This executive summary highlights the implementation and results of a pilot evaluation of LRF! conducted in Jordanian primary schools in 2021-2022. The purpose of the pilot evaluation was to test the intervention’s feasibility and evidence of promise as well as assess its readiness for an efficacy trial. The pilot was also intended to provide preliminary evidence on the impact of LRF!, the mechanisms of change, and lessons to inform future scale-up.
Problem: The issue of developing Arabic literacy
A strong foundation in literacy is a crucial element predicting educational success. Evidence shows that early literacy difficulties can persist, limiting children’s ability to achieve their potential (Brombacher et al., 2012). Pupils in the countries that use the Arabic language and script for instruction are performing at a low level in international and internal examinations (Eckert et al, 2020). For example, results using the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) conducted in Jordan since 2012 have shown that primary school-aged children are failing to reach reading comprehension benchmarks (RTI International, 2018). In addition, PISA results from 2018 estimated that 52% of Jordanian 10-year-olds are unable to read and understand a short age-appropriate piece of text. Existing evidence suggests that it is very unlikely that pupils will make up for learning loss during the next stages of their education, leaving these children at a significant disadvantage throughout their schooling and life (World Bank, 2019). Therefore, providing the right support in the early years of schooling is essential for reducing this ‘performance gap’.
Learners of Arabic face unique challenges: the script is comparatively complex, pupils can face visual perception challenges, and pupils use various Arabic variants at home which differ from the formal Modern Standard Arabic taught in schools (Abadzi, 2017; Eckert et al, 2020). Pupils entering school are consequently tasked with absorbing the standard Arabic language vocabulary alongside developing their literacy skills (e.g. reading and grammar knowledge) to make sense of a text. Considering the linguistic challenges that readers in Arabic face, it is important to identify approaches that will help pupils with literacy attainment. One of these approaches is Let’s Read Fluently!
Potential Solution: The “Let’s Read Fluently!” Intervention
‘Let’s Read Fluently!’ (LRF!) is an intervention that aims to support children in developing foundational literacy skills in Arabic through a practice-focused, phonics-based pedagogy and reading practice book. In the model, pupils are taught to process written text more quickly by firstly repeating individual letters and words to the point of automation. This is intended to enable them to decode reading faster, in order to read more fluently and free up working memory to recall important information and think critically. Time engaged in practice and receiving timely feedback (namely, reinforcement and corrections) are seen as important predictors of reading ability.
Within 30-minute sessions, teachers follow an “I do, We do, You do” pedagogy, that entails:
- First, using large versions of the textbook, the classroom teacher introduces the letter-sound, or letter combinations, and models how to ‘read’ it. (“I do”).
- Then students practice ‘reading’ together using either the choral or echo method (“we do”). These two steps are to be completed in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the session.
- Finally, learners independently work through the pupil practice book, sounding out letters or words with their finger following the text (“you do”). At this stage of independent pupil practice, the teacher’s role is to encourage students and provide corrections.