All posts tagged: reading

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 …

Reading catch-up for older students: one-to-one or small groups?

Do secondary students need one-to-one tuition to catch up, or can they be taught in groups? The answer is, both – depending on how far behind they are. Groups can be an effective format for teaching if four conditions are met: The students are all working at much the same level; The students are not a long way behind; The content to be taught is limited and clearly defined; The programme of teaching has been carefully designed to ensure efficient coverage and long-term retention. Groups are NOT appropriate where: Students are a long way behind expectations; The students’ needs are disparate; Students need to work on a number of different strands of reading skills at the same time; Motivation is a serious issue. In other words, the question is not either/or. It is: which format is most appropriate for which students? This is why we advocate for a detailed screening programme in schools, so that students can be matched to interventions with a high degree of confidence. It is all too common to see students in …

The Stubborn Gap

The fight to close the disadvantage gap is far from over – but we mustn’t give up. This week sees the release of a report by the Fair Education Alliance in partnership with the Education Policy Institute. It is a ‘report card’ that gives a snapshot of the current state of UK education across early years, primary, secondary and further education, on a range of measures. The education sector can seem awash with such reports at times, but there are a number of headlines in this one to start alarm bells ringing. Here are a few of the key points raised: Poorer pupils in England are, on average, a year and a half behind their peers by the time they finish their GCSEs. Disadvantage gaps are larger, and are growing, in parts of the North. The most persistently disadvantaged pupils are almost 2 years (22.6 months) behind at the end of GCSEs – and that gap has increased since 2011. Post-16 education is becoming even more segregated, driven by an over-representation of disadvantaged students in …

You have to make faces at it!

  It was a hot, noisy, dusty building site. I was working on a construction project in Wellington during the university summer holidays. There was more concrete pouring due soon, and the carpenters and labourers were all busy. I was tasked with removing some long planks of boxing that had remained stuck fast when the last pour of concrete had dried. The foreman handed me a steel bar and left me to it. I tried prising the wood away, but there was no gap to gain leverage. I tried jabbing at one end a few times to see if I could get some movement. When that didn’t work I tried the same at the other end, and then the middle. After half an hour, I was sweating, my arms were aching, I was increasingly frustrated, and the wood still hadn’t moved. Clearly something was wrong here. Why had I been left to do this by myself?  This was a job for a team, surely? But there was just me, my steel bar, and the wood …

Can reading problems affect mental health?

How hard can it be? At first sight, there may seem to be little relationship between mental health and acquiring the skills to read well. In fact, the problems engendered by poor reading permeate all areas of one’s life. As the reading scientist Keith Stanovich noted: “Slow reading acquisition has cognitive, behavioral, and motivational consequences that slow the development of other cognitive skills and inhibit performance on many academic tasks. . . . The longer this developmental sequence is allowed to continue, the more generalized the deficits will become, seeping into more and more areas of cognition and behavior. Or . . . ‘reading affects everything you do.’” Here are just some of the ways that mental health is affected by reading problems: Failure Imagine yourself doing something at which you continually fail. It might be a sport, a musical instrument, public speaking, a subject like maths, accounting, physics . . . . Now imagine being asked to perform that skill or subject five times a day, five days a week, for forty weeks a …