All posts filed under: From the Chalk Face

Speed Wobbles

Teachers of any subject will be familiar with the student who struggles to work their way through a text. These students find difficulty completing classwork, because they often have trouble extracting information from reading material. It’s difficult to help such students with their reading when trying to teach subject content to the whole class. As David Didau pointed out in his recent webinar Five Things Every Teacher Needs to Know About Reading earlier this month, dysfluent reading limits comprehension because of the extra load it imposes on working memory. Slow and laborious reading impacts comprehension, as Jan Hasbrouck explains in the short video clip below. Without fluency, it takes enormous effort to slog through to the end of the paragraph, and by the time the student finally gets there, they can’t remember what they read at the beginning.  In this scenario, any hope of good comprehension is lost. The obvious answer is to develop fluency. If children are fluent readers, they will understand the material better, have more working memory available to think about it, …

Six Reasons Not to Work With Us (yet)

You may be surprised to find that we don’t always work with every school that asks us. Or, to put it another way, we work with schools to find out how we can help – and if we don’t think you need us, we’ll tell you. We follow a collaborative process that is designed to save time and money, while putting in place sound, cost-effective practice. Here are six reasons why we’ll recommend that you don’t set up Thinking Reading in your school – or at least, not yet: You don’t have enough children reading more than three years behind. Before schools set up Thinking Reading, we work with them to put assessment systems in place that will allow them to match students with the right kinds of interventions. If you have very few students reading three or more years behind, you don’t need the Thinking Reading intervention. Students up to three years behind can be taught successfully in pairs or groups, and we’ll recommend strategies and programmes that you can use to support them. …

Promoting a Reading Culture – The Bridge Over the Reading Gap revisited (Part 7)

Following up the long list of questions from our researched Home presentation on 30 April 2020, we are providing more detailed answers in a series of short blogs about different aspects of the topic. A number of questions dealt with the roles of the school librarian and parents in supporting reading in secondary schools. They open up the wider question of how a school builds a reading culture. This is the final post in the series. Promoting a Reading Culture How can school librarians with no teaching training/responsibilities support this learning and progress? I am a new school librarian with an English Degree but no teaching training or responsibilities, how do I best support the children’s progress? Librarians are key allies for teachers in the struggle to improve children’s reading. They tend to have an extensive knowledge of books and authors, and are well placed to make book recommendations for students. Unfortunately, in many schools, much if not all of the librarian’s time is taken up administrating programmes like Accelerated Reader. Many school leaders think …

Barriers to Success – The Bridge Over the Reading Gap revisited (Part 6)

Following up the long list of questions from our researched Home presentation on 30 April 2020, we are providing more detailed answers in a series of short blogs about different aspects of the topic. This post answers questions on some important issues in reading education. Some of our best efforts in the past have actually created barriers to success. Barriers to Success Is there any research to show that dyslexia diagnosis is not always accurate, and that such students can improve with reading intervention? What do we mean by ‘dyslexic’? First of all, it is important to acknowledge that there are some people who find it much more difficult to acquire reading than others. There is very real pain involved in this, of which we are acutely aware – and we consistently advocate for effective reading instruction for these students, on the basis of the misery that poor reading brings. But advocating for effective instruction necessarily requires challenging beliefs and practices that are ineffective. The consensus of research to date strongly suggests that the most …

MFL – The Bridge Over the Reading Gap revisited (Part 5)

Following up the long list of questions from our researched Home presentation on 30 April 2020, we are providing more detailed answers in a series of short blogs about different aspects of the topic. The focus of this post is how we work with students who have reading difficulties when we are teaching modern foreign languages (MFL). What strategies would you suggest regarding teaching MFL? The principles of explicit teaching are as applicable in MFL as they are anywhere else. Much time is wasted, and much student motivation and curiosity is eroded, when our teaching communications are unclear or ambiguous. Although we have both studied and speak other languages, we do not teach in this field. Here are some tips via our friend and colleague Barry Smith (@BarryNSmith79), whose use of explicit instruction in MFL is sans pareil. In general terms, students need to read a lot in a foreign language. This is because they need to spend time working with words, and making links between the spoken and written forms of the language. Many …

Effective Intervention – The Bridge Over the Reading Gap revisited (Part 4)

Following up the long list of questions from our researched Home presentation on 30 April 2020, we are providing more detailed answers in a series of short blogs about different aspects of the topic. By far the most questions we received were on effective reading interventions, and what constitutes an acceptable rate of progress in such interventions. Effective intervention Where can my school access training for specific staff to teach reading, and which reading programme should we use? where do we get it?  As a Y6 teacher, I want to implement an intervention for our struggling readers before transition to secondary school. Any tips or recommendations? Any programme or approach you would specifically recommend?  What intervention programmes have you used which you would recommend for the quickest progress?  Is it worth using IT based programmes such as immersive reader? The Dyslexia Association like it.  Can you recommend any relevant interventions that target raising attainment in the Government National Tests for Literacy?  I am a Literacy Coordinator in a post primary all boys school and every …

Fluency and Comprehension – The Bridge Over the Reading Gap revisited (Part 3)

Following up the long list of questions from our researched Home presentation on 30 April 2020, we are providing more detailed answers in a series of short blogs about different aspects of the topic. Fluency and Comprehension What are your best tips for helping pupils with their fluency of reading? There are important distinctions to be made in the way that the term ‘fluency’ is used. Commonly, especially in the US, fluency refers to smooth, expressive reading aloud, showing a clear understanding of the text. Fluency is also used as a measure of sheer speed, whether of single words or connected prose. And finally, fluency can be used to describe automatic word recognition which allows written language to be processed at about the same speed as spoken language. This short video clip by Jan Hasbrouck outlines why this last issue is so important – namely, fluency aids comprehension. If the goal of reading is comprehension (and it is), then fluency has an important part to play. Many reading interventions do not address this issue, or …

In-class Support – The Bridge Over the Reading Gap revisited (Part 2)

Following up the long list of questions from our researched Home presentation on 30 April 2020, we are providing more detailed answers in a series of short blogs about different aspects of the topic. In-class support I am a secondary English Teacher and I feel in no way trained to teach phonics, decoding etc and wouldn’t know where to start with creating these effective lessons you talked about. It’s important to draw a distinction between effective intervention lessons, which target precise skills and knowledge, and general classroom lessons, which are not appropriate for anything more than incidental phonics instruction. This means drawing students’ attention to the sound sequence and letter combinations which represent them. For example: The teacher writes on the board and says: this word is ‘coup’. As we write, we underline each letter group to show which sound is represented, as in: c + oup /ku:/ and we sound this out to make it explicit. We would normally do this in conjunction with introducing the word to students’ vocabularies: “The word ‘coup’ follows this spelling …

Assessment – The Bridge Over the Reading Gap revisited (Part 1)

Following up the long list of questions from our researched Home presentation on 30 April 2020, we are providing more detailed answers in a series of short blogs about different aspects of the topic. Assessment What tests should be used to identify students with reading difficulties? The first principle is that no one test will give us all the information that we need. We recommend at least three tiers of screening to identify students in need of intervention. In the first tier, all students in the cohort should sit a standardised test of reading, to ensure that no one ‘falls through the cracks’. At secondary school, this test needs to be normed up to at least 16 years, be suitable for administration to groups, and contain both a comprehension and decoding element. That leaves only a few tests. We usually recommend the New Group Reading Test, because of the ease of administration and its broad statistical base. Many UK schools have a licence to access the entire GL Assessment Bank, including the NGRT. The purpose …

When ‘near enough’ is not good enough

There is a tremendous amount of potential in education research. Sadly, this potential is largely untapped because teachers are not taught this material systematically. As a result, they have to find it out for themselves – if they do at all. However, just knowing about the research is not enough. To make those research findings pay off in children’s lives, we need to be really good at implementation: knowing about which elements of any given setting need to be aligned, and then ensuring that they do align. A good example is the ground-breaking study by Vellutino and colleagues from 1996. David Kilpatrick references this study in the inaugural Reading League Journal, and we also mention it in our book. Briefly, this study showed that, with systematic, explicit instruction by highly trained staff, the number of students with reading difficulties in a US school district could be reduced by 95% in 25 weeks. Kilpatrick’s point is that, despite the inspiration and hope that these findings offered, the results were not duplicated in many of the schools …