Premier League Reading Stars

Premier League Reading Stars is a reading intervention scheme jointly developed by The National Literacy Trust and the Premier League, aimed at improving reading attainment in ensuring that pupils in Years 5 and 6 meet expected KS2 targets. The scheme can also be used with pupils in Years 7 and 8 that haven’t yet met KS2 targets.

Like LastMinutePen, Premier League Reading Stars aims to foster and develop a love of reading in pupils via the world of football. A teacher pack is available which provides resources for a 10 week course for 32 pupils. The project claims that the following improvements have been found in just 10 weeks of students’ undergoing the project:

  • 3 out of 4 children made at least 6 months’ progress in just 10 weeks. 1 child in 3 made a year’s progress, or more
  • The number of children who enjoy reading ‘very much’ tripled as a result of taking part
  • The number of children who read every day doubled
  • 7 out of 10 say that they are now proud to be readers
  • Nearly half joined their public library
  • 2 out of 3 say that as a result of taking part they now have a favourite author
  • Nearly 9 out of 10 participants said that seeing Premier League footballers read has made them want to read more
  • Those who took part were 10 times more likely to progress in reading than similar children who didn’t  take part 


The teacher’s pack comes at a cost of £150 and I have not yet had the opportunity to test it out. Certainly, the information on the scheme’s website seems as though it is more geared towards a KS2 audience which means I don’t anticipate that I’d be able to use it in my own practice. We’ll see. 

Teacher’s pack aside, the project’s site also contains an ‘Online Challenges’ section in which anybody can access a number of reading challenges, each set by a different Premier League Footballer (meaning student’s can ‘collect’ the challenges as they would football stickers) which aim to improve students’ comprehension skills. These challenges cost nothing. Furthermore, they are also differentiated according to difficulty (you can choose from Professional, Word Class, or Legendary just like you can on the Fifa football games) which means students can opt for the challenge that suits them best and then work their way up to the highest level. 

So what about the challenges? Excellent. Upon reaching the challenge homepage ( students are met with the smiling faces of 20 different players (one from each different premier league club) each of whom has 3 challenges for students to take part in. By clicking on a player you are asked to choose one of the challenges. I clicked on Jan Vertonghen’s  challenge page (because he’s Mighty Spurs of course) and selected the easiest challenge: Professional Level. Upon clicking the challenge I was then shown a video in which a slightly wooden (okay, positively mahogany) Jan read aloud an extract from Andros Townsend’s (another Spurs star) player profile page from the team website. Once I’d listened to Jan’s reading I then had to answer three questions based on the extract. So far, so good. But I haven’t read anything yet right? Correct. However, question 3 can only be answered once you’ve read the extract that Jan was reading, yourself. So, scrolling down to the bottom of the page I found the extract, read it, and answered question 3. Goal! (That means I got it right.)

As you click on through the harder challenges the extracts become increasingly more difficult. And the extracts are not always football based. Jan Vertonghen’s ‘Legendary’ challenge asked me to listen/read an extract from Dareen Shan’s Zom-B. Whoever came up with the texts, know what students want. This is good stuff.

I’m going to email National Literacy Trust and see if they can send me a £150 resource pack for free and I can let you know what it’s like. In the meantime however, do check out the Online Challenge section of the website with some of your struggling pupils. You never know, it may well do exactly what it claims to do on the tin!

Here’s the link again:




The Vital 3 Points: A summary of the weekend’s football news in 3 bullet points

Right, here goes:


  • Spectacularly, Chelsea (2nd in the league) lost to Sunderland (bottom of the league) meaning that Chelsea look increasingly less likely to snatch the title out of Liverpool’s grasp. Do say: “What a season it’s been. Chelsea losing to Sunderland! You just never know do you?”
  • This loss led Chelsea’s manager, Jose Mourinho to provide a typically churlish post match interview in which he sarcastically congratulated Mike Riley (Premier League Referee Boss) on being ‘Absolutely Fantastic’ in making the premier league exciting this year. Do say: “Although Sunderland did win an unfair penalty, Chelsea have won a few too! West Brom anyone?” 

Watch the full interview here: 



  • Tottenham Manager Tim Sherwood reacted angrily to questions from the BBC about leaving Brazillian Midfielder, Sandro, out of his squad. Sherwood has previously stated that Sandro was injured. However, prior to the game against Fulham (which Spurs won 3-1), Sandro tweeted the world to announce that the manager was lying; he wasn’t injured. Sherwood, upon hearing this news, explained in no unclear terms that Sandro wasn’t good enough to get into the squad. Sandro later tweeted, ‘LOL!!!’ Do say: “Players need to stay away from Twitter. Joey Barton is proof enough of that fact!”

Watch the Sherwood interview here:






Starter: Guess the Pun

A quick little starter you can play on a regular basis with students, just to get them thinking.

What football story is the following newspaper pun about?


‘Bale-Force Wind’ (The Guardian, 17.04.14)


The answer is Gareth Bale’s wonder goal against Barcelona which meant that his side, Real Madrid, won the Copa del Rey. See it here:

Ensure that in your discussion, you speak with students about the value of puns. Why do newspapers use them? What does this pun suggest about Gareth Bale? (That he’s fast, surprising, strong etc.)

Have fun.

The Ballad of Hillsborough

Many students will have heard of the Hillsborough disaster but few will have had any real emotional awareness of the event. i used the poem, ‘ The Ballad of Hillsborough’ in a lesson with some Year 9 students who were studying the Ballad form of poetry.

You have to watch how you play this one; at times I had to prevent myself from being florid in my description of the disaster. Sometimes, when you see the kids in front of you are genuinely interested in what you’re saying, it can be hard not to get carried away.  But, there’s nothing worse than people who exploit death for any sort of gain so just watch it. 

Anyway, here’s the poem. Use it in what way you will:



The Liverpool supporters
Were given the smaller end;
Crammed behnd the goalmouth,
The fans were tightly penned – 

Penned, penned in their thousands,
Penned in under the sky
No one there had reckoned
That ninety-five would die.

The barriers all buckled,
They couldn’t take the strain
The cheers of jubilation
Turned into cries of pain.

And when at last they noticed,
The police unlocked a gate,
But the exit was too narrow,
And they’d opened it too late

The nation watched in horror,
Stunned with disbelief
As the shadows from the goalmouth
Stained a football pitch with grief.

An inquiry has been opened
To find out who’s to blame,
But for those who lost their dear ones
Nothing will be the same.

For nothing brings the dead back,
Post mortems, flowers or prayers,
It’s like reaching the top of the stairwell
And finding there are no stairs.

That drop into the darkness
Goes down and down and down;
And grief’s black water well there,
Inviting you to drown.

Never to see your loved ones,
Or hear them on the phone – 
It’s hard to believe when it happens
That you’ll never walk alone.

But down at the Kop at Anfield,
The goalmouth shows it’s true:
The scarves around the crossbar
Are knotted red and blue.

Despite divided loyalties
Liverpool loved its own,
And every tribute there proclaims:
You’ll never walk alone – 

Not by the banks of the Mersey
Nor down the terraced streets;
Beneath the great cathedrals
A city’s warm heart beats.

And now in the cold spring sunset,
The Liver Bird’s aflame
The Phoenix rose from the ashes;
A city can do the same.

Simon Rae


I focused largely on the the rhyme scheme when I studied the poem. It was interesting to see student opinion on why a poem which describes such a tragic disaster would have such a ‘sing song’ feel to it, as created by the rhyme in the ballad. If this is an avenue that you’d like to pursue then do consider:

  • The Ballad form as an oral form of poetry and the fact that rhyme would make an oratory performance easier to remember. 
  • The frequent references to You’ll Never Walk Alone, another song which Liverpool fans have adapted as their own. Can singing provide a sense of catharsis? Show students this clip of Liverpool fans singing the song on the 25th anniversary match of the tragedy and you’ll probably agree that it certainly does:
  • If a poem rhymes does it not reach a wider audience that includes young people whom otherwise might find textual insights to the tragedy inaccessible? After all, we’re not studying newspaper articles on the tragedy are we? No, we’re studying the poem.
  • What’s the effect of the Juxtaposition between the ‘sing song’ tone of the poem and the tragic content? Does it make the tragedy seem all the more shocking? Perhaps, perhaps not. 

Of course, there’s a plethora of other things you could use this poem for. What’s important is that if you use this poem, you use it sensitively. Good luck and let me know what you come up with.

The Vital 3 Points

It was suggested to me by a friend that I include a feature for non football fan teachers who want an idea of what to talk about with students on a Monday morning in regard to the weekend’s football.

So, here it is.  3 big talking points from the world of football. Use them as a basis for further research or just simply recite the points at students as you see fit.

  • Liverpool beat Man City which means they could now win the league with 4 games to go. People generally want this to happen as it would be a fine reward for passionate local boy Steven Gerrard who has played for his beloved Liverpool all his life without ever winning a league trophy. (Say, “Well Johnny. What do you think about Liverpool beating City then? Think they can finally do it?”)


  • Jose Mourinho declined the opportunity to talk to the press after his Chelsea side’s 1-0 win against ten man Swansea. Idiot. (Say, “Mourinho’s getting a bit…well, boring don’t you think?”) 


  • Liverpool’s Luis Suarez dived a couple of times in the game against Man City. Having previously been banned for racist comments against rival players and biting a players arm, this diving suggests a return to form. Bigger idiot. (Say, “Can’t believe the ref didn’t give a second yellow card for that dive.”)

Impressing Footballers With Beautiful Tweets

Half the time, students simply don’t spend any real time on what they write. They write in order just to get the job done. Little time is spent thinking about why they are writing, who they are writing for and what effect they are trying to achieve. 

This lesson aims to change that. 

Starter: Examine a number of famous footballers tweets. Discuss what makes them effective, funny, interesting, profound, boring, drivel etc.

Main: Explain to students that they are going to attempt to get ‘retweeted’ by  a famous footballer. A list of footballer twitter handles can be found here: 

Ensure that you discuss with students (or even better, that students discuss with one another) what type of tweet is most likely to get re-tweeted by a famous footballer. That is, tweets that are personal but not abusive; funny but not suggestive of insanity; well worded and easy to read; relevant but also a little bit different. It’s not an easy task. By the way, they’re going to need their phones for this lesson. Some students may not have twitter; get them working with someone that does or set up a class twitter account on their behalf from which all tweets can be sent. 

Then, get students to craft their tweet. Stress the need for students to take their time over this; they only have 140 characters and one chance to get this done. They should be drafting and re-drafting and re-drafting again until the 140 characters they have in front of them are absolutely perfect. Words should be changed, different lines of rhetoric explored, and research on the footballer conducted. 

Plenary: Once students have constructed their tweets get them sent  (once you’ve checked them) and then students should feedback to the rest of the group about the tweet construction process. 

Obviously, this lesson can be used as a ‘hook’ for further lessons on considering GAP (Genre, Audience, Purpose) when writing. 

Like it? Try it? Let me know how it goes. 



Punctuation Pie: The Semi Colon (;)

If punctuation marks were footballers then the semi colon is Lionel Messi. For me, students that know how to use semi colons tend to be those students who write better than the rest. What does this mean? It means that even if your writing is crap, there’s always a chance you can fool me into thinking it isn’t. How? By using a semi colon. So listen up.

As with the colon, there are a number of ways the semi colon can be used:

  • In complicated lists
  • Joining closely related sentences
  • Used in place of a connective

Here’s how it works.

In Complicated Lists

Semi colons can be used to separate things in complicated lists. Firstly, let me show you a list:

Contenders for the worst footballing haircut of the year award are Marouane Fellaini, Manchester United, Bacary Sagna, Arsenal, Marouane Chamakh, Crystal Palace and Gervinho, Roma.

Bit of a mess don’t you agree? If you knew nothing about football then you wouldn’t know what names were the names of players and what names were the names of clubs. Semi colons can be used to smarten things up:

Contenders for the worst footballing haircut of the year award are Marouane Fellaini, Manchester United; Bacary Sagna, Arsenal; Marouane Chamakh, Crystal Palace and Gervinho, Roma.

Joining closely related sentences

This is the easiest and most effective way to use semi colons I think.

Here we have two sentences that make perfect sense on their own:

Vincent Tan is foolish. He gave the ‘Bluebirds’ a red kit.

This example is fine. However, if we have two sentences (as in the example) that make perfect sense on their own which are closely related, then we can join them with a semi colon like so:

Vincent Tan is foolish; he gave the ‘Bluebirds’ a red kit.

Here’s another example:

Jose Mourinho is infuriating. He whines constantly.

Jose Mourinho is infuriating; he whines constantly.

See how the version with the semi-colon just looks…posher? Note that unless the word that follows the semi colon is a name of a place or person then you get rid of the capital letter.

Used in place of a connective

Finally, we can also use semi colons in place of connective words such as ‘and’, ‘because’, ‘so’, ‘as’ etc.

For example:

Jose Mourinho is infuriating because he whines constantly.

Jose Mourinho is infuriating; he whines constantly.

Right, that’s me done on semi colons.

Hope it helps.