My Literacy Journey: 25 Strategies to Promote Literacy


Three years ago I was appointed as Literacy Co-ordinator. As a Geography teacher by trade, the prospect seemed both exciting and daunting.  As a bit of background, we are a large secondary school with a high proportion of ethnic minority students. 16.5% are Pupil Premium although I often think the percentage should be higher.  We are rated ‘good’ by OFSTED.  In our most recent report OFSTED acknowledged that ‘pupils enter your school with prior levels of attainment which are significantly below national averages’ and ‘The school can point to some remarkable improvements in pupils’ reading ages as a result of carefully mapped intervention and support. Indeed, pupils enjoy reading and those who have received additional support testify that the school’s interventions have made them better readers. The school’s most able pupils are articulate and have a passion for reading, drawing from a wide range of reading materials. The school’s recently renovated learning resource centre provides a calm environment in which pupils can study.’

So how did we achieve this?

Annually, from a cohort of 280, approximately 110 students (39) are below expectation when they join in Year 7 based on our NGRT baseline, with the large majority being male.  With this in mind we had to set up an intervention programme to increase reading ability. Below is an outline of some of the intervention strategies used to increase literacy.

  1. Paired Reading: Initially we started paired reading with Y7 and Year 10 and selected 13 students with reading below age related expectation. They would read twice a week for 20 minutes during morning registration.  Outcomes were good.   The students reading ages before were:
  • 23% of students had reading ages of 7 year olds (3)
  • 23% of students had reading ages of 8 year olds (3)
  • 31% of students had reading ages of 9 year olds (4)
  • 23% of students had reading ages of 10 year olds (3)
  • The average age of readers was 8 years

The paired reading happened until Christmas and the students were retested in January.  Of the 13 students on the programme, all were retested.  85% of students made progress.  Reading levels increased by at least 5 months over a 3 month period.  The lowest progress rates were of the students only reading once a week.  Average progress for the readers was 17 months in a 3 month period.  The largest amount of progress achieved was 34 months.

  • 0% had a reading age of below 9
  • 38% of students had reading ages of 9 year olds (5)
  • 38% of students had reading ages of 10 year olds (5)
  • 23% of students had reading ages of 11 year olds (3)

After this pilot scheme, we reviewed the provision and determined that if we have 15 year 7 students they can pair read with Year 9’s so we can select another 15 Year 8 students to pair read with Year 10 students.  This would allow us to increase our provision for less able readers into Year 8.  The reading mentors are more able readers who acted as positive reading role models.

  1. ERIC Book Boxes: Each tutor group has a class set of books so that the whole class can read together in morning registration. This was initially set up by one of my predecessors, but we have continued to invest in this.  All books are Accelerated Reader books so that the students can be quizzed. Reading strategies used may be popcorn reading (randomly selecting someone), read until you want to stop, reading spiralling around the class.
  2. Making Literacy Visible: This is a major focus this year, so each class has received a set of 4 posters, Talk like an expert, Write like an expert, Literacy in Subject and Extend your knowledge book poster. For the latter I asked subject teachers to read the suggested books so I can display the reviews and promote staff reading.

  1. Audit of skills: Each department completed a grid identifying the teaching and learning strategies used within their classrooms routinely as part of a CPD activity which developed by giving new literacy teaching and learning strategies
  2. Mapped extended writing opportunities: Ensure there is an extended writing opportunity in each SOL/SOW
  3. Vocabulary: Spelling tests, spelling bee (we even took part in a Town Champions spelling bee and I think we won a trophy!) displays word of the week

  1. Extra English Literacy Lesson: Aimed to be ½ hour AR reading followed by literacy lesson once a fortnight. In Year 7 we are building and consolidating the skills developed in Year
  • To develop students vocabulary and range of language used across the curriculum
  • To develop the way students construct sentences and use structure in their writing
  • To consolidate the use of appropriate punctuation and grammar
  • To develop skills of inference and deduction

In Year 8 we are developing skills to help academic writing in preparation for students starting their GCSE in Year 9.

  • To develop students’ academic writing including planning, developing points and an argument and topic sentences
  • To develop decoding skills of exam questions
  • To develop skills of summarizing information
  • To make text cohesive
  1. WOW: Word of the week to develop vocabulary. Some weeks are themed. NQTs and trainee teachers have suggested words in the past.  I’ve previously selected words from an academic word list, but this year using the vocabulary suggested by departments on their posters

  1. Structure Strips: Help structure academic writing
  2. Magpieing: Based on Pie Corbett
  3. Whole school CPD:

  1. Training for EE teachers: delivered by the Local Authority Literacy Lead about grammar, sentence structure, the new (at the time) end of Key Stage 2 tests. This was vital in developing teacher confidence and expertise as taught by non-English specialists like myself.
  2. Premier league Reading Stars: Initially from the Literacy Trust, now scrapped a a new programme has been launched. This was engaging for low ability boys, outcomes were good but not as good to paired reading due to some of the characters selected.  Hasn’t been ran last year or this new academic year due to working part time.  The new skills academy is £200.
  3. Lexia: Delivered and monitored by the SEND department to track small steps literacy improvement
  4. Get girls reading: Similar to Premier League Reading Stars but aimed at girls. We adopted a similar session and outline to the girls but used books from Zoella’s book club at WHSmiths and others.
  5. Events: World Book Day (decorate a door competition, the activities WBD promote), Roald Dahl Day (Competition), National Poetry Day (had a poem published in a book), National Stationary Week (last year did a treasure hunt, find the images and letters to cold the code and win a free pencil case; we gave out over 50(!) when we ran out) assemblies, , DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) author of the month

  1. Author visits. The AR coordinator organises the annual author visit for Y7 and 8 with a workshop for the more able
  2. AR: Coordinated by another member of staff J
  3. English events: They run the Spelling Bee completion, will focus on oracy this year too and also run the BBC Schools Report and debate club
  4. Reading lists: Helps students and EE teacher select appropriate books. Also try the AR book finder.
  5. Read to Succeed: Aimed at GCSE students to familiarise themselves with books written in different centuries and of a more challenging nature. In the Library there is a dedicated section of books

  1. Library: Renovated Library and mini displays that allow students (and staff) to recommend books
  2. Literacy reps: Nominated Literacy rep from each department to disseminate ideas and raise the profile of Literacy, collaborate on ideas and help meet their needs.
  3. Report to SLT: Helps me reflect on the progress made and challenges. They always ask some tough, challenging questions that help develop the provision further
  4. Book BUZZ: Good value for money for class sets of books, can also be given to pupil premium students. You receive a set of books also for the Library.The year ahead:  This year the focuses are on reading, academic writing, vocabulary and making literacy visible.  We are investing in Bedrock to help aid vocabulary development and I am putting a proposal for Achieve 3000 to secure funds from our pupil premium coordinator to help Pupil Premium students as my budget is limited.  All of the classes will have the posters (as mentioned above) and spare ones placed in visible locations.  We are also going to try to establish students as literacy leaders to lead on literacy starters for example and to help peers.

    Steph can be found @SDorbs on Twitter. Steph qualified as a Geography Teacher in 2010 and has taught a wide range of subjects including history, RE, PSCHE and music. She now is the Literacy lead in a large academy in Luton.

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