Repeat after me: the HfL KS2 reading fluency project works… works… works!

    Published: 27 April 2018

    Repeat after me: the HfL KS2 reading fluency project works… works… works

    Further findings from the KS2 reading fluency project

    To date, the KS2 reading fluency project has supported over 300 year 6 pupils from 46 schools to improve their trajectory towards the expected standard in reading.

    The spring 2018 data mirrors the data yielded from the first round:

    Pupils made an average of 23 months progress in reading comprehension age following the 8-week project period (pupils on the autumn round made 22 months progress – click here to read the autumn summary report {data gained using the York Assessment of Reading Comprehension assessment tool}).

    86% of pupils made 6 months+ progress (81% of pupils on the autumn round made 6 months+ progress).

    Having a wealth of experience of working with a diverse range of pupils from a wide range of schools, we are now in an even better position to share more findings from this innovative project.

    Finding 1: Trigger Change

    One of the indicators of pupil eligibility for the project that we ask teachers to consider is whether the child sounds like they understand what they are reading. In simple terms, the project is based on the premise that faking fluency leads to real understanding. In other words, the more the child sounds like they are ‘getting’ what they read, the more likely that they actually are. Do they pause at the correct points (even if there is no punctuation to indicate that they should?); do they adopt a menacing tone for darker points in the narrative and jollier tones for lighter moments; do they alter volume and pace accordingly? If instead, they read in a staccato manner, with each word read as if in isolation, and use a bland monotone voice, running through overt punctuation, then their understanding will no doubt be stunted and the strategies used within the project will most likely work for them.

    If indeed they do read in the manner of the latter, chances are they have been embedding this reading style for some time. What is required is an overt shunt towards a more fluent reading style. In the project, we have used the term ‘Performance Read’ totrigger this shunt.

    At the end of each echo reading session, pupils are invited to ‘Performance Read’ a section of the text, mimicking the exact same delivery offered by the expert reader (the teacher). Very quickly, the children learn to associate the term ‘performance read’ with this new, meaning-laden form of reading. After several weeks, the children are so familiar with the term that it can be used outside of the fluency session to trigger the child’s reading from monotone to magnificent. Whenever a child slips back in bad habits –and they often do in the early weeks of the project – this trigger term swiftly gets them back on track.

    Finding 2: Keep it clean

    As is befitting the experimental nature of a project, we invite teachers to play with some aspects of the project delivery. Other aspects, however, we insist upon strict adherence. One aspect of the project that we ask teachers to adhere closely to is that the ‘echo reading’ session (which precedes the discussion session) involves no discussion of the text. Instead, we ask teachers to allow the echo to do the work. Our early trials suggested to us that a swift echo reading session could be more powerful – and more motivational for the children – than an extended discussion session. Therefore, we ask teachers to save any discussion for a separate session. In this sense, the echo read becomes an access strategy that allows the meaning of the text to open up to the readers. We found that interrupting this session with interspersed questioning/discussion impacted negatively upon the child’s coherent understanding of the whole text.

    Finding 3: text choice is key

    As part of the project, we offer each participating school a coaching session where their linked adviser visits and observes, or jointly delivers, an echo reading session. One of the most common feedback comments that we offer following this session is: go harder! Throughout the duration of the project, we urge teachers to present their pupils with challenging texts. By challenging, we mean texts that are comparable to the hardest texts used within the KS2 SATs tests. The philosophy here is: train hard, win easy. Our intention is that, come SATs reading test day, the children will be so comfortable with tackling challenging texts that the ones presented to them on the day will feel like a walk in the park. Obviously, this requires some careful consideration and a brave leap of faith for teachers who are used to presenting their pupils with texts that are well aligned to their current reading ability. We ask the teachers to keep a portfolio of these texts for each child so that the child can reflect with pride upon the challenging texts that they have mastered.

    With a further cohort of 16 schools joining us for the summer term, we are sure to have many more findings to share.

    New one day CPD event!

    KS2 reading fluency project: implications for classroom practice

    This new one-day CPD event will allow teachers to access the strategies that have been used successfully within the HfL KS2 reading fluency project and consider how they can be used to support children within their own settings. Throughout the day, colleagues will have an opportunity to dissect, discuss and practise the techniques, ensuring that they leave with an in-depth understanding of how they can be best used to ensure rapid progress in reading comprehension for their own pupils. Resources to support you with effective delivery back in the classroom will also be shared.

    If you would be interested in hosting this event, please contact Penny Slater for more details.


    KS2 reading fluency project: expressions of interest for participation in autumn 2018 round

    To express an interest in being part of the autumn 2018 project, please contact the project lead:


    *Please note: this offer is only available to schools who are able to attend the training sessions at Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage, Hertfordshire.*

    With thanks to the following schools for participating in the spring 2018 round:

    Rowans Primary School

    St Bernadettes RC Primary School

    Pope Paul Catholic Primary School

    St Augustine's Catholic Primary School

    Dewhurst St Marys

    Coates Way JMI

    Mandeville Primary

    Lodge Farm Primary

    Kingsway Junior School

    Yewtree Primary School

    The Leys Primary & Nursery School

    Martins Wood Primary

    Thorn Grove Primary School

    Oughton Primary

    Chaulden Junior School

    Howe Dell Primary School

    Micklem Primary School

    Woolenwick Junior

    Wilbury Junior School

    Cowley Hill Primary

    How Wood Primary School

    Holtsmere End Junior School

    St Paul's Catholic Primary School

    Stonehill School

    Maple Grove Primary

    Hillmead Primary School

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