Level 2: Rapid Plus Reading Intervention

Structured Reading Intervention for Groups

Overview

NBSS Level 2 academic literacy and learning support is provided to students for whom Level 1 provision is not sufficient. Level 2 support is about targeting, planning and monitoring short-term focused interventions for small groups of students. Such an intervention might for example addresstwo or more of the five main components of reading – comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, phonics and phonemic awareness - or focus on writing, spelling or study skills development. For some students, a tightly focused group intervention will be sufficient to allow them to develop their literacy skills and build their confidence to engage more actively in the learning process.

Developing students’ reading skills through small group or individual interventions, using research validated approaches has been a specific focus of the work of the NBSS in the last number of years. Rapid Plus is a reading scheme centered around a series of levelled books i.e. texts of progressing difficulty,for struggling readers with reading ages of 6.6 to 9.6, that NBSS partner schools have implemented.

The Rapid Plus books are age appropriate and match the interests and experiences of 11-14 year olds.The reading scheme can be used with small groups of students and employs a similar teaching approach and session routine to Catch Up Literacy i.e. before reading characters, plots and tricky words are introduced, this is followed by an independent reading session and finally each text ends with a ‘Quiz’ page that provides opportunities for discussion and to check comprehension as well as a linked writing activity.

A Teaching Guide provides step-by-step support and prompts for each session and follow up work as well as end of stage assessments. The Assessment Book for each Rapid Plus stage contains two fiction stories to help teachers assess students’ progress and address difficulties, if necessary, before moving onto the next stage. Each Assessment Book is supported by an assessment record in the Teaching Guide that allows the teacher to evaluate each students’ progress accurately. Assessment Books check decoding skills, comprehension and spelling.

Key features of Rapid Plus:

  • Finely levelled fiction, playscripts (a short play for four characters which elaborates some action in the fiction story) and thematically linked non-fiction texts.
  • Assessment texts to monitor students’ progress.
  • Clear guidance for every text for adult/teacher leading group/guided reading sessions.
  • Photocopy masters to consolidate word- and text-level work linking reading, writing and spelling.
  • Three stages of progression with four books at each stage.
  • Texts with a specially designed font approved by the British Dyslexia Association. This font has minor modification to letters such as ‘b’ and ‘d’ that can easily be confused by the struggling reader. The font also has a slight increase in the spacing between letters that struggling readers often perceive as one letter, e.g. ‘r’ and ‘l’.
  • Available as online software that includes an eBook version of all the texts and features such as ‘Read to Me’ that allows students to hear the text being read aloud and activities that allow students to check their comprehension and to develop their word knowledge, understanding of the author’s style, vocabulary and spelling skills (the software version however was not used in NBSS partner schools).

Rapid Plus in NBSS Partner Schools

In November 2012 NBSS offered this group reading intervention to teachers who had been trained in the Catch Up Literacy intervention between 2010 and 2012.  One of the challenges raised after implementing the Catch Up literacy intervention by some schools was the issue of time and personnel.  Rapid Plus is a reading scheme that employs a similar teaching methodology to Catch Up Literacy but can be used with groups of students. By introducing Rapid Plus the NBSS hoped to maximise and extend the potential benefits of the training teachers had received through the Catch Up intervention as well as trailing a reading intervention that could be used in a group or small class setting.

From January to May 2013 five NBSS partner schools implemented Rapid Plus with 51 students, in groups of on average four students. The table 1 outlines the number of students per group and the number of Rapid Plus sessions each group received, during an approximately five month period. In additional to these five schools, one additional school used the resource from March 2013 with four TY students, in one to one sessions. The teachers in this school were not trained in the Catch Up Literacy intervention however, they found Rapid Plus easy to implement as the guidance provided in the Teaching Guide was clear aNund comprehensive.

  Number of Groups Number of Students per Group Number of session in total (Jan -May)
School A 1 group 3 students 10 sessions, one per week
School B 3 groups 4/4/2 students 10 sessions, one per week
School C 3 groups 3/3/4 students 12 sessions, one per week
School D 1 group 4 students 9 sessions, once a week
School E 4 groups 4/7/4/9 students 10 /10/12/9 sessions, one per week
School F 1:1 session 4 students 4/5 sessions from March

The adoption of an approach or programme described as ‘research-validated or evidence-based’ does not guarantee reading success for learners. Teachers and school management (and support services) must also evaluate strategies, approaches and programmes through the lens of their particular school and setting. They need to consider if the approach or programme meets the needs of their students in their setting, with the resources they have available for implementation.

To assist schools in this process the NBSS asked the teachers involved in the Rapid Plus to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.

Teacher Feedback

In May 2013 all teachers involved were asked to complete a questionnaire on implementing the Rapid Plus reading scheme.  All nine teachers involved returned the questionnaire and what follows is a compilation of their responses.

Additionally, school were asked to submit pre and post standardised reading achievement test scores, if gathered.  Four of the five schools submitted standardised reading achievement test scores.

What were the benefits of running the Rapid Plus Intervention with students?

It was very structured and provides reading, comprehension and written work. It was quite similar to Catch Up but could be used with a larger group. It allowed for group discussion and activity. The students enjoyed reading aloud and playing a role in the plays. Good use of group interaction.

Step-by-step instructions, extra reading materials, and also comprehension and grammar tasks. Students improved their reading strategies/techniques of reading, fluency, intonation, comprehensive and also their general knowledge through the short stories. They analysed text as well as expanding their views about important topics such as friendship, peer support, decision-making, fame, historical events etc. The texts require them to activate their imagination and creativity.

It complements the Catch Up in literacy very well. The books are better, in my opinion, and less ‘babyish’.

Students liked the books, as they are age appropriate and up-to-date. The teacher’s manual instructions and worksheet cut down hugely on the amount of time I had to spend preparing the class. The girls didn’t mind doing the worksheets as they were connected in some way to the text they had just read.

It is a group intervention so it can be used with a larger number of students than Catch Up Literacy.

Being part of a group, improved their oral communication skills during discussion of books.

Were there any challenges to running the intervention?

My group were made up of the weakest readers in first year. Therefore it was difficult to get the level right for each pupil’s needs.

I can’t think of any, except that I only meet with the students for one 35 min period per week – more time would be better for continuity with the books.

Matching reading ages, careful planning ahead to match other spelling, phonics work with the Rapid Plus work sheets.

Time.

In the group of seven they were all volunteering to read the play and there were only four parts. Attendance, I had a particularly problematic group, one left the school and the other permanently in the BSC – I replaced them with 2 other students. Attendence – if missing they could have missed some chapters.

As I used it in an individual learning situation, some parts of the Rapid Plus Intervention was not as effective as it could have been within a small group (dialogues, argumentative parts of the comprehensive questions.)

What improvements, if any, did you notice in students’ reading skills, attitude etc?

They really enjoyed the books. One pupil is reading for leisure now and he was a million miles away from this in September.

They began to understand the value of pre-reading techniques such as SQ3R.They started to make better attempts at inferential comprehension questions. They got more confident reading out loud.

The students gained confidence, the reading ages and ability levels of the group were matched as closely as possible, so the students became comfortable with each other and they were more inclined to take risks. Initially they were reluctant to ‘sound out’ an unfamiliar word but quickly overcame this. The students enjoyed reading together and discussing what they read, I think they looked forward to the Rapid Plus days.

Became more confident in reading, will now ask to read out loud. Listening skills improved.

They were willing to read as new vocabulary was covered before reading and each section had an introduction. They loved the books, the design and layout. Taking turns in reading aloud to each other give them confidence, they started volunteering for turns. The group role-play encouraged reading aloud with emphasis on tone. They really enjoyed the contents and graphics.

Students’ reading skills improved in terms of fluency, self-correction, appropriate intonation, comprehension and their reading speed increased as well. In case of unknown or difficult words, permanent feedback and constant repeating of certain expressions in different contexts allowed students to deepen and expand their vocabulary and general knowledge. Grammar and writing worksheets/tasks helped develop writing skills and got students to apply their creativity and express their own ideas and thoughts.

How did you monitor and evaluate students’ progress?

I did a reading age test at the start on each of the students. I haven’t yet re-tested. I will at the end of the year. I recorded the progress, comments and attitudes of the girls in my notes.

NGRT tests were used at the beginning of the year and students will shortly be retested. But Rapid Plus was just one part of an intervention programme so improvements, or otherwise, cannot be solely attributed to Rapid Plus. Improvements in written work, spelling and enjoyment of reading were noted informally.

Feedback from students re: Books, correction of questions.

Pre and Post testing.

Mainly through general observation, using supplementary activities such as the comprehension shuffle cards, the adolescent surveys about reading motivation, self-concept of reading and peer influence on each student’s reading strategies and skills [these were additional resources provided to the school by NBSS as part of an intervention plan for targeted students]. The quizzes at the end of the Rapid Plus books and the assessment texts also provided a good basis for evaluating progress and pointed to areas where students still needed to improve.

Did the students make any comments about the Rapid Plus intervention in terms of likes and dislikes?

They liked the books and felt a huge sense of achievement in the number of books they read. We included these books in our library league, therefore these pupils have reached their DEIS reading targets this year

Can we just get started, 'I can't wait to see what happens' and 'I love these books' and ‘Can we read another one of those books’, are just some of the comments students had about the Rapid Plus books.

The students enjoyed the programme; they especially liked the drama format which allowed them to each take a particular character.

Liked layout, colours, stories.

Students mostly gave positive feedback about the topics covered by the short books, especially the extra texts in the end of each story. They also like the design, the difficulty level and the illustrations of the texts. Sometimes they found the ending and the conclusion too simple or unimaginative.

They liked it – “Have you any more books like those?” “Can we read another one?” They asked to do the books coming into class. “They’re deadly”. “I really like those…”

Would you use Rapid Plus again? Please outline why or why not?

I will certainly continue to use it. I feel I was very rushed though this year. I will go through the system in more detail during the summer. I could have used the website far more. But I think between Catch Up and this system, many literacy bases are covered in our school. It is key to tie them into the general literacy scheme within the school. Our learning support pupils are up on our literacy boards along with all their peers. They felt part of the library league, this wouldn’t have happened in the past. I will use the books with more pupils also next year.

Yes, definitely. The students enjoy them; they are great for group work. They focus on a range of skills, not just reading and the teacher manual saves me time. Fantastic!

I will use Rapid Plus with second years next year as a follow on to Catch Up, which they will have done in first year or perhaps with first years who are also doing Catch Up. I may also use it with first and second year EAL students.

Yes, found it very useful to use in small groups.

Yes, it offered clear teaching guidance and high interest topics. Yes, it is ideal for small resource groups, particularly those who are ready to move on from Catch Up. It also allows groupwork and discussions and it’s great to have the inbuilt worksheets for written work. It’s very structured, with a variety of activties which is ideal for students who need a variety of approaches and who cannot stay on particua tasks for long periods and who need to change.Yes, content and graphics enjoyable and accessible.

If I have the chance once again to teach in English, I will consider using Rapid Plus. I reckon that these short texts can give students with poor literacy skills real success in reading. Most of the students struggle with a lack of self-confidence when they have to read out loud hence their motivation can also be poor. Rapid Plus gives them an opportunity to read full books or stories in informal, ‘every day’ language and involves them in discussion about actual and relevant topics. This is the reason why I think it is a quite innovative reading support system.

Pre and Post Standardised Reading Scores

In addition to using the assessments built into the Rapid Plus resource some teachers also pre and post tested students’ reading ages using a standardised test i.e. the New Group Reading Test 3. What follows are pre and post reading age scores from four schools. However, it should be noted that additional literacy interventions or programmes were also used with some students in three of the schools that implemented Rapid Plus:

The NBSS would like to thank the teachers involved and their students for sharing their experiences and insights gained from implementing the Rapid Plus reading scheme.

Students

Pre Test

Post Test

7:09

10:03

8:03

9:00

7:03

8:09

8:03

9:00

8:09

9:00

8:00

8:05

7

7.03

8.09

8

8.00

8.09

9

7.03

8.05

10

9.0

10.03

11

8.03

9.06

12

7.03

8.0

13

9.06

11.0

14

10.09

11.11

15

9.0

12.03

16 

9.0

9.04

17

8.3

9.10

18

10.0

11.9

19

8.0

10.04

20 

9.0

9.04

21

7.9

7.6

Students

Pre Test

Post Test

22

7.1

9.4

23

9.4

10.0

24

9.4

11.6

25

9.0

9.0

26

9.10

10.0

27

9.0

11.0

28

10.0

11.3

29

11.3

11.10

30

9.4

10.4

31

10.4

10.8

32

8.9

10.8

33

9.0

9.7

34

10.0

10.8

35

8.6

9.10

36

7.1

10.0

37

8.1

8.9

38

8.4

9.0

39

7.6

8.4

40

7:02

8:06

41

6:10

8:02

42

7:04

8:10