.  I found some very technical articles, some that came from tabloid press, some that came from cycling enthusiast blogs, some from cycling teams own webpages (Team Sky).  The idea for this was to allow students to experience reading a variety of different styles, but also obtain similar information from a type of writing that they preferred.  In the background this type of selection allowed students to experience different viewpoints and perspectives but that's another post!  By finding a medium that engaged them and allowed them to access the information, students could happily read the text given to them.  Had I given everyone the same text, some students may not have been captivated by it and the opportunity might have been wasted.

Finding their own texts (which they want to read):  Teaching your students how to find texts and articles is a great thing.  After I used my 'lead in' articles, students could see the standard of writing that I was looking for.  I then explained what content needed to be found and students went off a searched for a similar standard of text.  By bringing articles back to the class, we had a new bank of resources, selected by students, meeting the criteria I required and would ultimately appeal to other students in the class.  This ownership of a text engaged them with reading and fulfilled the purpose.  It also led to new reading when peers recommended an article.

Silent reading: Obvious as it is, sometimes asking the class to silently read a text is a simple process.  By asking individuals to read in silence, distractions are minimised and the students attention should be fully focused on what is in front of them.  It also comes with some obvious pitfalls when students with low attention and inability to manage distractions means that the task becomes pointless for a few.  It is also worth considering how you would cater for those who struggle with reading without bringing attention to them from the whole class.

Paired reading:  Reading a text in pairs can help break up the challenge of reading from some.  It offers a chance for an individual to be supported by a peer.  It also allows the opportunity for a student to break up a challenging text into sub sections with a partner.  Taking it in turns also allows good reading to be modelled providing the process is taken seriously.  It also actively engages with the words as they are verbally spoken (and not skimmed or glazed over which is normally followed by re-reading what has already been covered). Obviously the pairing up process and expectations of this task must be well structured otherwise distractions can occur and the reading element is lost.

Whole class reading:  Organised by the teacher, students are delegated elements of a text to be read.  The students take it in turns to read their section and then the next follows on.  The whole class listen to the reading and take their turn when ready.  This process usually requires those not reading out aloud to follow the text and therefore engages them as well.  There does come a problem with reluctant readers, those who struggle, those who lack confidence with public speaking and those fixed learners in your class.  These individuals may not welcome the pressure of whole class reading so involving these may need to have a safe and supportive environment set up.

Reading an excerpt (teacher):  A text may be introduced by the class teacher.  Carefully choosing an excerpt and using this as the 'hook' with your class may compel them to read the rest of the text in front of them.  Choose your excerpt carefully and leave the text on a cliffhanger if possible.  By doing this you have modelled good reading and given the students a taste of the book which should hopefully motivate them to carry on.

Dram it up!:  As students enter the room, create an atmosphere.  If the text you want students to read has a dark undertone or element of horror, dim the lights, have some atmospheric music playing, take on a character and really 'dram it up'.  Read the first excerpt of the text and hopefully this will enthuse students to engage with the text and read the rest for themselves.  By creating a sense of excitement towards reading, the engagement should increase.  As a pitfall, it does take the right group and confidence to do this.  It could also detract from the process of reading if done poorly.

React to the text:  Have the text read out by individuals or yourself.  The remainder of the class will follow the text from their books.  Set up a structure where students interact with the text as it is being read out.  The interaction could be for a particular character, a theme that occurs, an opinion that comes up frequently, taking sides with characters or whatever your text requires.  You could also have students interact when the writer uses a particular style of writing or grammar.  At these times, students can boo, cheer, keep a tally, heckle and so on.  By getting them involved in the text, they will need to be actively engaged in it and read it as it goes.

Characters assignment:  Obvious but a classic.  In small groups or in a whole class set up, students take on the role of a character or narrator.  Students will all need to follow the text and read it in order to know when their section is coming up.  By actively reading out aloud, students are again engaging with the text.  The difficult process of reading is supported by the ability to hear the words (from your peers doing their sections) as you read them for yourself.

"Pass to":  Have students read in pairs or small groups.  Each student has a "pass to" choice which they use only if they are really struggling (can't be used for laziness).  Students have to read a section or specified amount out aloud.  If they find it incredibly difficult they can use a "pass to" where they literally pass the responsibility of reading that section to another peer.  This will allow that reader to be supported.  Because that student used a "pass to" they will have to finish their reading allocation elsewhere in the text.  Be vigilant and stop lazy readers (who are more than capable) of using the "pass to" as a get out option.

Hackasaurus:  Introduced to me by @JOHNSAYERS and @janeyb222.  A great web tool.  Simply go to the website and install the Hackasaurus 'X-Ray Goggles' into your bookmarks bar.  You are then able to go to any website and edit what is on there.  Don't worry, you aren't actually editing the real web page.  All you are doing is changing what you see in your browser.  So why would you do this?  Well there are a number of reasons.  You may wish to edit a particularly difficult article or text found on the web into something more accessible to your students. You can simply read the article yourself and change some of wording or terminology into something simpler.  The article still has its authentic element.  Just make sure you don't lose the core of the article.  You may also wish to create a 'spoof' piece of text but using an authentic website such a the BBC.  This allows you to get your content across but with the trick of it looking authentic.  This could be an effective way to engage a normally uninteresting piece of text.  It really is a versatile tool.

If there are any other ideas that people are using in their lessons, simply for the purpose of starting the process of reading texts (without having to look for key points or answering comprehension questions or so on - this is the next post) then please let me know.