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Literacy & Numeracy

clip image004LCC Literacy and Numeracy (Forbairt Team) Fionnuala Ni Chaisil (Priomhoide), Maria McAlinden (Priomhoide Tanaisteach, Siobhan Kirwin (Maths Dept), Aine O’Mahony (English Dept.)

clip image006Description of Literacy and Numeracy actions taken:

Our Project’s aims were to improve literacy levels in First Year as part of whole school initiative. 

Our main areas of focus were to raise awareness about literacy, to use a reading test to gather data, to create a print rich environment, to enhance literacy in every subject, and to promote keywords and graphic organisers as teaching/ learning tools. 

Timescale of actions taken: 

In Term 1: The team began the process of establishing baseline data and setting Literacy targets for the school. Firstly a working group was established in the school and held regular meetings. Next, to gather baseline date attitudinal surveys were issued to staff students and parents. In addition staff were presented with LCC literacy initiative aims at a staff meeting and all departments were asked to establish Keyword banks on the shared Z drive. Various reading tests were considered and the ICT version of the Access reading test was selected.

Term 2: All first year students received a cross curricular A4 lever arch keyword folder.  In addition methodologies and user friendly resources were offered to staff via shared Z drive and a staffroom photocopiable resource folder, which included a Keyword Template and Graphic Organisers was also promoted.  A mixed ability first year class was administered the Access Reading Test.
To coincide with World Book Day a literacy week was held in the school.  Activities ranged from TYs creating and administering a literacy quiz for first years, a poster competition, a literacy display and a book drive. The week ended with a prize giving ceremony which was assisted by the parent’s council and transition year students. Students submitted articles to the school newspaper to report on the week.

A similar numeracy week was also held, with a focus on the language of maths. Prizes were distributed to students for posters and problem solving.

Targeting areas of need:
The Forbairt project coincided with our LLN responsibilities. Therefore the school wanted to introduce the initiative to 1st years in order to identify areas of need for a new student group in addition to establishing good practices for this group from the start and build on this. One mixed ability class was chosen to test as a sample that would reflect the rest of the year group. In addition, we felt to start with a focus on literacy was relevant considering the multi-cultural nature of LCC.

Data gathering instruments:
Qualitative: Attitudinal survey of parents, teachers and students were distributed and assessed.
Quantitative: Access Reading Test, ICT version was piloted by our school
Informal feedback from parents, teachers and students.

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Data analysis:
Phase two of the attitudinal surveys are yet to be done.
Quantitative: Having administered the Access Reading Test, students were divided into 3 categories of ability, based on a standardised score of above 110 or below 90: exceptional able, average, below average.
We now have concrete information on who to target in terms of literacy needs and also exceptionally able ability.

Supports and Resources:
A multi-disciplinary Forbairt team holds regular meetings to discuss aims, strategies and progress with advice and input from ICT Dept, PSS, DDLETB LLN Coordinator, and Guidance Department.
As part of the whole school initiative staff meeting time was used to inform staff of aims, objectives, methodologies and resources.
Access Reading test – ICT version
Student input – Transition year assistance with literacy week activities.
Keyword Folders and dividers.
Graphic organisers – SLSS
Resource Folder for staffroom.
Keyword banks for each subject.
Keyword Template – produced in-house
Book Box for classroom – with book review templates
Posters and art materials – Print rich environment.
Maths Eyes posters.
Prizes.

clip image018Reflection on challenges:
It took a while to choose an appropriate reading test. This was addressed during a meeting with a multi-disciplinary team which included ETB Psychological Support Service personnel, the ETB Literacy Coordinator and in- house career guidance teachers, as well as the full Forbairt team.
We had subsequent technical difficulties with the Access Reading Test, which were solved by ETB and in-house ICT, and a student computer whizz. The technical difficulties considerably upset the timeframe of the project, so that the testing couldn't happen before some of the literacy initiatives were implemented. 

Motivation of all staff: It was important to include all staff in the project- this was done initially at a staff meeting, when the project was introduced to all staff. Then the subject departments drew up lists of keywords for inclusion in the students Keyword folders.

Choice of target group: Originally we had targeted a small group, but then we expanded the project to include the whole of the year group, so that all 1st years students could benefit from the project. We decided that flexibility was more important than sticking too rigidly to the original plan.

Time management: This presented significant difficulties, as it was difficult to find time to devote to the Forbairt project, as well as keeping up with all other day-to-day work.

Timeframe of project: Because of the length of the school year, the project had to be carried over into the 2014/15 academic year. This didn't initially seem to be ideal, but upon reflection, the group realised that carrying it over into the following school year maximises the benefits for the students. The re-testing and the 2nd round of the attitudinal surveys will raise awareness of literacy once again among parents, students and staff and the different ways in which it can be enjoyed and promoted.
 English not a first language – For a large number of students in LCC, English is not their first language. This puts them at a huge disadvantage when trying to access much of the school curriculum.

Project Maths: The new Project Maths syllabus makes it even more necessary for all students to have high literacy levels. Without adequate literacy levels, students will be unable to access the curriculum fully. In addition, they will be unable to fully understand what is being asked of them in State Exams.

Impacts of Literacy and Numeracy initiatives on school life. Successes and changes to whole school life. 
Most teachers came on board to compile the Keyword banks, and this ensured that, no matter what their subject, teachers took responsibility for literacy in their classes- it was no longer seen as just the remit of the English teacher.

The school survey encouraged parents to reflect on their own practices in relation to literacy in the home. A link between home and school reading was fostered with the parents. The Parents’ Council were involved with the reward ceremony.
 
The Literacy project proved to be a great induction for the 1st year students into the school. It gave them a status.  The prize-giving ceremony sealed that affirmation, as did the inclusion of some of their articles in the school newsletter. Literacy became 'cool' - they were happy and proud to associate themselves with poetry competitions, book boxes, book reviews and strong vocabulary. Many of our student’s oral ability also increased and they became confident speakers, particularly on literature.

We have made strong partnership links with other schools as part of the Forbairt project. Our school is also a firm part of the LLN network within DDLETB with our team presenting and sharing our work with other schools.

clip image020Future Goals

The LCC Forbairt team will continue working on the Literacy project, but will focus next on literacy for Project Maths. We are looking forward to introducing ‘Maths Eyes’ to assist in making life relevant to the everyday. We intend to get all subject departments to teach vocabulary required to interpret questions as we have found that students who do not have fluent English are having difficulty interpreting some of the problems that they are asked to solve. Work has already started on this aspect of the project.

We also hope to continue and expand our testing and baseline data gathering and review this to monitor progress. 
In addition we will continue to harness the enthusiasm and enjoyment experienced by each student involved in this project thus far. We will continue to have Literacy Week and Maths Wee