The latest government guidance for best practice in the teaching of reading - the reading framework was updated and republished in July 2023. Whether you agree with all of it, or not, it's a useful document and well worth exploring.
A new academic year means fresh energy and enthusiasm especially when planning your continued professional development for the year ahead. We've got an exciting line up planned for you here at Abigail Steel Training, including some inspirational collaborations with experts in the education industry such as Ruth Baker-Leask and Rebecca Kennedy.
We work in partnership with Hodder Education to provide training for the Reading Planet Rocket Phonics programme. Previously our online self-study course for Rocket Phonics was hosted here on the abigailsteeltraining.com website.
If you've been cruising around the education sector lately, you've probably caught wind of Abigail Steel's KS3 Phonics Programme. It's like that fresh espresso hit in the world of learning – powerful, full of character and game-changing. And let me tell you why it stands out like the purple cow in a field of regular cattle.
First off, simplicity. Abigail's programme is like the AirPods of phonics – it just works. It understands that educators, you guys, are juggling a million things at once. So, no more stressing over 1:1 sessions or handpicking students for small groups. It's as flexible as a gymnast. You can take it, roll it out to a classroom full of eager faces, and it's going to work just as well. That's the beauty of focusing on essentials.
In the last few years, and due to the implications of the pandemic, we were finding more students starting at our school were struggling with their reading. We had quite a few students who were reading at the age of 5 and 6 years old, and this was starting to get worse year upon year. We decided that we needed to offer our students phonics support to help them learn how to read properly – that is where we found Abigail Steel and her team to help us.
It's the end of the academic year and this is me right now. I know, you thought I work in the glamorous world of consultancy and product design so my life should be dreamy, but when you work in the education industry you can't escape the ebb and flow of those intense school terms. So here are some thoughts on teacher burnout. I'm giving myself a little pep-talk. Read on, then as soon as you are home this afternoon, get into your pyjamas and watch a movie on the sofa with your kids.
Elevating Literacy: The Benefit of Phonics Teaching for Older Students with Abigail Steel's KS3 Phonics Programme
Phonics education is often associated with early childhood, but its importance extends well beyond the primary years. This perspective is reinforced by Abigail Steel's KS3 Phonics Programme, which showcases how older students can greatly benefit from phonics teaching.
Phonics forms the building blocks of language acquisition, decoding the complex system of English reading and writing. By teaching older students the relationships between letters and sounds, the KS3 Phonics Programme enhances their fluency and comprehension skills. As students' reading materials become more advanced, a solid grounding in phonics becomes critical in decoding new or challenging words, thereby supporting reading comprehension and vocabulary expansion.
When it comes to crafting children's literature, there is often a great deal of deliberation over the smallest details. A recent experience with my publishing team beautifully illustrates this. We were working on a new book for 3-4-year-olds, all about the thrilling world of digging and tipping, and found ourselves embroiled in a lively debate over one single word: excavator.
The crux of our discussion revolved around whether to use the term 'digger' or 'excavator' in the book (not as a printed word but in the supporting adult text and audio text). At first glance, 'digger' seems like the clear choice for this age group. It's simple, kid-friendly, and perfectly suitable for a 3-year-old's growing vocabulary.
We are thrilled to announce an exciting new change in the way you access and use the Rocket Phonics SSP programme. The publisher, Hodder Education, is moving to an advanced online platform called Boost.
Boost has already proved its mettle in the realm of secondary education, providing a seamless, user-friendly experience for countless users. Now, they're bringing that same robust technology and intuitive interface to primary education, including with Rocket Phonics.
Teaching is a profession defined by change. With ever-evolving pedagogical theories, technology advancements, and the dynamic needs of students, educators must perpetually adapt and learn. Ongoing teacher training, or continuous professional development (CPD), is pivotal in this context. So why is this perpetual learning so crucial for educators? What benefits can be reaped from continuous professional development?
The Shift from Letters & Sounds Phase 4: Understanding the Evolution of Systematic Synthetic Phonics programmes
The English language's alphabetic code is intricate and fascinating. To teach children how to read and write effectively, systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) programmes were introduced. One of the key players was 'Letters & Sounds (DFE, 2007),' a six-phase teaching programme (although arguably this was never a full programme, merely a skeleton framework). However, a noticeable shift has occurred in newer SSP programmes, particularly moving away from the usage of Phase 4 of 'Letters & Sounds.' But why is this? And what were the inherent problems with Phase 4?
Phase 4 of 'Letters & Sounds' was primarily designed to consolidate children's knowledge. At this stage, no new grapheme-phoneme correspondences were taught. Instead, children were encouraged to practise blending and segmenting longer words with adjacent consonants, such as 'stamp, twist, grasp,' and polysyllabic words. Although this phase was important for boosting confidence and enhancing fluency, it had its shortcomings.
When we began delivering the KS3 Phonics programme we focused on our Pupil Premium students whose reading ages were below their chronological ages. Our highest priority was Band A PP students followed by Bands B and C, and then students on the SEN register with low reading ages. We also worked with teacher and LSA referrals. Some of these students had already been identified to work on the online Dyslexia Gold programme and we have also invested in the Rapid Plus reading recovery programme.
We currently work with Years 7, 8 and 9 with one EHCP exception in Year 10. We have a designated large working area which is part of our library with PCs, whiteboard, and flexible furniture. This creates a private space in a communal room.
Our reading ages come from the NGRT online assessment which students take twice a year.
As soon as we have identified our cohort, we ensure that copies of the workbooks are produced in several dyslexia friendly colours. It would be helpful if these were available to order.
After rolling out the diagnostic test, we put our students into groups whereby their diagnostic test results are similar. Ideally, they will be with other students in their year group and where possible there is commonality with their reading ages.
This September, Rising Stars/Hodder Education are running the very first Rocket Phonics Conference! This 1-day event takes place in Oxford and will be led by Abigail Steel.
The event will focus on literacy leadership and will explore how to maximise the impact of Rocket Phonics.
Tickets cost £150+VAT per person but you can save 15% when you book in May. Refreshments and lunch are included in the cost of your ticket.
Rocket Phonics is getting a top up this summer with a new batch of 48 Target Practice reading books. They are due to publish in July/August 2023 but can be pre-ordered now from Hodder. To celebrate the release Abigail delivered a free webinar in which she showed the new books and talked about how to use them. You can watch the webinar below:
If you're considering using Reading Planet Rocket Phonics in your setting have you read this interim evaluation report yet?
I've been incredibly blessed that the publishing company, Hodder, have heavily invested in this research study. Of course I know that Reading Planet Rocket Phonics works - children read and spell with more confidence and exceed age-related expectations, and teachers' work load is reduced whilst their understanding of what gold standard phonics teaching looks like develops 'on the job'. But my heart has raced in anticipation of the feedback and results on a large scale, across a wide variety of school settings.
About the impact trial
This interim findings report outlines the results of the first year of a two-year impact trial of Reading Planet Rocket Phonics on Reception (YR) and Year 1 (Y1) pupils' reading attainment.
The impact trial, commissioned with two independent evaluators, explores what makes the Reading Planet Rocket Phonics programme work so well. Schools self-selected to use Reading Planet Rocket Phonics or to act as business-as-usual controls. The outcome evaluation set out to measure whether changes in attainment might be attributed specifically to the programme, through direct measurement of the impact on phonics knowledge and reading attainment. The process evaluation set out to gauge fidelity to the programme and provide insights into the experience of implementing Rocket Phonics in the trial schools. The trial started in September 2021 and will run over two academic years, finishing in July 2023.
Download a PDF copy of the report by clicking the image below: