Rapid Literacy Development
Want to keep ahead of the pack on literacy and numeracy? How is your school doing?
While Australian literacy data are fairly positive compared to many countries and are improving under some measures, the fact remains that approximately 20% of children are failing to achieve levels of literacy sufficient for them to be able to succeed in the modern society. For indigenous children the rates are close to 80% failing to read, and 50% for children from other language countries. It has been estimated that approximately 10% of students in year 9 are functionally illiterate, with very bleak employment and life prospects as a result. Moreover, if children are not ‘turned on’ by reading and do not choose to read for pleasure, the difference in practice to a child reading for pleasure by the end of primary school has been estimated at 3 million words.
In research carried out over several years, Include and colleagues have been able to teach children with defined disabilities such as ‘autism’ to read from as young as age 2 (with the parents as teachers), and have been able to accelerate the learning rate of mainstream high school children to 250% on average. That is two and a half years development in literacy for 1 year of teaching by regular high school teachers when the same children had been learning at the rate of 8 months for every school year prior to intervention. Similar results are achievable with spelling and numeracy.
To achieve this, there is no magic wand. What is required is a dedicated and inspired teacher or other leader to coordinate the program; a supportive school administration; good in-service training of the teachers implementing the intervention; powerful research-backed teaching materials; family involvement wherever possible; monitoring of program outcomes and the quality of the teaching with support where required, and a graduation possibility so that students who rapidly improve sufficiently can move back into the mainstream class or a more challenging group. Consistently applied reward systems are also a key to ongoing success.
While not easy to organise a broad-based ongoing program at the school, the results can be life changing for individual students and very rewarding for the teachers involved. It is why most of us went into teaching – to make the lives of students better as a result of our efforts.
- Assess precisely the literacy levels of children and determine where specific additional teaching is needed.
- Train teachers in reading assessment so it can be done within the school.
- Assist in setting up appropriate class groupings for rapid teaching and advise on curriculum materials.
- Provide in-service training and in-class demonstration and support for teachers to learn to accelerate literacy development.
- Assist in data analysis and reporting, and train teachers in these skills.
- Assist in writing reports for publication so the achievements of the school can be publicised.
- Provide advice on spelling and mathematical programs to accelerate development and assist with implementation.
Numeracy and spelling
While we recommend literacy as a higher priority to numeracy, we can also advise on bringing numeracy skills up rapidly. Similarly, we can advise on means to dramatically improve student spelling.