This month’s Star School to be featured in our Lexia School Spotlight is…
Smithton Primary School, Inverness!
We spoke to Emma O’Donnell, who leads on the Lexia program in school. She told us about the lasting impact that Lexia has had across school and provided some insights into how the myLexia reports have helped to promote best practice.
Read the full interview below.
How did you first come across the Lexia program and what led to the school’s final decision to purchase?
We have previously used other literacy programs and the one we used previously we felt was quite juvenile for a lot of our pupils. We were looking for something that would, not necessarily solely appeal to our upper stages, but would capture their interest as much as the lower years. Promoting autonomy of learning was very important for us so we started to trial the program at the end of the previous school year. We also wanted something that benefitted and supported teachers while still giving pupils that ownership of learning. After seeing it in action in Beauly Primary School we recognised that Lexia provided all those things for us.
What do you feel makes Lexia stand apart from other reading skills software products on the market?
At the time we were initially rolling the program out, I was the Additional Learning Needs teacher at the school which meant I was very well placed to take ownership of its initial utilisation in school. As a ‘data head’, I really liked the reports and being able to clearly see how each child was progressing. The traffic light system was particularly helpful to see at a glance which pupils which pupils are on target wand which need further support.
The resources that come along with it are fantastic as well. The Lexia Lesson slide decks have been great and I really like how the program really breaks down explanations for the children. They are offered lots of scaffolding where they need it and there are plenty of opportunities for focussed interactions and teachers can come in and provide that one to one only when it’s really needed.
It’s these features that I really got the most benefit as the Additional Needs Teacher. I could use the lesson plans that were provided and the slide decks were great since they integrated with Google Classroom that we use in school. They are really nice, interactive resources that we have in addition to the online program.
One final thing that really stood out was the opportunities for school to home learning. We regularly are asked by parents about different ways that they can support their children and, in addition to the homework grids we send home, Lexia allows us to identify a really focused part of their literacy needs that the program can provide support and practice in the form of the online learning or in a Skill Builder.
How is Lexia used in your school? Please provide details of your daily routine and how you ensure that you reach recommended usage as well as which pupils use the program in school.
Every teacher and every class is unique but what we have found that the usage targets that the program provides to each student has really supported that consistency across the whole school. There are two main points in the day where Lexia is normally undertaken. The very beginning of the day has been really beneficial for our younger pupils. Teachers have their Chromebooks and headphones ready in the classroom for when they arrive at school and they can get started immediately with minimal disruption. In some classes further up in school we have ERIC time (Everybody Reading In Class). That would also be where we would have our Lexia time as well, so a group of pupils could be reading independently while another group works on Lexia while supported by a member of staff. The flexibility of Lexia means we can tailor use according to the needs of the pupils at different phases.
Describe the impact that Lexia has had on your pupils. Have you noticed a positive change in their motivation to succeed in literacy? Can you give an example of a Lexia success that sticks out to you?
Absolutely! One thing I will say is that, giving students the autonomy over their learning, particularly in P6 and P7 (Year 5 and Year 6) has been particularly effective. We have 1 to 1 devices in school so every child has their own device. With this, we can offer pupils the opportunity to do extra Lexia time at home and encourage them to complete some more minutes.
We had one child who I taught myself in P6, he is now in his first year of Secondary. He was not expected to achieve his level for his age and stage. He had significant dyslexia and significant literacy difficulties throughout primary school. I got him started on Lexia in Primary 6 and last year (Primary 7) was his first full year of using Lexia. He was assessed initially with the Auto Placement activity at being at a Year 3 level and he was the only person in our school to finish Lexia completely. He reached his age and stage and beyond! He worked so hard despite being incredibly conscious of his dyslexia. He surpassed all of our expectations! We have significant literacy difficulties in our school so it is not often that pupils are flagged by myLexia with the green ‘On Target’ tag and he was one of the only pupils who was flagged as green.
That’s one of the things I really like about myLexia. Sometimes seeing something as simple as a line graph, plotting that trajectory the student is on is enough to really show them what they are achieving. When they get a bit older, they may not all be excited about the certificates, so can be ‘too cool for school’, but showing them that data can really promote that intrinsic motivation they get from seeing their skills increase.
Being able to present the Lexia Completion certificate in assembly, particularly with this student that had such difficulty with their literacy, was a really special and momentous occasion. That was a real achievement! It really helped us to give him that little boost of confidence that I know has given him a really good start to high school.
What I will say is, we saw that success so quickly because we had teacher buy-in. The P7 teacher understood the importance of Lexia, understood the importance of timetabling it, understood the importance of the Lexia Lessons and Skill Builders and utilising them. It’s only because we got teacher buy-in that we could achieve that.
How have you used rewards to motivate and celebrate success on the Lexia program?
The certificates are a big part of it. We give them out in assembly and the teachers are keeping an eye on the reports and celebrating those successes. We use Google Classroom which means that we can communicate between home and school and post successes there.
In addition to those main reward schemes, we have found that those smaller ways to recognise effort and success have a big impact. As the Additional Needs Teacher, I could go into the classroom and provide students with that extra validation. Mentioning that I could see how well they had done and the effort they were putting in. That constant communication with students and teachers really promoted those small incremental efforts.
How useful have you found the myLexia reports in terms of demonstrating progression and informing planning?
I started keeping a tracker myself using the myLexia data. I could analyse the data for each pupil, rate the level of their progress and even averaged the minutes per school day that the students were working on Lexia. It sounds pedantic but it really helped keep the bigger picture in mind. It’s great if a pupils has been able to meet all their minutes one week but if they have not logged in for the previous two weeks, that actually averages out at very little per day. If we want to see the benefits of Lexia then we need to make sure that pupils are consistently getting their 20 minutes per day.
myLexia data really helped with accountability too. Teachers are able to view the data and see any areas where progress has slowed down. This then prompts further questioning between both staff and pupils of areas where additional support is needed or is anything else, such as attendance, causing this impact. It really helps us see the bigger picture and look at everything holistically. Having all this information into these trends can help us determine the best cause of action for that teacher or that student.
Usage reports on myLexia have also really helped us to hold teachers accountable to ensure our licenses are used to best effect across the whole school. Making all teachers aware of the importance of utilisation has really increased buy-in. As a result, we have seen a 13% increase in reading attainment last year.
Sometimes teachers just need that data to clearly see how well a child is doing and, what I like, is that you can see how many times a child has attempted something. It can really bring any slight issues to light. I also seen instances where a class in general have shown to have difficulties with syllables, for example, and the class teacher has been able to do a whole class lesson to reinforce that skill.
Is there anything else you would like to add? Any personal comments on why you feel Lexia has been successful in your school?
We have really embraced Lexia. I am fairly new to teaching, and having something like Lexia that gives you hard facts and a very clear focus into where pupils need support, I have really liked. I like that we can specifically target and help children in really focused areas. It is not just like “they are really struggling with comprehension” which is a broad area, it is actually giving information about this one specific thing and providing a focus on that. I’ve liked that we have been able to work with a wide age range of pupils and Lexia has allowed me to work with them all in different ways.
We have also been able to provide support to teachers in terms of homework tasks and provide better parent support. I don’t think we utilise the Core5 Resource Hub as much as we could so this is definitely a target for this year because it is fantastic!
Our head teacher was really pleased to hear that our reading attainment had come up by 13% and I can only put that down to the only difference that we’ve had, which is using Lexia and having somebody focused on using it. It might not be the sole reason, but it’s definitely a really good significance that it was the case!
What feedback have you had from your Lexia pupils?
They have really liked it. As I mentioned earlier, programs we have used in the past they have found quite baby-ish so they haven’t shown much enthusiasm. They really like Lexia though. They like the interactivity and that they can see their progression. They really take ownership of their learning and set themselves targets such as trying to finish all the units in an activity. They are really spurred on to keep going which has been positive.
Thank you for speaking with us, Emma! Look out for your Star School certificate and book voucher arriving soon!