Chiara Fraser, Liv Fox, and Sam Devoil were recognised for their reading revolution at the Teach Portsmouth Awards earlier this year after receiving the Innovation in Teaching Award. We spoke to the team on what it is all about, and their big plans…
Why did you win the Innovation in Teaching Award?
The award recognises the work we have done around literacy, to improve the average reading age for students within the school, with the Microsoft Reading Progress tool on their digital One:One devices.
As a Thinking School, we know that as our society and community move forward, we must move forward with them. Part of the One:One overhaul – where every student in Years 7 and 8 receives a laptop to support their learning – is to encourage accessibility around learning for our students. So, the three of us thought let us improve literacy by using these devices.
We won the award due to our ability to use Microsoft applications on our One:One devices to make literacy more accessible to our students.
How has the Microsoft Reading Progress tool helped students at the school?
The Microsoft Reading Progress app enables us to upload various pieces of text that the students can engage with using their One:One device.
But what is fantastic, is we can adapt how students – such as those with an accent or a certain dialect – can engage with the reading.
When the students are reading aloud to the app, it can show how many pauses they make, the intonations they have, the mispronunciations they speak and their speed.
It tracks when they stumble over words, their pauses, fluency, and everything else to do with reading aloud.
Staff can then log onto the app and see the app’s report for every student, so can then support them even further.
You can film and record yourself through this app too, which will provide you with a percentage score out of 100 and provide you with a breakdown of what to do differently to improve.
How has the Microsoft Reading app changed how you teach?
One example of how the app has changed how we teach is that it has allowed us to quickly find the most common and complex words for a whole class.
If, for example, a student is reading aloud to the app and stumbles on a challenging word, if that happens consistently across the class then we can address that and get everyone’s ability aligned.
Are you only using the app in English?
No. When you think about developing your literacy, so many people categorise it into English lessons, but that is not right.
Literacy is used in every subject, so we are hoping to use the Microsoft Reading Progress tool in as many subjects as possible. In the 2022/2023 academic year, we are rolling this reading progress app out into history, geography, and science. Students’ homework across these subjects will incorporate the app too so that the young people are consistently improving.
What is next for you?
Now that we have a firm grasp on Microsoft’s Reading Progress feature, we are planning to roll that out across the whole of Key Stage Three [Years 7, 8 and 9] and eventually school wide. Alongside that, we will introduce Microsoft Reading Coach to the students too.
Reading Coach will build on what students have achieved in the Reading Progress app by showing the 5 words each student struggled with the most and presenting them again with the tools to support them in practising independently.
The tools available can include text-to-speech, syllable breaking, and a picture dictionary. We will be able to customise how it is delivered, so pupils can have a learning experience that is bespoke to their needs which will hugely support their progress.
How have you worked with Microsoft on the roll-out of these apps?
We have learnt so much from Microsoft and continue to learn too. We are on a journey with using these apps to help students here at The Portsmouth Academy. We heard about this around six months before it was released, so we have been very privileged to work in partnership with Microsoft to have the success stories we see and hear today.
How do you feel as professionals in education seeing the Microsoft Reading Progress App positively playing a part in transforming life chances?
It is a proud moment to see students engaged and open-minded about this tool. It is sometimes a bit of a struggle for them to take literacy seriously, or to care about it, but they have received the app well and it is encouraging to see a difference is already being made.
It is all about accessibility here. Young people cannot see and understand their world without being able to read. That is not just about reading information but reading culture. We live in such a multicultural place, in Portsmouth, so it is amazing so many of our students can now engage with this tool and improve their reading.