The Dancing Bears Reading Intervention Programme
Juliette Moxham

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Literacy: Synthetic phonics - appropriate for Y1, Y2, Y3 and Y4.   
To teach newly arrived children who have English as an additional language to read.


A Y1 pupil from Poland working with a trained volunteer on the Dancing Bears Reading Programme.

At St John’s School we have found that many of our EAL pupils arrive in Years 1 and 2 not having been to school before.  As a result, their phonetic knowledge is limited and they are not able to read, either in their own language or English. This is coupled with the fact that any phonetic knowledge of sounds that they do have in their first language may be pronounced differently in the English language, eg. v, w, u etc.   We realised that if parents are non-English speakers and cannot support children in their reading of English at home, progress in reading for these pupils is more likely to be slower than for their peers who are listened to each evening by family members.

The school is currently implementing the Dancing Bears Reading Intervention Programme to help enable these pupils to ‘catch up’ with their peers with regard to reading.

The Intervention is a 16 week phonics programme, implemented daily, 1 to 1, for 10 minutes by teaching assistants and trained volunteers (governors and parents).  It is usually conducted during registration because that time has been established as being the most convenient for all.  The pupils reading ability is assessed at the beginning and end of the intervention, therefore ensuring progress can be measured.  The volunteers are trained by the Inclusion Co-ordinator who is available to answer questions and give added support if necessary.


The results of intervention have been encouraging.  The school has examples of EAL pupils who at the beginning of the intervention were non readers, with very little phonetic knowledge.  By the end of the intervention their phonic knowledge was good.  They were able to decode CVC words, initial and final consonant blends and words with vowel di-graphs eg. eat, meet etc and thus access the curriculum more readily.

The school is aware that as the pupils are EAL, they may not always understand what they are reading.  However, because the intervention is 1 to 1, there is always an opportunity for the adult to explain the words using pictures, drawings on white board, dictionaries etc.  It also leads to an improvement in vocabulary knowledge which is vital for EAL pupils.

Further details can be found on the Promethean Trust website.

Or contact: Mrs J Moxham, Inclusion Co-ordinator, St John’s C of E Primary School, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. is an education resource for the development of positive tolerance - find out more...