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20th February 2017 - Assess and progress!

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Why are the assessments for learning so important to the Catch Up® Literacy intervention?

I know… you’ve been on the 3 half-days of Catch Up® Literacy training and you’re raring to get going with the intervention. Do you really need to spend maybe more than an hour in total on Stage 1, assessing the learner before you start the individual sessions?


You’ve probably got Standardised Test data for Catch Up® pupils but you can’t build a step-by-step remediation programme from a Reading Age or a Standardised Score! The details of exactly what the learner can do (and what they find difficult) is what you need to know to make the most of those precious twice-weekly 15 minutes.

Lots of learners struggle with reading but they don’t all struggle for the same reasons:

Ricky finds remembering whole words very challenging, but he is quite good at recalling the correspondence between sounds and letters.

Casey finds isolating individual phonemes extremely difficult, but she’s quite good at seeing letter patterns between similar words.

The Catch Up® Literacy assessments, undertaken before starting the twice-weekly 15-minute intervention sessions, will unpick both pupils’ strengths and areas of need. The two 15-minute Catch Up® Literacy sessions each pupil has per week will only be effective if the supporting adult targets the specific next steps of learning for both Ricky and Casey.

Each of the 5 Catch Up® Literacy assessments targets a specific aspect of the reading process:

Assessment 1: Reading interview Catch Up® Literacy file pages 42-43

This assessment helps the supporting adult build up a picture of the pupil’s attitude to reading. Pupils like Ricky and Casey may have low self-esteem and feel that they cannot make progress with reading. By understanding what makes them tick as readers, the supporting adult can approach the 15-minute sessions with those responses in mind and work with Ricky and Casey as individuals – not just as learners with reading difficulties. And re-doing the reading interview after 6 months of Catch Up® can prove to both pupils that a positive attitude can impact on performance.

Assessment 2: Sight word knowledge Catch Up® Literacy file pages 44-45

This assessment is to identify which of the most useful 240 words in the English language Casey and Ricky can recognise on sight. This swift recognition of words is key to their reading fluency and pace.

Why does fluency matter?

Because reading comprehension relies on fluency.

If Casey continues to read at a slow, hesitant pace she will not meaningfully process the words she decodes, so she will not understand what the text is about. And if she isn’t understanding it – she’s not reading it!

Ricky is inclined to sound out every word. He lacks the confidence to see a whole word and say it. The constant sounding out slows his pace and a line of text becomes a sequence of blended sounds – not words or meanings.

And, of course, the results of Assessment 2 are key to determining an indicative Catch Up® starting level of text difficulty. (See page 82 of the Catch Up Literacy file.)

Assessment 3: Phonic knowledge (Catch Up® Literacy file pages 46-53)

This assessment has 4 hierarchical steps to identify proficiency in segmenting and blending of phonemes. By pinpointing where phoneme/grapheme correspondence went wrong for Casey, the supporting adult can use the linked writing part of the Catch Up® Literacy session to build up her confidence at linking letters and sounds.

Assessment 4: Letter names and formation (Catch Up® Literacy file pages 54-57)

Each letter of the alphabet has:
  1. a sound (or, more often than not, a number of sounds!)

  2. a name

  3. a correct way of forming the letter

Letter knowledge requires familiarity with all of these features.

Ricky’s knowledge of sound/letter correspondence might deter him from using other strategies when reading and spelling ‘tricky’ words, such as ‘said’ or ‘they’. If the supporting adult selects the ‘irregular word’ focus for work in the linked writing part of the Catch Up® session, he or she needs to know what letter name knowledge Ricky can draw on to rote learn those tricky (but important) words.

The supporting adult also needs to know if Ricky and Casey systematically form letters correctly when writing. Forming letters accurately is key to remembering spellings, as spelling is an auditory, visual and motor skill.

Assessment 5: Spelling knowledge (Catch Up® Literacy file pages 58-59)

Catch Up® is not a spelling programme but… Marie Clay proved in her Reading Recovery Programme that underpinning sight word recognition with memorized spellings is key to fixing the word in the memory.

Both Casey and Ricky find spelling difficult. Casey often transposes letters in words – for example, she will write ‘siad’. She knows there are 4 letters in ‘said’ and that the letters do not correspond to the most obvious phonemes, but she can’t remember the sequence of letters.

Ricky can hear the phonemes in ‘said’, but spells it as ‘sed’.

Both are misspelling a key word, but for different reasons. The Catch Up® assessments will reveal these errors and differences, and the supporting adult can use the 6 minutes of linked writing to draw on each pupil’s strengths and to compensate for their difficulties.

But hang on a minute … after completing the Catch Up® Literacy assessments, you have lots of results to consider (from sight word knowledge, phonic knowledge, letter names and formation, and spelling!). How can you possibly make a quick decision about which aspect of learning to focus on in the 6 minutes of linked writing?

Well, that’s where the Literacy Targets come in. (Catch Up® Literacy file pages 62-67)

The progress booklet contains a proforma for you to use, to set 2 or 3 Literacy Targets based on the results of the bank of Catch Up® Literacy assessments. The first 5 categories on the Targets sheet all relate to results from the 5 Catch Up® assessments. The Targets sheet will be quick to refer to when you are making decisions about what to do in linked writing.

So, assessments are key to pupil progress. Without detailed information about each pupil’s needs, the 15 minutes of intervention twice a week will not be effective. You will be second-guessing what will most benefit the pupil, and these pupils deserve better than that. Accurate use of the assessments, filtered through the Literacy Targets, means that 15 minutes can make a world of difference to Casey and Ricky.

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