Reading Interventions for High Schoolers: Challenges and Recommendations

Most reading problems can be prevented by providing effective instruction and intervention in preschool and primary school. Basically, reading experts agree that for pupils to learn to read well, effective reading classroom instruction should address the domains of phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.

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Effective educators teach reading skills, strategies and concepts to improve students’ reading capabilities. Skills are things students learn to do, strategies are routines or plans of action that can be used to accomplish a goal, and concepts are ideas that learners and teachers must have at the back of their minds as they push a reading agenda. They comprise of background knowledge related to reading and the topics they are reading about.

Even with an effective early grade reading intervention, reading difficulties will continue to linger in the upper grades and even in high school. This means that in higher grades, there will continue to be students in the later grades who will require intervention to support their reading development. For schools, this therefore calls for a system of screening to identify struggling readers to continue beyond the early grades through high school. Historically and in general practice, once students move into the higher grades, they graduate from learning to read to reading to learn.

  School stakeholder round table on literacy intervention in Kilifi county. High school literacy interventions require a whole school approach involving all stakeholders including school committees, parents, the government and private sector players.

School stakeholder round table on literacy intervention in Kilifi county. High school literacy interventions require a whole school approach involving all stakeholders including school committees, parents, the government and private sector players.

One of the challenges facing English reading instruction in Kenya is the multilingual characteristics of the learners. This means as pupils learn to read, they are also learning to speak the language. Therefore, meeting the needs of diverse readers at different levels of language competence is a huge task. Further, there is no homogenous reading competence class. Learners are mostly at different reading competence levels all of the time. Teachers I have interacted with confess, that in a single classroom, you may find fluent readers whom they share classroom model reading with; emerging readers who are typically developing readers; and virtually non-readers who struggle to read material at their level, or even at lower grades. Teachers will solve this problem by providing differentiated instruction. This means that teachers will carry out diagnostic assessments to identify students’ strengths and needs and therefore providing instruction to target those needs. This means teachers must implement reading instruction in small groups and whole class formats.

  Teachers sharing good practice information on literacy interventions. Systems with proper inter and intra school peer learning opportunities record better results in lifting non-readers to emergent and reader categories faster than isolationist tendencies.

Teachers sharing good practice information on literacy interventions. Systems with proper inter and intra school peer learning opportunities record better results in lifting non-readers to emergent and reader categories faster than isolationist tendencies.

For an effective reading intervention strategy, teachers must provide explicit and systematic instruction with lots of practice. Students with learning difficulties benefit from explicit instruction in decoding skills and strategies, fluency through model reading by the teacher of peer student, learning new vocabulary and coaching in comprehension strategies.

Teaching reading involves lots of demonstrations in terms of modelling, giving students opportunities to practice the skills with teacher’s feedback and support, then providing the students with opportunities for independent practice for perfection. These provide systematic instruction, that is clearly sequenced, leaving no gaps in the students’ learning.


By: Rabasa Onyango, iMlango Literacy Advisor and Stephen Kiprono, iMlango Regional Coordinator for Uasin Gishu

iMlango’s strategy for improving literacy

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Systems, Schools, Communities and Policy

Online presence, digital innovations and integration of Information Communication Technology (ICT), have become the hallmark of global competitiveness for organisations and policy-makers alike. Kenya is making great steps towards achieving targets set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Education for All goals, through multiple innovations, and most notably ICT integration in education. The national ICT in education policy’s core values of: building a technological and innovative society; global competitiveness; research, innovation and development; and the attainment of 21st century learning skills for every student, have given impetus to ICT integration. It is within this policy context that iMlango is striving to promote e-learning in Kenya.

   Board of Management (BoM) members of a primary school receiving ICT equipment from iMlango in a primary school in Kilifi.

Board of Management (BoM) members of a primary school receiving ICT equipment from iMlango in a primary school in Kilifi.

iMlango is a groundbreaking program that seeks to improve education outcomes in numeracy, literacy and life skills for nearly 180,000 children in 245 schools - delivering access to digital education services and content. The program equips schools with ICT equipment and digital technology to deliver improved learning outcomes for pupils. iMlango seeks to positively impact on learning outcomes through creating positive synergies between students, schools and communities, helping to facilitate a positive local learning ecosystem. iMlango seeks to revolutionise literacy teaching and learning to dramatically improve literacy outcomes for pupils, working at four distinct levels: the system, the school, the community and policy levels. As most existing project activities are school-based, the literacy strategy will build primarily on these existing processes and initiatives.

iMlango is building systems to promote literacy in primary schools in Kenya by adopting the whole-school approach to teaching and learning. This is being achieved through the following ways:

  1. Establishing a collaborative whole-school instructional system involving all the stakeholders (pupils, teachers, education officials, parents and community members)

  2. Training key stakeholders on the importance of primary reading, especially early grade reading competencies, and their roles in promoting academics and life skills in school

  3. Continuous sensitisation on the importance of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and digital technology in education, as aligned with central ministry policy

  4. Promoting a reading culture in school, whilst developing a community that appreciates the power of reading.


   An iMlango literacy computer lab lesson in progress. Students have access to digital content for both individual lab sessions and teacher-guided whole-class lessons.

An iMlango literacy computer lab lesson in progress. Students have access to digital content for both individual lab sessions and teacher-guided whole-class lessons.


School

At the school level, iMlango recognises the school as the focal point for the promotion of the reading culture and the advancement of reading competencies for our pupils. iMlango is therefore working with teachers on effectively implementing modern trends in primary reading pedagogy. At the core of the project is the use of e-resources to deliver quality lessons, so training and constant follow-up with teachers on the use of digital content and technology to teach reading is a key project activity.

The success of the reading instruction processes and procedures largely depend on individual teacher preparation. Teachers are being assisted in the following areas, building their skills in lesson preparation and delivery:

  • Structure and components of a reading lesson plan

  • How to evaluate the content/story for length and language level

  • When to use individual, group and whole-class reading approaches

  • Use of student literacy evaluation procedures for comprehension, including EGRA

  • Preparation of home reading texts for parental involvement


Community

The communities are being sensitised on the role of ICT and digital technology in promoting access to inclusive, quality education - especially for girls and other marginalised pupils. Promotion of reading requires the involvement of the community. iMlango is working closely with community stakeholders to advocate for appropriate supplementary reading materials, to help organise reading exhibitions, to encourage parents and schools to sign the home-reading tracker, and to involve the Boards of Management (BoM) and Parents Associations (PA) in generally promoting the importance of literacy.


System

Local education officials, head teachers and teachers are being trained to improve teacher preparedness, and reading lesson preparation via use of ICT and digital content as delivered by iMlango. In line with creating a supportive educational ecosystem, it is important that there is strong cooperation and coordination with the end goal of improving learning outcomes for pupils. We are currently in the process of establishing an MoE/TSC sustainable teacher support program to allow for greater synergies with local government officials, as well as setting up teacher peer-support groups at the school level. Head teachers have been supported to fulfil their role of first-line teacher support, and periodic forums with head teachers are planned so as to keep developing their capacities, whilst building formal feedback into project implementation.


   MoE and TSC officials training in Wote, Makueni. The MoE and TSC are integral partners in the implementation and oversight of iMlango programme.

MoE and TSC officials training in Wote, Makueni. The MoE and TSC are integral partners in the implementation and oversight of iMlango programme.

Policy

iMlango is focused on developing sustainable digital literacy education standards in Kenya by influencing policy and practice at the national, regional and school levels. The areas of literacy education policy interventions include:

  1. National ICT in literacy education policy, which includes policy on procurement, distribution and maintenance of digital literacy equipment

  2. National digital content policy in education to cater for copyright issues that inhibit the acquisition and use of literacy education content

  3. The national teacher Pre-Service Education and Training (PRESET) reading curriculum including digital literacy instructional practices and teacher trainer appraisal and deployment benchmarks

  4. Policy on Teacher Professional Development (TPD) regarding continuing teacher education and administration of comprehensive online teacher education modules

  5. iMlango also wishes to influence policy and school level practice on community/parental involvement in promoting literacy education at the community level

Whilst successes in each area of the literacy strategy are naturally important, we believe that all 4 levels (school, system, community and policy) require development if long-term, systematic improvements to pupils’ literacy skills are to be achieved.

New Tusome eBooks and teacher guides now available in the iMlango portal!

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We’re very excited to announce that new Tusome Standard 3 pupil course books and teacher guides are now available to access in both English and Kiswahili in the portal.

iMlango is proud to be one of the first recipients of this new learning material, which aims to improve student literacy in English and Kiswahili.

To access the new course books and teacher guides, simply select the ‘Tusome’ green tile within the portal.