All posts filed under: School-wide Literacy

On Reading

In recognition of Dyslexia Awareness Month, we are re-sharing this post, originally written in 2014. Unfortunately, it is as true now as it was then.  What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god!­ – Hamlet   Nearly two centuries ago, a group of reform-minded individuals set out to transform the lives of people on the margins of Britain. They reported on their work in a book called Moral Statistics of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (1826), and this is what they said about their motivation in the introduction to that work: The mere art of reading, ought not, perhaps, in strictness, to be held as education; yet the power which this art confers, of applying to our own use the wisdom and knowledge of every age . . . . renders it alone the most effective instrument of moral improvement. Whether or not instruction in this …

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 …

International Literacy Day 2020

It’s International Literacy Day today, 8 September 2020. Literacy has, literally, never been so important. Around the world, UNESCO tells us, 773 million young people do not have access to the learning that will enable them to read and write. And yet, national and international policy declarations consistently emphasise the transformative power of literacy for individuals, families and societies. This impact is not just economic: it is also intellectual, cultural and at its heart political. Ultimately, literacy is about who is able to participate in political discourse, and who is excluded from that discourse. This short video provides some concise but powerful information about global literacy standards, and what needs to be done. As UNESCO succinctly put it, the current Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated a ‘gap between policy discourse and reality’. This gap between sentiment and practice can be found everywhere, including the UK. Here, we have an education system that pre-pandemic was resulting about 10-15% of school leavers being functionally illiterate. This is despite the science of how to teach reading being clear, both …

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 …