Inspiring Confidence in Reading at Kirkcaldy High School

Finding it more and more difficult to engage some of my S2 pupils in reading, and even more difficult to encourage some of them to read aloud, I recently began looking for a project which would put learning into a more practical context for them. I decided that I needed to show my pupils how literacy skills are relevant to life and work, and create opportunities for personal achievement in order to develop their self-confidence.  

Giving the writing a purpose in this way made it relevant for pupils and motivated them to want to do it well

With these aims in mind, I settled on a reading project where my pupils would read to local primary and nursery school children. Pupils wrote formal letters to primary head teachers to ask if they could visit their schools. Surprisingly, they were very enthusiastic about doing this, especially those who were writing to schools they had attended.  They were keen to make contact and show primary teachers how well they were doing in high school. Giving the writing a purpose in this way made it relevant for pupils and motivated them to want to do it well.  Following this, pupils chose books from a selection I had brought from home, and worked together in small groups to read aloud. They made notes about character and theme and practised tricky words together. As a class, we had a lesson about reading aloud and how to do so effectively. Once they were confident with their texts, pupils assessed their own

A Kirkcaldy High School pupil reads to P1s at Capshard Primary School
reading, and that of peers, in the areas of pace, tone, volume and expression. They worked well together with the common purpose of improving in preparation for their young audiences.

As well as developing literacy skills, we also looked at skills for life and work. Our Skills Development Scotland key worker ran a session covering areas such as creating positive first impressions, appearing confident and effective communication skills. I also prepared a lesson called ‘What If…’ in which we discussed the importance of remaining calm and using initiative if faced with the unexpected during a trip.

Local primary staff in Torbain, Capshard and Valley Primary Schools were very supportive of our project, and each trip ran smoothly. Some pupils read to small groups of 4 or 5 children, whilst others read to much bigger groups. Once the stories were over, the secondary pupils stayed on at Valley Primary to help take P1 pupils to the library. It was very rewarding seeing the S2 pupils reading unfamiliar texts with

A Kirkcaldy High School pupil reads to P1s at Torbain Primary School
the younger children when, a few weeks beforehand, some of them had struggled to read aloud at all.

After the visits, pupils all said that they felt proud of themselves; they were keen to take photographs home to show parents and carers what they had achieved. Pupils completed questionnaires about their confidence in reading and communicating with others at the beginning of the project and, again, following their visits. In every case, pupils commented that they felt they had grown in confidence. They also felt that their reading had improved, along with their ability to communicate with new people. Pupils’ emotional literacy developed as they described their experiences and feelings in class to peers. Finally, pupils completed a piece of reflective writing about their experience of the project. Reflections focused on increased self-esteem, literacy skills and maturity.

Overall, this project has been a valuable opportunity for the pupils involved. I hope that they can retain the sense of pride and confidence it has given them as they progress into S3.

“I like talking to the primary children and I thought it was good for me as it taught me not be scared when I am reading out loud.”  Keavy

“I learnt how to read better and my confidence grew. I enjoyed working with the young children.” Kimberly

A Kirkcaldy High School pupil reads to P1s at Valley Primary School

“It was a fun project and enjoyable. I liked reading to a big group of children as it boosted my confidence.”  Brodie


Want to run your own shared reading project? Check out our Shared Reading page, with a host of case studies and an activity pack to get you started.