Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Support linked to accelerated learning

Issue: Volume 101, Number 11

Posted: 31 August 2022
Reference #: 1HAVrt

A new early literacy framework designed to support a schoolwide approach to building early learners’ reading levels is seeing ākonga accelerate with impressive results. Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Support empowers Reading Recovery teachers to provide personalised support to ākonga, and extend their expertise to support classroom kaiako in small group settings, and across the school.

Selwyn Ridge School student Maya shows off her improved writing skills

Selwyn Ridge School student Maya shows off her improved writing skills

New data collected by the National Reading Recovery team at University of Auckland’s Tui Tuia | The Learning Circle demonstrates the new Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Support (RR&ELS) approach can accelerate ākonga reading between 4–5 levels in eight weeks.

RR&ELS was initially rolled out to 40 schools last year, and because of a real shift in student achievement, there are now hundreds more primary schools registered to take part. 

Dr Rebecca Jesson, University of Auckland associate professor at the Faculty of Education and Social Work and the research and academic director for Tui Tuia | The Learning Circle says this collaboration with whānau and class kaiako is in step with the Ministry of Education’s early literacy approach.

She says quality teaching and interventions such as RR&ELS link to accelerated learning. 

“It helps us to build a more vivid picture of the best way a student learns, while personalising learning based on their strengths.”

Recent data collected from 1,800 ākonga for the year between term 2, 2021 and term 2, 2022 shows impressive accelerating in writing.

Rebecca says this is a shift from knowing an average of 10 words (stanine 3/below average for age), to an average of 26 words (stanine 5/average for age).

“Mean word reading and letter knowledge outcomes have also moved to average levels after the eight weeks.”

Extending kaiako roles

Created by New Zealander Marie Clay, Reading Recovery is an early intervention for literacy learning that has helped more than 300,000 ākonga in New Zealand catch up with their classmates. Reading Recovery was evaluated in 2019, and the evaluation recommended changes, which are reflected in RR&ELS. 

As part of the refresh, trained Reading Recovery teachers are transferring their skills to working in class, with teachers, using the full range of reading resources available in schools.  

“It’s designed as a comprehensive, team approach to prevent literacy learning difficulties, where kaiako can respond to ākonga learning together and with whānau. The two kaiako co-plan, co-teach and co-review the teaching for that group,” says Rebecca.

 Rebecca Jesson, University of Auckland

Rebecca Jesson, University of Auckland

The new RR&ELS model operates as part of a three-tiered approach; Tier 1 being high-quality classroom programmes, Tier 2 being support for small groups, and Tier 3 being support for individuals.

At each tier, the instruction is increasingly responsive to ākonga learning. Each tier requires more intensive kaiako expertise and professional learning.

“The small group teaching occurs after the first six months at school and complements the class teaching in that first year.

“The theory is one of superb and well-informed decision making by the teacher based on close observation of the child.”

To support this, kaiako are observed by their peers, and engage in discussions about what teaching actions would be most helpful for a particular student.

Selwyn Ridge School

Selwyn Ridge Primary School associate principal Shelley Handley is the early literacy lead for their junior school. 

The three-tiered RR&ELS approach was integrated across the school’s six junior classes in term 1, 2022. 

“We have a strong team of skilled, experienced kaiako who share a culture of asking questions and working together. Our kaiako value being able to design learning that puts our ākonga at the centre.”

Shelley says the new literacy support model allows the school to utilise their internal expertise to design approaches, share and observe practices that are responsive to the needs of their learners.

“It’s a framework for freedom, which we can change as we need to. We’ve found it gives us more reach, so rather than one kaiako alone navigating the range of challenges, we’re supporting each other, which means intervention and support comes earlier, and kaiako share an integrated and aligned approach.

“That’s what we’re seeing in our results, even at this half-year mark; our ākonga are having great results and movement in literacy.”

She says it is important to choose quality books to build confidence in their learners by fostering a love of reading and learning literacy. These include the Ready to Read Colour Wheel books that many teachers will know, as well as the more recent Ready to Read Phonics Plus books.

Shelley’s advice for schools looking to incorporate the refreshed RR&ELS approach is to tap into the experience and expertise of your kaiako.

“Quality teaching has the most impact on learning outcomes. The three-tier approach has proven to have some great results, so being able to bring the new Reading Recovery principles to the wider group is amazing.” 

Year 1 students at Selwyn Ridge School completing reading activities.

Year 1 students at Selwyn Ridge School completing reading activities.

Puhinui School

Puhinui School principal Mark Elder says, like many schools, they were finding it “tricky” getting ākonga kick-started in literacy “who didn’t have the prerequisite literacy skills that we often would like to see them come to school with”.

He says professional development was always an appealing element of Reading Recovery and he was drawn to the refreshed approach because of its evolution towards group work and in-school professional development.

He says the refresh has “opened up that door” and their school now has multiple kaiako across their 12 junior classrooms learning about the approach “and the good pedagogy that happens”.

Having adopted the refreshed approach in early 2022, the school’s focus so far has been on getting ākonga into literacy with confidence.

“Our junior programmes have always been very good, but we are hoping to gain a greater depth of understanding of those ākonga who may not be moving as quickly as we would really like them to.

“We want to be as responsive as possible to early literacy needs so, rather than waiting to see the gaps happening later on in Year 2 and Year 3, RR&ELS is helping us adjust our teaching so we can increase the potential of the ākonga earlier.”

Two kaiako within the school are currently training to become RR&ELS teachers. 

“They’re really experienced kaiako and our long-term plan is for them to impart their knowledge to, and continue to support, all classroom kaiako across the junior school who have struggling readers in their class.”

Mark says they are looking forward to seeing the Tier 2 group work happen in 2023.

“One on one is expensive as a resource but groups allow more ākonga to have that really good pedagogy through highly trained kaiako.

“We’re building kaiako capabilities and it will be really neat to see how we can continue to equip our teachers to be very good literacy and reading teachers.”

Puhinui School kaiako Keryn Harland guides a student through a literacy activity.

Puhinui School kaiako Keryn Harland guides a student through a literacy activity.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:36 am, 31 August 2022

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts