All posts tagged: reading

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. …

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 …

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 …

Sympathy is no substitute for effective teaching

Why being sympathetic doesn’t cut it as a reading teacher The first rule of effective teaching of reading is: they don’t need our sympathy. Quite the reverse. An attitude of sympathy for ‘poor Johnny’ or ‘poor Jemima’ makes them feel like a lesser person. It cements the messages of failure that they’ve internalised over years at school. Poor Johnny.  He just can’t. . .  He doesn’t need us to feel sorry for him. He needs us to teach him those basic skills, that no one else has managed. Secondly, sympathy doesn’t change the situation. It’s a substitute for effective action. It means that we’re prepared to accept the status quo and satisfied with feeling sorry for the student. After all, if the teaching is effective and the student is learning, there isn’t any reason for us to feel sorry for them. This is NOT to say that empathy doesn’t matter. It’s important to understand how students feel about school, about learning, about reading, about themselves. But that is quite a different thing from feeling sorry …

The Re-Education of Alison Rounce

We have been privileged to have the enormously talented Alison Rounce (@ali_rounce) working with us in the north-east of England. We asked her to write about her journey, and this is the result: Making a career change when you absolutely love your job . . . was not a headline I came across when exploring career options away from the classroom. I wasn’t ticking many of the career change boxes. Feeling unfulfilled? No. Hate getting up for work in the mornings? Nope. Wishing the minutes away until home time? Not that either. I am one (of so many of us) that finds teenagers a joy: vital, raw, challenging. Being trusted with their education is a privilege beyond measure. Yet, as my children started their education, I started to think of my job quite differently. I became far more conscious of how precious children’s time is. Far more conscious of the importance of every decision we make for them, now and in the long term. I started to question my own classroom practice and discovered the …

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 …