Write to Read - Improving Literacy Outcomes for Students Across Ireland

Francis Street CBS first got involved with the Write to Read Programme in 2019 to improve student’s writing and reading abilities. In this piece, sixth class teacher David Tonge describes the impact the programme has had on both students and teachers at Francis Street CBS.

Why did your school first get involved in the Write to Read Programme?

As a DEIS school, we found our standardised literacy targets were below the national average. Prior to joining the Write to Read programme, we had engaged with other projects and initiatives to promote and inspire reading among our pupils and their parents. Parents were encouraged to come into our school library for reading sessions with our pupils, and we even developed the school moto “Read, Lead, Succeed”. This helped develop our pupils love of reading, however it did not relate to our standardised testing, assessments and targets.

The Write to Read Programme provided the teaching staff at Francis Street CBS with the approach, structure, support and mentoring necessary to allow our school to build upon the love we developed for reading by improving our teaching and learning of reading, writing and vocabulary. As a result of this support, we recognised the benefit of developing our teaching and learning for students in a DEIS school.

How has the Write to Read Programme improved your school’s approach to literacy?

Write to Read has given us a very clear structure and outline of how we implement our teaching and learning, along with our assessment of literacy across the school. We have dedicated time during every school day for our vocabulary work, writing workshops and literature circles. The daily practice in these three areas has improved our standard of teaching and learning and in turn the quality of work produced by the children. Across the school our word walls and word study has improved the language our children use in their reading, writing and oral language. This daily emphasis on vocabulary and similarly in reading and writing has changed our focus on cultivating a love of reading to engaging with and enjoying literacy.

“Teachers feel more confident, especially when we notice the improvements in our students. It is now a strong part of our culture and something that will continue to have a long lasting impact on our school.”


What changes have you noticed in your students since they first took part in the Write to Read Programme?

The quality of reading and writing in the school has definitely improved thanks to the Write to Read Programme. There’s been a great improvement in specific areas such as vocabulary used in both reading and writing. Children are interested in finding new words, having their word included in the list of words for the week, and are motivated to share with their classmates. This cycle of motivation to write and read becomes contagious and encourages others to follow along.

With this higher level of comprehension, the children understand more of what they are reading and to a deeper level. In writing workshops, the motivation to write improves every single day. I have naturally witnessed every child improve in their writing due to this greater emphasis and time focused on writing, from using new vocabulary, literary techniques or the stamina to write more. Overall it has had countless improvements in our students.

How has the support provided by Write to Read helped you as a teacher promoting literacy in a DEIS school?

The support from Write to Read has been invaluable to me as a teacher and to my school. There is a lot to learn as you go through the programme and in my five years of teaching I still learn new ways I can improve on. The support from Write to Read has allowed us to work in a way that suits our school and setting. It is a programme that can be adapted as no school is one size fits all. Keeping to the main aspects of reading literature circles, writing workshops and vocabulary word study, our Write to Read contact was supportive, accommodating, patient and helpful when it came to every aspect of developing this in our school. We constantly had a direct line to an associate to help us with any queries we had.

In the current climate of Covid-19, we were able to engage with the Write to Read team through Zoom as a staff. We took part in the “Reading together while staying apart” initiative in early 2021, where participating schools were provided with novels, guides, contact and videos from the author and brilliant ideas for lessons to help us teachers deliver effective reading workshops while students learned from home.

“The Write to Read Programme has been a wonderful experience which has improved my own teaching and benefited my school greatly, particularly as a DEIS school where challenges are always present due to the disadvantaged setting.”