Literacy development

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  • We’ve been asked to run a couple of workshops and the first was an introduction about literacy difficulties and dyslexia and this is the aim of this current workshop
  • What do you already know about dyslexia – talk to your neighbour
  • KATIE Ask question re. what are their views of the skills required to read and spell Re. phonological awareness – you can be phonologically aware but not yet possess phonic skills Orthographic knowledge e.g. processing written language, letters and letter patterns (about recognition) Phonological knowledge e.g. Processing or manipulating oral language, sounds Morphological awareness in spelling performance These are required for actual decoding of words for reading and spelling Morphological awareness is the recognition, understanding, and use of word parts that carry significance. For example, root words, prefixes, suffixes, and grammatical inflections (e.g., -s or –es for plurals) are all morphemes which can be added or taken away from a word to alter its meaning. Majority of research in reading, spelling and dyslexia highlights importance of phonological awareness in learning to read. Phonological awareness allows one to attend to, discriminate, remember, and manipulate sounds at the sentence, word, syllable, and phoneme (sound) level. Examples follow for each level: Sentence level:  How many words are in the sentence, "She sells sea shells by the sea shore?" Word level:  Do these words rhyme: distribution and retribution? Syllable level:  What is the last syllable in the word "discrimination?" Phoneme level:  What is the final sound in photo? Synthesis is the skill most closely linked to the reading process Segmentation is closely linked to the spelling process The key to reading comprehension is about understanding word meaning
  • TARA Get them to think about in pairs/threes for a minute – how many ‘signs’ can you come up with? Comprehension difficulties e.g. Not being able to pinpoint the main idea in a passage
  • TARA In relation to point 1: additional difficulty can be reversing letters/numbers e.g. b/d In relation to volume of writing e.g. Write great deal but lose thread vs write very little but to the point An added factor in consideration of poor writing is the level of motor and handwriting skills that a student has
  • “ The word-rich get richer while the word-poor get poorer” in their reading skills “ Students who begin with high verbal aptitudes find themselves in verbally enriched social environments and have a double advantage.” When children fail at early reading and writing, they begin to dislike reading. They read less than their classmates who are stronger readers. And when children with disabilities do not receive adequate remediation, they read less – and learn less from reading - than non-disabled children.  As a consequence, they do not gain vocabulary, background knowledge, and information about how reading material is structured. In short, the word-rich get richer, while the word-poor get poorer. This is called " The Matthew Effect ". 
  • KATIE ‘ Dyslexia’ – comes from the Greek ‘difficulty with words’ The definition emphasises: Difficulties at the word level The need for appropriate teaching – not necessarily provided by the NLS The severity and persistence of the difficulties, despite a very individualised literacy programme An interaction between teaching and learning It says NOTHING about children with dyslexia being ‘bright; there need be no discrepancy between IQ and reading ability. All poor readers share similar problems that are independent of IQ. Dyslexia can occur in children of all abilities
  • KATIE These are other broad characteristics which you may see and may persist to greater/lesser extent in individual over lifetime But these are not exclusive to dyslexia but could be seen in range of other needs/disorder Poor self-esteem can be an ASSOCIATED characteristic
  • 10 mins – independently or if working with same student they could pair up (perhaps interesting to find out whether student experiencing same difficulties in different classrooms) Put strategies from Q2 onto post-its and up on wall Take feedback – what have you learned from doing this exercise? Are they finding difficulties are same or different if paired up? 5-10 mins feeding back
  • KATIE We are advocating that these strategies should be used for all students within the classroom so e.g. If child is simply always spelling a word wrong or if child has wide range of dyslexic difficulties, this is the strategy you would use to address the spelling difficulty. The vast majority of children should be able to respond to appropriate teaching interventions and close the gap. Of value to all children in the class is an outline of what is going to be taught in the lesson, ending the lesson with a resume of what has been taught. In this way information is more likely to go from short term memory to long term memory. When homework is set, it is important to check that the child correctly writes down exactly what is required. – Obviously not possible for ALL students but worth pinpointing the few who really need this or provide homework labels to stick into books. Students with poor visual memory can particularly struggle with copying as well as those with motor difficulties. If they do need to copy, try to use different coloured pens/texts on each line as helps to keep their place and leave it up for long enough that they have sufficient time to copy it down. Don't ask pupils to read a book at a level beyond their current skills, this will instantly demotivate them. Motivation is far better when demands are not too high, and the child can actually enjoy the book. If he has to labour over every word he will forget the meaning of what he is reading. Save the dyslexic child the ordeal of having to 'read aloud in class'. Reserve this for a quiet time with the class teacher. Alternatively, perhaps give the child advanced time to read pre-selected reading material, to be practiced at home the day before. This will help ensure that the child is seen to be able to read out loud, along with other children All children should be encouraged to proof read, which can be useful for initial correction of spellings. Dyslexics seem to be unable to correct their spellings spontaneously as they write, but they can be trained to look out for errors that are particular to them. Cursive handwriting can aid the retention of spelling patterns (motor memory). Helpful to encourage students to come up with their own suggestions about how they could improve presentation of their work Students with literacy difficulties can get easily tired by school day as more effort into each piece of work and homework is an additional challenge – consider differentiating without highlighting differences for students with difficulties. Set a time limit on homework rather than always emphasising finished piece of work
  • TARA Research has shown that feedback can have a significant impact on learning – half of a GCSE grade per student is achievable, but providing effective feedback is challenging. Positive benefits occur particularly where the aim is to improve learning outcomes in reading, mathematics and recall of information. However feedback can have an effect on all types of learning across all age groups. Wider research suggests the feedback should be about complex or challenging tasks or goals as this is likely to emphasise the importance of effort and perseverance as well as be more valued by the pupils. Feedback can come from other peers as well as adults (see Peer Tutoring).
  • TARA An example of a systematic study strategy: Say the word, write and say the word, check spelling, trace and say the word, write the word from memory. Say the word, sound the phonemes, write the word. Interventions of 3 weeks or less were found to have the greatest gains. This may be because the greatest gains are found early in an intervention.
  • Also mind maps, storyboards, ICT, labelling, flow charts, cloze procedure, comic strips, dictations Provide models of ‘good essays’ to use as templates
  • KATIE Teaching assistants undoubtedly contribute to the effective management and organisation of a school. On average, however, they do not seem to add to the learning of the children and the classes that they support. This means that, on balance, about half do and about half don’t. We do not know the best way for them to be used in schools to support learning. Most studies have consistently found very small or no effects on attainment, though pupils’ perceptions and attitudes may be more positively affected. There are also positive effects in terms of teacher morale and reduced stress of working with a TA. One clear implication of this is that if TAs are used with the intention of improving learning, they should not undertake the tasks they are routinely assigned. Comparisons with qualified teachers suggest they are consistently less effective in terms of raising attainment (achieving about half the gains), however there is some evidence of greater impact when TAs are given a particular pedagogical role or responsibility for delivering specific interventions. Here the effect appears to be greater, particularly with training and support. The most recent study in the UK suggests low attaining pupils do less well with a TA supporting them!
  • KATIE There is not time to go into self-esteem in depth this session but it is important to keep in mind that, by secondary school, students who have experienced a long history of literacy difficulties will also have experienced a long history of failure. Activities should have sufficient level of challenge to progress learning but challenge needs to be included carefully and in small doses to ensure minimal stress – can also be fun Have talked about feedback earlier - specific feedback can be very powerful in building self-esteem Combination of practical activities and learning tasks to sustain motivation and give opportunities to be successful without high levels of effort These are the students that need adults to check in with them at the beginning of the task, to check their understanding at regular intervals and ensure they have not got stuck/lost Some general ideas to consider here
  • We have been asked as part of this to run further workshops – what would you/your colleagues like to see in addition to this? How might we take this forward? Would there be merit in a final workshop in May to feedback on some of the strategies used and discuss how they have been implemented successfully or with difficulty in the classroom?


  • 1. MAKING AN IMPACT ON LITERACYDIFFICULTIES IN SECONDARYSCHOOLSTara Midgen and Katie Alvey(Educational Psychologists)
  • 2. AIMS To understand the skills required for reading and spelling To be able to recognise when these skills do not develop fluently To understand what is meant by the term ‘dyslexia’ To reflect on personal teaching experiences To consider approaches that can be helpful in supporting students with literacy difficulties
  • 3. LEARNING TO READ AND SPELLWhat are the skills required for reading and spelling? Phonological awareness:  Sentence level  Word level  Syllable level  Phoneme level:  Synthesis – the ability to put sounds together to make words e.g. c-a-t ... cat  Segmentation – the ability to identify individual sounds within whole words e.g. hot ... h-o-t Orthographic knowledge Morphological awareness Working memory and long-term memory Reading comprehension
  • 4. WHAT DOES POOR READING LOOK LIKE? Hesitant, laboured reading Omitting, adding or confusing words/sounds Failure to recognise familiar words/sounds Missing a line or reading the same line twice Losing one’s place Difficulties using dictionaries etc Comprehension difficulties
  • 5. WHAT DOES POOR SPELLING/WRITING LOOKLIKE? Omitting, adding, confusing words/letters Incorrect spelling of familiar words Poor standard compared to oral ability Poor handwriting, badly formed letters Good handwriting but production slow Badly set out work, spellings crossed out Words spelled differently in the same piece or across texts Difficulty with punctuation and grammar Confusion with upper/lower case letters Difficulty in copying and/or taking notes Volume of writing
  • 6. THE MATTHEW EFFECT“While good readers gain new skills very rapidly,and quickly move from learning to read toreading to learn , poor readers becomeincreasingly frustrated with the act of reading,and try to avoid reading where possible” The Matthew Effect Daniel Rigney
  • 7. DEFINITION OF ‘DYSLEXIA’ “Dyslexia is evident when accurate and fluent word reading and/or spelling develops very incompletely or with great difficulty. This focuses on literacy learning at the ‘word level’ and implies that the problem is severe and persistent despite appropriate learning opportunities. It provides the basis for a staged process of assessment through teaching.”(British Psychological Society, 1999)
  • 8. SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF DYSLEXIA Difficulties with:  short- and long-term memory  processing information at speed  organisation  phonological awareness and skill  vision in relation to reading words  co-ordination  meta-cognitive strategies  automatic reading of words Source: Reid and Fawcett (2005)  And often poor self-perception and self-esteem
  • 9. ACTIVITY Identify a student that you teach with literacy difficulties and consider:  What do you know about this student’s difficulties?  What are you already doing to address these difficulties?  What else would you need to find out in order to be able to address his/her difficulties more effectively?
  • 10. GENERAL TEACHING STRATEGIES Provide an outline of what is going to be taught in the lesson, ending the lesson with a resume of what has been taught. Check that the child correctly writes down exactly what is required for homework. Break tasks down into small easily remembered pieces of information. Keep copying to a minimum Consider whether child is being asked to read texts beyond their level of skill BEWARE reading aloud! Encourage proof-reading for initial correction of spellings A cursive handwriting style can be most helpful for dyslexic students Homework: consider fatigue, self-esteem and time limits
  • 11. FEEDBACKResearch suggests that feedback should: Be specific, accurate and clear (e.g. “It was good because you…” rather than just “correct”). Compare what a learner is doing right now with what they have done wrong before (e.g. “I can see you were focused on improving X as it is much better than last time’s Y…”). Encourage and suppor t fur ther ef for t (getting a balance between support and challenge). Be given sparingly so that it is meaningful as too much feedback can stop learners working out what they need to do for themselves. Provide specific guidance on how to improve and not just tell students when they are wrong.Source: The Sutton Trust (2012)
  • 12. IMPROVING SPELLING Research suggests the following can impact positively on spelling outcomes: Providing students with spelling strategies or systematic study and word practice methods Spelling intervention that includes explicit instruction with multiple practice opportunities Immediate corrective feedback on spelling accuracy either teacher-provided or through a student self-monitoring procedure The use of morphographic rules and phonics instruction Short focused interventions Source: Wanzek, J. Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Swanson, M.E. and Ae-Hwa, K. (2006)
  • 14. ADDITIONAL ADULT SUPPORT Identify activities where TAs can suppor t learning, rather than simply manage tasks. Provide support and training for TAs so that they understand how to be effective in your lessons, spend time with them before or after lessons Do not reduce your support or input to the pupils supported by TAs Evaluate the impact of different aspects of TAs’ work. Ensure that TAs are focused on learning as opposed to ensuring that pupils finish their work.
  • 15. SELF-ESTEEM  Provide activities that are challenging but incur low stress levels  Immediate use of feedback to acknowledge learner’ success or progress in doing classroom tasks  Provide a combination of activities and learning strategies  Support dyslexic learners as they work within their comfort zones, especially during the initial stages of the task.
  • 16. HOMEWORK!Returning to the first activity,spend a few momentsconsidering what strategies youmight try with this student havingparticipated in today’s session
  • 17. REFERENCES AND HELPFUL INFORMATION Elliot, D.L., Davidson, J.K. and Lewin, J. (2007). Literature review of current approaches to the provision of education for children with dyslexia. Glasgow: SCRE. [online]. Higgins, S., Kokotsaki, D., and Coe, R. (2012). The Teaching and Learning Toolkit. The Sutton Trust. Reid, G. and Fawcett, A. J. (2005). ‘An Overview of Developments in Dyslexia’, in Reid, G. and Fawcett A. (Eds), Dyslexia in Context: Research Policy and Practice. London: Whurr Publishers. pp 3–20. Wanzek, J. Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Swanson, M.E. and Ae-Hwa, K. (2006). A synthesis of spelling and reading interventions and their effects on the spelling outcomes of students with LD. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39, 6, 528-543.