Personal Best Academy – the planning stage

So, after not posting anything for several months, I now plan to start on a series of posts outlining the setting-up, training stages and delivery of the Personal Best Sports Reading Academy across the Priory Federation of Academies Trust, for whom I am now the Senior Leader of English.

The plan is to target Y7 and Y8 learners who have arrived in secondary school keen on sport and competition but less keen on reading. The aim is to base our work, at least initially, around the 12 sport-based short stories written by Tom Palmer and collected together under the title Personal Best – more details on this can be seen here. If you want to read excerpts from the stories or order copies of the book, you can do that here. The project will be based around learners working in groups of 4 with their own “coach”, a Year 12 or 13 student

The Academy will work on principles derived from the Education Endowment Fund report Reading at the Transition which you can read here. The report points out that small group work is almost as effective as 1 to 1 support in terms of how effective it is at improving reading. Therefore the Academy will be based around small group support.  The key aspects of reading which the report suggests learners need most support with are word recognition, comprehension and vocabulary development. As a result, I have written tasks which focus explicitly on the development of these three skills. These tasks can be completed flexibly by learners, aided by their coach, in relation to any of the 12 stories, or indeed any other stories. The coach will help guide his or her team through the tasks and encourage them to cover the full range of tasks contained in the pack of task cards – around 30 different tasks have been written so far and the plan is to add more once we can see which are the most effective.

We are calling this an Academy in reference to the sporting academies run by football clubs. There will be a clear competitive element with each team of 4 trying to work their way to the top of the “League” with places determined by points, awarded to each team when all members of the team have completed a task. Thus a team in which the members have done 4, 6, 7 and 9 tasks will have 4 points whereas a team where all members have completed 5 tasks will have 5 points, thus engendering an element of collective responsibility. We plan to use the Federation’s student SharePoint page to publicise the progress of the various teams as the “season” progresses, from January through to May. There will then be a period of reflection during which the Y12/13s involved can concentrate on their examinations and we can review the impact on the learners and adapt the process in readiness for the coming 2016-17 season.

The Literacy Co-ordinators in the various academies of the Trust are currently identifying the most appropriate Y7/8s to be members of the Personal Best Academy. We will then write to their parents to explain the project and get their support. Meanwhile I will be training the Y12/13 coaches so that they can confidently support their teams. More on that in the next post.

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