As Director of Library Services at Melbourne Grammar School (MGS) commencing in 2009, I was aware that the excellent Years seven to eight Wadhurst wide reading program, based on the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge (VPRC), was not continued at Year nine level. I soon met with both the Head of English and Year Nine English Coordinator, to express the need to implement a wide reading program at Year nine level and its possible topics and format. This was followed by a one to two page report outlining the purpose, structure, visiting authors and curriculum integration.
Outline of Year Nine Wide Reading program
The program began the next semester with six Year nine English classes booking into the outstanding MGS Nigel Peck Centre for Learning and Leadership, a joint library and ICT centre, officially opened in April 2008. Classes have one wide reading class per seven day timetable cycle and the focus is on two genres explored per term or four genres each semester. The program is a continuation of the successful, enriching Years seven and eight wide reading structure which implements the VPRC, a Readers’ Cup, House Points for the total number of books read; all culminating in a presentation in a Wadhurst Assembly and a celebratory Pie Day.
Themes or genres
The themes or genres for the Year nine wide reading program, decided in conjunction with the Year 9 English Coordinator, consist of:
- Australian Literature is often an introductory genre for four weeks, to support the set Year nine English novel for 2014, Riding the Black Cockatoo by John Danalis. John Danalis has spoken several times at MGS, was our guest author in Semester 1, 2014 and again for Children’s Book Week on Tuesday 19 August, 2014.
- Fantasy and Science Fiction in which the skilful balance between the novel’s credibility and imaginary worlds is examined.
- Personal Journey to include biographies and autobiographies with an emphasis on individual development in both a physical and psychological sense. Sports biographies, in particular, are popular at MGS.
- International Perspectives where the emphasis is on understanding other cultures apart from our own.
- Graphic Novels, a new genre for MGS in 2013 which is very much enjoyed and popular amongst Year 9 boys. Interrelationships between text and illustrations are explored.
- War Novels was a previous genre 2009-2012 but has since been removed as the School no longer studies as a Year 9 English prescribed text, Michael Gerard Bauer’s The Running Man.
The structure of the Year 9 Wide Reading program
Each genre is studied for four weeks over a three to four week period. The lessons comprise:
An introductory lesson
This is given by the teacher-librarian on the purpose of the wide reading program to encourage a love of reading, improvement in expression skills, imagination and creative writing as included in the Year nine English curriculum. Reference is made to transference of skills as outlined in research studies demonstrating the link between school library programs, literacy skills and academic attainment (Hay, Lyn & Todd, Ross Dr, 2010, p.4; Klinger, 2006). The first genre is explored with the class, that is, its meaning, characteristics and techniques used by the authors. A trolley of selected, relevant novels has been prepared from which the teacher librarian reads excerpts and discusses up to six to eight novels. Boys select novels from the trolley and must borrow at least one book to read for at least thirty minutes each day. It is important that boys read the first few pages and back cover of several novels to gauge their interest level and preparedness to ‘live with’ the selected novel, complete the reading and write answers on the set assignment. Reading occurs on lounge chairs for comfort and relaxation.
The second lesson – individual meetings and introduction of the assignment
This lesson is quiet reading while the teacher-librarian listens to individual boys read; records the book’s title, each student’s progress, reading fluency and comprehension. She notifies the English teacher of any concerns. The printed assignment sheet is distributed and instructions for the completion of the work outlined. The work requirement is placed online on the MGS portal under the faculty and may comprise short answer questions, extended responses, an oral presentation or a book review.
The third lesson – consolidation, discussion and progress
This lesson is again is quiet reading, but does include a short discussion with the class about student progress and enjoyment of their novels. The teacher-librarian completes hearing individual reading. Time permitting, the teacher-librarian models quiet reading, intellectual inquiry and discussion of text (Routman, 2014 as cited on www.slav.org.au).
The fourth lesson – finalising the assessment
This lesson involves any completion of the assignment which is mainly done as homework together with its submission. The finished task is either posted online on the portal for online correction as well as group reading/discussion or is printed for assessment in relation to the marking criteria rubric. Likewise, a rubric is used to mark oral presentations. The Library webpage has a section for posting and sharing book reviews.
Assessment of Year 9 Wide Reading
This encourages a sharing and collaborative learning experience.
The teacher-librarian designs and compiles the assignment for each genre. In addition, the teacher- librarian corrects all wide reading class work, completes the criteria sheet, and grades the work, comments and returns assignments to the Year nine English teacher. The grade given for wide reading is included on the semester report. Secondly, individual, online student progress reports include the teachers’ comments on progress with wide reading. Work is often posted on the MGS portal under the subject code for students to read about other novels and student work. This encourages a sharing and collaborative learning experience.
Visiting authors support and enrich the Year nine wide reading program, with at least one author presenting each term for one half day. Such authors who have visited MGS for the Year nine students, usually more than once, include: Michael Bauer, Bernard Caleo, John Danalis, Scot Gardner, Neil Grant, Jack Heath, David Metzenthen and Michael Pryor, all of whom are excellent speakers. They give a lecture and slide show on their writing and lives as authors, followed by two creative writing workshops where the boys have hands on experience of introducing suggested techniques into their own writing.
The rich, diverse and curriculum integrated Year nine English wide reading program encourages a passion for fiction reading, and the further development of literacy skills.
The Year nine wide reading program is a valuable student learning component of the Year nine English curriculum and a collaborative venture with the School English staff. The teaching role of the teacher-librarian is enhanced with the assessment design and marking of the project. At MGS, each of the three teacher-librarians teaches a core curriculum subject including, VCE Geography, Year nine History and Year eight English as well as being associated in a pastoral care role with a House, as a House Tutor. The rich, diverse and curriculum integrated Year nine English wide reading program encourages a passion for fiction reading, and the further development of literacy skills. The operation of the program also highlights the significant role of the teacher- librarian in devising and successfully implementing such a successful curriculum-based initiative.
Mentor teacher and instructional coach Regie Routman believes that sustained time for reading and writing meaningful text must be our first priority to turn students into readers, writers and thinkers (Routman, 2014 as cited on www.slav.org.au).
Hay, Lyn & Todd, Ross Dr. (2010) School Libraries 21C
. Sydney: NSW Department of Education and Training. Curriculum K-12 Directorate. School Libraries and Information Literacy Unit.
IASL School Libraries Online Accessed 30th July 2014 at: www.iasl-online.org
Klinger, D. (2006) School Libraries and Student Achievement in Ontario (Canada)
. Toronto: Ontario Library Association.
Routman, Regie (2014) Read, Write, Lead: Breakthrough Strategies for Schoolwide Literary Success
Alexandria, VA: ASCD as cited in www.slav.org.au
Accessed 30th July 2014.
SLAV website Accessed 30 July 2014 at: http://www.slav.org.au
Dr Robin Zeidler is the Director of Library Services in The Nigel Peck Centre for Learning and Leadership at Melbourne Grammar School. Dr Zeidler is also a valued member of the Synergy Board.