Always looking for new ways to expand our enrichment programme, here at Alleyn’s School we have teamed up with Rhythm for Reading, a service which uses rhythm-based activities to enhance children’s reading skills. We are now offering a mentoring programme to primary school students whose reading needs a boost.
With the Government announcing plans to set stricter literacy targets in primary schools, raising the bar from 60 to 85 per cent of students achieving the required standard at age 11, teachers are looking for new approaches to increase both confidence and proficiency among disengaged readers. Mentoring schemes are a proven way of raising attainment, and are popular with students wishing to gain volunteering experience. This, added to my own personal interest in literacy, music and collaboration between disciplines, meant that when Rhythm for Reading founder Dr Marion Long approached me with her ideas for a new partnership, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Soon enough we found ourselves embarking on a five-week pilot scheme, with five of our Sixth Form students mentoring 19 Year 4 students from a local state school, Goodrich Primary. The students read individually with their mentors for ten minutes each week, following the Rhythm for Reading sessions which support children’s ability to tackle multi-syllabic words, phrases and sentences with greater fluency.
We kept track of the programme via regular meetings with our mentors, and all students reported a great improvement in their pupils’ reading proficiency and confidence. One mentor, Alfie Bolton, explained: “At the beginning some of my less confident readers were very quiet and would skip over words they didn’t know, but by the end they were happily sounding out any unfamiliar words they came across.
“I think that running the mentoring scheme alongside the Rhythm for Reading sessions made a big difference too, as I noticed that their reading comprehension and fluency increased immensely each week, especially in terms of their punctuation and vocal expression.”
The programme is benefitting not only those primary school children, but our students too. As an enrichment programme, it’s been a fantastic eye-opener for us, teaching our students a variety of new skills such as communication and leadership, as well as introducing many of them to working with children.
One of our student mentors, Becky Channing, said: “Working closely with the children and getting to know them made the whole process much more unique. There should definitely be more programmes like this, in which independent and state schools work together. The integration adds variety and both sides learn a lot.”
Collaborating with the Rhythm for Reading programme has been fantastic for us, and has taught all the students so much. Next year, we would like to delve into this whole experience even further by getting our students involved in learning more about the Rhythm for Reading sessions alongside their mentoring. It would be great to get them thinking more about the rhythm aspect of reading, and how it affects cognition and helps to improve reading fluency.
As well as continuing to work with Goodrich, we will be working with Marion to expand the scheme to other schools in the area. Of course, we’ll need to increase the number of volunteers on the programme, but it doesn’t look as though we’ll be short of recruits. In addition to a long queue of students keen to get some experience under their belt, all five volunteers from the pilot scheme have already confirmed their continuation with the programme.
Natalie Demain is Assistant Head, Co-curricular and Partnerships at Alleyn’s School.