Reading Laboratory (SRA) is a structured system for teaching and developing essential reading skills, available for readers of all ages and skills levels. The kit allows for individualised instruction to be undertaken with whole class groups addressing the needs of readers at different levels. In using the programme, students are provided with lessons in decoding, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary and fluency. The programme adopts a levelled approach in that through pre-testing, a student’s current literacy skills are identified and matched with appropriate, colour-coded, levelled reading materials. Along with reading text, the student is given comprehension questions and vocabulary exercises. Many post primary schools have this resource but it is often only used with students in receipt of learning support or with a specific class group.
A number of teachers, through their participation in the Teacher as Researcher - Action Research Project, have investigated the use and effect of the SRA Reading Laboratory Kit with their students. This work has been conducted in various ways, frequently with small cohorts of students. However, in one school all 1st year students use the programme once a week in English class for the entire school year. In the first two years of the research project, over 200 students received this dedicated weekly literacy lesson as well as additional literacy development activities including, “Book Blurb” writing competitions and independent reading of Hi-Lo Readers. Findings from this research project are presented below.
Quantitative findings from the data collected for the cohort last year (N=114) revealed that:
- Pre intervention 17.5% (N=20) of the students were reading three or more years below their chronological age.
- Similarly, prior to the intervention 15.8% (N=18) were reading at or above their chronological age.
- The remaining students (66.6%, N=76) had pre-intervention reading ages that fell between these two measures.
- Pre-intervention testing demonstrated that the mean chronological age of the cohort was 12 years 2 months. In terms of the pre intervention reading ages, the mean was 10 years 9 months.
- Post intervention, the mean reading age of the cohort was 13 years 2 months.
- 89.5% of last year’s cohort improved in their reading assessments from pre to post.
- Four students’ (3.5%) results disimproved.
“They (the English teachers conducting the weekly literacy lessons) were all really happy with it…I think they are happy with the results. One of the teachers said that it has such a calming effect on the class. They know what they are doing now. It takes them just a minute to walk in and settle down and they just get it into. And there is an air of work in the class. They just go off to their different places and do their reading and their questions. For her it has a lovely effect on the class. But I think the independent learning is the key. And I think those students who have fallen through the gaps, that we know have fallen through the gaps, don’t improve their reading age, let’s say. I still think that idea they know that there are questions at the end and they are attempting it and that the system of reading and getting information from the text and attempting to answer the questions at the end, you know?”
“But we do try to mix it up. With a blurb competition a couple weeks out … We just asked each class to do a book blurb. We prepared it all so the teachers had a minimum to do. The teachers would have explained to them about book blurbs. But then we would take them and explain to them what we really wanted from this. And looking at some books we brought in, the backs of the books and reading what other people had written. And putting some of the words up on the board and asking them also to use exciting words, vocabulary that would entice someone… And then we ran a competition… And we asked them to do the art work as well. And people’s work was chosen and put into the school magazine…
…There is nothing like watching kids enjoying reading. There is something very gratifying, isn’t there…Classroom routines can be affirmed within the literacy class. These teachers are now using the same classroom routines that we use in behaviour support. Be it listen with your eyes or making sure that honesty is the best policy and all of these phrases. You are starting that kind of an idea that there are positive things that you can do. Small little things. Targets within the classroom. And if you have success at them there is a positive outcome…literacy class is very structured. There are goals, there is positivity …”