Reading Intervention feedback

Today I’m feeding back thoughts arising from the first week of our project to improve the reading behaviours of selected groups of learners who have fallen behind (blog 25.10.22). 

It has occurred to me that the NLS broad aim for all pupils’ use of language and literacy is huge – far too high a mountain to climb in 7 weeks (trying to eat the elephant at one go?). We can’t possibly fill all of the literacy gaps these pupils have. Yet this broad NLS aim could form a KS3 long term project, beginning with pupils on entry at Year 7 – a whole school endeavour. Year 7 are generally more malleable and open to taking complete ownership of their learning.

Meanwhile, a key question: why are so many pupils in Years 8 and 9 still delayed with reading? This suggests that something more urgent needs to be put in place. Is this what our pilot project is aiming towards? I would like to think so. 

So should any intervention for Year 7 low attainers be longer term (NLS), part of a KS3 whole school project? Yes, I think so. Even after one week of our project, I am seeing literacy catch up in secondary as very different for Year 7, than for Year 9. I hope, following this short term project, these questions may involve whole school discussion. 

Meanwhile, for this time-limited project should we focus on short term goals, based on improving selected pupils’ reading attitudes and behaviours – leading to self ownership and independence? If so, should we set the goals, or should learners set their own? Also: once each group finishes the set of sessions – and returns to independent library reading, should readability still be at ZPD matched to RA – or raised a little for challenge? So many questions, with difficult answers. I have never done this kind of research before, so am feeling my way slowly, trying to build my thoughts from the learners’ responses. 

We began with a short survey of how these pupils felt about their reading. On a scale of 1-5, pupils were asked: How easy is reading? Do they always understand? Do they enjoy reading? What do they like to read? And what reading means to them. Responses tended to be centred – about 3. 

Getting these students to engage fully with reading is the priority. We firstly outlined the purpose, to ensure learners knew WHY they were working with us. The first text, a creative travel article, with readability of 14, while much higher than the pupils’ RA’s, was okay for supported reading. In general, pupils responded to the challenges well – underlining difficult words, cueing meaning from sentences, and offering alternative words that made sense in the text.

Engagement seemed reasonable, although one Year 9 pupil with a RA of below 10 struggled, having perhaps already switched off from reading. I ended up with a list of activities that may help to draw pupils into the sessions. 

  • Draw simple picture on whiteboard – from reading each sentence (description lends itself to this?)
  • Cloze – inserting own words in spaces, could be as pairs discussing best one?
  • Pairs game with cards: MS words with same prefix, suffix? Word families? 
  • Jigsaws to match up – MS words cut into syllabic parts. Who matches first?
  • Chain game (memory) – We went to market and bought…. Etc
  • List 3/4 different words for verbs (walking, eating etc.) Put one in own sentence
  • Write words on whiteboard, minus vowels – encourage fluent, text level reading
  • Write descriptive noun phrase, combining adjectives ?
  • Write verb phrase, combining verbs with adverbs?
  • Words on card about 12, pupils match up as ‘word class families’: explore, exploration, exploring, exploratory, decide, deciding, decision, decisive….?
  • Write sentence on whiteboard, pupils separate into meaningful parts – noun phrase, verb phrase, etc. Discuss left over words, as sight words, their function in sentence?
  • Write words with similar meanings on cards for pupils to match up

The first activity (drawing picture) is the focus for my next group, yet to work on the first text, as I have now realised how detailed description lends itself to the idea of ‘word pictures’ transferred as images. I am enjoying this kind of research, and who knows where it might lead? 

Meanwhile my five books for parents (Parents Help your Child Succeed series) are all available from Lulu. At the end of the day, no literacy  intervention can fully succeed without parental backup! 

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