The Class Size Debate: Is Small Better?

By Peter Blatchford; Paul Bassett et al. | Go to book overview

5: The effect of class size on
support for reading

In this chapter I look more specifically at one type of classroom process likely to be affected by class size differences – individual support for reading, in the form of adults in the classroom hearing individual children read. On logical and common-sense grounds it seems likely that the number of children in a class will affect the amount of time that can be spent on instruction and dealing with individual children. It might be expected to be particularly important to maximize individual support for the youngest children in school, during Reception and KS1 (4–7 years), and so effects of class size differences may be most marked at this stage.

As part of an earlier study of the teaching of reading in three LEAs it was found that the two most common reading activities were reading to the whole class and hearing children read individually (Ireson and Blatchford 1993). Nearly one half of teachers in this survey said they heard each child read once a week, one-third between two and four times, and 16 per cent daily. Just over half of the teachers said they heard individual children read from between 5 and 10 minutes, one-fifth for less than 5 minutes and 7 per cent for 11 minutes or more.

These findings indicate that the strategy of hearing individual children read was, until recently anyway, a main part of the teaching of reading. There has been for some time a debate about the success of this strategy, and concern over the most effective and efficient ways of hearing children read. One limitation of short sessions is that they may be relatively superficial, with little opportunity to explore each child's understanding of text (Ireson and Blatchford 1993). Some have argued that efforts should be made to extend the length of each session, in order to provide a more thorough analysis of, and feedback on, each child's reading (Ireson and Blatchford 1993).

Recent strategies concerning literacy, introduced in the UK, appear to have profound consequences for the strategy of hearing children read. The stress is now on a more structured approach involving whole class teaching and structured group reading, and a set of prescribed activities. The role

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