Literacy drive gets boys on track

An intensive intervention programme at Birchwood School is hoping to raise boys' literacy levels through race cars, positive reinforcement and highlighter pens.

Eight pupils at the school have been taking part in the Ministry of Education's Advanced Learning Literacy programme.

The boys were assessed as being behind expectations in their writing, so teachers Sarah Thomas and Kim Donnelly-Greep have been teaching them in addition to the pupils' usual classes, four times a week. Each lesson is an intensive half-hour.

The nationwide programme is aimed at lifting the achievement of a small group of learners who have been identified as not having the literacy or mathematics knowledge and skills to access the New Zealand Curriculum at their relevant year level.

Thomas said the school decided it was important to focus on raising boys' achievement in writing.

"We definitely find there is a gap in writing in terms of achievement."

Some of the pupils were going to intermediate next year, and the school wanted to ensure they were at the appropriate level for the move.

The pupils each had their own goals to reach on the programme, and Thomas said their competitive spirits helped motivate them.

The walls of the room they studied in were adorned with pictures of race cars with the pupils' names on them. When the pupils did well, their car went forward on the tracks.

Thomas said the classes were creating benefits throughout the school, as the teachers would incorporate aspects that worked well into their other classes.

She said getting pupils to highlight punctuation had helped them to understand writing structures.

Stacy Smith, 8, said he was proud of his achievements on the programme. "I have gotten better at punctuation and checking my work," he said.

The group was halfway through the 15-week programme, it was the first time the school offered it. Already, Thomas had seen improvements in the children's literacy as well as motivation to learn. She said it was an innovative approach to learning and was having a "positive impact" as she had noticed the boys were more confident.

"They are more motivated and proud."

She said the boys were becoming role models in the school because of their motivation in their learning.

An Education Review Office National Report Summary on the programme found it had been effective in some schools to "accelerate progress for students underachieving".

The June 2014 report found of 93 schools reviewed, pupils' confidence in one area influenced motivation, engagement and success in another.

The Nelson Mail