Tag: reading

Graeme High School Pupils Value a Fresh Start Approach to Reading

Pupils offered the following comments about being in the Fresh Start reading class at Graeme High School:
At first I thought it was like being a primary pupil but now I am glad because now I can read like everyone else.
When I came here I was scared because I didn’t know how to read that much. So then I sound talk the word and then I know the word.
 I love reading.
I was scared because all my friends could read and I couldn’t. I thought I was dumb, stupid because I couldn’t read. I hated myself. People said I was born silly and it got to me. I didn’t want to come to high school because people would know BUT everyone liked me and I came to this class and now I can read. Don’t let people get you down because you are going to be amazing when you get older and the bullies are nothing.
What does it take to get pupils to talk about reading like this? Caroline Harper, faculty head of English at Graeme HS shares the process and impact in her report below.
PEF Literacy – Read Write Inc
We introduced Fresh Start at Graeme High School through finding out about strong results from colleagues in Dundee. We decided to introduce it to S1, S2 and S3 in the first year as the potential for this to transform pupils’ life chances was considerable. Pupils who had gaps in their learning which needed to be filled were selected for the scheme.
It was a highly structured course. All English, Support for Learning teachers and Support for Learning staff were trained in the methodology. There was substantial investment in resources. In addition, we benefited from two development days, when a trainer came in to observe us teaching and offer feedback about how effectively we were implementing the course.
Read Write Inc assessments
Pupils were assessed every six weeks using the Read Write Inc assessment. This involved recognising ‘speed sounds’ correctly and reading a short passage. There were seven passages and pupils had to read them with few errors and in a reasonable time (very slow reading makes comprehension unlikely).
All pupils made progress in these assessments. Records have been kept and every pupil has made some progress, many completing the 33 module course in fewer than 33 weeks.
Closing the Gap evidence
Although we could see from the assessments that pupils could now read passages that they could not read a few weeks ago, we did not know whether we had ‘closed the gap’ as their peers would also have been improving their reading skills in the course of the session. To check this, we used the Test of Word Reading Efficiency, an index based test (100 representing average performance) to allow us to see whether they had improved relative to their peers. For example, a score of 70 (poor) followed by one of 80 (below average) six months later, would show that they had improved relative to their peers.
We tested their progress over a six month interval using the Test of Word Reading Efficiency. It was in two parts – the Sight Word Efficiency test where pupils had to recognise and read words as quickly as they could and the Phonemic Decoding Efficiency test where pupils had to use their phonemic knowledge to read a list of non-words. The raw scores could then be correlated with their age, which would give a scaled score. This scaled score allowed us to see where they were in relation to their peers. This meant that any improvement was an improvement relative to their peers – which meant that we had made some progress in ‘closing the gap’.
 S2 group
According to the form a margin of difference in the two scaled scores of more than 10 meant that we could be 95% confident that the improvement was not down to chance. However, a difference of less than 5 could be attributed to chance. A difference of 6 gave a confidence measure of 70%. A difference of 5 gave a confidence measure of 60%.
For 8 out of 13 pupils in this group, the difference in the phonemics score was 5 or greater and for two it was over 10.
S3 group   
For two pupils, the results were positive with a gain of 6 and 7 points in the phonemic decoding test. This gives a confidence level of 80% and 85% respectively that this improvement was not due to chance but represented an improvement in their skills. Of the two pupils who showed significant improvement, one had made a year’s improvement and the other three year’s improvement in decoding skills.
S1 group
This was a large group of 23 pupils. For seven of these pupils there was a clear improvement in either their phonemics or their sight word recognition or both.
Reading Age improvements
The TOWRE-2 authors state that they are confident about the reliability of the scaled scores in proving improved performance but are less convinced about their reading age data. However, it is helpful to know that, for pupils at this stage, a difference of 6 in the scaled score usually equates to a year’s progress (in six months) and a 7 point difference usually equates to three year’s progress (in six months).
When asked to capture simple words which described their experience in the Fresh Start Class, pupils said:
‘never give up’, ‘it was fun’, ‘fascinated’, ‘excited’, ‘extraordinary’, ‘amazing’, ‘happy’,grateful,’ ‘awesome’

RED Book Award

RED Book Award

The RED Book Award is Falkirk Council’s Book Award in which each secondary school in the authority participate. RED stands for Read, Enjoy, Debate and is all about reading for enjoyment and stimulating lively debate about books. https://twitter.com/readenjoydebate?lang=en

The award is now in its 12th year. This year’s shortlist is:

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Welcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird

Boy X by Dan Smith

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman

13 and 14-year-olds from English classes in Bo’ness Academy, Braes High, Denny High, Falkirk High, Graeme High, Grangemouth High, Larbert High and St. Mungo’s High as well as reading groups in Polmont Young Offenders Institute and from a variety of countries take part. The young people read the 4 shortlisted titles, vote for their favourite book and produce a creative interpretation of one of the books for the award ceremony.

The Books

The shortlist of books is decided after lengthy debate by school and public librarians, young people feed in their opinions to the debate too. The criteria include books must be available in paperback, the author is available to attend the award ceremony and the books must have the wow factor.

The young people decide the winning book through a secret vote a few weeks before the award ceremony. The winner is revealed by opening the red envelope at the close of the big day!

Key Dates

April – August: A longlist of books is read from which the shortlist is agreed.

September – April: Young people read, enjoy and debate the books.

April: Pupils vote for their favourite book.

May: The RED Book Award ceremony held at the Falkirk Town Hall FTH

The RED Book Award Ceremony

Around 250 young people and invited guests pack into the Falkirk Town Hall to participate in the RED Book Award ceremony. Participants are encouraged to wear a red accessory and there are prizes (sponsored by Bright Red Books, www.brightredpublishing.co.uk) throughout the event for winners of the book review competition (sponsored by Palimpsest, www.palimpsest-bp.co.uk), a book cover design competition and best red accessory. The day is full of energy and fun and packed with a host of activities – from book signings and chatting with the authors to creative interpretations of the books and live entertainment by the young people.

The ceremony culminates in the opening of the red envelope to reveal the winning book.

Follow the RED on twitter.

Previous winners and shortlists:

RED 11 (2016-2017 award): 13 Hours by Narinder Dhami


  • The Apple Tart of Hope Sarah M Fitzgerald
  • The Year of the Rat Clare Furniss
  • Devil You Know Cathy MacPhail

RED 10 (2015-2016 award): Mind Blind by Lari Don


  • Beneath Gill Arbuthnot
  • Salvage Keren David
  • Inflicted Ria Frances

RED 9 (2014-2015 award): Raining Fire by Alan Gibbons


  • Rat Runners Oisin McGann
  • Mosi’s War Cathy MacPhail
  • Soul Shadows Alex Woolf

RED 8 (2013-2014 award): Slated byTeri Terry


  • Mortal Chaos Matt Dickinson
  • Torn David Massey
  • Mr Creecher Chris Priestly

RED 7 (2012-2013 award): An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons


  • My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece Annabel Pitcher
  • Gladiator Simon Scarrow
  • Blood Red Road Moira Young

RED 6 (2011-12 award): Wasted by Nicola Morgan


  • Ausländer Paul Dowswell
  • Koh Tabu Ann Kelley
  • Black Out Sam Mills
  • Timeriders Alex Scarrow

RED 5 (2010-11 award): Grass by Cathy MacPhail


  • Wolfcry Julia Golding
  • Colony J A Henderson
  • Chalkline Jane Mitchell
  • Deathwatch Nicola Morgan

RED 4 (2009-10 award): Divided City by Theresa Breslin


  • Don’t Tell Sandra Glover
  • Beast Ally Kennan
  • Forged in the Fire Ann Turnbull

RED 3 (2008-09 award): Worse Than Boys by Cathy MacPhail


  • Message from Mia Sandra Glover
  • Bunker 10 J A Henderson Fearless Tim Lott
  • Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea Michael Morpurgo

RED 2 (2007-08 award): Blood Ties by Sophie McKenzie


  • The Ice Cream Con Jimmy Docherty
  • Ostrich Boys Keith Gray
  • Strangled Silence Oisin McGann
  • Spider Linda Strachan

RED 1 (2006-07 award): Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy


  • The Star of Kazan Eva Ibbotson
  • Airborn Kenneth Oppel
  • Tamar Mal Peet
  • Montmorency Eleanor Updale

Read Write Count

Read, Write, Count is a new campaign to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of Scotland’s children by providing advice and support for the families of children in Primary 1, 2 and 3. It is a key part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to raise attainment for all and close the attainment gap.

Read, Write, Count aims to build on the success of the Play Talk Read and Bookbug programmes in the early years and encourage parents and families to include easy and fun reading, writing and counting activities in their everyday lives. For many years, Through the Read, Write, Count campaign, all P1 to P3 children will receive a free bag with books, counting games and writing materials in the autumn of this year.

Research tells us that parental involvement in children’s learning is one of the best ways to improve educational outcomes for all children. Read, Write, Count is about giving parents the confidence to get involved and provides resources to support learning at home.


Contact Yvonne Manning, yvonne.manning@falkirk.gov.uk 01324 501990 for more information.

Book Week Scotland 2015


Book Week Scotland runs from 23rd – 29th November. This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate books and reading. Visit Scottish Book Trust’s website to find out what is happening during this week, to find out how you can contribute and to get ideas to make reading irresistible for your children. The Learning Resource Service will be leading events throughout the week in a variety of places including nurseries, schools and Polmont Young Offenders Institute. Let the Learning Resource Service, lrs@falkirk.gov.uk know what you are doing to celebrate Book Week Scotland.


Reading Strategies in Action at Nethermains (P4)

nethermainsdCaroline Cane, Probationer teacher at Nethermains is really excited to share this story from her P4 class:

We were developing our understanding of a short text we watched online using our reading strategies.

First, we recorded everything we knew about treasure and put the word treasure into an extended sentence.

nethermainsaHere is an example from one of our pupils:

‘Pirate Pete was on a mission to find the hidden treasure when he arrived on a small island because he found an old treasure map in his ship’.


We then worked as visualisers and drew what we thought the story was going to be about based on the still image that Mrs Cane showed us.

Next we discussed who the character was and why they were looking for treasure. We created our own questions for our shoulder partner to answer.

One of our pupils independently wrote a fantastic summary of the text and used some interesting vocabulary.


Active Literacy at Ladeside Primary School


Here’s what’s going on at Ladeside:

Our Literacy RACI group has been focusing on reading for enjoyment. We have several classes involved in Paired Reading. Older pupils have been trained to buddy younger pupils. P7 been reading with LHS pupils at LHS Library. Calum Smith has been facilitating this. Yvonne Manning trained P6 pupils as storytellers. We have had a huge amount of input from the storytellers from Larbert community library and Falkirk Council’s Learning Resource Centre. We participated in the Scottish Children’s Book Awards by reading the novels and voting.

What do the pupils say about paired reading at Ladeside?

P.6 Big Buddy talking about EAL P.3 pupil:  “I feel that my Little Buddy’s expression and volume has improved since I started reading with him.”

P.6 Big Buddy: “I think that Paired Reading is important for the future because the younger pupils get help to understand reading better and then they will get a good job when they grow up.”

P.6 Big Buddy: “ Paired Reading helps with everyone’s confidence. At the beginning, my Little Buddy didn’t want to read and now she always wants to read by herself.”

P.6 Big Buddy: “The Paired Reading training will help me in the future not just when I read with someone but will help me to be a good learner and mini-teacher too.”

P.3 teacher: “Paired reading has been a great success with my Primary 3 class. The Primary 6 pupils were well organised, confident and excellent role models at reading. The Primary 3 pupils involved really looked forward to the days their Primary 6 buddies were coming. They read a variety of appropriate texts and were able to discuss them with their buddy and answer relevant questions.”

Parent of Big Buddy: “He’s having a really great year. We’ve heard all about the Reading Buddies. He was so happy to have been chosen.”

Raising Attainment – Sharing Good Practice Nationally

nln 15

Falkirk Council recently shared their approach to raising attainment in literacy at the National Literacy Network. Our Literacy Strategy was shared, with examples of good practice from each work stream. Colleagues from across sectors and from all over Scotland attended the session and feedback was extremely positive.

St. Bernadette’s pupils stunning rap demonstrating the 6 reading comprehension strategies was shared and was really well received. Colleagues really liked the way the pupils demonstrated their understanding in a very creative way.

Active Literacy work from Bonnybridge Primary School was also shared and colleagues were impressed with the range of active literacy strategies which were shared.

Colleagues were impressed with the work Falkirk is carrying out to support parents and carers. We shared some of our you tube animations for parents/ carers and parental leaflets. We also shared the you tube training videos which are available 24/7 for teachers to access to support the delivery of active literacy in the classroom and outwith.

Our key successes for this year so far have been populating the work streams of our Literacy Strategy, a consistent approach to teaching higher order reading skills and consistency of approach. Our next steps are to take the strategy forward even further to continue to raise attainment and close the gap.

It was a really enjoyable morning sharing good practice and engaging in professional dialogue with colleagues.

We are really excited to take this forward in the future.

Sharing Reading Approaches with Parents and Carers at St. Bernadette’s RCPS

parents 1 st bsParents and carers from St. Bernadette’s RCPS engaged in an active learning reading session on Thursday 26th February. Pupils from across the stages participated in the session sharing their knowledge and understanding of reading skills and strategies with both parents and visitors from St. Ninian’s Primary School in Stirling.

Falkirk Council’s Literacy team delivered the session sharing the good practice embedded in the school and two P6 pupils confidently and competently delivered a short presentation which included a very impressive i-movie and musical rap demonstrating reading skills.

Parents took part in a thinking reader session using the text ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’.  The strategies and key ideas to support children at home were shared and explained.

parents 2 st bs

The six strategies are:

1) Prior knowledge and understanding

2) Metalinguistics

3) Visualisation

4) Inference

5) Main ideas

6) Summarising.

The visitors were then treated to a marketplace style tour of pupil work from across the stages.

Feedback included:

  • This was enjoyable, fun, great insight into children’s learning. It’s amazing to have the evidence exhibited in children…. Amazing
  • Good to show how the kids learn and the wide variety of text. Learned how important the kids understanding the text is and understanding of words.
  • Very informative so impressed by the work of the pupils. Fab!
  • The session was very helpful. Helps me understand more about how reading is taught and delivered in school! Will use at home.
  • Very useful allowed insight into strategies employed within school (would be helpful having “bullet point” newsletter on this.
  • I really enjoyed this session. I find it incredible and inspiring to realise the skills the children are managing to acquire at such a young age.
  • Reading is a wonderful life skill so anything that encourages it is a great idea.
  • I found the session helpful in relation to encouraging reading skills to my grandson. Maybe an information night for grandparents/carers would be beneficial.
  • Really good to see such creative children that seem to really enjoy what they are doing.


Closing the Gap

Closing the gap 1

Falkirk Council: Closing the Gap

A number of Falkirk Council schools are in the first phase of a Partnership Project that is funded by Education Scotland’s School Improvement Partnership Programmes (SIPP).

The SIPP is a collaborative school improvement strategy that promotes new ways of working across classroom, school and local authorities. Data and collaborative enquiry are used to innovate, test and refine new approaches to tackle the attainment gap.

Falkirk Council is currently one of 7 local authorities funded to work with the Robert Owen Centre, University of Glasgow. Projects across authorities are wide ranging and are very different but the main focus of each is to use collaboration and enquiry to tackle educational inequity and ‘Close the Gap’ for pupils.

Falkirk Council’s identified task is to pilot a staged intervention approach to low attainment in literacy in the upper primary, involving the building of family capacity in areas of relative deprivation.

This is an exciting joint initiative between Schools and Community Learning and Development. Seven primary schools within Falkirk and Grangemouth clusters have signed up for the project. These schools are using a systematic literacy intervention programme called High Five (Family Fischer trust) with small groups of pupils in P7 who have attained lower literacy scores. Alongside this, the Community Learning and Development team are providing additional opportunities for the pupils and their families to encourage motivation and ambition. Opportunities for enhanced transition to High School are also being explored.

The literacy intervention programme will run for a minimum of 20 weeks. Some parents have engaged with the process and have signed up for additional CLD activities.

Robust quantitative and qualitative data is being gathered and will be presented to SIPP, and pupil progress will be tracked from P7-S2.

So far, pupils are enjoying their experiences using age appropriate strategies and structured reading materials.

Closing the gap 3