All posts filed under: Methodology

How to get long-term benefit from your tutoring funding

Lockdown has undoubtedly set back many children’s education, but without doubt the most seriously affected are those who were furthest behind to begin with. Many of these students were separated from the support that they needed when schools were forced to partially close. Now, the question is how they can catch up quickly. The most important skill for accessing the curriculum is reading. Ensuring that all students read with sufficient accuracy and fluency is key to them leaving school with the benefit of a good education. Anything less makes them vulnerable throughout life, not just for their GCSEs. The government has announced a national tutoring fund, essentially re-allocating the former Year 7 catch-up fund, and this provides an ideal opportunity for schools to set up effective one-to-one reading tutoring. Unfortunately, part of the government approach has been to provide one to two weeks’ training for tutors who are then thrust into schools and will, unfortunately learn (or struggle) on the job. We have to remember that students who are furthest behind will have the most …

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, …

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 …

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 …

From novice to expert: seven signs your school is dealing with reading effectively

The focus is changing! It’s exciting to see the shift in attitude and intent towards teaching struggling readers at secondary school. When we started blogging on this subject six years ago (Why is there a reading problem in secondary schools? – 25 January 2014), it would be fair to say that in secondary schools and on social media, this was a topic of little interest to all but a few. The prevailing attitude was about compensating for reading difficulties and having lowered expectations, rather than teaching effectively to overcome these completely. In many cases, we encountered a complete denial of the scope of the problem (Addicted to Denial? – 6 February 2016). Where once this was seen as an area firmly in the province of SEN (The natural home for reading interventions (and it’s not SEN) – 28 June 2015), now many English Departments are grasping the nettle and taking responsibility (Te Wero – The Challenge – 28 June 2015). And thankfully, there is now an increasing acknowledgement that this is an area that calls …

Reading Intervention That Gets Striking Results

We often find ourselves answering questions about the striking results that Thinking Reading students achieve. Teachers are used to seeing modest outcomes at best from reading interventions, so responses range from surprise to scepticism. This is a short explanation that outlines ten reasons why Thinking Reading has the impact that it does.   1. Grounded in the research Thinking Reading is grounded in principles developed through empirical research, built on detailed theoretical work and rigorously field-tested in the real world. Lesson content and instruction is based on four key approaches: Engelmann’s Direct Instruction, Precision Teaching, Linguistic Phonics and Applied Behaviour Analysis. Read more here . . . 2. Whole school strategy We know that secondary schools are complex organisations. We work with every school’s leadership to ensure that systems, polices and culture are aligned, so that classroom practice, screening, and intervention give all students access to reading success. Read more here . . . 3. Thorough screening We apply three tiers of screening to ensure that only students who really need intervention get it – and …

7 ways to help the bottom third

It’s the time of year when we farewell Year 11 students, with a mixture of relief, anticipation, and sometimes a tinge of regret. For some, the promise of what they will do with their lives is so beautiful it almost intoxicating. For others, not so much: those students who strove, who struggled, who despaired, and sometimes gave up; the ones whom we instinctively feel should have done better, but we know are likely to end up with grades at 3 or even below. And it‘s at this time that we most wonder – could we have done something different? There are many potential reasons why students struggle. The learning that is being assessed at GCSE has accumulated over the years of the education, both inside and outside school walls. Skills that bear a single name – like ‘essay writing’ – are in fact are a composite of many different skills, which are themselves likewise a combination of more basic skills. Achievement comes from acquiring knowledge, then practising its application to mastery, then combining it with …

Anything but the teaching . . .

The latest issue of Best Evidence in Brief continues a long-standing trend in the business of teaching children to read: namely, to flail about looking for anything that might shore up student reading, without having to go to the bother of actually getting teachers to teach differently. The bulletin describes an intervention in 12 US primary schools with economically disadvantaged students. All had their vision tested and were issued free spectacles if they were found to need them – one pair for school, one for home, with broken pairs replaced for free. I was surprised to read that 69% of students tested needed glasses, so it was well worth investing in the screening process. Providing poor children with vision testing, and supplying glasses if indicated, is a good thing in and of itself, and to be applauded. It removes a key barrier that might otherwise impinge upon students’ ability to access reading texts. What is startling, though, is the Best Evidence in Brief claim that this approach ‘points to a new strategy for improving reading …

What Every Secondary Teacher Needs to Know About Reading

We haven’t posted much for the last few months because we’ve been putting our energies into a book that we hope will be helpful to secondary teachers in understanding why many of their students are struggling, and what can be done about it. Our book is called Thinking Reading: What Every Secondary Teacher Needs to Know About Reading. The first chapter deals with why secondary teachers need to know about reading. Although it is usually perceived as a ‘niche’ area in schools, reading actually pervades almost every area of academic learning, and indeed of life beyond school. Reading problems have downstream effects on students’ background knowledge, comprehension, vocabulary and writing. Most ‘low ability’ students are not lacking in intelligence, but in reading knowledge. Chapter Two deals with where these problems arise. How is it that so many children can complete eleven years of compulsory education and leave school functionally illiterate? You may well find the statistics in this area surprising, if not shocking. We examine common mistakes and misconceptions, and delve into the educational processes which …