At Pen to Paper Ghana, we move from school to school, working in each school for two terms. When we commence with a new school, we assess all students in the school and then choose those that are really struggling to read. Since January 2018, we have been working with 52 teenagers (from 12-17 years old); we teach daily, free classes before their school day. Due to the large number, we divided the classes so that they were not too full and individual attention could be given.
Over the two school terms, the pupils were taught through our phonics programme, where they learn the letter sounds and how to blend letters together to make words. As well as reading, we focus on practicing talking and writing English. We run our mobile library in the school too, where any child can come and take a book home.
During the last week of the second term, we were re-assessing the students that we’ve been working with. Unfortunately, due to absences from school, we weren’t able to assess all the students but the results below show good improvements in average student results in the areas measured.
Using the assessment we initially undertook with our students, they were analysed in the following 3 areas:
- Phonics (Letter sounding) - involved a list of the letters of the alphabet in a random order and the student had to give the sound of each letter.
- Word recognition – in this part of the assessment each student was shown 32 high frequency words printed in a random order and were asked 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.
In phonics, 34 of the 52 scored zero initially; however after two terms, every one of those who attended the majority of the classes could sound out at least 22 of the 26 letters. That was an average increase of 287.1%!
On the word recognition part, there was an average increase of 8.4%, with one student going from only being able to read 9 of the words, to now confidently reading 22 of the words. The words in this part are ones we expect them to know as they’re high frequency words, such as, she, then and from, so we are pleased with the improvement.
In the phonemic blending section, there was a high increase of 32.9%. We had one student who could previously only read 11 of the words and now is able to read 31 out of the 32.
As well as the reading improvement, we noticed a new sense of confidence in many of the students. Having previously often been shy students that sat at the back of the class, they have now become confident, enthusiastic and pro-active in class.
In conclusion, it was great to see that our students have all improved. However, our challenge from this was how to reach those with low attendance to school. After working with the teachers and parents, we’ve been running summer holiday classes to ensure those that missed some of the classes were able to catch up and confidently read all the words.
From September, we’ll move on to a new school where we’ll start the programme again and allow more children to escape the tunnel of illiteracy.