Just Imagine

The 4XR Project

4XR Developing Excellence in Reading project was set up to investigate the needs  of high attaining readers in years 6 – 8,  to identify the most effective pedagogies, to move learning on, and to increase attainment in reading.  Within this frame of reference, the project sought to:

  • cultivate teacher excellence and subject knowledge
  • enable cross-school learning and a shared understanding of outstanding practice
  • create new teaching resources to support ongoing professional learning
  • further develop existing activities already tested and positively evaluated

Project schools

The project was conducted in 9 schools (8 primaries and 1 secondary) in the London Borough of Richmond from April 2014 – September 2015.

  • Richmond Park Academy
  • Barnes Primary School
  • East Sheen Primary School
  • Kew Riverside Primary School
  • Lowther Primary School
  • Mary Magdalene Primary School
  • Saint Osmund’s Primary School
  • Saint Teresa’s Primary School
  • Sheen Mount Primary School

Expert teachers from each school were appointed as teacher researchers to work alongside consultants, in order to develop and test ideas and strategies.

Project Design

The project was conducted in 8 phases:

  • literature review
  • baseline data collection
  • gap analysis
  • framework design
  • training and development
  • post-delivery data collection and analysis
  • evaluation
  • production of handbook and website

Literature review

The literature review focussed on four inter-connected areas of relevance:

  • reading comprehension
  • dialogic teaching, including dialogic reading
  • evidence based teaching strategies
  • reading for pleasure and the development of a reading culture

A select bibliography can be downloaded from this website.

Baseline data

Data was collected using a battery of tools:

  • teacher and pupil perception scales
  • semi-structured interviews
  • student focus groups
  • observations of teaching using observation schedules and audio recording
  • resource audits conducted in school libraries and classrooms
  • reflective journal
  • a standardised test (New Group Reading Test) was administered to 6s and 7s in the project schools at the beginning and the end of the project.

Gap analysis

The gap analysis indicated that teaching approaches based on research, including work on reciprocal reading strategies, had been filtering into pedagogical practice. However, the following areas for further development were identified:

  • increased knowledge and application of wider research
  • wider and deeper subject knowledge, including knowledge of quality texts
  • appropriacy of intervention based on good assessment for learning.

Specifically, the following were highlighted as priorities:

  • knowledge and understanding of the processes underpinning oral and reading comprehension
  • teaching strategies to support comprehension, including inferencing and metacognition
  • understanding of the effects of genre, syntax and vocabulary on reading comprehension
  • knowledge of quality texts for teaching

4XR Framework

A flexible pedagogic framework was devised and introduced to teachers.

Th 4XR learning and teaching cycle comprises five recurring stages. While there is a natural flow through each of these stages, they are not intended to be strictly linear. A cycle may have several smaller cycles within. A sequence may move through all stages in quick succession, or it may take several sessions to complete all stages. Furthermore, an activity can encompass more than one stage simultaneously, and the boundaries between stages may be blurred, as they are in some of the video exemplification. Nevertheless, it is still helpful to look at how each of these stages works in concert with the others to deepen learning.


Excite is used here in the sense ‘to get things moving’, like water molecules in water that is being heated, rather than an ‘all bells and whistles’ introduction. In the opening moves of a session or sequence, teachers consider how the lesson will connect with students’ prior learning, knowledge and interest. They may consider how to pique students’ interest or evoke curiosity. The excite element might be a straightforward, low key review of what has been previously learnt, or the creation of an exciting experience designed to foster awe and wonder or provide background knowledge that will help the learners access a challenging text.


Explore: opportunities for students to explore their existing knowledge and understanding with their peers and with teachers. The exploratory stage allows students to examine and reflect on what they know, and to organise and attach new learning to their existing schema. Creating opportunities for exploration, rather than moving too quickly to direct teaching, was one of the most significant changes in the 4XR project classrooms. An element of exploration allows teachers to make well informed judgements about students’ understanding and misconceptions, and in consequence to intervene most effectively.


Students’ thinking is exposed through preliminary exploration/discussion, but this can be strengthened by using tools that make students’ thinking visible. Visual tools such as graphic organisers and Thinking Maps (David Hyerle) are particularly powerful in providing a sharper focus for in-line assessment, thereby potentially enabling teaching to begin at a higher level. For the higher attaining students in the 4XR project, the combination of exploration and the use of graphic tools to expose thinking. led teachers to reflect on how these strategies and helped them to avoid underestimating what students can achieve.


Having ascertained what students already know and what they are able to achieve independently, teachers identify next steps for learning. Scaffolded dialogue, guided work and interactive teaching are carefully structured to move thinking forward. Teachers make sophisticated judgements, pose questions, prompt and speculate, rather than follow a set of pre-determined questions. Collaborative work is important as a vehicle for allowing students to co-construct new understanding. As they become increasingly independent and acquire meta-cognitive skills and strategies, the students expand each other’s thinking.


Reflection is ongoing throughout the learning process and accompanies active meaning making. Teachers are additionally encouraged to build in opportunities for focussed review at key points, and at the end of a sequence, allowing students to explicitly reflect on the substantive content, the process of learning, as well as the methods and organisation of learning.

The review stage also encompasses teacher reflection and assessment.

Tools and strategies

A repertoire of associated tools and strategies was identified to be used in context with the process framework. These included:

  • Making good text choices and identifying the potential in texts
  • Developing effective questioning, including authentic self-questioning
  • Identification and use of the most effective visual and graphic tools to support reading comprehension
  • Using reciprocal teaching strategies, but in a flexible framework rather than following a rigid procedural sequence
  • Robust vocabulary instruction
  • ‘Think alouds’
  • Inferencing strategies
  • Developing awareness of genre and syntactic features as they impact on comprehension
  • Substantive and process reflection

Further detail is outlined int he 4XR handbook which accompanies this website.

For a copy of the evaluation or further information contact Nikki Gamble