The Sounds-Write Podcast

Episode 6: Advice for New Practitioners with Caroline Hardisty

January 08, 2023
Episode 6: Advice for New Practitioners with Caroline Hardisty
The Sounds-Write Podcast
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The Sounds-Write Podcast
Episode 6: Advice for New Practitioners with Caroline Hardisty
Jan 08, 2023

In the sixth episode of The Sounds-Write Podcast, trainer Caroline Hardisty gives advice for schools who are new to Sounds-Write. She gives tips for practitioners who are just starting out, and discusses some of the considerations when implementing Sounds-Write as a whole-school approach.  Enjoy!

Some helpful links:
Sounds-Write's Facebook
Sounds-Write's Instagram
Sign up to our mailing list
Learn more about teaching Sounds-Write with fidelity
Learn more about Sounds-Write

Show Notes Transcript

In the sixth episode of The Sounds-Write Podcast, trainer Caroline Hardisty gives advice for schools who are new to Sounds-Write. She gives tips for practitioners who are just starting out, and discusses some of the considerations when implementing Sounds-Write as a whole-school approach.  Enjoy!

Some helpful links:
Sounds-Write's Facebook
Sounds-Write's Instagram
Sign up to our mailing list
Learn more about teaching Sounds-Write with fidelity
Learn more about Sounds-Write

Laura:  00:01
Hello and welcome to the Sounds-Write podcast. I'm the host, Laura, and today I'm talking to Caroline Hardisty. Caroline is a trainer at Sounds-Write. In this episode, she shares advice for schools and teachers who have just trained in Sounds-Write and discusses some things that phonics leads or headteachers might need to consider when implementing Sounds-Write across a school. Just a little announcement from me before the episode begins. Sounds-Write is turning 20 this year. To celebrate our birthday we've got some really exciting things lined up starting in February. Make sure you follow us on social media and subscribe to our mailing list if you want to hear all about our exciting projects that are coming up this year. If you want to like and subscribe. The link is in the show notes of this episode. Now, onto my conversation with Caroline. Hi Caroline, it's lovely to be here with you today.

Caroline:  00:54
Thank you, Laura. It's lovely to be here too.

Laura:  00:56
So could you start off by telling us more about your role at Sounds-Write and how you kind of first got involved in teaching phonics and specifically Sounds-Write?

Caroline:  01:07
Okay, so I joined Sounds-Write a year ago now, January 2022, and I am an in-house trainer. So I train on the online course and I also train face-to-face. And part of my role in addition to that is providing support to new Sounds-Write schools. So, I help them with the implementation of the programme when they first brought Sounds-Write into their school. Prior to that, I was a primary school teacher for 18 years. I was English lead for 7 years. A lot of that time I spent teaching in Key Stage 1. So, I've taught more than one phonics programme in my time. We had Sounds-Write recommended to us from one of our advisors in our local authority. And it was a huge light bulb moment, that training, for me. And my biggest regret, I think, that I didn't find it years and years ago. I really wish I'd been teaching it for a long, long time. I think the thing I loved the most about the approach was that it's really grounded in the science of reading. I loved the references to cognitive load theory, that just made so much sense. I loved how it starts from what the children already know and that it builds on that in that really structured, cumulative, really straightforward way, and that you go back and revisit everything so that it really becomes embedded in long-term memory. Luckily, the other teachers I trained with, there were four of us who went on the training, and they came away equally as enthused and really excited to go back and get started. And we did that, we went straight back into school and got started with it straight away.

Laura:  02:39
Amazing. And given that you oversaw the implementation of Sounds-Write at the school you taught at, and now help schools implement Sounds-Write when they're first starting out, you are the perfect person to be doing this episode on implementing Sounds-Write for the first time at your school. So, could you talk us through the kind of process, what that looked like for you when you were the English lead?

Caroline:  03:08
Yeah. So, we trained Reception and Year 1 teachers. So I was the Year 1 teacher as well, at that time. We trained in the spring term. We also trained our SENCO and our support-based teacher at that time as well. We wanted to get started straightaway. So even though it was in the spring term, we went back into class and we started just by trying out some of the lessons, getting to grips with it, practising the script, and then the pandemic hit and kind of side-tracked everything for a little while. So, it was really September 2020 when we really got going. So as that was the beginning of the school year, Reception started from the beginning of the Initial Code, and in Year 1 we did a little bit of assessment and started Unit 8 of the Initial Code to get those children's skills really sharp so that they were working really confidently with those adjacent consonants. And this was really important. They never would have coped in the Extended Code if we hadn't done that. We decided as a school that we wanted to really accelerate the implementation. Obviously, we were excited about the impact it was going to have. So over the course of the next year, we trained all of our teaching staff. We trained our EYFS and Key Stage 1 TAs. We had to think really hard about starting points for children, particularly in Year 2 and Year 3, that had never had any Sounds-Write teaching before. So we did some initial assessments and decided where we were going to start them. I worked on a plan then for how Sounds-Write would be used to teach vocabulary in Year 4 to Year 6. And initially that was very, kind of, they just had a go, they tried it out to see how it would work. But I was really lucky in that I worked with teachers who could see the potential of it, who always gave everything 100%. So they really kind of threw themselves into really getting this successful from the get go throughout the school. We then looked at the Sounds-Write webinars. So the CPD we got from them was really useful in terms of starting with interventions, using those diagnostics as a starting point. We got them going with teachers leading them initially and then once we trained our TAs, they took that over. And I think the biggest thing for us in terms of that kind of rollout across school was getting to grips with planning, was making sure we had that kind of Sounds-Write three-part lesson really embedded. And I think that's the thing we worked on the most over the course of that year. And I'll probably labour this point a little bit today, but I would absolutely recommend attending those webinars about planning because they were such a huge help for us. I think you come out of your initial Sounds-Write training with so much information that it's really useful to then be able to go back and revisit that. And the planning was such a big thing that we wanted to get right that the webinars were absolutely invaluable.

Laura:  05:54
Yeah. So if anyone is unaware of these webinars, this is a series that we run for Sounds-Write practitioners throughout the year. We do webinars on various different topics to provide extra CPD and support. Yeah, great. Thank you for that. So, when a school does decide to train their staff in Sounds-Write, what are some of the considerations that they should bear in mind? So, kind of, what advice would you give to new schools starting out and how is it going to impact the implementation process?

Caroline:  06:30
So, I think the main thing you need to think about first is how gradual you want the rollout of Sounds-Write to be. Do you want to do what we did and train everybody as quickly as possible, or do you want to roll it out gradually over a period of time? And schools do it in a variety of different ways. I think if you decide on a really quick rollout, on getting everybody trained as quickly as possible, it's really important that you consider those starting points really carefully. There's lots of advice out there on the Sounds-Write website about where to start with those Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3 classes who haven't had Sounds-Write before. And you can also go to your trainer for advice on this as well. I think I pestered my poor trainer an awful lot in the first year or so to get advice about these starting points as well as all sorts of other things.

Laura:  07:18
Yeah, because, am I right in thinking, so, some schools go for it, kind of, across the board, train everyone in the same year, and then other schools decide that actually they're going to build it up. So a Reception teacher will get trained and then the next year, the Year 1 teacher and they'll build it up, right?

Caroline:  07:38
Yeah. There are other variations of that as well. Some schools will train Reception and Year 1 together. But yeah, so I think it's deciding how it's going to work best for your school. Some schools just want everybody to take it on straightaway and just get it in there. And other schools prefer that kind of gradual approach. So I think, if you're taking it on as a kind of whole school straight away over a year kind of approach, you really need to remember not to rush it, really make sure that you're getting those skills really pin sharp. Otherwise you're just going to create lots of problems later on. It's really tempting just to think we've got all of this information we've got to get impart to them. Let's just get on and rush through it. You got to remember not to do that if you take on that approach of rolling it all out at once. I think if the other approach then, as you said, would be to train your Reception teachers, and I think I would advise that you train your TAs as well in Reception ready to start at the beginning of the school year. So, September in the UK or January if you're in Australia, we've always got online courses running prior to the start of the school year. And actually they normally would give you enough time to have a bit of a practise as well with the class that you've currently got before you go into the new school year. And as I said, you could train Year 1 teachers probably at this point as well. It's relatively easy to find those starting points for your Year 1 class. So it would be okay to do that at that point as well. Or you might then decide to wait and train them later in the year, ready for those Reception children to move up and then you'd kind of just gradually roll that out from there year on year as the children are ready to go up into the next year group, until everyone's trained. I think training your teachers and your TAs at the same time just means that you can have those interventions running from the start as well.

Laura:  09:30
Yeah, and that's something that actually I hear Sounds-Write trainers talk about time and again, which is that it's so important to train TAs because they are often the people who are doing the intervention sessions and actually those children who are doing intervention are some of the most important children to teach right, and get right from the start so, yeah, absolutely. And I guess what you said about rolling it out across the whole school, I guess I can imagine situations in which, for example, if in a school in which the phonics lead is also a class teacher and doesn't have a lot of time to do extra training or monitoring. It would be extremely challenging to roll it out across the whole school. So I can see why you would want to start with maybe just Reception and TAs first.

Caroline:  10:27
It was definitely challenging to roll it out across the school and be able to, as you say, have the time to monitor it effectively to make sure that we had that consistency and that everybody was following the scripts and that it was being effective in each year group. And yeah, I think that kind of gradual approach, you wouldn't have that pressure quite so much.

Laura:  10:51
Yeah. And for anyone interested in learning more about teaching Sounds-Write with Fidelity across the school, we did a podcast episode with Naomi a couple of months ago on that, so I'll link it in the show notes as well. Can't miss the opportunity to promote our podcast more on our own podcast. [laughter] So, let's circle back to kind of the beginning. So, if you're a teacher who has just trained in Sounds-Write for the first time, and you kind of go back to your class beginning to teach the programme, what are some of the challenges that are most common and what advice can you give for those people who are just getting started, those individual teachers, rather than the entire school.

Caroline:  11:43
Again, planning, I think, is the one thing that teachers find the most challenging. I've spoken to a lot of teachers this year who just started Sounds-Write, and that's the one thing that they tend to need advice on. It's the area that they feel that they need the most support in. So, it's about making sure that you know about those three parts of the Sounds-Write session. So you've got your review, your work on your current unit and your reading and writing in connected text, and then just use a variety of your Sounds-Write lessons to teach those different elements. We always advise that you introduce new code with Lesson 1, or 5, or 6, depending on where you are in the programme. But after that, they can be really flexible, you don't have to stick to a rigid structure every single week. There's lots of flexibility in there, in how you use them. We've got examples out there. There are examples on the website. You are given examples when you train as well that you can use as a starting point. And I think the other thing to remember when you're planning as well is just making sure you're mindful of cognitive load, making sure that, for example, you're doing your reading in text and your dictation from units prior to the one that they're currently working in. And I think once you've got that kind of embedded and you've got that structure, planning is so easy. I've said that it was always the easiest thing for me to plan once I had that idea of what the week should look like. And you can really then focus on things like your word choice, any possible misconceptions that you think they might come across, on your opportunities for formative assessment, you can really then focus on tailoring that plan to the needs of your class. And that is so important and it really does take that kind of the other thinking process about what you're going to teach away. It just lets you really focus on what your class really needs. So I think leading on from that, the other piece of advice I would give is don't try and produce set plans. So don't try and produce plans for the year that are going to stay the same all the way through the year and then into the next Year 1 and the next one after that, because it really should be flexible. It's why Sounds-Write doesn't give you a set of plans. We just give you these kind of examples to work from because you should really be working that according to the needs of your class on a daily, weekly, yearly basis.

Laura:  14:05
Yeah, absolutely. That one's something that comes up over and over again, actually, is the practitioners ask us for a set plan for the year. And of course, as you say, there is a reason why we don't provide that, though I think planning would be a great topic for another episode of the podcast.

Absolutely. Yeah, you're right. And I think it is the thing that isn't asked. I'm asked so often about planning, but once you have that structure there, use the examples that are out there and just keep following that kind of same structure and just adapt it and think all the time just about the needs of your class. And it really does become a lot more straightforward once you've done it for a little bit of time. I think it's daunting at first, but it's so easy to plan once you have that structure in your head. And watch the webinars, as I keep saying, look at, we have specific webinars on planning, and they're absolutely invaluable. And not only are you getting lots of advice from the webinar, you get the opportunities then to ask questions. So, if you've got specific things that you're struggling with or that you want to ask about, you can ask for advice there as well. So, yeah, so that's planning. And I think then the other thing, if you're just new to it is knowing your scripts, making sure you know your scripts, making sure you know your error corrections, spend some time practising them. My poor daughter got Sounds-Write to death when I first trained because I used to come home and practise on her. And she actually knows the script so well now that she can probably teach a Sounds-Write session herself. But it's important that you spend some time practising them, that you know them really well, that you keep them in front of you when you're teaching at first so that you are not missing bits out or adding bits in that aren't there, that fidelity to the script, that really precise teaching through errors is so important if you're going to be able to implement Sounds-Write successfully and get the results that you will be able to get if you teach it consistently.

Laura:  16:13.925
Yeah. And obviously, during the course, trainee practitioners are encouraged to constantly practise the Sounds-Write lessons, both in the course itself. And also if you're doing, for example, the online course over six weeks, it's actually encouraged to go back to your classroom and start on those first lessons, get some practise in, know what questions you want to ask during the course as well. And it's okay to have that script in front of you and to read from the script, especially at the beginning.

Caroline:  16:50
Yeah, I mean, I always still have mine nearby, even now. It's just important, just to make sure that you are following it completely with fidelity. And I think talking about practising it as well, even if you have an older class, if you teach Year 4 or Year 5, still go back and practise those Initial Code lessons with them, because actually they probably quite enjoy it. And it is so important just to get that practise immediately, as you say, from coming off the training.

Laura:  17:22
Yeah. So, in terms of the whole school's approach, what kind of advice would you give to phonics leads and headteachers, for instance, to ensure the successful adoption of Sounds-Write across the whole school?

Caroline:  17:39
Yeah, we've talked already about a little bit about time and having time as a phonics lead to be able to perform that kind of monitoring and especially when you're first implementing it. So I think that is really important, that your phonics lead has some time out of class, that they can go and do some monitoring, that they can look at the implementation, that they can do those jobs that they need to do in order to make sure that it is being implemented successfully. And then I think from there it's consistency that's really important. So you need to make sure that everyone knows the importance of sticking to the script and knowing their error corrections and that your phonics lead has time to spend some time monitoring this. So to spend some time dropping in and seeing people teach and also being able to revisit that. I think quite often what happens is, they'll go in in the first kind of term and everybody will be great sticking to their script. They'll have their scripts in front of them. It's all new. But then six months down the line, little idiosyncrasies have started to drop in, people are adding their own bits to the scripts, so you've got to kind of go and revisit that every now and then, just to make sure that that consistency is being maintained. And also you can then get your teachers working together to do that as well. Do a bit of informal, supportive, kind of peer reviewing, or get some staff meeting time in and practise the scripts that way, just to really make sure that you're keeping everything consistent, that everybody's sticking to those scripts with fidelity. And then obviously from there, we've got planning. Again, you'll need to probably provide some support with the planning. So as the phonics lead, you need to have a really good grasp of what planning should look like so that you can go in and support, or if people are coming to you for advice, you've got the knowledge there to be able to give them that advice. We also have the Phonics Leads Masterclass, which I would really recommend you sign up for if time and budgets allow, because that will really help give you an in depth understanding of all the different areas you can be monitoring. So things like assessment and how you monitor the formative assessment that's going on, having time to talk to teachers about their classes and how they're doing and how their progress is and areas that they might be concerned about, and then interventions as well. That master class will give you some advice on how you go about looking at interventions and monitoring interventions and making sure the right children are being put forward for interventions and that kind of thing as well. So, that's a really useful thing to do, if you can. And then staff meeting time, make sure that you're putting in some regular time to all get together as a staff, even if it's just 10-15 minutes at the beginning of a staff meeting, just to chat about how things are going, to talk about things that are being successful, to share ideas for people to voice their concerns or ask questions. And I think especially in that first year when you're just starting to implement it, that's so important, to have that time together consistently, just to be able to sort of touch base and talk about how things are going.

Laura:  20:52
Yeah, and on that note as well, we do actually provide free places for headteachers on our courses, and that's obviously really important as well. Headteachers having a deep understanding of Sounds-Write and taking part in those discussions, that monitoring process.

Caroline:  21:10
Absolutely. Yeah.

Laura:  21:14
Great. Thank you so much, Caroline, for being here and for talking to us today about all of this, it's been great.

Caroline:  21:21
It's great. Thank you very much for having me. I've enjoyed it.

Laura:  21:24
All right. See you next time.