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The Struggling Older Reader

Our "Struggling Older Reader Workshops" and "The Struggling Older Reader ONLiNE" (available soon) are the result of a collaboration between SharpReading and Chuck Marriott (author of SevenPlus). See "Upcoming Workshops" for planned workshops or contact us to organise a workshop in your area or your school.

The issues in a nutshell 
The research overwhelmingly shows that difficulties with decoding, low vocabulary and poor fluency are the principal causes of reading problems for older readers. Unfortunately, the older they get, the further behind they fall and the ruts of low confidence, self esteem and motivation get deeper and deeper. 

Where does it all fit in the SharpReading Learning Progression

Those familiar with our SharpReading developmental progression will be aware of our assertion (well backed up by research) that students are unable to develop comprehension and critical thinking strategies until decoding bottlenecks are sorted.

Our Struggling Older Reader programme addresses this need.

* 'SevenPlus' provides the rebuild - establishing the essential decoding strategies that are weak.
* 'The 5 Bits' provides the transition back into the SharpReading progression - polishing up on Stage 2 in preparation for Stage 3.

"SevenPlus" - An 8-10 week intervention
The starting point is our SevenPlus Intervention, carefully designed to address the needs of the reader who is stuck at around a reading age of seven or who is progressing but only slowly. Their motivation for reading and their self esteem about themselves as readers is fading fast. Decoding strategies, fluency and vocabulary are all attended to in a routine that ensures success and the rebuilding of confidence.

SevenPlus ...
  • daily 15 minutes lessons (or as frequently as you can manage) with a group or one-on-one.
  • ideally suited for students 7-14 years old who are 1+ years behind their chronological age.
  • develops students ability to scan multisyllabic words, identify the syllables and the chunks and then push them together, overriding their 'sample and guess' default strategy. 
  • provides an opportunity to work with more vocabulary rich text than they would normally be exposed to.
  • develops reading fluency through repeated readings.
  • always focusses on success - low progress readers have had enough of reading being hard and sounding hard.
  • all of this is done within a structured routine where there are no surprises for the learner
Teacher Feedback
“The students love doing SevenPlus because they can see that they are getting better at decoding and they know they are reading text that is far more difficult than they are used to.” — Sandy, teacher, Christchurch.
“SevenPlus has been so easy to fit into my reading programme. I think the teaching routines are brilliant!” — David, teacher, South Canterbury

"The 5 Bits" - Where to next?
The success or failure of any intervention is usually determined by what happens next. We provide you with our especially modified SharpReading Stage 2 routine which helps transition learners back into a more mainstreamed guided reading routine. This ensures that the newly found confidence and enthusiasm for reading is maintained and prepares them for Stage 3 - Comprehension Strategy Instruction. 

‚ÄčThe 5 Bits ...
  • daily 15 minute lessons (for the best results) or 2-3 times a week. With a group or one-on-one.
  • provides the opportunity for the student to consolidate their newly acquired decoding strategies
  • while the difficult vocabulary is not longer pre-taught, the content to be read is carefully scaffolded so that the reader is not trying to construct meaning while they are reading - they can focus on decoding.
  • while maintaining a highly repetitive routine, the reader now has the opportunity to process much more text in a lesson
  • the focus is always on reading SUCCESS.              

Frequently Asked Questions

Does this programme get results?

We have been running "The Struggling Older Reader" workshops for 3 years now and have an ever increasing amount of anecdotal results from teachers who are delighted with the progress their students have made. Here is some recent data from Glasshouse Christian College QLD, Australia with some typical results from a 10 week intervention using SevenPlus.


What are the differences between SevenPlus and the 5 Bits?

 The scaffolding that is provided is significantly different. With SevenPlus the students work on the difficult words they are going to encounter in the text before sighting them in context, developing the habit of 'reading' the words rather than 'sampling and guessing'. By the time they encounter the words in context they can read then successfully. 
Now that this important strategy is in place, 
'The 5 Bits' works on frontloading the meaning of the text that is going to be read so that they are not having to construct meaning while they are decoding - they have the headspace to consolidate the new decoding strategies they have mastered in SevenPlus.

    You will be sent login details to access the ONLiNE training. Access is for 12 months at which time you will be offered a renewal at a 50% discount.
The SOR is based upon the most up to date theory and practice of how reading needs to be taught. If we are to accelerate those children who are behind and for whom conventional approaches have not been adequate then there has to be a difference in the teaching. Most of the procedures used would be recognisable to a trained teacher, however we have made some crucial changes to text selection in SevenPlus, and how the teaching procedures are employed.
Selection and grouping of pupils are extremely important if SevenPlus is to help make the gains needed.

Selection of pupils: During the extensive trials of SevenPlus we identified those children for whom the procedures would most likely be successful. Children need to have a fluent working knowledge of basic phonics and be able to easily blend letter sounds. There may be a few graphemes that are not known and these will be taught during the lessons. The students need to be reading at least at a six and a half year level, the equivalent of Reading Recovery level 16-17 or Orange moving to Turquoise on the colour wheel. The upper limit is less fixed and depends more upon the wider need of the child. SevenPlus has been used successfully with pupils in NZ Years 9 and 10.

Grouping: It makes sense that a teacher will group pupils together with the same or similar needs. This means that they will be reading at the same level of difficulty. The success of SevenPlus is very sensitive to all children having similar decoding ability.

Yes. Finding suitable texts for older readers who are well behind can be a nightmare for teachers. What teacher hasn’t handed out a text only for children to say: “I’ve read this before!” or “This looks boring!” Often children will say something looks boring when the text appears too difficult or too long. We have included original texts for you that are written and formatted especially for the teaching of SevenPlus - 'InfoBytes and StoryBytes for SevenPlus' - enough for an 8-10 week intervention.
'The 5 Bits' routine can be used with any of your existing resources as well as the standard InfoBytes and StoryBytes.
SevenPlus and The 5 Bits are taught as part of the reading programme using authentic text. The skills learned are learned within the context of real reading with an expectation that there will be transference into independant use and this should be carefully monitored by the teacher. This is not sub-skills teaching that you HOPE will be transferred. 
There is no known intervention, programme, treatment, pedagogy or approach that will work successfully for all children all of the time. SevenPlus will probably be less successful with extremely high needs children with attention, behaviour, working memory or sensory acuity issues. The degree of success will also vary with the external factors that affect learning.
If you are an accredited teacher you will be able to be trained in SevenPlus and implement it in the classroom. The training workshop or the ONLiNE training will teach you, step by step, all the skills you need. We can offer ongoing support should you need it. SevenPlus and The 5 Bits are currently being used successfully by new and very experienced teachers.
An ideal number is four but SevenPlus has been used with up to seven children in the group. Sometimes it is appropriate for teaching to be one to one if the pupil has very high needs or is the only pupil in the class who is behind in reading. The 5 Bits routine is manageable with up to 7-8 students but 4-6 is ideal
There are four main areas of reading skills: decoding (including phonological awareness), vocabulary, comprehension and fluency. SevenPlus works specifically to improve decoding skills and develop vocabulary and fluency. If those three areas are developed, improved comprehension will follow.
One of the features of SevenPlus is that it is intensive teaching using short pieces of text. The children will need other opportunities to practice their reading. We see this happening in the classroom and at home.
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