The cornerstone of all education lies in literacy. To be able to read, make sense and understand the written words upon a page go beyond the differences that may exist between any subject. Science, Maths, Geography, English, Technology, etc – for any student to excel in any of these subjects, to be able to take in the information provided, make sense of the questions being asked and then provide a well reasoned answer – to do this, requires sound understanding in literacy.
For this very reason, Swanlea takes literacy very seriously. With a team of dedicated literacy trainers covering all the key stages of the school, the literacy program (formally called ‘Sound Training’) is one that specifically targets those students that need the most help. Usually done by their class teachers, their names are given to the literacy team and from here, the students are taken out of their class at set times to commence their training. It usually begins with an assessment, a test to accurately gauge the exact reading level of the student – in some cases students may be 2-3 years behind in their reading age. From here, they begin a 6 week programme, tailored to meet their specific needs.
A literacy intervention session usually runs the course of a double lesson (100 mins). The first session (50 mins) is purely focused on Sound Training, with the second session dedicated to a variety of activities and exercises focusing on the recognition and understanding of the patterns and permutations in letters, sounds, words and their meaning. Speed is a key element to the approach in teaching; with the use of flash cards and other such teaching aids, students are often placed in pressure-cooker situations where within a short period of time (say a minute), they’re required to recite sounds, prefixes, suffixes, words and their meaning. The logic behind this approach, is to develop a means of understanding where it almost becomes instinctual. So through the process of continual drilling, students become gradually familiar with the concepts being presented.
At the end of the 6 week intervention, another assessment is carried out with the results compared to the assessment initially done at the beginning of the whole process. Done to gauge the student’s progress, in all cases, students record a marked improvement in their literal skills. The benefits of this training and progress made, are huge – literally life changing. Not only will students have a better understanding of the course material provided, but they grow more confident in their ideas and their abilities to articulate those ideas, thus students are able to better participate in group discussions and ultimately perform at a higher level when it comes to exams and other assessed pieces.
Swanlea literacy tutors Ms. Khadija Begum and Ms. Eleanor Keightley had the following to say:
“What we’re mostly trying to do, is give our young people a means to thrive in their reading and become all round confident people”.
This is so very true when one considers a large portion of the Swanlea student population to be of a non-english speaking background. The training provided goes well beyond their Swanlea years and far into their adulthood.