When you visit a restaurant with your friends or family, the waiter doesn’t force you all to eat the same meal. Instead, you choose something appropriate for your individual wants and needs. Aunty Ann has a small appetite so selects a meal from the children’s menu, Cousin Yassa is vegetarian and selects a cheesy pasta. Big Dave is into body building and looks for the large steak. Grandma isn’t hungry but fancies a sugary desert.
Likewise, when a student’s reading age falls below their chronological age, we shouldn’t dish out the same literacy fodder to all the students. The intervention teacher will need to diagnose each student’s individual needs and satisfy that requirement.
Students who have a standardised score of 85 or below, often need a phonics intervention, but not always. Therefore, they should have a diagnostic assessment to ensure that is the right intervention for them. Similarly, if they have already had one particular intervention and it has made little or no impact on their progress, there is no point in repeating the same intervention. Therefore, schools need to have a menu of interventions to choose from, matching the appropriate intervention to the students’ specific literacy needs.
Recommendation 7 in the Education Endowment Foundation’s “Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools” guide states “provide high quality literacy interventions for struggling students.” It further recommends “tiers of support.” Over the years, I have used a variety of different literacy interventions. As a result, I have cooked up a menu from which I can select the best intervention to meet the needs of each student. There are four important considerations when selecting an appropriate intervention:
M = Measurable: You must be able to measure the impact of the intervention to truly know if it is working and therefore worth the time and money spent. In addition to the intervention specific assessments, I always cross reference against reading tests to check they correlate.
E = Explicit: The intervention should explicitly teach what the student needs, rather than a blanket intervention for all.
N = Number of sessions: Intervention is a big commitment from the student’s point of view – if they are missing subject lessons or using up their own free-time, they need the time to be spent efficiently. Therefore, the length of individual sessions and how many sessions they need to make progress, is an important factor.
U = Useful / Ubiquitous: Literacy is in all subjects, including non-academic subjects. Consider whether the intervention is positively impacting literacy across the whole curriculum.
|Literacy Intervention |
Stars out of 5
|Target and Duration||My Comments|
|Accelerated Reader & STAR Reading |
20+ minutes per day, 5 days per week.
|😊 This is the cuckoo in the nest. I dispute that this is an intervention. Rather, it has two different but incredibly important uses: The STAR reading test is a diagnostic tool to discover, not only their reading age but also which areas of literacy they need to work on to make progress so that you can select the appropriate intervention from the menu. There is lots of additional data which can be taken, including growth/progress and zone of proximal development. Through the use of quizzes, Accelerated Reader is a fantastic monitor of whether students have actually read and understood the texts and also how many words read which indicates an estimate of time spent reading. After all, practice is an important component of intervention. Most students find the short quizzes fun. I recommend Accelerated Reader and STAR Reading to be used in conjunction with any and all interventions being run in your setting. |
☹ Must be delivered correctly and closely monitored to be effective. Can be time consuming for the administrator and can be costly. Initial set up is a huge task for the librarian. Limits the choice of books although there is still a very wide choice. Often administered incorrectly. See my blog here on how to use it effectively: https://rachelcoverdale.com/2020/11/23/accelerated-reader-the-marmite-of-reading-programmes-across-the-uk-and-possibly-the-rest-of-the-world/
|Inference Reading |
40 minutes x twice weekly for 12 weeks. Groups of 4 students.
|😊 This is designed for students who are able to read well but appear to misunderstand what they’re reading. Inference is a common difficulty for students with ASD. Students are explicitly taught the reading skills of advanced readers. Enjoyable, snappy and easy to set up. |
☹ No measure of progress.
|Word study, grammar, comprehension |
Personalised but ideally 20-30 minutes every day.
|😊 Computer based engaging game-based learning. Can be continued at home. Excellent for differentiation for mixed ability groups as students are given moving individual goals. Students enjoy building streaks and reaching goals. Lots of data and progress reports available. |
☹ Close screen usage. Headphones required if more than one student in the group. Missing human interaction where an adult can explain in a way that students with individual learning styles can understand. Yearly licence fee applies.
|Lexonik Advanced |
|Disciplinary vocabulary, fluency, automaticity, prosody, morphology |
6 weeks (one session per week). Sessions 40-60 minutes long. Groups of 4 students.
|😊 Used for coasting middle ability and stretching higher ability. Can also be used as a follow on from Lexonik Leap. Highly engaging. Greek and Latin roots of words, prefixes and suffixes, morphology, subject specific vocabulary (Tier 3 words), building academic language. Intervention has own assessment to measure and, in my experience, has consistently had a huge positive effect on reading ages. |
☹ Delivering staff must be trained by the company and there is a yearly licence cost.
|Lexonik Leap |
|Phonics, prefixes, suffixes and some morphology |
6 weeks (one session per week) Sessions 40 minutes long. Groups of 4 students
|😊 Ideal for very weak learners. Students love it. Short, snappy activities, particularly good for ADHD, Dyslexia and EAL. Intervention specific progress assessments which in my experience have been reflected in reading tests.|
☹ Deliverers need to be trained by the company and there is a one-off cost for purchase of resources.
|Lexonik Spell |
12 x 15-20 minutes. Groups of 4.
|😊 Fun quick. Lots of light bulb moments. Rules to learn and follow for life. Repetitive and short, ideal as a starter. Intervention-specific assessment for progress measurement. |
☹ Not available yet.
|Ruth Miskin / Read, Write, Inc. |
|Phonics / Reading |
20-30 minutes per day, 4 days per week. Up to one year depending on starting point. First 4 modules 1:1 then groups of 4 thereafter.
|😊 This gives the new phonic sounds first and then uses them in the short text followed by short activities. It is extremely thorough, cementing students’ learning. |
☹ Students use lots of booklets which need to be bought from the company. Training and licence costs also.
|Reading engagement and comprehension. Prosody |
20-30 minutes twice per week.
|😊 No cost except purchase of books of your choice: everyone reads the same text. The difference is that only the teacher reads out loud because the point of it is that students hear the story read correctly with pace, intonation and expression. It’s best combined with Reciprocal Reading. |
☹ No specific measure of progress. Should be aimed just slightly above students’ current level so difficult to be effective for everyone in mixed ability settings.
|Rapid Plus |
|Reading and comprehension |
One hour per lesson. 44 lessons available depending on starting point.
|😊 A fantastic reading programme, very easy to use, suitable for small groups and with rapid results. Each day’s book is spit into fiction and non-fiction with relevant questions at the end. Once bought, can be used again and again. User friendly. Regular assessments to measure progress. |
☹ Large initial outlay.
|Reading engagement and comprehension |
30 minutes x 2 days per week.
|😊 Free. Excellent for engaging students in the text and developing interest. |
☹ Repetitive and dry on its own – needs to be combined with something like Pace Reading.
|Toe by Toe |
|Phonics / Reading |
30 minutes x 5 days per week. Approximately 5-6 months.
|😊 Designed for students with dyslexia. Works well for EAL. Great for very low ability Students work at own pace. |
☹ Should be taught 1:1 so not as many students can benefit.
All opinions are my own, informed by 8 years of delivering literacy interventions and 5 years of teaching English. I am not sponsored by any of the above. Links provided are for your ease of use and not affiliate links.