• georgejamescowie

literacy Intervention

Updated: Feb 3, 2020

This blog is set up to record my observations as I work with a group of students in year 3 in an international school to try to raise their literacy levels.

It is hoped that I can draw on these observations in order to provide qualitative data for an article that I will be writing for Asia Pacific Journal of Developmental Differences. This journal is published by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore. Previous issues can be found here: https://www.das.org.sg/about-dyslexia/research/asia-pacific-journal-of-developmental-differences.html.

OK, so right now the students are with me for their fourth session since the intervention started. They are all wearing earphones and doing various Orton-Gillingham approach based activities on nessy.com.


I will go a bit further into the research behind Orton-Gillingham approaches to teaching literacy.

The 'nessy philosophy' is published on their website here:https://www.nessy.com/us/nessy-philosophy/

The key principles that they aim for according to this web page are:


Nessy Philosophy

Rebuild self confidence

Rediscover self esteem

Establish a love of learning.

Nessy believes that when children laugh then learning becomes more memorable. Where children play games the increased level of engagement leads to dramatic improvements. Combine this philosophy with a highly structured, incremental system based on well established Orton-Gillingham principles of learning and you can see the reason why academic results show such dramatic gains.


The students names are withheld, but they and their parents are aware that I am using some parts of their data in this research project.


They are identified as A, B, C, D, and E in no particular order.

The levels mentioned are a reference to the Fountas and Pinell level of reading that their teacher assessed them as being prior to referring them to me to participate in this intervention:


Student A  Reading Level F, Parental Consent? Y

Student B Reading Level  B,  Parental Consent? Y

Student C Reading Level F, Parental Consent? Y

Student D  Reading Level G, Parental Consent? Y

Student E Reading Level J, Parental Consent? Y


So, I am going to do a quick stroll poll: Are they enjoying the process of playing the nessy games so far? Can they give a reason for their answer?


Student A


Yes. Because we get to play these games and it is also helping me in class.


Student B


Yes. Because we get to play these games. It's fun and it's learning and stuff.


Student C


Yes. Because I like the games but I don't like the one with the monkey on the banana (banana wheels) because if you get some wrong you have to do it all over again and its annoying.


Student D


Some and some not. Some of them I don't like. The Haunted house one is quite tricky and the refrigerator one because it can be hard to move the words and I am getting tired of doing the same ones over and over. I want to do some off the computer work on spelling.


Student E


Yes. Because they're fun and they teach you how to spell.


At the beginning of the intervention, the nessy program asks the students to do a target setting session.


Below are the baseline year group (UK system) levels that they demonstrated:


Student A:


Reading - Year 1.8; Spelling Year 1.3


Student B:


Reading - Year 1.2; Spelling Year 1.3


Student C:


Reading - Year 1.0; Spelling, Year 1.8


Student D:


Reading -Year 1.7; Spelling Year 1.3


Student E:


Reading - Year 1.6; Spelling Year 1.2


I have also taken a note of the students 'Reading Fluency according to age appropriate materials from the University of Oregon's Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy (DIBELS).


Here are the student's scores so far:


Student A: 76

Student B: 58

Student C: 120+(The recording graph only goes as high as120)

Student D: 46

Student E: 104


Quick discussion here:


The targets (age appropriate) score for the DIBELS is between 90 and 100 words per minute. https://dibels.uoregon.edu/docs/materials/DORF_G2_PM_6th_Ed_old.pdf. (not .




As can be seen, Students C and E are already above the expected rate for reading fluency, with student C being literally 'off the charts'.


It is important here to note that the nessy.com Reading activities focus more on comprehension and understanding rather than fluency - students typically have a multiple choice option when they do the target setting and it is not timed.


Kilpatrick (2015) repeatedly makes the case for an emphasis on timed activities to detect Reading difficulties as well as other measures such as 'nonsense word' fluency etc, so it is important for the purposes of this reading intervention to gain this additional data.


29th January


More data.


Last week,






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