WordBlaze Reading and Spelling Intervention - a Case Study

Edgewood Primary School in Nottingham have been using the WordBlaze spelling and reading intervention programme with a small year 6 intervention group. The results have been very positive and they are planning to expand the programme across Key Stage 2 next term.

About your school

Edgewood Primary School is a 1.5FE Primary and Nursery school, with just over 300 pupils, situated in Hucknall – a former mining town in Nottinghamshire. Broadly attainment is in line with national averages at the end of KS2, with progress above national averages in recent years. 25% of pupils across the school are eligible for pupil-premium funding, almost all because of history of Free School Meal eligibility. Intervention was initially used for 6 pupil-premium eligible children in Year 5/6 with particularly low reading/spelling ages and low NC attainment in these areas.

Who ran the WordBlaze programme?

Michael Tidd, Deputy headteacher – co-ordinated the WordBlaze trial.

Donna Yeomans – Pupil Premium Teaching Assistant managed and led the intervention with the pupils, completed assessments and reported to PP lead and class teachers.

When did your school start using WordBlaze?

We trialled the WordBlaze intervention programme with a small group of 6 children who had low attainment in Reading/Spelling, and who were eligible for the Pupil Premium (PP). The intervention began in March 2015, and has therefore only been running for about 3 months, although already shows good impact. Several of the children involved had been screened for dyslexia and showed mid to high risk of dyslexia.

PP-eligible children were selected initially as we considered the trial in relation to proposed PP funding. We will broaden this next year after its success.

The aim was to raise standards in Reading and Spelling, particularly in support of access to the broader curriculum.

How do you use WordBlaze?

The intervention group of 6 PP-eligible pupils in Y5/6 is led by our specialist Pupil Premium Teaching Assistant. It initially ran for 4 sessions a week, although our intention is to increase this to a regular daily session from September for all groups involved.

The main areas of challenge were:

Timing – Starting the intervention mid-year meant trying to find slots to fit around our existing timetable. From September we are adapting our KS2 timetable to make it easier to timetable such activities.

Space – again, because of the nature of schools, finding a suitable space in which to lead the intervention has been a challenge. Timetabling will hopefully improve this, but the practicalities of space may limit the number of pupils in some intervention groups from September.

Absence – many of the children involved in the intervention are also those with high levels of absence (which may partly explain why they are in the group initially). The PP TA intends to make this a greater part of her work in the near future, and to link the need to be available for all intervention sessions to the need for good attendance in the future.

Initial knowledge – it takes a while to become confident in delivering the intervention.

What are the benefits of using WordBlaze?

  • Very clearly structured, so ideal for a teaching assistant to lead (this fits well with the advice from the Sutton Trust on the best use of TAs)
  • Children are very enthusiastic about the group and the programme
  • The range of approaches supports learners to tackle things in innovative ways and provides plenty of hooks for the learning of patterns, etc.
  • Evidence of children using strategies and rules in other classwork.

Feedback on the WordBlaze programme/materials

This has been a great tool in our arsenal for intervention support in Year 5/6, which fits really well with the advice from the Sutton Trust/Education Endowment Fund advice on effective use of TAs (Use teaching assistants to deliver high-quality one-to-one and small group support using structured interventions).

The programme is clearly structured for both pupils and teachers, allowing an experienced Teaching Assistant to deliver a highly-focussed and effective programme of catch-up support to relevant pupils. The materials clearly set out the teaching sequence and activities, meaning that the planning and preparation work is largely done for you. Providing the resources electronically also allowed us to print the necessary flashcards, etc. with ease for each group and session.

The resources themselves are excellent for older pupils who need access to a phonics-led programme but who would feel ‘babied’ by use of existing resources targeted at KS1. They valued the ownership of the quality printed book resource, and clearly felt that the tasks, activities and challenges were appropriate for their age range. This has been a difficulty in the past with children finding resources to babyish, so it’s good to have something so fitting.

They also provide a great range of activities and resources that enthused our children, both in terms of the activities in the sessions and the additional resources such as the weekly certificates which were very popular and allowed all children to achieve well. We found that children who were initially very negative about their own ability in reading/spelling found greater confidence because they could achieve a certificate, and then became more willing to strive to improve in other areas.

We added an additional certificate for handwriting to the scheme, so maybe this is something that could be considered for the programme?

The One-Minute Wonder challenge was well-liked by the children, although ours needed to be monitored at first as they initially had a tendency to rush not-entirely-honestly through. This improved with experience and as the children began to recognise their own improvements. This approach fits really well with the Growth Mindset approach we’re trying to develop as a school.

The range of suggested activities, actions, ‘say it daft’, etc. was very popular with children, and we developed the kinaesthetic activities further through use, e.g. of chalk out on the playground, as well as the other acting-out and similar activities.

One area which we found children did struggle with was when asked to complete a more ‘free’ narrative writing activity: their inability to come up with suitable ideas distracted somewhat from the focus on the taught pattern.

The spelling tests provide a good support for developing other areas such as punctuation, which is a useful addition.

Overall we’ve been delighted with the structure and resourcing of the scheme, such that we plan to rapidly grow our number of intervention groups using the scheme in KS2.

What did the children think and how did it impact on their learning?

The children involved in the intervention group are – as often by their very nature – not always enthusiastic about school in general. However, this group has been very positive about the programme and its resources, joining in with the group and its tasks with positivity. This has been particularly helped by the engaging resources themselves – the geography link actually helped to engage the children well, and they liked the progression and certificates.

Here’s what some of the children said about the programme:

“I think it’s quite fun because of all the different activities you get to do.”

“I like doing the spellings.”

“It’s a good way to help us learn our spellings because it’s not boring; it makes spelling fun. You can draw a word and then use “evil e” and things like that.”

“It’s good because we got to draw pictures and then write a poem underneath.”

“It helps me a lot with my spellings because lately I’ve been getting a lot more right. I like going outside and using the chalks to practise.”

“Because we know about short and long vowels it helps you to say the word properly when you’re spelling it and you know if it’s open or closed.”

“I really like the books and it’s good because you get certificates.”

“The patterns that we learn in WordBlaze help me in our spelling tests because sometimes you know what it will be because you learned about doubling or something in WordBlaze with Mrs Yeomans.”

How effective do you think WordBlaze has been in raising reading and spelling attainment in your school and if so why?

The impact on reading ability has quickly been evident, particularly in relation to decoding. The impact on spelling is, as yet, less clear after a relatively short time in the programme, but our initial feelings are such that we intend to continue and grow the programme.

Several children have moved spelling phase group (we use a system which names each term as a ‘phase’. Thus, some children have made a whole year’s progress on the spelling scheme within 3 months.

In Reading assessments, using sub-levels, of the 6 children in the intervention, all but one moved up at least one sub-level, with 2 children making two sub-levels progress within the 3 month period (March-May)

WordBlaze assessment scores (White Hot Wonder!)

Pupil March Reading score June Reading score March Spelling score June Spelling score

Y6 boy

63/80 80/80 39/80 58/80
Y6 boy 2 38/80 77/80 34/80 72/80
Y6 girl 38/80 70/80 30/80 52/80
Y5 girl 68/80 80/80 37/80 69/80
Y5 girl 2 45/80 65/80 20/80 36/80
Y5 girl 3 52/80 75/80 8/80 44/80


Would you recommend WordBlaze to other schools?

Yes – we’re buying another set for a range of interventions across Key Stage 2!


Assessment, Intervention and SEN, Pupil Premium, WordBlaze

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