Maddy Barnes talks us through the role that The Week Junior has played in improving English outcomes at one Manchester primary school.
Maddy Barnes is an assistant headteacher, year 6 teacher and English lead at Sacred Heart Catholic Primary in Manchester
How have you used The Week Junior in your school?
I’ve used copies of the magazine as my guided reading text in various ways for children of different reading abilities. For those in whom we wanted to encourage reading in greater depth, we gave them 30 minutes to read the magazine independently in silence (whilst I worked with a different group). Immediately after, they were asked to select an article they’d particularly enjoyed or disliked, summarise the general gist and prepare to answer questions about it. The more often we did the exercise, the better they became at pre-empting the questions in their summaries.
For average readers, I selected up to three double-page spreads for them to read independently. Together, we then discussed the overall thrust of each article and any vocabulary issues, before modelling SATs-style questions relating to those articles on a flipchart and having the children answer them. With less able readers, I read a single article to them and again modelled SATs-style questions. I tried choosing three articles ranging in difficulty – easier, medium and hard – to mirror the demands of the test and build the pupils’ confidence.
Has it affected the way you teach literacy?
It’s definitely impacted on our vocabulary teaching, challenging pupils to learn new words and work out what they mean. They’re now better able to read articles about unknown topics and summarise their contents, while also gaining a better understanding of true journalistic writing.
How do pupils benefit from being more aware of current affairs?
In our catchment area the children don’t always get a very balanced view of current affairs. What The Week Junior can do is offer a non-biased approach to news reporting, which is something every child should be entitled to. In areas like ours we have a duty to ensure they can benefit from such material in a non- pressurised way, and The Week Junior does this perfectly.
What impact has using The Week Junior had on your pupils’ attainment, results or progress?
We had 35% more ‘greater depth’ readers this year, having used the magazine in the way described above. It gave them a renewed interest in reading, and for our reluctant readers in particular, brought back a sense of purpose and pleasure when it comes to reading. They all particularly enjoyed a set of Royal Family caricatures that appeared in one edition- it felt a bit naughty, while still being age-appropriate for our children!
Would you recommend The Week Junior to other schools?
Yes, definitely. The resource represents good value for money, and feels and works like a real magazine. We don’t know what topics will be included on the reading tests in any given year, but this resource is the perfect tool for encouraging children to read about unknown topics with confidence.
This review is also featured on Teachwire here.