Got some Year 5 pupils who look like they won’t meet the new floor standard for reading in Year 6?

Space Hoppers Dan Fireball and Astra MoonYou’re not alone! Many schools have got one or two groups in Year 5 who do not need serious reading intervention but whose progress in reading seems to be grinding to a halt.

Typically these readers:

  • find it difficult to find books they like reading
  • probably couldn’t name a favourite author
  • do very little reading other than when they are directed to do so
  • are finding the writing requirements of Year 5 a real challenge

What these readers need is lots of successful reading of texts that are highly engaging but which are not too difficult. That’s the way to get them back into the habit of reading.

What these readers need is Space Hoppers!

Space Hoppers are a new set of pacey reads designed to transform ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ readers into enthusiastic readers.

How do they do that?     

First of all, there are 9 Space Hoppers books so readers meet the same core of characters in each book. This means that those pupils who may find it hard to ‘get into a book’, quickly tune in to the context and are not baffled by the characters’ names and personalities.

Next, the Space Hopper stories have plenty of ‘boy appeal’ (they are science fiction stories set in 2281 when children are in charge of the Solar System!) but there are also strong female characters.

When children are asked what they like in fiction, they invariably say they like stories to be funny. The Space Hopper stories are really funny. There’s plenty of the ‘slapstick humour’ that will get the children giggling but there’s also more subtle humour based on misunderstandings and verbal wit. (By the way that’s a great way to introduce these children to irony and to teach grammar in context).

Importantly, the Space Hopper books are in the ‘Goldilocks zone’ –  that is, they are, just the right length, just the right amount of text on the page and just the right number of illustrations (not so many so that the book looks babyish, but enough to ‘break up’ the text and not make pages of text look too daunting).

Conveniently, the 9 Space Hoppers stories can be read in any order (which makes classroom management of two target groups a doddle!).

What’s the best way to use Space Hoppers?

Space Hoppers are ideal for Guided Reading (and ideal for TAs to support Guided Reading). Why?

Well, the Space Hoppers Teacher’s Book provides questions about the texts that will give TAs the right questions to ask to really promote pupil thinking.

With renewed emphasis on vocabulary in the revised curriculum (‘exploring the meaning of words in context’) the more challenging vocabulary in each Chapter of a Space Hopper book is listed in the Teacher’s Guide for the supporting adult to introduce and discuss (this is particularly invaluable for EAL pupils). 

Some TAs feel less confident when working with groups of pupils who are above SEN ability. The Space Hoppers’ Teacher’s Guide gives TAs a clear teaching plan which will guide them through the session and give them confidence.

Top Tips for Guided Reading with Space Hoppers

  • One priority with this target group is to get them doing more reading. If a group takes six weeks to get through a Guided Reading text they will only read a maximum of 6 texts in the year – that’s not enough!
  • That’s why the shorter texts of Space Hoppers are ideal.
  • Each Space Hoppers book should be read, discussed and follow-up work done in 3 x 25min Guided Reading sessions. The group will need two Guided Reading/Independent reading sessions a week.
  • Don’t get the children to read round the group – too slow and boring. These children do not need an adult to check their decoding of every word. Instead, spend most of the allocated Guided Reading time to develop their comprehension and ability to answer a range of questions.

Session 1

Meet as a group to share pages 4 – 9 of the selected Space Hoppers text (the introduction) and then discuss the ‘Tricky words and Phrases’ for Chapters 1 and 2 listed in the Teaching Guide.
Send the children off to independently read Chapters 1 and 2. (Remember, boys often prefer ‘sociable’ reading, so reading the chapters in pairs might work for them.)

Session 2

Meet as a group to discuss Chapters 1 and 2 (which they have read independently). Use the useful ‘Questions and discussion ideas’ in the Teacher’s Guide to focus the responses.
Prepare the ‘Tricky words and Phrases’ for Chapters 3 and 4, then set the children the challenge of reading Chapters 3 and 4 independently before their next Guided Reading session.

Session 3

Meet as a group to discuss Chapters 3 and 4 (which they have read independently). Use the useful ‘Questions and discussion ideas’ in the Teacher’s Guide to focus the responses.
Set the children one of the Extension ideas, for example, turning part of a chapter into a play-script or completing one of the PCMs in the Teacher’s Guide. 

This fast pace of reading means that this vulnerable group will fly through the 9 Space Hoppers books (and have done plenty of discussion and linked writing) in less than a term and a half.

Just watch their enthusiasm for reading (and reading competence) soar. Once they have enjoyed the Space Hoppers books they will be ready for anything the Year 6 curriculum can throw at them!



Assessment, Computing and ICT, Reading and Ebooks, Space Hoppers

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