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Early Birds Literacy Support


Early Birds is a daily, before-school (8.30-9am), literacy support programme focused initially at children requiring extra literacy support in  Years 1 and 2.  These students will be invited to participate when identified by classroom teachers and the Head of Learning Support, Shirley Forrest.

Early Birds happens in the 'Red Room' which is the room at the very front of the school hall - this room was chosen because it is closest to the Chalmers Place drop off which will be useful for working parents dropping their children to Early Birds.

Each child receives daily one-on-one tutor support through a personalised programme by Shirley Forrest. Each child's individualised programme is designed around proven multi-sensory methods to increase phonological awareness and dexterity through explicit instruction and repetition.

Tutors are unpaid volunteers from any of the following:
  • Parents of children in the programme
  • Other parents of Arrowtown
  • The wider Arrowtown Community, e.g. past parents, grandparents etc.
The ratio of tutors to students is roughly 1:2, with each tutor seeing at most, two children per session, with Shirley Forrest present at every session.

This programme will work in parallel with any other intervention (e.g. Speech and language therapy) that the child might be receiving outside of school. It does not replace it.  Children are encouraged to stay enrolled in the programme for as long as necessary. Children ‘graduate’ out of the programme when they have achieved their personal goals.
Importantly, there is no cost to parents for their children attending the programme. All costs have been covered by a sponsorship agreement between a local business and Arrowtown School. This sponsorship agreement gives the programme secured funding until the end of 2018.

Daily Structure
  • Every term day, before school, 8.30-9am in the Red Room in front of the Hall.
  • Volunteer Tutors, Head of Learning Support & Children turn up from 8.30am (first in, first served)
  • When children arrive, they select their folder and wait quietly for an available tutor (they may do quiet activities whilst waiting)
  • Tutors don’t need to take their own children, if fact it is often better if they don’t particularly in the beginning
  • A Tutor may take more than one child per session - each session will last around 15 minutes
  • When a child achieves a recognised success (e.g. going up a level), or has a breakthrough moment, they are invited during their session to choose from a selection of small prizes
  • At the completion of their session children choose a sticker - they can put it on themselves or put in on their exercise book
  • The programme is all about positivity with every attending child - success is celebrated openly and frequently
  • If a child is struggling to progress, we change the way we teach them. We respect that these children are likely to learn differently, and therefore we may need to teach differently.
Programme Content
Every child will have their own folder, ready for a tutor to use. Included in the folder will be:
  • A Daily Record Sheet - this is where tutors note down summary scores, timings and results from each session in summary detail. This sheet provides a ‘dashboard’ where progress can be seen at a glance, and adjustments to the programme made accordingly.
  • A Choice of 3 Readers chosen by the student - at a level determined by the Head of Learning Support (which might be different to the classroom level)
  • Irregular sight words-Early Words Programme -Yolanda Soryl .
  • Exercise Book - for sight words, spelling practice, letter formation etc… 
  • Phonemic Exercises & Specific Recording Sheet . Initially knowing letter names and sounds and then moving to blending and segmenting phonemes for reading and spelling

Below are some videos, by Yolanda Soryl, whose methods and 'Early Words' programme we will be actively using in our Early Birds sessions:

Yolanda Soryl Early Words Example Lesson


Yolanda Soryl covering vowel sounds in a New Zealand accent


Yolanda Soryl: Rhyming words & phonological awareness