Primary schools seem like another world in comparison to the manic, bustling corridors of an 11 to 18 Academy. I have been fortunate enough over the past few years to visit and work with a number of Primary schools and there are many lessons we can learn as Secondary teachers, especially concerning helping our students with lower levels of literacy. I have a few ideas on how we can use good practice from KS2 with our low ability KS3 students, particularly those working at level 3 and low level 4.
Many primary schools use a programme created by Ruth Miskin called ‘Read, Write, Inc’ which develops the students understanding of the different sounds in reading and then applies them in texts that test both their reading ability and their understanding of what they have read.
To many parents out there, the working of the Ruth Miskin system and the teaching of phonics is deeply embedded into your brains, however for those who don’t know here is a brief rundown:
Essentially there are 44 sounds in the English language and there are 140 ways that these sounds can be spelt. The students look at the sounds in a grid where the different spellings of the same sound are grouped together. They are identified in the system with symbols: . represents a short sound and __ is used for longer sounds. There are assessments that can be applied that identify which sounds students are confident with, and which they are not.
The learning process that the programme applies is that students are given a text which will develop or consolidate their understanding of certain sounds and then there is a sequence to learn, revise and assess this.
The learning sequence is:
1. Reading the sounds that are in the text
2. Reading the green, red and challenge words (Green – can sound out, Red – can’t sound out, challenge – complex multisound words)
3. Listen to the text being read
4. Discuss the text
5. Read the text
6. Re-read and discuss the questions
7. Re-read with fluency and expression
8. Answer the questions
9. Practice speed words (complex words from the text to consolidate understanding)
In KS3 there are possibilities of adapting this process to ensure that our weak readers are able to make progress.
Possible application of this could be that during intervention sessions students are assessed on their understanding of the different sounds and the different ways that they can be spelt. They can also have the phonics grid in their books.
We could then use the symbols to identify where the different sounds start and end within the words of a text.
Possible learning sequence could be:
1. Students given a list of green, red and challenge words to read with the sounds identified using symbols ( . __ )
2. Students listen to the text
3. Discuss the text
4. Active Reading – students given the questions and go through underlining or highlighting section they feel may help them answer the questions. Different sounds identified in the text using symbols
5. Students re-read with fluency and expression
6. Students complete the task
This will initially mean more preparation for lessons with low ability sets, but as we develop our bank of resources this will ease to a degree. As it will be far simpler to identify the sounds using symbols by hand, we could then scan the texts and upload them onto our shared network drives.
The website for the phonics system is below if anyone wants to have a look into it in a bit more depth.