Prediction with : The Crocodile Blues – Coleman Polhemus

This funny picture book offers a main character, who is a quirky man living in a trendy city – Manhattan or Birmingham if you will, who finds an egg. Using only pictures and onomatopaeia this book leaves tonnes to the imagination for adults and children alike. As you’re reading, why not play it with a scatty blues soundtrack? (If you keep reading, you will see I try and add some kind of soundtrack to the video I filmed on IMovie – but apologies, it’s naff.)

This book is fantastic for practicising one of the key skills children need in order to comprehend as they’re reading: prediction. Briliantly hidden images behind flaps help the child build up suspense in their own mind, which is why prediction is such a key skill in order for children to enjoy reading too.

Throughout any book there will be countless opportunities to stop and question – what do you think might happen next? As mentioned in Guiding Reading – Layers of meaning, Tennant et al. refer to prediction as an on-going skill as a book is read. It helps the ‘learner play close attention to the text.’ Plus, it helps the teacher understand the childs true comprehension of the text. If a child were to predict that the big bad wolf gets rocketed off to space in the tale, (when there has been no mention of moon boots) then you know a childs imagination is kicking in and they’re actually disengaged and not understanding the story.

Strong readers make connections to similar text types as they are reading to help make their predictions more valid

Guided Reading – Layers of Meaning

Play this to your class as an early morning activity or as they settle back into lunch.

Ask: Do you think this is a normal egg?
The children may say yes, but those who have followed the ‘story’ so far, will say no due to the machine the egg ‘popped’ out of. They may also use background knowledge of where an egg comes from. Activating prior knowledge is another skill necessary for a child who is comprehending as they’re reading. Of course, if they know nothing of the life cycle and which mammals lay eggs, then offer that information up. It’s our job as practitioners to activate it and this can be as brief as a short paragraph which you read together, or the book can be used as the opening to a core sequence of scientific learning about eggs.

Do you think this is a normal egg?’

Using the same question starters for each skill provide routine for the children so keeping the below in mind when planning for prediction would be helpful:
Do you think that…?
Explain what you think will happen? Be the consequence of…?
Will the character…?


Inference is another fantastic skill children can practice throughout this picture book and is a skill I cannot wait to delve into more on this blog.

Once the main character has awoken, he sees a crocodile under his bed and then makes a run for it! You can ask ‘how do you think the crocodile feels here?’ Provide the children with some tier 2 vocabulary so they’re not just saying ‘sad’ or ‘happy’. Satisfied perhaps, or if the children think the crocodile is a friendly one, then ‘feeling blue’ which ties in with the title. This vocabulary then must be revisited, but it has a context which is an effective way of delivering vocabulary instruction.

Coleman Polhemus has brought his drawings to life too via:

How do we teach children to read?

Reading is now high on most schools agenda, the belief being: if a child learns how to read and (more importantly) loves to read, then they will be successful and become lifelong learners. This is resoundedly backed by evidence. Take for example the OECD report in 2002:

‘ Reading for Pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child’s future success’

As practitioners, we understand that reading happens every day for the children in our classrooms.Whether children are reading the lunch menu, their maths problem, or the prayer before they go home. But the key question for subject leads and practitioners is: how do I teach a child to read?

I’m not just talking phonics. Phonics, we know, is the bedrock to any child loving reading independently. Neither am I just talking about the content domains which test comprehension. I’m talking about the skills we as adults use when we are reading to comprehend. The skills, that if our brilliant year 6 children did without thinking, then those SATS would be a doddle. When do we teach a child to become an independent reader and embed the skills of: Predicting, clarifiying, summarizing, questioning and activating their prior/background knowledge that Wayne Tennant talks about in ‘Guided reading layers of meaning’?

There are two main taught sessions of reading which happen at our school.

Whole class reading

Whole class reading or shared reading, is the opportunity to teach reading using a age-related passage or book. Through shared reading, you can teach the explicit skills of reading which are: predicting, clarifying, summarizing, and questioning. These four skills are needed if a child is to understand as they read.(I’ll post another blog to summarise his work). Through shared reading we can also do a ‘close read’ of a passage – something which Doug Lemov delves into in his ‘Reading Reconsidered.

In our school, shared reading happens from EYFS to Year 6 and it’s a time for us to delve into and analyse a passage; a passage which holds meaning, has challenging tier 2 vocabulary and has something in it which develops, e.g. a theme that runs throughout, or the developement of a character, the changing of the atmosphere. In order for a child to be a successful independent reader, they need to be able to analyse and understand as they read and that is the aim of shared reading: to teach them how to do those skills.

Guided Reading

Guided reading is then another layer of how we teach children to read and is ,in my eyes, one of the most precious times of the day.


No. It’s not a merry go round where children vomit and get light headed. Guided reading with one group, whilst the other children are engaged in purposeful, structured and most importantly, taught independent activities is not something to fear. For us teachers, working with a smaller group, with a text that is accessible for their reading age (with scope for challenge), is such a beautiful, sacred time. You work on unpicking key vocabulary at word and sentence level whilst also focusing on a content domain e.g. Vocabulary, Retrieval, Prediction etc or a key skill . If you lead on Reading, then how you rotate the learning to ensure coverage is completely up to you.

In order for a child to be successful in reading and want to read, these two approaches work best hand-in-hand.

Locked down and into my first blog

So here goes…

I’ve wanted to set up my own blog for 2 years now but there was always something more important to do – data, planning, marking some of the best pieces of writing, trying to cook dinner and wash up at the same time… But now, with all that’s going on, I’ve decided to actually give it a whirl.

There are thousands of blogs already, but i’m hoping I provide informative posts with an edge of wit that keeps my reader wanting to read on, which is what writing is about ey? (Cheeky little segway into Purpose and Audience… )

I’m currently an Assistant Head Teacher in Birmingham and I lead Literacy. I am also a year 6 teacher and I absolutely adore it. After teaching for 5 years, my love of reading has just grown and grown and I feel compelled to share the current journey my school has been on. The journey has been and always will be based on evidence research. Because of this evidence-informed practice I have also recently been appointed as an Evidence Lead in Education (ELE) and am so fortunate to be working for and with the most inspirational Head Teacher.

This blog will endeavour to:

  • Discuss and unpick the Teaching of Reading as recommended by Doug Lemov and what this actually looks like in a primary setting (but suitable to a secondary one too!)
  • Provide resources which will be useful to practitioners no matter their provision of reading (although whole class and guided is obviously best). I will also try and upload as a document too for children to do whilst learning at home.
  • Take you through any interesting books that have been recommended or any FANTASTIC reads that I can’t help but blabber about.
  • Probably loads more but if I do any more bullet points you’ll stop scrolling.

I hope you come back for more!

Illustrations from ‘The Lion Inside’ – Rachel Bright and Jim Field (a beautiful book about confidence)