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Noughts and Crosses Essay

English teachers don’t need to be told the enormous value and pleasure of reading whole texts as class readers. Little compares with that feeling when a class are truly engaged in the reading of a really good book. Those moments stay with you forever – indeed, they fuel the desire to find another such book to repeat the experience, again and again. Fortunately, contemporary writers of fiction for young adults continue to offer us fresh opportunities to enjoy literature with our students.

Oxford Rollercoasters is a series that offers teachers the opportunity of studying first-class novels – recently written for teenagers – as whole-class readers with Year 7, 8 and 9 students. Focus on assessment of reading Oxford Rollercoasters includes titles with varied themes, challenging subject matter and engaging plots – for example, Noughts and Crosses takes a very contemporary slant on racism, Firestarter features a modern-day compulsive arsonist, while Fire, Bed and Bone is set during the Peasants’ Revolt.

Each novel is accompanied by innovative and engaging teaching materials, specifically designed to help students access the texts and to support learning as required by the National Curriculum. Rollercoasters is firmly based on the reading objectives in the Framework, and draws on approaches to reading fiction recommended by the English strand of the Secondary National Strategy. The series is written by practising teachers and consultants, and, while concentrating on the explicit teaching of reading skills, also draws on approaches to literature through drama and media.

Theories behind both assessment for learning and thinking skills are also embedded in the materials. Time-saving resources For each Rollercoasters novel there is a set of Lesson Plans, specifying particular objectives, assessment focuses and learning outcomes. These are accompanied by a compact Overview (see page 4) which summarizes the scheme at a glance, including the necessary resources for each lesson.

The Navigator offers a clear plot summary, linked to relevant chapters, to help speedy location of particular parts of the novel. Lesson Plans are accompanied by full, varied and practical Worksheets and OHTs, and drama activities are common within the teaching schemes. The worksheets and OHTs are customizable to meet the needs of a particular teacher and class. For every novel there are suggested guided reading sessions as well as the opportunity to develop further specific group teaching.

Class, shared and independent reading are also fully supported in the Lesson Plans. The practice of keeping some form of Reading Journal during the study of the novel is encouraged in many of the schemes, and there are several attractive models for such record-keeping across the teaching materials. Every set of Lesson Plans ends with its own student Reading Assessment Progress Sheet, which the teacher can then use to identify areas for development for each student.

Reading Guide Each of the novels has its own student Reading Guide, which contains a rich variety of material to help to engage students in their study of the novel. Each one features unique author’s craft material, giving students a great insight into the writing, editing and publishing process. Ideas for wider reading and for the extension of independent reading are also provided in the Pathways section at the end of the Reading Guide. Website support

The Rollercoasters website provides access to the free on-line teacher’s resources, sample chapters of the novels and further author information. Oxford Rollercoasters provides first-class teaching resources for first-class contemporary fiction. The series is designed to engage the widest possible range of students in reading for pleasure, and we feel confident that it will contribute to those memorable experiences of reading together in the secondary classroom.

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