: ‘Step to KS4’: The Power of Reading Intervention Exploring the impact of explicitly teaching reading strategies to struggling readers through targeted intervention.


‘Step to KS4’: The Power of Reading Intervention

Exploring the impact of explicitly teaching reading strategies to struggling readers through targeted intervention.

by Torriano Primary School
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Marie Underwood is the Lead Practitioner for Literacy at Parliament Hill School.

I’m not doing this,’ said Lily, pushing her paper away. In her final half-term of year 9, Lily was one of 12 students taking part in our Step Up to KS4’ targeted reading strategy intervention programme. The pre-intervention questionnaire, in which students rated their reading skills from 1 to 5, highlighted Lily’s lack of confidence. She told us that she has always needed extra help with reading and had used coloured overlays at primary school: her reading experience was acutely defined by her struggles.

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A section of Lily’s pre-programme questionnaire

Why do students find reading so hard?

There are many models of reading, but their key agreement is that reading is complex, involving the synchronisation of multiple cognitive processes. For competent, experienced readers, these processes become second-nature. We decode, infer, make connections and draw on our existing schema with ease, constructing a rich mental representation” (EEF, 2021).. We have easy access to long practised strategies when we encounter difficulties.

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The EEF’s ‘Reading Comprehension House’ Adapted from Hogan, Bridges, Justice, and Cain (2011)
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The Active View of Reading Duke and Cartwright (2021)

Students like Lily, who lack this toolkit, are unaware of the silent, unseen mental industry of successful readers. These students become frustrated, have a poor perception of themselves academically, and ultimately give up. Internationally, researchers have found that positive reading attitudes (such as liking reading and feeling confident about it) were associated with higher average reading achievement” (NLT, 2023). The latest PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) notes that children’s reading enjoyment at school has been declining – something the National Literacy Trust’s research echoes, finding reading enjoyment levels decreasing in recent years.” (NLT, 2023).

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NLT (2023)

It is no coincidence that there is a substantial drop in reading enjoyment as students enter secondary school, and a further dip as they study for their GCSES. As a more heavily scaffolded curriculum is withdrawn, the reading demands and the range and complexity of texts that students are required to access increases.

CASE STUDY: Step up to KS4’ – a targeted reading strategy intervention

The targeted intervention that Lily participated in was designed to support students that we felt might struggle to step up’ to the reading demands of KS4.

Below is the outline of the intervention programme and the advice from the EEF’s Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools’ Guidance Report that underpinned its design.

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The Impact

What had caused Lily’s shut-down during the intervention was a question in the end of programme assessment. However, one simple prompt from the teacher to look at the I’m stuck’ sheet she had produced as part of the process, resulted in the following thoughtful and concise summary:

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Lily’s reading strategies in practice.

Despite needing a little nudge, this was real progress for Lily. Post intervention re-testing also revealed a significant improvement in students’ reading abilities.

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One student’s reading score progress – results before and after the intervention.

Participating students will continue to be monitored carefully through their GCES to assess the full impact of the programme.

What Next?

After initially sharing the principles and outcomes of this intervention with teaching staff, we continue to offer various modes of PD in order to equip staff with the expertise and strategies to confidently teach and support reading in the classroom. 

In a short space of time, our intervention demonstrated the impact of the explicit teaching of reading strategies. How powerful would it be if routine references to these strategies were consistent across the curriculum?

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