Research School Network: Tutor Reading: Version 2.0 – in which every pupil gets a good deal Part 3 in our blog series shares the evolution of Greenshaw High School’s Tutor Reading programme and how it runs today.


Tutor Reading: Version 2.0 – in which every pupil gets a good deal

Part 3 in our blog series shares the evolution of Greenshaw High School’s Tutor Reading programme and how it runs today.

Our third and final blog looks at our experiences of implementing a tutor reading programme across our school over the last five years.

The first blog considered our reasons for introducing tutor reading whilst the second post explored the challenges of implementation.

This final post outlines how we evolved our approach to ensure an equality of reading experience for every pupil, particularly our most disadvantaged.

The evolution of Tutor Reading

A contributing factor to our revised model was brought about by the pandemic.

During lockdown we wanted to continue with the routine of daily reading to our pupils, where now more than ever, we felt pupils would benefit from regular interactions with imaginative worlds.

So we shifted tutor reading online, which was not easy. Every morning I would sit in my kitchen with my visualiser and book and read to hundreds of pupils simultaneously. It took a bit of effort, but it was worth it. Pupils felt connected; they enjoyed their daily read.

Pupils felt connected; they enjoyed their daily read

When things returned to normal’, we realised there might be some real benefits of continuing with the online model. Some of the key challenges we faced before school closure, such as inconsistent fluent reading across groups and a lack of comprehension support mechanisms, could be more easily tackled if we centralised the reading using technology.

And so after some careful planning and sounding out of staff and pupils, that is exactly what we did. We recruited confident and engaging readers who would be prepared to record themselves reading a novel, following a clear template to ensure consistency and provide the all-important comprehension support mechanisms.

What did we do?

Below is a summary of what we consider to be the active ingredients of our revised tutor reading programme – the components needed to make things work!

1. Start with a recall quiz
Each session begins with three short quiz questions, which all pupils have to answer in their journals. The journals have been specifically designed to record responses during tutor reading.

The questions are always fairly simple comprehension recall questions: the purpose is not really to test the pupils’ deep understanding but rather activate important prior knowledge of plot, characters and setting required for successful comprehension.

2. Provide a plot summary

Linked to the comprehension answers is a short recap of the plot. The idea is to continually activate prior knowledge and help pupils rebuild their mental models of the text in readiness for what is to come. We also use graphic organisers to help, such as where there might be multiple narrators or continual shifts in time or location.

3. Explain background knowledge

Before we read, we take the time to walk through key concepts where we think pupils’ reading comprehension is dependent on important knowledge and understanding that sits outside the text, and that we anticipate most pupils will not have.

This might include a sense of geography and Apartheid South Africa in the 1980s for Now is the Time for Running, or the concept of the Cold War and the Arms Race when reading Burn. It’s not a lecture, but an explanation of key ideas to help unlock comprehension.

4. Follow along using bookmarks

For the reasons explained in previous blogs, we still wanted pupils to have their own copy of the book in front of them and to continue to follow along with the reading using a bookmark. This component has remained the same.

5. Define fingertip vocabulary

Under the previous iteration of tutor reading, it was largely dependent on the individual tutor which words were defined and in what way. This was not only inequitable, but also unlikely to support reading comprehension in any kind of systematic way.

Instead we moved to a model where key finger-tip vocabulary is defined during reading. These refer to those words and phrases that are needed in the moment to unlock the meaning of the rest of the sentence or passage.

6. Write summaries

We know that successful comprehension depends on pupils’ actively processing and making sense of what they have read.

After reading pupils therefore complete a brief summary in their own words, using their journals. On screen prompts ensure all pupils can achieve success.

We moved to a model where key finger-tip vocabulary is defined during reading


At the end of every book we dedicate a reading session to a short quiz – this leads into a wider discussion about the key themes and ideas in the books.

This has proven particularly successful with texts about race and identity, where pupils can have the chance to talk about what they have read and how it may or may not have shifted their thinking.

Pupils can have the chance to talk about what they have read and how it may or may not have shifted their thinking.

A word of warning

There is often a tendency to read something and think how you can apply it to your context. I should stress this approach has taken several hundred hours of work, not only in producing the videos for each book, but also in working with staff and pupils on understanding the decision-making process. It hasn’t happened overnight and has been a real labour of love.

That said, I hope this series has been useful in getting a sense of the complexities of implementation and why introducing change takes time and careful planning. Very rarely is something valuable and important ever truly complete – implementation is very truly done.

As it says in the EEF’s Schools’ Guide to Implementation (2019), Treat implementation as a process, not an event; plan and execute it in stages.’

‘Treat implementation as a process, not an event; plan and execute it in stages.’

Thanks for reading!

Phil Stock

Phil Stock

Phil Stock

Director, Greenshaw Research School

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