Research School Network: Literacy Intervention in Key Stage 3 A tried and tested approach


Literacy Intervention in Key Stage 3

A tried and tested approach

by Billesley Research School
on the

In this case study, Balli Dail reflects on her role as a Literacy Intervention Coordinator at a Sandwell School.

In 2009, our school decided to expand provision for students with a disparity between their reading age and chronological age. The intent underpinning this curriculum design was to facilitate this group of learners to then access Level 2 pathways at GCSE. Prior to this, the school had taught ESOL and Functional Skills which catered for such learners. However, they wanted to explore an intervention that encapsulated all the learners who characteristically would be SEND, SEMH, EAL, and those who may have experienced periods out of formal education.

We were fortunate enough at the time to have a staffing structure that included SEND teachers. These teachers, along with our support staff, were provided with additional Literacy CPD. With four lessons over a fortnight, we had the privilege of designing a curriculum from infancy, with the support and determination of our Senior Leadership Team.

Where did we start?

When a subject is in its early stages, it is vital that one explores current provision and what is available to trial. With a team of SEND specialists and staff with Level One learning expertise, and, in my case, a primary background, it was easier to switch to a primary level of cognition and curriculum design. We started by fragmenting what literacy involves and, specifically, sourcing interventions, resources, and educational software options that would support our teaching in these areas. For example, for phonics, we used PiXL Code. For guided reading, we used a reciprocal reading method. For independent reading, we used Accelerated Reader, designing our own word and sentence curriculum based on the skills that KS2 students need to exceed in line with the National Curriculum descriptors. And, for holistic practice adapted to their reading level, we used a program called Lexia Core 5. I could write stand-alone articles about each of these strategies, as they all had the desired impact but, suffice to say, for the purpose of this case study, the strength of our Literacy Intervention was in the integrative approach we adopted.

Draft Bali Literacy Intervention in Key Stage 3 docx 2

Learners who are struggling with reading should not be made to read more as a solution. I relate this to a personal experience while I was a pupil at Primary School. I struggled to do a forward roll – a task that was relatively straightforward for the majority of my class, but not for me, and I recall vividly being instructed to complete it repeatedly. This did little to improve my ability to complete a forward roll and the only impact it had was negative. It resulted in me disliking PE and, specifically, the teacher who believed that this was the only reliable teaching method. Imagine how a student must feel when they acknowledge that they have not mastered the basics and, instead of providing strategies, resources, and granular steps, we instruct them to repeatedly attempt forward rolls. So we began quite simply: we listed what we thought were our literacy students’ main needs and how important it was to adapt our teaching accordingly, in small, granular, achievable steps.

Structure and consistency: we developed dual structure lessons, each with a different focus. One with an Accelerated Reader Focus, and one with a Guided Reading focus. In this way, learners were familiar with the structure of each lesson and understood exactly what was required from them.

Lessons were sharp, concise and responsive. This also served to increase their sense of success by implementing a lesson in 20 minute sessions that allowed teachers to use assessment for learning to adapt lessons and respond both appropriately and immediately.

Tracking progress: Literacy booklets were designed to track what students did in every lesson and to showcase their successes over time. It was also the basis of discussion and verbal feedback. Everything was recorded centrally e.g. progress in terms of phonics, ladders on Lexia, and even spelling scores, to ensure a holistic approach.

Challenges we faced

Funding is always an issue and, when starting a strategy that is new to the school, always try to obtain a free trial and communicate directly with a similar school to gather their experience. In essence, you are then conducting a small pilot study to measure impact and obtain student and staff feedback before committing. It’s also essential to ensure you have the support of the senior leadership team as this will support with successful implementation in the long term. It’s important to use this initial pilot stage as a reflective process, where staff are encouraged to be open and transparent when reflecting on the intervention. Consider what is going well, what isn’t going well, and what needs to be tweaked moving forward. I am a firm believer that if you do something that does not work then change it and, even if it does work, make it better.

When I reflect on this Literacy Intervention’ period of teaching, it always serves to realise that we taught such high challenge’ students who, in other subjects, struggled, but with us, showed different parts of their personality. We celebrated every incremental win, whether it be: success on a spelling test; completing a ladder on Lexia Core 5; passing a quiz on Accelerated Reader; reading aloud with expression; or creating a sentence with an adverbial phrase or interesting adjectives. We were successful in our intent that every student made progress in reading in one academic year, ensuring it was progress in its most holistic form, encapsulating both soft and hard outcomes. Teaching in this manner enabled our pupils to enjoy their lessons, arriving with a smile on their faces every time, and to make the required progress by the end of the academic year.

Balli Dail

STAR Academies SCITT West Midlands Lead

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