All posts tagged: illiteracy

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Teaching reading: it’s not as ‘niche’ as you think

“Teaching reading at secondary is very niche.” I’ve heard it said, in different ways, many times. It is a very common view, and it is also a mistaken one. Every teacher needs to know about reading because every student needs to read. In the ‘real world’, our students will need reading to deal with the mail, to follow the news, to sit their driver’s test, to decipher the instructions on a medicine bottle, to fill in employment forms, medical forms, tenancy agreements, mortgages, employment contracts . . . I don’t need to go on, do I? Reading is everywhere in our society. Despite early predictions, the growth of digital communication and social media has only increased the amount we are expected to read. And in school? From consulting their planner in form time, through French, science, history, geography . . . is there any subject where students don’t read? Traditionally, PE was stereotyped as the no-reading, no-writing subject. That was never quite true, but now the GCSEs in this subject require as much reading and …

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 …