Month: June 2015

A Call for Accuracy

Disagree if you like, but let’s get the facts right. One thing that I have enjoyed about Twitter and blogging is the constructive educational debates that occur from time to time. I am grateful for the feedback and comments on my recent series of posts challenging the view of reading disabilities as lifelong impairments. However, I am reluctantly writing this short post to correct misrepresentations of my position by @JulesDauby here. Readers may or may not be interested but given that these comments directly impact on my professional standing I feel that I have to point out the following errors: 1    I have never said that children of low intelligence can’t read. This is a completely false representation. I have made it quite clear in the examples in the post, my website and other posts that all children can learn to read. I am passionate about this fact. Accepting that a few children of “significantly low intelligence may not be able to learn to read” is NOT the same as “children of low intelligence cannot learn …

Marching to a Different Tune

We don’t have to live with the same old assumptions. I have been a little perplexed at a couple of responses to one of my blog posts over the weekend which seemed to miss points that were either explicit in the post or well established in the literature. Regarding the comment: ‘… there are (almost?) ALWAYS a select group of non-respondents.’  The post explicitly states that all students within the normal range of intelligence can be taught to read. It implies that children with significantly low intelligence may not learn to read. @AndrewSabisky‘s comment is therefore an acceptance of what the post already states. It does not detract from the argument. It is also worth noting that ‘within the normal range’ includes those with a so-called discrepancy between IQ and reading achievement. More on this below. ‘We can argue over the size of that group but there is good reason to think that they will exist … in the case of reading also …’ The blog asserts that, for students within the normal range, all can …

Te Wero – The Challenge

Māori have a custom that is part of the formal welcome, the pōwhiri. It is called Te Wero – The Challenge. Warriors perform a martial display that challenges guests; then one lays down a token on the ground. If the token is accepted, the visitors show that they come in peace, and are welcomed. If not, they need to be prepared for battle. (This is a particularly interesting recent example). I feel that the time has come to issue my own ‘wero’ with respect to adolescent literacy. I hope that you will see it as an invitation to share in a quiet but growing revolution. I refer to the intervention that I have developed for illustration because it is my own experience – but I am much more interested in students being given the right help than whether people choose to implement Thinking Reading. I have seen English GCSE results in schools radically improve. I have seen students predicted an E in Year 10 produce 5 A* – C including English and Maths, go into the 6th form and …

The natural home for reading interventions (and it’s not SEN)

English or SEN? Does it really matter who manages the delivery of a reading intervention? If it’s an intervention, it’s SEN – that’s the agreed wisdom. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If an intervention is required, targeting a specific set of skills, then special educational needs have been identified and these should be addressed by SEN staff. Well, I’m not so sure. Is it the case with all interventions? For example, very able children can be regarded as having special educational needs, but they are often allocated a ‘gifted and talented’ co-ordinator rather than a SENCo. While there is sometimes talk of ‘inclusive’ SEN practice encompassing both gifted and disabled learners, in practice I’ve never seen it happen. The brutal truth is, many schools still see SEN as the relegation league for ‘slow learners’. What about GCSE interventions targeted at the C/D borderline? I’ve yet to see them being delivered by SEN. Why doesn’t that happen? Firstly, because the skills are specific to a curriculum and secondly, because the teaching staff with the relevant expertise …

SEND the right message

It seems that SEN is the Cinderella of education. Both physically and metaphorically, SEN provision is often relegated to the margins of the school. In the past it has been a somewhat arcane business in many schools, where leaders were reassured by an ethos of sympathy and bamboozled by the bandying of labels. This has begun to change, but there is a strong case for bringing SEN much more into the heart of the school – again, both physically and metaphorically. They key to this is the extent to which we invest in skills. My teaching background includes both primary and secondary special education. I have worked in a fabulous primary school that fully embraced mainstreaming. We had a number of students with Down syndrome and others with ASD. I have also worked in a secondary school that had an attached physical disabilities unit and was a resource teacher for (amongst others) students with Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities. In both of these settings, mainstreaming worked very well – because the schools were well-resourced with staff …

Cook to perfection

Producing a high-quality product, like baking the perfect cake, requires the right ingredients, precision in assembly and cooking at just the right temperature for exactly the right amount of time. So it is with delivering well-designed CPD. It is really important to us that participants get everything out of our training and that, by the end of the six days, they are confident and competent in their delivery of Thinking Reading lessons. After all, they’re going to be undertaking a role that is crucial for the children’s futures, and they too will want to ensure that they are as skilled as they can be. We could teach large groups of people, as that’s quite an economical way to deliver training. However, I have found, when I’ve been in a large group, that it’s quite easy to switch off or blend into the background – almost like a day off. We decided to train up to six people at a time. Small groups mean that there is a high level of participation and that we can …

Combine with precision

The very satisfying challenge of striking the right balance of ingredients in high-challenge CPD In ‘First, catch your chicken’ I described the target skills that we aim to develop in tutors of Thinking Reading. But what does that look like? What is it like working through the six days of training? First of all, we aim to establish a climate of high challenge but low stress. Because we deliver the training in your school, you are in a familiar environment and you have the bonus of not having to travel anywhere. Regular quizzing is primarily self-assessment: the questions are discussed orally at the end of the day and tested the next morning. We mark and feed back on your written responses, and ensure that any points that need to be clarified are covered. We know that the impersonal passive nature of sitting in a room and being lectured at is counter-productive. Instead, we use small groups so that the sessions are personal and interactive and that delivery is responsive to the needs of each particular group. …