Monday, 27 May 2019

Testing is underway as teachers prepare to write reports later in the term. 8 of 'my' students have had running records so far administered by their literacy teachers. Of these, 2 passed the comprehension at the next level but failed the decoding; 5 made six months gain and 1 made 12 months gain. 
We have looked at beginning and end blends and are moving on to consonant digraphs - sh, ch, th, shr, thr and wh. We have also started to learn about long vowel sounds where the silent 'e' at the end of words changes the vowel from a 'short' sound to where it says its name.
The students are enjoying playing games that help them to practise these skills. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Some things to smile about

I have been providing a variety of activities to support overlearning the basics of reading - knowing the 'regular' alphabet sounds and 'short' vowel sounds; 'chunking' bigger words; common suffixes and this week, initial blends.
At our group time on Monday J saw the word 'cartilage' in the text we were beginning to read and initially said, "I don't know that word" - her usual strategy! A moment later she said, "It's 'cartilage". When I asked her how she worked it out, she said that she knew the word 'age' and there was the word 'car' at the beginning and 'til' in the middle!!
In another group, K walked in the door and said he now knows that the 'uh' sound is made by a 'u' not an 'a'.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

What can you see? How do you read?

My Focus
I want to find out if concentrating on teaching decoding strategies will raise the achievement of readers who have reading ages well below their chronological age.

The Students
I am working with 18 students who are in Years 7 & 8, aged 11-12, who are reading between 2 and 4 years below their chronological age. They are in 3 groups. One group works with me for 35 minutes 4 days per week. The other 2 groups have 30 minutes 3 times per week.

The Beginning
We have hardly got underway, as this intervention only started last week and then there has been whole school testing going on, often in our time slots, on several days. I have been doing my own testing to find out if they can record initial sounds in unknown words and identify short vowel sounds in 3 - letter words. None of the students have been able to do this with 100% accuracy although 3 students have come very close.  

Next Steps
We have begun by practising reading and writing simple words that 'follow the rules', and by playing reading games I have made.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

2018 Rev Up


I had just begun reading with 17 Intermediate aged students (11 & 12 year olds) using the ‘Quick 60’ resource REV UP in Term One when a family member experienced an injury that meant I was only able to fulfil some of my already part-time teaching role for the rest of that term! Because of this, this intervention has only been implemented since the beginning of this term. (term 2)

These students come to me for 30 - 40 minute sessions, 3 times a week and mostly at a time that is outside their usual Literacy class time.

December - Summary & Conclusion

All these students had reading ages between 7.5 and 9 years at the end of 2017.

The reading cards in this programme are in 3 parts, of approximately 100 words each. We mainly used the non-fiction texts.

How the programme works:

  • The students listen to the first passage being read. 
  • They identify unknown vocabulary & concepts which are then unpacked and discussed.
  • The students practise reading the passage with the goal of being able to read it fluently and accurately in 60 seconds or less. 
  • Each students reads the passage and is timed while doing so, and records the time and errors (if any) on the provided sheet. The group gives feedback about fluency.
  • When a passage has been mastered, they move onto the next one using the same structure.
  • At the end of each reading card there are questions to check comprehension of the text.

Almost all the students were very engaged by the programme and the texts which were carefully levelled to be of high interest and age appropriate despite being at a lower reading level. Some of the students’ attendance in the groups was sporadic and this was probably the main reason for their lack of progress.

After working with struggling readers in this age group for some years now, a few patterns have become more obvious:

  • It’s difficult to break through the 8.5 - 9 year reading age threshold
  • While it can appear that progress is being made while working in a supportive group, many of these students don’t test well
  • Vocabulary knowledge is very weak, affecting comprehension 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Term One - Finding and Plugging the Gaps!

Finding the gaps has involved, among other things, doing lots of little 'tests' in exercise books using pens and pencils. I have been surprised at how much the students have enjoyed doing these. It has been important to build the culture of being okay with making mistakes as that shows us what we need to learn. 
Some of the learning has involved quick fixes - for example, the short vowel sound of the letter 'u'. But we have spent a surprisingly long time practising our list of 300 basic sight words so we can read them quickly and accurately. The students have embraced the challenge of being timed reading 100 words at a time and then trying to beat their own time the next time!!
One student from this focus group has left our school and another student has been identified as being a suitable replacement and will commence with the group in term two. Poor attendance at school plus sporting and other commitments have encroached on our group time but have allowed for more individualised learning.
I expect that as we dig a bit deeper that the gaps will open up between the students' knowledge and I will need to come up with strategies for managing this. I can already see some increased confidence and risk-taking as the foundations are becoming stronger.   

Monday, 27 February 2017

Starting Out in 2017

The priority learners I will be working with this year are drawn from several Year 7 & 8 classes. They are all Year 8 students who have reading ages of 8 - 8.5 years and are 12 or almost 12 years old as at the beginning of the year. There are 5 students in the group and we meet 4 days a week for 30 minutes during their literacy rotation.

From the end of 2016 running record testing results I discovered that all these students had some struggles with decoding strategies (or lack of them!); vocabulary knowledge; and comprehension at higher levels.

My interventions will involve specific, systematic teaching of decoding strategies from sounds and words that follow regular patterns to those that are irregular and more complex. The students will be introduced to high-interest, non-fiction texts to build vocabulary knowledge and comprehension. 

I expect to spend more time on skill building at the beginning and more time on vocabulary and comprehension as the year progresses.

My goal is for each student to make at least 12 months progress in reading and for there to be some carry-over to other curriculum areas. 

Thursday, 22 September 2016


Many of the tutors attended 'refresher' sessions held over 2 days recently. When organising training for tutors I am always conscious that:
          *the tutors are volunteers and have busy lives elsewhere
          *the students benefit most when our programme runs 4x per week
However, from time to time the students are unable to come to reading because of special assemblies or sporting events and these provide an opportunity for tutor-only sessions. Fortunately I was able to take advantage of two such events earlier this month.

It has been encouraging to see (and hear) tutors implementing some of the strategies around decoding that we discussed in our sessions.

We also discussed having a goal of the students ending up with a zero in the box named 'errors', and ways we can make this happen. This idea came from a discussion we had about some notes I had taken from Laughton King's book, Reaching the Reluctant Reader, where he writes about motivation using the analogy of investment and pay-off.

All the tutors who came to the 'refresher' sessions expressed their appreciation for the content and the chance to discuss with one another the issues they have in common in regards to helping our students become successful readers.