After working with the students for a whole term, the first week back after the holidays was our assessment week and providing motivation on reading for the whole school. Not only were we seeing how much our students had improved but we wanted to compare their performance against their peers in the school.
We had four volunteers from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology to help with the assessments and while the students were being tested, the others were having presentations on the importance of reading and the use of playing games to make reading fun. The volunteers also spoke to the pupils about their own education and their business ideas, and they provided inspirational words of encouragement for the girls. We cannot thank them enough for their support and look forward to their further help in our classes.
We managed to assess 66 pupils, including 17 of our girls (due to absences, we were unable to check the reading ability of 8 our students). Using the assessment we initially undertook with our students, they were analysed in the following 4 areas:
- Letter sounding – this involved a list of the letters of the alphabet in a random order and the student had to give the sound of each letter. (N.B. This is a technique known as phonics)
- Word recognition – in this part of the assessment the student was shown 30 high frequency words printed in a random order and had to read them out.
- Phonemic blending – this consisted of 32 high frequency, phonemically regular words printed in a random order for the student to read out.
- Reading a book – our students were tested on their ability to read different level books.
From a term of teaching, all except one of our assessed pupils were confident with letter sounding. Pupil 4 (see table below) was unable to even say the name of a letter when we started with her. She has started to grasp the sounds of letters; however cannot confidently sound all of them. For her to be starting to read a few words is a great improvement and we are continuing to give her extra help outside the classroom to further increase her reading ability. For the rest of the school, those who could confidently read were able to understand the concept of phonics when provided with an example of a letter sound.
When looking at the improvement in word recognition and phonemic blending of our 17 pupils assessed, there was a 14% increase in the words correctly read in the word recognition section and an impressive 32% in phonemic blending words. Pupil 6 has made an amazing development in her reading, with a 93% increase in her ability to read phonemic blending words, such as jet and mud. One thing we have struggled with is attendance to school, meaning they also miss our class, but pupil 6 has an 84% attendance record to our classes, which correlates with her outstanding reading improvement.
Analysing the results of all 66 pupils assessed, of the 30 word recognition words, the average was 28; there was also an average of 28 for correctly read phonemic blending words out of the 32 words. From the chart below, it is clear that our students (who had been selected on the basis of previously underachieving) have improved from February to May significantly, and are now only one below the school average.
In conclusion, it was great to see that our students had all improved and now understand the concept of phonics and can attempt to read words they are not necessarily familiar with.
However, from the ‘reading a book’ assessment, we provided them with a number of levelled books (ranging from level 1 having a reading age of approximately 5 to level 4 being for 11 years old). All of our students were either on the level 1 or 2 stages, so have a reading age of 5 to 8 year olds. Every Friday is our reading class, where the students read independently, whilst also having 1-1 reading sessions with us. Whilst it is evident the children have developed in their understanding on words, we are going to put more emphasis on self-reading, and try to obtain book donations so that we can provide our pupils with books to take home.
Our other hope is, that with funding, we can buy and convert a van into a mobile library. This way we can drive to different schools in the daytime to provide lessons on phonics, hold reading clubs and lend children books so that they can continue to read in their home environments. If this is something you’d like to support, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.