Reading with Reception: what I have learned.

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A few years ago, I took a job as a Reading TA with Reception children. I hadn’t worked extensively with this age group before and I was studying (in the final year) of my Masters in SpLD (dyslexia).

I was particularly interested in the Reception phase as research shows this is particularly important – students who fall behind, stay behind:

Having read with my own dyslexic son from a young age, I knew the signs of dyslexia in early readers. The job required me to listen to the whole class read each morning (individually!) daily within a very short space of time as their lunch was around 11.30.

What did I learn?

Children of this age are already very present to the status that being a ‘good’ reader brings e.g., they would declare their book band quite loudly so that others could hear.

(Schools may give confusing signals as they tell children not to worry about their book band and then praise them hugely when they move up.)

I learned that some children (around ten out of thirty/one third of the class) acquire the skills of reading with EASE, there is no conscious effort at all. This is not the result of good teaching, simply the way they are wired.

Another ten out of thirty/third acquire reading with a small degree of effort.

Finally, there is another cohort – around ten – who really struggle and have to work very hard. Reading is uncomfortable and effortful. Of this ten, five or so might be dyslexic with severe difficulties.

All of the children made good progress within the 3 months that I was in the role. At the beginning, some were still on Pink book bands, by the end they had all moved up.

What I did:

I never told them to use the pictures, they could use the pictures to help (this is early inference) but NOT without processing all sounds.

(The other reading TA was a perfect example of why not to use the picture: in the book she modelled on my first day, she urged the child to use the picture as a clue, it was a shop, the target word was ‘supermarket’, the child read ‘shop’.)

I taught them phonics in High Frequency/Common Exception Words, I also taught these words using images as well.

I modelled and emphasised/exaggerated sounds, especially /th/

I used picture books

I gave them thinking putty and let them move if they needed

I asked them questions about what they read and what they thought would happen.

When I left the school, I highlighted about 6 children that need to be monitored for Literacy difficulties.

The more natural readers needed to be encouraged to slow down, using syllabification and morphology. Sometimes their comprehension was compromised, almost because reading was too easy.

The middle group would benefit from explicit phonics and scaffolding of phonics in context.

The struggling 10 children (lowest attainers) would benefit from a mix of blending practice e.g., Toe by Toe, visual approaches and phonics in context.

See my final feedback:

Imagine conducting your own research into Reception Reader profiles, taking an overview, and responding immediately to their needs. You may also find that they fall into roughly 3 groups.

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