The Literacy Shed's 'VIPERS' approach
VIPERS is an acronym to aid the recall of the six reading domains which form part of the UK’s teacher assessment framework for the reading curriculum. They are the key areas which we feel children need to know and understand in order to improve their comprehension of texts.
The six domains focus on the comprehension aspect of reading and not the mechanics: decoding, fluency, prosody etc.
As such, VIPERS is not a reading scheme but rather a method of ensuring that teachers ask, and students are familiar with, a range of questions.
They allow the teacher to track the type of questions asked, and the children’s responses to these, which allows for targeted questioning afterwards.
Key principles of a Whole Class Guided Reading lesson:
What does a whole class guided reading lesson look like?
In Years 2 to 6, guided reading lessons take place three times per week. The same text will typically span the week’s lessons, although sometimes a class reader might be accompanied by several weeks’ study of that particular book. Texts are chosen for various reasons: sometimes these have challenging or unusual themes; sometimes they support or pre-empt learning in English or other curriculum areas; occasionally, texts are included for no other reason than they’re jolly good! A good mix of fiction, non-fiction and poetry is ensured.
Every Guided Reading session in each week’s block builds on the last. Each session has three distinct parts:
1. Explicit Vocabulary Instruction
The start of each session of every session will focus on vocabulary, the ‘V’ in the Vipers acronym above. Usually, this will be the vocabulary that the children are set to experience in the text being read. In subsequent sessions, the words will be revisited, explored in more detail or applied to other contexts. Vocabulary acquisition will not be forthcoming without frequent revisiting. Although some very specific subject vocabulary is included, many useful or versatile words are too - it is hoped that the children will then take the vocabulary forward to use in their own speech and writing.
In the lesson above featuring Percy Shelley’s classic poem Ozymandias, which is quite advanced linguistically, the more of the vocabulary the children already know, the more likely they are to access the meaning. Where texts are easier to access, there is an opportunity for children to read around the words in context and figure out what they mean for themselves.
2. Reading Together
Reading Fluency must be explicitly taught and deliberately practised. Therefore, in every Guided Reading session, we prioritise fluency practice. This is done through strategies such as the following:
a) Teacher-led, modelled fluent reading
Pupils hear how a text sounds when read fluently and can identify what aspects of fluency were used. Prosody (like language) is usually acquired
naturally as children grow and listen to prosody modelled around them. Much infant-directed language is rich in prosody. Hearing an adult read aloud
with expression or appropriate prosody demonstrates to pupils how to give meaning to what is read through varied pitch (frequency), intensity (specific
emphasis on a syllable), and duration (length of the word and pauses between words).
b) Choral Reading
This involves simultaneous reading of a passage and can be done individually, in groups or as a whole class. In choral reading sessions, we monitor pupils’ reading to ensure that all are participating.
c) Echo Reading
The teacher reads a short section of the text aloud while pupils silently follow in their own copies of the text. This section could be a sentence, paragraph
or a short passage. Pupils echo the section back. Sections need to be long enough so that pupils are required to rely on reading their text and not just
remembering what the teacher said.
d) Performance Reading
Texts that feature monologues, dialogues, speeches, songs, are suited to performance reading. Pupils can discuss the text and make decisions about
how to use their voices, facial expressions or gestures. Text marking can be used to show how different aspects of the reading sounds e.g., underlining
a phrase/word/part of the word that will be stressed when read out loud. This is a crucial strategy because it is a way to make repeated reading purposeful and engaging.
Good comprehension draws from the crucial ability that, by the end of their primary education, all pupils are able to read fluently, and with confidence, in any subject in their forthcoming secondary education. Both simple and more complex, probing questions are used to dig deeper into the meaning, composition and structure of texts. Sessions typically feature two distinct questioning sections:
a) 'Quick Check' Questions
These usually take the form of more direct retrieval questions, which are shaped in such a way that pupils can test their understanding of a text extract as a whole; this is a form of basic comprehension.
b) Focused comprehension questions based on the VIPERS skills: infer, predict, explain, summarise
Once children have secured a basic comprehension of the text studied, the teachers' questioning will then guide the children to investigate the extract further. This investigation includes the modelling of comprehension strategies and also the shaping of written answers. With written comprehension questions, there is an importance placed on evidencing and justifying answers by making direct references to the text. These more in-depth answers perfectly complement the short text extract, multiple choice format of the Accelerated Reader quizzes that children take regularly.