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.

Thursday, 1 September 2016


1st September 

This term is the term when some of the tutors fly away for the winter, to warmer climes! Others have experienced ill-health or had family members needing major surgery. As a result, the students have not always had their usual tutors and this has impacted negatively on the consistency in the programme.
But spring has arrived, and with it, the return of most of the tutors. Yay!!

The focus continues to be on reading mileage with tutors supporting students with decoding problems and comprehension of text. The underlying strength of this programme is always the positive, trusting relationship between tutor and student. By this time of the year, the tutors have a pretty good idea of what each individual student's strengths and weaknesses are in regards to reading and we - the tutors and I - have come up with ways to attempt to 'plug the gaps'.

I have begun to run 'refresher' sessions following on, and adding to, the PD we did in the first term. The emphasis this time is decoding strategies including:
 *short vowel sounds (there is a visual card in the boxes to use to support this)
 *making syllables
 *making words into 'pictures' by drawing around them (for visual learners)
 *using flash cards to promote fast recognition of letters/sounds(for some students only)

Many of our students are making significant progress towards reading @ an age-appropriate level.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

What's Happening?

I organised PD for the volunteer tutors in the week that our students were camping on the school grounds in the latter part of term one.
We discussed what we noticed about our readers; some characteristics of dyslexic readers (taken from Laughton King's book "Dyslexia Dismantled" - used by permission); and what we were already doing that seemed to be making a difference.
Most of the tutors came to these sessions, and some shared about dyslexic family members, giving further insight into the struggles that students who find it hard to learn to read face.  
Since then, I have noticed that the conversations I have with tutors about individual students have been more focused on what appears to be happening and what we can try to do about it.
Some things we are working on.
1. Noticing and adjusting our approach with individual students. It's not 'one-size-fits-all'.
2. Revisiting vocabulary for both word recognition and understanding of meaning.
3. Choosing stories with the students that will be engaging.
4. Not assuming they will remember words they have seen before (some students need      hundreds of exposures to a word before it becomes instantly recognisable)
5. Keeping on being patient and celebrating the small improvements in accuracy, fluency  and most importantly, comprehension. 

It's a work in progress!


Thursday, 25 February 2016

A New Year - A New Inquiry!

Four days a week, for most of the year, volunteers from the community come into our school to support children in Years 5 & 6 whose reading age doesn't match their chronological age. I am the co-ordinator for this programme which is known as Reading Support. Most of the tutors come once a week, some twice, and they spend 15 minutes with each of 4 students. The time is mainly spent reading - that is, the student reading to the adult from texts that have been graded at the appropriate level. However, the conversation between the adult and child is also very important.
This programme has proved effective in raising student achievement in reading over the 20+ years it has been in operation. I feel it could be even more effective if the tutors were given specific training in helping students with learning difficulties. 
While most of the students on Reading Support have not been formally diagnosed with specific learning difficulties, there are clear indicators that this is the case for many of them. I would like to become a more skilled 'reading teacher' myself and to be able to teach the volunteers skills and strategies to become more effective. 

So this is what I am inquiring into this year.
How to recognise whether a child has a specific learning diifficulty, what it is, and what to do about it!