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Help for Secondary School Pupils Struggling with Literacy

Secondary School Pupils struggling with literacy

MRI: MATURE READING INSTRUCTION Secondary School Intervention

"To be unable to read is to be locked out, to be isolated from discourse, to grasp the edges of conversations, to be without the knowledge of one’s companions. It is to be terrified of failure, and haunted by its presence. It is humiliation and frustration, and it builds into anger, or despair. It is loneliness and a formless sense of injustice." Horatio Speaks

Good interventions focus on decoding skills and ensure that there is immediate, explicit error correction. They also include the ‘higher order’ skills of fluency and comprehension. But for older students materials can unintentionally reflect ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations’. While their knowledge deficit remains, students who continue to struggle with literacy need both rigorously designed, cumulative practice and encouragement to aspire to more ambitious reading. MRI: Mature Reading Instruction has been developed specifically to ensure that they gain mastery of decoding skills and become fluent readers as they expand their cultural experiences.

"What we need to get better at is working with those who come to us in Year 7 without intellectual capital, who struggle to get a grip on the curriculum we offer and fall further and further behind. These are the students who often display low-level disruptive behaviour; without a handle on the curriculum that is being delivered they are left with little choice but to play up." Chris Hildrew, Headteacher

In addressing the knowledge gap MRI: Mature Reading Instruction covers a broad range of themes from history, myth, folk tales and literature. The five-Level series contains short, pithy stories that are darkly comic, sometimes irreverent, sometimes tragic and encourage lively, penetrating discussion. Some of the tales invite discussion of ethical dilemmas or simply of bad behaviour; some offer a glimpse of other cultures and histories; some provide a window into the richly complex world of literature. The all-too-familiar style of easy readers for older students, dominated by straightforward narrative and simple sentence structure (adjective, noun, verb, adverb or adverbial phrase) is replaced by multi-layered stories with increasingly complex structure. At the same time, like all good decodable readers, MRI pounds away until blending and segmenting skills are secure and fluency is established.

Assessment of students is vital and MRI ensures that tracking student progress is transparent and quick-to-administer. The comprehensive and tutor-friendly MRI Guide includes Initial and Mastery Assessment Checks, together with easy to use Record Keeping. Pre and Post Assessment Graphs show the extent of progress over the course of each Level. As well as providing an instant visual representation for tutors, the graphs offer a major confidence boost for students.

It goes without saying, that evidence-based Synthetic Phonics and decodable stories, introduced from Reception onwards, eliminates the need for later invention. But as long as universally rigorous and evidence-based instruction remains a pipe-dream, we frequently compound the problem and – in place of good Synthetic Phonics or Direct Instruction programmes – we waste huge sums of money on interventions that may babysit failure and label students instead of helping them.

"When we teach students to read with precision, rigor, and insight, we are truly handing over the key to the kingdom. Of all the subjects we teach reading is first among equals." Doug Lemov. Reading Reconsidered (2016)


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