Innovative programme where children use their own voice to improve reading open for more participants

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Evaluation shows participants make on average a gain of two to three years in their word recognition after 21 lessons.

An innovative education programme which helps children improve their reading by using the sound of their own voice is open for more participants.

The Own Voice Intensive Programme has moved online while schools are shut, and places for more pupils are now available.

The scheme, developed by experts at the University of Exeter, is for children aged 12 and over who have a diagnosis of dyslexia or significant reading delay. Evaluation shows participants make on average a gain of two to three years in their word recognition after 21 lessons.

Academics at the University’s Graduate School of Education have been running OVIP for a year on campus. Teaching now takes place remotely using freely available video conferencing software such as Vsee and Skype.

The programme is based on analytic phonics and delivered by one-to-one teaching. Children record the lesson in their own voice – reading text – and the teacher checks for errors. The pupil then listens to their recording and writes down what they have read. Lessons will last around half an hour, and extend over ten to eleven weeks.

Dr Philip MacMillan, an educational psychologist who runs the sessions, said: “A lot of children struggle to learn to read using synthetic phonics, they need a different type of teaching and that isn’t easy for schools to accommodate.

“My view is if you can speak and hear than you can read and write. The programme won’t interfere with children’s usual schoolwork. It is designed so they learn from their own voice.

“The pupil is in control of their own learning, and this helps to build their self-confidence and independence. The lessons and practices are brief and flexible and cover the child’s individual needs”.

“The programme helps to improve spelling and reading at the same time, working one-to-one creates a non-threatening and supportive environment. We’ve found working one-to-one means children make rapid progress”.

The Own Voice Intensive Programme was tested with 33 secondary school pupils in years 7 to 9 in four schools for eight weeks. Analysis found that those who took part had greater gains (1.5 years improvement) in word reading skills compared to their usual teaching/intervention approaches.

Pupils who want to take part will need access to a Windows PC/ laptop with a webcam, a microphone headset and access to the free version of Vsee Messenger or Skype, Vsee is preferred. They will need to sit somewhere quiet to record their lessons. Lessons will be delivered on Saturdays and possibly Sundays or on other days by arrangement and pupils will be expected to do around ten minutes of homework each day.

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