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Literacy Interventions for SENCOs: Improving Reading and Writing

by , | Apr 9, 2023

Literacy Interventions for SENCOs: Strategies for Improving Reading and Writing


As a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO), one of your primary responsibilities is to support students with difficulties in literacy. Many children with special educational needs (SEN) struggle with reading and writing, and it’s crucial to implement effective interventions to help them succeed. In this article, we’ll explore strategies and interventions that SENCOs can use to improve literacy skills in their students.

Understanding Special Educational Needs

Before we dive into specific literacy interventions, it’s important to understand what special educational needs are and how they impact literacy skills. SEN can refer to a wide range of conditions, including dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, and autism. These conditions can affect different aspects of reading and writing, such as phonemic awareness, spelling, fluency, comprehension, and writing skills.

Assessing Literacy Skills

To develop effective literacy interventions, SENCOs must first assess their students’ literacy skills. This involves using a range of assessments to identify areas of difficulty and determine the appropriate level of intervention. Some common literacy assessments include:

• Phonics screening: assesses a student’s knowledge of phonics and their ability to decode words
• Reading fluency measures: assesses a student’s speed and accuracy in reading
• Reading comprehension assessments: assesses a student’s ability to understand and interpret text
• Spelling assessments: assesses a student’s ability to spell words accurately
• Writing assessments: assesses a student’s writing skills, including grammar, punctuation, and organisation


Effective Literacy Interventions

Once you’ve identified areas of difficulty, it’s time to implement effective literacy interventions. Here are some strategies that have been proven to be effective:

Multisensory Approaches

Multisensory approaches involve using multiple senses (such as sight, sound, touch, and movement) to enhance learning. This can be particularly effective for students with dyslexia, as it helps them to link sounds and letters more effectively. Some examples of multisensory approaches include:

• Using sandpaper letters to help students feel the shape of letters
• Using coloured overlays to reduce visual stress when reading
• Using tactile materials (such as clay or playdough) to help students learn spelling and letter formation

Phonics Instruction

Phonics instruction involves teaching students the relationship between sounds and letters. This can be particularly effective for students who struggle with decoding words. Some effective phonics interventions include:

• Teaching letter-sound relationships explicitly and systematically
• Using word families to help students see patterns in words
• Providing practice in reading and writing words with the target phonics patterns


Vocabulary Instruction

Vocabulary instruction is important for developing reading comprehension skills. Students who struggle with vocabulary may have difficulty understanding what they’re reading. Some effective vocabulary interventions include:

• Explicitly teaching vocabulary words and their meanings
• Using graphic organisers to help students organise and remember new vocabulary words
• Encouraging students to read widely to expand their vocabulary


Writing Interventions

Students with SEN may struggle with writing for a variety of reasons. Effective writing interventions may include:

• Providing explicit instruction in writing skills, such as planning, organising, and revising
• Using graphic organisers to help students organise their ideas
• Providing opportunities for students to write for real-world purposes


Assistive Technology

Assistive technology can be a powerful tool for supporting students with SEN in their literacy development. Some examples of assistive technology include:

• Text-to-speech software, which can read text aloud to students
• Speech-to-text software, which can transcribe spoken words into text
Word prediction software, which can suggest words as students type



In conclusion, supporting students with SEN in their literacy development requires a range of interventions and strategies. SENCOs must first assess their students’ literacy skills and identify areas of difficulty before implementing effective interventions. Multisensory approaches, phonics instruction, vocabulary instruction, writing interventions, and assistive technology can all be effective in improving literacy skills. It’s also important to remember that every student with SEN is unique, and interventions should be tailored to their individual needs. With the right support and interventions, students with SEN can develop the literacy skills they need to succeed academically and in life.


1. What is a SENCO?
A SENCO is a Special Educational Needs Coordinator, who is responsible for coordinating support for students with special educational needs in schools.

2. What are some common special educational needs that can affect literacy skills?
Common special educational needs that can affect literacy skills include dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, and autism.

3. How do I assess a student’s literacy skills?
Assessing a student’s literacy skills involves using a range of assessments to identify areas of difficulty and determine the appropriate level of intervention. Some common literacy assessments include phonics screening, reading fluency measures, reading comprehension assessments, spelling assessments, and writing assessments.

4. How can I tailor interventions to individual students’ needs?
Interventions should be tailored to individual students’ needs based on their specific strengths and areas of difficulty. This may involve using different strategies or assistive technologies, providing additional support, or adjusting the level or pace of instruction.

5. What should I do if an intervention is not working?
If an intervention is not working, it’s important to reassess the student’s needs and try a different approach. SENCOs can collaborate with teachers, parents, and other professionals to develop a more effective intervention plan.

Abigail Hawkins FCCT

Abigail Hawkins FCCT

Director of SENDCO Solutions

Abigail Hawkins was a SENCO for over 25 years and has worked with pupils with all types of needs.  Abigail has worked with Ed-Tech companies on developing their software and also been chair of governors for a multi-academy trust. Abigail now runs SENsible SENCO and SENDCO Solutions, with the aim of working with SENCOs and inclusion leaders across the UK to improve their support for SEND pupils. See our school services for more information.

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