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Using Educake to boost reading confidence in lower-ability students

Becky Anderson, English Teacher and Year 8 Catch-Up Intervention Lead for the Gosport and Fareham Multi-Academy Trust in Hampshire

1. The opportunity

Online homework can be used to help improve pupils’ abilities in many different ways. When I was given a trial period of Educake, a few ideas sprung to mind: how could I use this as part of blended learning? What impact could a new learning platform have within Bay House? Could it be used to target and address pupils’ confidence in specific areas of reading comprehension?

2. The issue identified

When we measure ‘progress’, we often look at numbers and data. But what about the value of really understanding, in words, how a pupil feels towards reading? It strikes me as vitally important to gauge a pupil’s confidence in reading in a transparent, honest way in order to identify the pupils who are struggling.

Before launching Educake in tutor times and assemblies, I decided on a focus group to monitor: a total of 75 pupils were not working at Age Related Expectations to varying degrees and their engagement with Educake would be monitored.

Once I had my focus group, I needed to identify how confident pupils felt in each area of reading comprehension before the launch of Educake. To do this, I created a Google Form which had questions such as, ‘How confident do you feel in working out the meaning of new words?’ In terms of pupils rating themselves, this was anonymous and included a range of options: ‘I would really not like doing this skill’, ‘not confident’, ‘okay about it’, ‘fairly confident’ and ‘very confident’.

3. How this group of Year 7s used Educake

Throughout the project, I monitored the focus group’s engagement with Educake. However, to help maintain momentum, an incentive is always useful! This was granted through Amazon vouchers being given each half term via a raffle, with pupils getting an entry into this raffle by completing 30 or more questions over a fortnight.

During this first year, there were some teething problems such as some pupils in the focus group inconsistently engaging and not having enough time to complete quizzes (as some took longer than pupils expected and pupils got frustrated).

4. What was the impact?

Following 9 months of weekly quizzes being set, I re-sent the confidence indicators to my focus group. The findings were very encouraging! From 45.2% of pupils feeling ‘not confident’ in 3 or more areas of reading, only 14.3% felt ‘not confident’ in 3 areas of reading post-project. Equally, from 67.8% feeling ‘okay’ in 3 or more areas of reading, 92.8% of pupils felt ‘okay’ in 3 or more areas of reading post-project, showing a significant increase in self-confidence among pupils in my focus group.

I also taught some of these pupils in my focus group and noticed that they were more willing to contribute answers within lessons when extracts mirrored the layout of Educake reading extracts. For example, when analysing an extract from The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, it could be seen that, through regularly completing the comprehension questions that followed extracts on Educake, pupils knew the type of factors to consider in their analysis such as whether the extract was written in third or first person and the effect of this. The Educake extracts guide pupils through comprehending an extract, considering language and meaning, and this encouraged pupils to look at an extract as a whole while in class, rather than only focusing on one part.

6. Next steps

With Educake still being a new learning tool for Bay House, there is still some work to be done to encourage more pupils, and teachers, to appreciate the impact that it can make on pupil confidence. I’ve found that introducing it into library lessons has made it more accessible to all. Our library lessons involve open reading and swapping of books for the first half an hour, and now this is followed by Educake quizzes. I really look forward to seeing how more pupils benefit from regular use of Educake – especially the language extracts!