Struggling readers – in praise of practice and consolidation

We know that any newly acquired knowledge or skill must to be practised for it to be committed to memory. In order to develop reading fluency, automaticity has to be established. This is brought about through practice and consolidation.

Sometimes, teachers worry about boring their pupils by revisiting what they have taught. For many pupils, though, these consolidation activities are crucial. A good teacher will find fun ways to revisit the knowledge, concepts and skills the pupil needs to practise and consolidate.

Here is what I did with one struggling reader who missed two lessons in a row.


In the previous lesson, I had taught some alternative spellings for the phoneme /oe/.

I started the lesson by handing him a selection of words that he needed to sort out according to their spellings of /oe/. He had to make a label to head each list of words. By handing the words to the pupil, I was asking him not only to read and sort the words but also to revise the alternative spellings that we had covered. (I might add that sorting and categorising is an important part of the Sounds-Write programme that we follow at the Bloomfield Learning Centre.)

Discussing spelling tendencies

I next asked the pupil to identify which spelling of /oe/ is likely to come at the end of a word. We discussed the words ‘go’, ‘no’ and ‘so’, and compared them to the more-common spelling in ‘snow’, ‘blow’, ‘row’ etc.

Reading mirroring spelling

We then did a short spelling activity. The Alba Series workbook we used includes an activity that presents reading and spelling as two parts of the same worksheet. On the left-hand side of the worksheet, the pupil ticked words once he read them. The sheet was then folded down the middle and, on the right-hand side, the pupil had to spell the same words. The sheet was then unfolded, and the pupil could self-correct.

Pupils like this activity as self-checking their word is empowering. I like it because it mirrors the process of reading and spelling, which are two sides of the same coin.

Comprehension and grammar

Next, we did an activity that combined comprehension and grammar. The pupil read sentences from a story that included words with /oe/ spellings. He needed to comprehend the sentences in order to insert the missing full stops and capital letters. (Punctuation seems to be a huge problem for my pupils of all ages, so this is quite a useful activity.)

Timed reading exercise

Finally, we did a timed reading exercise. This was in order to practise reading words with and without the split vowel o-e. The exercise included words such as ‘hop’ and ‘hope’, not necessarily next to one another. I have always been a bit wary of timed exercises, as some pupils can feel pressurised by them. I usually tentatively try to see how a pupil takes to this exercise.

This pupil had the opportunity to read the words at speed three times. At first, he read them in 59 seconds. By the third time, he read them in 35 seconds. Practice makes perfect. I was rewarded with a huge grin!

  • Details about the Bloomfield Learning Centre can be found here.
  • The Sounds-Write Reading and Spelling programme website is here.
  • The Alba Series from which we’re working is here.

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