Michaela Community School | The latest news at Michaela School
Michaela School Wembley London
268
paged,page-template,page-template-blog-template3,page-template-blog-template3-php,page,page-id-268,paged-14,page-paged-14,tribe-no-js,ajax_leftright,page_not_loaded,

Posted on January 17, 2015 by Katie Ashford

 How do we get them reading?

This post is intended to help teachers who are at a complete loss as to why their pupils can’t read. I’m not saying I have all the answers- what I am proposing is not a definitive solution to the problem of reading, but it outlines some of the things I wish someone had told me when I started teaching. There is a range of things you could do, of course. These are just some of the things I have learnt over the past few years that I have seen work well.

Countless secondary schools across the country are faced with this problem. It is an absolute travesty that many children start secondary school unable to read. It means they will struggle to access a KS3 curriculum, and because many secondary schools lack the time, funding and frankly, the expertise to teach children how to read, they can often slip through the net and make very limited progress in reading over 5 years. I felt compelled to write this post because I have had to spend hours and hours researching, reading and trying to understand what on earth we can do to solve this problem. It is my hope that a few secondary teachers will read this and feel empowered to do something about a problem that likely does exist in their schools.

Step 1: Assessment.

You cannot begin to teach children to read if you don’t know where they are to begin with. Lots of schools use the Accelerated Reader reading test. This is okay, but it won’t give you much of a breakdown of their ability. So you won’t know whether their strengths lie in vocabulary or comprehension, which can make it more difficult to determine what support they need. I would recommend the New Group Reading Test by GL assessment. They do an online version and it generates very easy to understand reports.

Once you have your reading age results, get all the pupils with a reading age below their chronological age to do a decoding test. I would recommend the WRAT test. It takes about 3 minutes per child (done individually) and anyone can administer it. All they have to do is read a list of words until they can’t read anymore. It’s simple.

Step 2: Placement.

 The WRAT test contains instructions for converting their score into a Standardised Age Score (SAS). If they have an SAS below 80, they need to do a phonics programme. If they are between 81 and 100, they need some fluency work, and usually some support with spelling (but this may vary, depending on the child).

Step 3: Phonics.

Badger your SLT and make them invest in a good phonics programme. I would highly recommend Ruth Miskin’s Fresh Start for any pupils in year 7 with a low decode score. It could be taught to kids in higher years, but some of the resources are a bit young. I haven’t found a better programme that is more age appropriate, however, so I’d still recommend this one. They’ll need 3 sessions of 45 minutes a week. It will take about 6 – 8 months, depending on how weak they are when they start. Find the money and the time in the timetable. It’s worth it. If you or members of your school’s SLT have ideological reservations surrounding phonics, get over it. A phonics programme WILL work if it is delivered properly, and not doing it because you don’t believe in it is borderline immoral. #justsayin.

Step 4: Fluency

Lots of pupils can decode, but still read in a very stilted, awkward way, without expression or much of an understanding of emphasis, tone or intonation in reading. It is important that all children can read fluently, as it frees up space in working memory to focus on comprehension. If all you are thinking about is how to pronounce the words, you aren’t concentrating on the content.

There are lots of ways to solve this. Firstly, they need to be reading aloud often- at least once a day, if possible. A simple way to do this is to read aloud in class. At Michaela, our pupils read aloud in all subjects. I’m very lucky to work with excellent humanities, maths, science, art and French teachers who recognise the importance of reading, and will happily ask pupils to read aloud in their lessons. You could also get them into the habit of reading aloud when they read at home, but this is obviously harder to monitor.

Secondly, if you have the time, you could try to do some timed repeated reading practice with the pupils concerned. Here is a good video outlining what this looks like.

Step 5: Comprehension

There isn’t a magic bullet for this one, unfortunately. It takes a very long time to build, and the poorer kids’ comprehension is to start with, the slower it improves. But there are important points to note here. Firstly, comprehension is heavily underpinned by knowledge. A 1988 study by Rechts and Leslie tested the comprehension of weak and strong readers with the same text. They found that poor readers with a good knowledge of the content (baseball) outperformed the strong readers with poor knowledge of baseball. Read more about this here, or there’s a nice video you can watch here. So the first step is to cram them with as much knowledge as possible.

Another option is to use these resources by McGraw Hill. They are expensive, but are completely scripted and extremely well sequenced. A teaching assistant can deliver these sessions, and each one takes about 20-25 minutes. Again, time would need to be built into the day for this, as you wouldn’t want to take them out of mainstream lessons and therefore give them less access to the knowledge they need to get better at reading.

A few more points

Finally, if you have exceptionally weak readers, I would recommend getting in touch with Dianne Murphy (@thinkreadtweet), whose reading programme has enormous impact on weak readers. Definitely worth a look.

Of course, to make any of this work, reading must be a central part of the school culture. Pupils must have access to a range of texts, and must learn to love reading. Next week, I will blog about building a culture of reading in a school, and motivating pupils to read. I think these two aspects of reading are so vital that they merit their own post. The five steps above are intended to help literacy leads or English teachers who don’t know where to begin with reading, as I didn’t a few years ago. Of course, I am still no expert- far from it! I’m just passing on some of the wisdom I have been fortunate enough to stumble upon over the last few years.

Happy reading!

Welcome to Michaela’s First Newspaper

04 Feb 2015, Posted by admin in Latest News

Michaela Matters – Our first school newspaper is out!

Our pupils have worked extremely hard to publish our newspaper ‘Michaela Matters’. Have a look and find out what we have been doing during our first term. Our aim is to give the children at Michaela a voice and at the same time provide exciting articles of interest to everyone! There’s plenty for everyone to enjoy – download our free newspaper here.​

Visit us any time

21 Oct 2014, Posted by Becci Roach in Latest News

Missed our Open Events?

Visit us any time and discover why you should make Michaela your first choice for 2015!

Call us on 020 8795 3183 

 

High challenge, appropriate support and precision teaching

14 Jul 2014, Posted by website administrator in Latest News

Click on the image to read the article.

Michaela is staffed by highly motivated teachers, true experts in their field, passionate about their subjects and 100% committed to really challenging every single pupil. Too often labels limit pupils, give them an excuse to give up when the going gets tough. Not at Michaela. High challenge, appropriate support and precision teaching ensure that pupils are pushed not pandered to. In the words of Sir Michael Wilshaw, Head of Ofsted, ‘we give them love but it’s tough love.’ Ask yourself this, if a child can complete a task easily whilst half concentrating and absent-mindedly chatting to a friend, was the task worth doing at all? At Michaela pupils learn the power of focus, concentration and sustained effort every lesson. They learn that persevering and eventually succeeding feels amazing and is the foundation for all of life’s successes.

Click on this image to read the article.

This is yet another example of how online bullying can seriously impact upon our children. At Michaela we’re not anti-technology, but we are very much pro sitting around a table, talking at length to our children, teaching them the right values and protecting them from harmful outside influences.

So, as ever, our message remains: let’s talk more, read more, discuss current affairs more, let’s help our children develop empowering habits, let’s actively teach them to manage their time and avoid procrastination.

Michaela pupils have long school days. They work hard every day and in every lesson. When they come home from school they’ll be brimming with all of the knowledge they’ve encountered across the curriculum. That’s why we urge every parent to talk at length with their children about what they’re learning, how they’re feeling and, maybe, where they could do with some extra support and help from you, their family.

And please, never accept just a shrug or a one word answer. We’ll never accept that in lessons and we need families to support our high standards by insisting upon courtesy at all times, full sentence responses and correct grammar.

Remember, we are preparing your children to compete with the very best of their generation. We need you to model the courtesy, the full articulate responses and the attention to detail that we will be modeling every single day in school.

A zero tolerance approach to bullying

03 Jul 2014, Posted by website administrator in Latest News

Cyber-bullying: Horror in the home

Every parent needs to read this very harrowing article. Every family needs to sit down and seriously discuss the issues of cyber-bullying with their children. You can’t ignore the potential of cyber-bullying. Cyber-bulling comes into your home – but only if you invite it.

At Michaela we have a zero tolerance approach to bullying, whether it be physical, verbal or on-line. We teach pupils to work hard and be kind. That’s what being at Michaela is all about. But we, as teachers, can only do so much. We need every single parent to be vigilant, we need every single parent to take their responsibility, in terms of preventing cyber-bullying, very seriously indeed.

Social networking can be addictive, massively time-consuming and, quite frankly, vicious. That’s why we insist that every single Michaela parent monitors their child’s use of the Internet very closely. No Michaela pupil should ever have more than two hours per day of screen time, be that TV, Internet, games consoles, texting or any form of social networking. It’s simply too easy to send a message or a photo in the heat of the moment that one might later regret.

By far the easiest way to keep your child safe, happy and free from bullying, is to restrict and monitor their screen time and to simply ban them from social networking sites. Rather than fritter time away on social networking, or playing computer games, encourage your child to take up a sport or other character-building pastime. And remember too our message at Michaela – ‘the more we read, the more we know.’

Through firm but fair discipline and a 100% ban on mobile phones we will keep your child safe at school but, to keep your child safe when s/he is not at school, every single parent must monitor their child’s Internet usage and texting. As the adults in their lives we need to protect them through clear parameters consistently applied – there is no other way. One day they’ll thank you for it.

Our advice is:

  • No child should have access to a Facebook account
  • Families must discuss, be vigilant, and if necessary, ban their children from using, social network sites.
  • Let’s encourage our children to have healthy hobbies, to read, to sit with us around the dinner table in discussion and to watch the news with us –  together as a family.
  • Let’s not allow our children to become isolated, obsessed by social networking, texting, computer games – activities that isolate and break the family connection.

Click here to view a short video that demonstrates what cyber-bullying is, and how you can deal with it.

As teachers, we’ll do our bit, but pupils, parents, teachers, we must work as a team.

Welcome to the Michaela Family!

25 Jun 2014, Posted by website administrator in Latest News

Michaela’s Headmistress, Katharine Birbalsingh, teachers, support staff and governors all thoroughly enjoyed meeting our Year 7s and their families at our recent Welcome Event.

Welcome Event

The turnout was phenomenal and it was a pleasure to meet so many parents who are as excited as we are about our focus on high academic achievement, strong family values and excellent manners and behaviour.

We made our expectations clear on uniform, haircuts and attendance and we underlined the importance of teachers, pupils and families working as a team to secure each child’s academic success.

Capture

Parent volunteers

30 May 2014, Posted by website administrator in Latest News

Several parents have asked about volunteering at Michaela. This kind of enthusiasm is what makes a truly great school.

One area where we’d love to get lots of parents involved, is our lunchtime supervision. Lunchtime at Michaela is unique. Children sit in ‘family groups’ serving each other and supporting each other. What we really want to develop are pupils’ conversation skills.

So parents willing to occasionally spend some time sitting and eating with the pupils, encouraging conversation, encouraging good manners and generally being great role models – please get in touch.

Many thanks,

Team Michaela

Join our team!

19 Apr 2014, Posted by website administrator in Latest News

Following the successful recruitment of exceptional teachers, we are now recruiting:

Senior Office Secretary
Junior Office Secretary

Find out more and apply here

Closing date for both posts: 12pm on Monday 28 April.

If you’re ready to work very hard and with 100% commitment, then we’d love to hear from you!

Do you have a child aged 3 or under?

19 Apr 2014, Posted by website administrator in Latest News

The Michaela Community School Trust will be submitting a proposal to the Department for Education to set up a primary school in Brent. If approved, Michaela Primary would be a sister school for Michaela and would be established in or around Wembley Park in September 2015.

We need to show the Department for Education that Michaela Primary will be as popular as our secondary school.

If you have children aged 3 or under, please complete our online form, and please tell your friends to do the same!

Register your support here

Like our new Facebook page

Thank you. We’ll keep you updated!

Team Michaela