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Effective Intervention for Children with Literacy Difficulties Dr Mary Nugent NEPS An Overview What do we know about teaching literacy? Components of Good Practice What’s out there that works? What do I need to do? West Dunbartonshire Literacy Initiative McKay (2007)

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an overview
An Overview
  • What do we know about teaching literacy?
  • Components of Good Practice
  • What’s out there that works?
  • What do I need to do?
west dunbartonshire literacy initiative
West Dunbartonshire Literacy Initiative

McKay (2007)

Something that has never been done before:

‘the eradication of illiteracy from an entire education authority’

west dunbartonshire
West Dunbartonshire
  • A 10 year project
  • In the second most disadvantaged local authority in Scotland
  • In 2007 only 3 children left secondary school who were not functionally literate
need for structured interventions
Need for Structured Interventions

‘It can be argued that teaching anything in a systematic way will be more successful than much existing practice, particularly when the intervention targets reception chidlren, where teaching approaches are less formal than with other children’

Solity et al (2000)

focus on intervention
Focus on Intervention

‘We are only at the beginning point in systematic, controlled research on intervention methods for children with severe reading disabilities’. Torgesen et al 1997

swanson and hoskyn 1998
Swanson and Hoskyn 1998
  • Meta-analysis
  • Considered over 900 studies from 1972-1997
  • Eventually included only 180 studies
swanson and hoskyn findings
Swanson and Hoskyn Findings
  • Not all treatments are equally effective
  • A combined model of direct instruction and strategy instruction is relatively more effective than other methods
  • Small group settings and individual tuition is more effective than larger groups
  • Structured, specialist tuition is more effective than eclectic approaches
vaughan gersten chard 2000
Vaughan, Gersten & Chard 2000
  • Reviewed 68 studies
  • Reiterated findings reported above and
  • Suggest that small interactive groups and pairs with highly qualified teachers may be as effective as a one to one model
  • Using a student with a disability as a cross age tutor is the most effective form of peer reading
national reading panel
National Reading Panel

An initiative of the federal government of the USA

‘A national panel to assess the status of research-based knowledge, including the effectiveness of various approaches to teaching children to read’.

Reported in 2000

findings from the national reading panel
Findings from the National Reading Panel
  • Phonemic awareness
  • Phonics instruction
  • Fluency
  • Comprehension
  • Teacher Education
  • Computer Instruction
phonemic awareness pa sounds in spoken language
Phonemic Awareness (PA)(sounds in spoken language)
  • Teaching children to manipulate phonemes in words was highly effective
  • The effects of PA instruction on reading lasted well beyond the end of training
  • Most effective PA included explicit & systematic teaching
phonics instruction how written letters relate to sounds
Phonics Instruction(how written letters relate to sounds)
  • Systematic synthetic phonics instruction works better than other approaches for children from low social economic groups and those with specific reading disability
  • Explicit, systematic phonics instruction is a valuable & essential part of a successful classroom reading programme
  • Phonics teaching is a means to an end
  • It is only part of a total reading programme
fluency speed and accuracy
Fluency (speed and accuracy)

Guided Reading Aloud

  • Repeated oral reading, that included guidance from others had a significant & positive impact on word recognition, fluency and comprehension

Independent Silent Reading

  • Not sufficient research evidence that such efforts reliably increase how much students read or improve their reading skills

Vocabulary Instruction

  • Does lead to gains in comprehension, but must be appropriate to age and ability of the reader

Teaching Comprehension Strategies

(Summarising, generating/ answering questions/ mind maps)

  • Specific programmes to generate definite benefits
teacher education
Teacher Education

In-service professional development produced significantly higher student achievement

computer instruction
Computer Instruction
  • All studies reported positive results
  • Use of word processors may be very useful, given that reading instruction is most effective when combined with writing instruction
west dunbartonshire 10 strands of intervention
West Dunbartonshire-10 Strands of Intervention
  • Phonological awareness and the alphabet
  • A strong and structured phonics emphasis
  • Extra classroom help in the early years
  • Fostering a ‘literacy environment’
  • Raising teacher awareness thru’ focussed assessment
  • Increased time spent on reading
  • Identification and support of children failing
  • Lessons from research in interactive learning
  • Home support for encouraging literacy
  • Changing attitudes, values and expectations
what works best
What works best?
  • Systematic, structured teaching of phonics (National Reading Panel 2000)
  • Synthetic (or small unit) approaches to phonics are preferable to analytic (or large unit) approaches (Macmillan 1997, McGuinness 1997)
  • Frequency of teaching with distributed rather than massed practice (Solity 2002)
  • A declaration of the intention to achieve (McKay 2007)
what works best cont
What works best cont.
  • A multi-element approach
  • exposure to high quality books
  • emphasis on language development
  • importance of fluency and comprehension
  • developing a sight vocabulary
  • including spelling and writing skills
  • shared reading experiences
what about spelling
What about spelling?
  • Even the best, most effective literacy interventions have a modest impact of spelling
  • Children with dyslexia tend to make most progress in the area of reading comprehension, some progress in word reading and relatively poor progress in spelling
3 components of evidence based practice
3 components of Evidence Based Practice

‘The aim of evidence based practice is to help professionals to base their practice on best current evidence’ Fox 2003

  • Research should provide the evidence on which professional practice is based
  • Professionals will change and adapt their practice on best available research evidence
  • By keeping accurate outcome measures, services can monitor the effects of their interventions
  • We are only focusing on literacy interventions for children with literacy difficulties, not preventative approaches
  • The interventions can be used with children of low ability and/ or with children with dyslexia and/ or children where the origin of the reading difficulty is unknown
key text
Key Text

What Works for Children with Literacy Difficulties-

The Effectiveness of Intervention Schemes

By Greg Brooks & National Foundation for Educational Research (Nfer) (2007)

Published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Ref 00688-2007 BKT-EN

quality of research
Quality of Research

Importance of:

  • Pre and post intervention data
  • Use of control groups
  • Longitudinal studies
  • Use of standardised tests
  • Tests of reading (not just component elements, such as blending)
how much progress should we expect
How much progress should we expect?
  • Shiel,Morgan & Larney (1998) found that Irish children receiving remedial teaching made gains of 3.41 standard score points
  • However, some made little or no progress, and children attending schools designated as disadvantaged did not improve, but maintained their relative position in achievement.
brooks 2007
Brooks (2007)
  • Good Impact- sufficient to at least double the standard rate of progress- can be achieved and it is reasonable to expect it
ratio gains
Ratio Gains

The gain in reading during a chronological time span, expressed as a ratio of that time span

  • A ratio gain of 1.0 is exactly standard progress
  • A ratio gain of 1.4 is impact of educational significance
  • A ratio gain of less that 1.4 is impact of doubtful educational significance
effect sizes
Effect Sizes

The average gain of the experimental group, minus the average gain of the control group, expressed as standard deviation.

All standardised tests have an implied control group, so the effect size is the gains of the group, divided by 15

  • An effect size of 0.25 or above is impact of educational significance
  • An effect size of less than 0.25 is impact of doubtful significance
key points brooks 2007
Key Points (Brooks 2007)
  • Ordinary teaching is not enough
  • Working on Children’s self-esteem and reading in parallel has definite potential
  • ICT approaches only work if precisely targeted
  • Large scale schemes (expensive and requiring teacher training) can give good value for money (Phono-graphix, Reading recovery)
key points cont
Key points cont.
  • Where reading partners are available and can be trained and supported, partnership approaches can be very effective
  • Success with some children with the most severe difficulties is elusive, therefore the need for skilled, intensive 1:1 intervention
  • Interventions for longer than 1 term do not necessarily produce proportionally greater benefits.
  • Jolly Phonics
  • Toe by Toe
  • Paired Reading
  • Phono-Graphix
  • Acceleread/ Accelewrite
  • Precision Teaching (SNIP)
  • Reading Recovery
jolly phonics consists of
Jolly Phonics- Consists of…
  • Photocopiable Master Handbook
  • Readers
  • Videos
  • Grammar Book
  • Involves quite a lot of initial organisation and photocopying
  • Is relatively cost effective
jolly phonics suitable for
Jolly Phonics-Suitable for…
  • A whole class approach to teaching phonics in the early years
  • An alternative to Letterland
  • Suitable for use with children accessing learning support/ resource
  • Best suited to younger children, (up to 2nd class)
jolly phonics a multi sensory method
Jolly Phonics- A Multi-sensory Method
  • A story
  • A picture
  • An action
  • A sound
  • Tracing of letter
  • Intensive blending and segmentation
jolly phonics
Jolly Phonics
  • Involves very rapid learning of letters
  • Includes homework component
  • It as synthetic phonics approach
  • Minimises sound learning, with an emphasis on blending
jolly phonics research
Jolly Phonics- Research
  • Tends to rely on research about synthetic phonics, rather than research explicitly about Jolly Phonics

After 16 week programme children were:

  • 7 months ahead of CA in reading
  • 8 months ahead of CA in spelling

After a year of Jolly Phonics:

  • 11 months ahead of CA in reading
  • 1 month ahead of CA in spelling

(Johnston and Watson 1999)

toe by toe suitable for
Toe by Toe, suitable for…
  • An individualised approach
  • Suitable for children from the age of 6, but more appealing to older primary/ secondary students
  • Has been used effectively in the prison service
  • Use of one workbook, provides both teacher direction and student programme
  • Each book costs approx. €40
toe by toe
Toe by Toe
  • Highly structured phonics programme
  • Involves teaching skills to a level of fluency
  • Use on non-words puts focus on underlying skills of decoding
  • Considerable emphasis on recording progress
claims made toe by toe
Claims Made (Toe by Toe)

‘Any student who successfully completes the Toe by Toe scheme will have dramatically improved reading age. Their spelling will also have improved and – most importantly- their self-esteem will have been transformed…It is not an exaggeration to say that this book changes lives..’

toe by toe research evidence
Toe by Toe- Research Evidence
  • Pre- and post data over one year
  • 24 secondary aged pupils
  • Matched pairs
  • Experimental group- Toe by Toe
  • Control Group- ‘normal learning support’
  • Toe by Toe group were taught individually for 20 minutes per day, five days per week, for average of 3 months
toe by toe research findings cont
Toe by Toe –research findings cont.

‘The results were definitive. The experimental group made average gains of three and a half years. The control group made average gains of five months’

MacKay & Cowling

Literacy Today, March (2004)

paired reading
Paired Reading
  • Largely based on the work of Keith Topping, Centre for Paired Learning, University of Dundee
  • PAL-Peer Assisted Learning

‘It is clear that PAL is not a diluted and inferior substitute for direct professional teaching- it has quite different strengths and weaknesses and to deploy it to maximum effect teachers need to be aware of these’. Topping (2001)

paired reading duolog reading
Paired reading /Duolog reading
  • A specific and structured technique
  • Selecting a book
  • Reading aloud together
  • The tutee gives prompt when ready to read alone
  • Tutor supplies difficult words directly (no sounding out/ guessing)
  • The tutor praises the tutee
paired reading45
Paired Reading
  • A range of formalised approaches
  • Considered cost-effective
  • Needs on-going organisation including:

Training of tutors

Monitoring of progress


(some form of reward system?)

paired reading research findings
Paired reading-research findings
  • Brooks (2007) reports studies involving 2,372 children in 155 projects in 71 schools

Ratio Gains of 3.3 in reading and

4.3 in comprehension

(effect sizes of .87 for reading and .77 for comprehension)

Social gains also widely reported

paired reading duolog reading47
Paired reading/ Duolog Reading

‘The general picture in published studies is that Paired readers progress at about 4.2 times ‘normal’ rates in reading accuracy during the initial period of commitment. Follow-up studies indicate that gains are sustained and do not ‘wash out’ over time.’

Topping 2004

peer reading in ireland
Peer Reading in Ireland

The Reading Partners Programme in a special school (See Nugent 2001, British Journal of Special Education)

‘Helpers’ made 17.4 months progress (control group made 7.16 months progress)

Learners made 6.55 months progress

(compared to typical gains of 3 months progress)

paired reading49
Paired Reading
  • Cross-aged tutoring seems particularly effective

Practical applications

  • Transition students reading with first year partners
  • Traveller child, reading with younger (settled) child
  • Older sibling reading with younger sibling
phono graphix suitable for
Phono-Graphix, suitable for…
  • Also known as Reading Reflex
  • Can be used throughout the age range
  • Intended for use in one to one or small group tuition
  • Uses a teacher/ parent manual, €40 approx.
  • Highly structured and directed delivery
phono graphix content
Phono-Graphix, content
  • A synthetic phonics approach
  • The premise is that letters are pictures of sounds
  • Teaches the ‘basic code’
  • Lots of sound bingo, auditory processing, spelling practice, word lists and some short readings.
phono graphix research
  • 87 children, aged 6-16 years
  • 12 hours of Phono-Graphix therapy (or less)
  • Standard score gains of 14 points on Woodcock Word Identification

‘These gains were phenomenal, representing gains that equalled and surpassed other methods that took seven to fourteen times longer to achieve.’

Phono-Graphix Website

phono graphix research53
Phono-Graphix -Research

‘The impact measures were substantial, including the largest ratio gain for reading of all the studies reviewed in this report’ (Brooks 2002)

  • 230 children in 13 schools, after 20 week intervention
  • Ratio Gains of 7.0 in word reading and 6.3 in comprehension and 3.3 in spelling (ratio gains for younger children, ages 5-6 years, were more modest, at 2.2 for reading)
  • Appears to work well even with severely dyslexic children, ratio gains of 4.5 reported in a special school
acceleread accelewrite
Acceleread/ Accelewrite
  • An individual approach
  • Requires 1:1 teaching, 20 minutes per day for 4 weeks
  • Uses computer and voice feedback
  • Suitable for ages 7-18 (but best progress is made with those of 10 years plus)
acc acc research
Acc/Acc Research
  • In the age group 10-14, average gains of 37 months reading progress have been reported after 6 months of intervention (see dyslexic.com)
  • In a study of 30 children, using the programme for 4 weeks, the average gains were of 16 standard score points in reading and 10 in spelling, representing ratio gains of 16.0 in reading and 9.8 in spelling (Martin Miles/ Devon Study)
acc acc research cont
Acc/ Acc research cont
  • Brooks (2007) reported on the Jersey Project, involving 61 students in 15 primary schools and 4 secondary schools
  • After 4 week intervention students made ratio gains of 8.3 in reading and 4.0 in spelling with further increases reported over time.
  • The Bristol Study (Sue Derrington) involved 60 children in 13 primary schools.
  • After 8 weeks of intervention students made ration gains of 2.3 in reading accuracy, 2.9 in comprehension and 2.0 in spelling.
acc acc research cont57
Acc/ Acc research cont.
  • Research by Theresa Tierney of NEPS (2004) found that, after an average of just 14 sessions, students made an average of 10 months progress with reading
  • Research by Pat Devanney (2007) showed that class teachers could deliver the programme and after 4 weeks, the 7 participants had made 5 standard score points progress (about 9 months progress) while the control group (who received learning support) made no progress
precision teaching
Precision Teaching
  • Precision teaching is based on rigorous research in the area of instructional psychology
  • Precision teaching emphasises the importance of fluency
  • Precision teaching techniques can be used to teach sight words, phonics (or other skills)
  • Puts the focus of learning failure on instructional methods and not on students
  • Outcomes suggest at least twice the ‘normal’ rate of progress
precision teaching cont
Precision teaching cont.
  • Sets time-based mastery criteria for each curriculum step
  • Provides daily opportunities for practice and timed measurement
  • Charts the student performance (and involves the student in this monitoring)
  • Advances to the next step when criteria are met
  • Changes procedures if chart shows inadequate progress
direct instruction
Direct Instruction
  • Very familiar to those using SRA reading lab
  • Detailed scripting of teacher behaviour
  • Uses the most effective methods of teaching to help children ‘catch-up’
  • Teaching of ‘the general case’ (the smallest possible number of examples to produce the largest possible amount of learning)
  • This is a precision teaching package
  • It can be downloaded free!
  • Precision teaching is based on very rigorous research in the area of instructional psychology
  • This approach is best suited to students whose literacy difficulties are more mild (learning support rather than resource)
  • Contains lists of word to be learnt as sight vocabulary
  • Appropriate for top end primary and early secondary school
  • Includes essential curriculum words
  • Plus irregular words that often confuse students
snip cont
SNIP cont.
  • Emphasises fluency
  • Daily practice of 5 minutes
  • The reading aloud of word lists is timed

‘Using this pack we have achieved measurable gains of three years in an academic year with some of our pupils’

Carol and Phil Smart

precision teaching cont64
Precision teaching cont.
  • The same precision teaching techniques can be used to teach sight words
  • Free prompt sheets can be made up using the website johnandgwyn.co.uk
  • Probe sheets can have anything from 4 to 24 words on them
reading recovery
Reading Recovery
  • The Marie Clay method
  • Developed in New Zealand in 1970
  • Now widely available in schools in US, UK, Canada and Australia
  • 85 schools in Ireland use the method, under initiatives to tackle disadvantage
reading recovery66
Reading Recovery
  • Short-term intervention, for those falling behind after one year of instruction (best with senior infants and first class)
  • Half-hour lesson each day for 12-20 weeks (or until they reach class level)
  • Teachers are specially trained
reading recovery67
Reading Recovery
  • Begins with comprehensive diagnostic assessment
  • Data is collected about letter identification, sight vocabulary, concepts of print, phonemic awareness and reading and writing skills
  • The first two weeks then focuses on what the child can do, building their confidence and establishing rapport with the teacher
reading recovery cont
Reading recovery cont.

Highly structured sessions:

  • Reading familiar stories
  • Rereading a story read the day before
  • Working with letters/ words using magnetic letters
  • Writing a story
  • Assembling a cut-up story
  • Preparing and reading a new story
research findings
Research Findings
  • Most researched initiative in the UK,
  • London and Surrey, 89 children in 22 schools, average 21 weeks of intervention, Ratio gains of 2.0 (effect size of .70) See Hurry and Sylva (1998, 2007)
  • Bristol, 145 children in 21 schools, after 20 weeks, ratio gains of 2.9 in reading (Fudge 2001)
reading recovery in ireland
Reading recovery in Ireland
  • Connolly (2003) reports on the initiative over three years (2000-2003)
  • In the first year 51 out of 76 children (aged 5.9-6.6) were successfully returned to the average band in their class after 20 weeks
  • In the second year 95 out of 131 were successfully returned after 20 weeks
  • In both cases further children were returned after more intervention
Large-scale evaluation in Northern Ireland (Munn and Ellis 2001)
  • Consistent finding of effectiveness, but may not have enough phonemic/ phonological elements to effectively target children with severe dyslexia
what about pat
What about PAT?
  • Daily 10 minute intensive phonics work

Identifying sounds

Blending phonemes together

Segmenting or isolating sounds in words

  • Worksheet based, with specific rimes, reading lists and sentences for dictation
pat research findings
PAT, research findings

‘The results were not clear cut. The children in the experimental group did make significantly more progress than those in the control group: but the children in the experimental group made scarcely any more progress than would have been expected from ordinary classroom teaching and development’ Brooks 2002

  • 24 children in 3 schools
  • 20 week intervention
  • Ratio Gains of 0.16 for experimental group
a word of caution
A word of caution…
  • Research cited here indicates that some interventions work for some children in some settings and we need to be cautious about interpreting findings. Some interventions were not shown to be highly effective, but may need further analysis.
next big thing
Next Big Thing?
  • ARROW, Dr Colin Lane
  • Read Write Inc, Ruth Miskin
overview of action research
Overview of Action Research
  • Primary- Involved 48 children in 12 schools
  • Secondary- Involved 55 children in 10 schools
  • Lasted 4 months
  • Explored the effectiveness of reading interventions
  • Implementation of named programmes
  • Pre and post intervention reading data
  • Logs and review data from teachers
intervention programmes

Acceleread/ Accelewrite


Sound Linkage

Paired Reading

Precision Teaching (sight vocabulary)

Toe by Toe


Acceleread/ Accelewrite

Paired Reading

Precision Teaching (SNIP)

Toe by Toe

Intervention Programmes
other progress
Other progress

Teachers felt that the children had made progress which the tests given did not readily capture.

‘Confidence greatly improved. LS teacher for maths reports Child A is able to read more problems’

‘Her mother said that she felt the AA programme had improved her reading as well as her confidence’

‘Significant difference made in Child B’s automatic sight vocabulary’ (from 40% known to 93%)

a framework for school wide intervention
A Framework for School Wide Intervention

‘Although there are no short-cuts to accelerating the literacy of older struggling readers, it is possible to close the literacy gap by providing a coherent and co-ordinated school-wide literacy acceleration programme that systematically increases the amount of time, teaching and practice available to all struggling readers…’

  • Feldman (2004)
feldman s framework 2004
Feldman’s Framework(2004)
  • Assess all struggling readers
  • Match length / intensity of intervention to severity of need
  • Select a research-based, validated curriculum as the programme ‘anchor’
  • Assign knowledgeable and enthusiastic teachers
  • Support teachers with curriculum specific professional development
  • Monitor the progress of students
assessing literacy
Assessing Literacy
  • Word reading
  • Reading comprehension
  • Spelling
  • Pseudoword reading and spelling
  • Samples of written work
  • Dictation
  • Information from teachers (esp re: oral skills)
  • Assessment of general ability
and then what
And then what?
  • Rethink your timetable
  • Emphasis on short-term intensive intervention
  • Individual or very small groups
  • Evidence based interventions
  • Collect your own pre and post intervention data
  • Monitor and review
then what
Then what?

Come back and tell us all about it…..

support pack for schools
Support Pack for Schools
  • List of resources for assessing literacy
  • List of evidence based interventions, with contact details and costs, including information on free downloads
  • Rough Guide to Precision Teaching, with SNIP references and supporting checklists
  • Rough Guide to Reading Partners, with supporting templates

With thanks to children, parents, teachers and psychology colleagues who have informed this presentation in so many ways.