A trial program that sees primary school children reading in small groups has shown that it can help pupils make an additional two months’ progress during an academic year.
The ABRACADABRA (ABRA) and Reading and Understanding in Key Stage 1 (RUKS) program involved more than 4,000 Year 1 pupils (ages+ 5-6) from 157 schools across the West Midlands, East Midlands, Newcastle, Teesside, and Manchester. Funded by the Education Endowment Fund (EEF), schools took part in a 20-week trial in which two versions of the ABRA-based RUKS program were tested: An ICT-based model and a paper-based model. In contrast, some participating schools were assigned to a control group and carried on their usual approach to teaching literacy.
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Small group reading
The content for both forms of the program came from the ABRACADABRA software developed by a team at Concordia and McGill University in Canada. A team adapted the resources for the paper-based version from Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and Coventry University. They also developed the 20-week RUKS program using the ABRA content for both versions. Using a train-the-trainer model, the team trained teachers and teaching assistants to deliver four reading-based weekly sessions to small groups of four to five pupils and then monitored the delivery.
These 15-minute sessions consisted of decoding (including phonics), fluency, and comprehension activities drawn from age-appropriate texts. An independent evaluation by the York Trials Unit, University of York, and Durham University — released in an EEF report — found that children who received either version of the program made some further progress on measures of decoding and phonics compared with pupils in the control group. However, of the two delivery models, the paper-based approach proved to be the most effective — children who received this version made up to two months’ additional progress in reading.
The program was well-received by delivery schools, with staff reporting that they felt well-supported in implementing it. In addition, both versions of the ABRA-based RUKS program showed promise when tested in a smaller-scale EEF-funded trial completed in January 2015, involving 1,884 pupils from 60 English schools. Janet Vousden, principal investigator on the project and senior lecturer in Psychology at NTU’s School of Social Sciences, said:
“It is very encouraging to see the results of this trial. They suggest the program can be scaled up as a train-the-trainer model with similar positive outcomes for children.”
Professor Becky Francis, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:
“We have much to gain from education research and rigorously examining the impact of teaching and learning programs. These findings are a prime example — offering practitioners a tried and tested option to consider when looking to develop their approach to reading provision for Key Stage 1 pupils.
“However, it is of the utmost importance that educators have the means to implement evidence-informed programs and maximize the impact of their practice. As school energy and food costs increase, they mustn’t be forced to direct resources away from the things the evidence shows are likely to make the biggest difference.”
Provided by Nottingham Trent University [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]