Literacy hour is 'too long'

30th October 1998 at 00:00
Karen Thornton reports from the Association of Educational Psychologists conference in Liverpool

NEW RESEARCH suggests the national literacy hour might be more effective if it was broken up into three shorter sessions - and used different teaching methods.

Researchers from Warwick University are claiming seven-month gains in reading age using a reading framework based on psychological research.

The framework also helped summer-born children outperform their older peers in comparison schools - despite spending two fewer terms in the classroom.

"Perhaps resources and interventions should be redirected from special needs assessment and remedial work to identifying ways of raising the attainments of all children," concludes a paper on the initial findings of Essex's early reading research (ERR) project, presented to the Association of Educational Psychologists' conference in Liverpool last week by Dr Jonathan Solity.

Dr Solity reported on the first two years of the project, in which reception and Year 1 children in six Essex schools were taught using its reading framework.

The children were taught literacy three times a day in short - 10 to 15 minute - sessions. Those who were struggling received additional group sessions.

The framework teaches phonological, phonic and sight vocabulary skills, although it does not include rhyming. Forgetting is minimised through "interleaved learning" - where, for example, new words are practised alongside old ones. Daily reading and frequent assessment are other features.

The average actual age of both the children in the research project and the comparison group was six years four months. But the ERR group was an average seven months ahead on reading age - six years 10 months, compared to six years three months. They also performed better in 10 out of 11 different literacy tests.

A sample of ERR children was also compared to a similar group taking part in the National Literacy Project. Again, the test group outperformed the NLP group - this time, by six months (seven years two months compared to six years eight months).

Dr Solity, speaking after his presentation, said: "Research in psychology shows people are more likely to remember what they have to recall frequently - which is different to what the literacy hour does. Interleaved learning is a way of trying to minimise forgetting."

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