Goal! is a reading series designed to support the early stages of learning to read. The books in the series are designed primarily for readers with an interest age, or actual age, of approx. 8 – 14 years, although there is nothing in the books that makes them unsuitable for older or younger readers. A six-year-old football fan is likely to find the books fascinating and accessible, as would an adult with literacy difficulties and an interest in football.
The reading age of the books is approx. 5 to 7 years.
The Goal! series takes a synthetic phonics approach in the structuring and the levelling of the texts. Specifically, Goal! progresses over five levels that closely follow the Letters and Sounds Programme produced by the UK government in 2007. Thus Level 1 of Goal! links to Phase One of Letters and Sounds, etc.
It must be stressed, however, that it is not necessary to be using Letters and Sounds in order to use these books effectively. There are many different synthetic phonics programmes that are used in schools. All of these programmes differ to some degree, but the main differences are in the order that letters are taught and the methods used to teach them. But all programmes follow the same basic approach (you’d expect them to!) and the Goal! series absolutely follows this approach. So the Goal! books will happily slot into and support any and all of these phonics programmes.
The Goal! series is designed to support a synthetic phonics programme, but it is also designed to motivate and engage older readers. These two objectives do seem to pull in opposite directions.
According to strict synthetic phonics criteria, the Goal! texts are not ‘fully decodable’. This is a complex and controversial issue, but in developing the series for older, struggling readers we have concluded that although fully decodable texts may work well for younger readers, they are rarely the best solution for older, struggling readers.
Low level texts that are fully decodable tend to use very stilted and unintuitive language, with tedious and patronising repetition. This can in fact make it harder for struggling children to read. These texts do not overcome the disengagement with reading, they make it worse. Adding a bit more flexibility creates texts that are more fluid, natural and easier to read.
Goal! offers older readers texts that are carefully structured and ‘highly decodable’ – with any exceptions always following a consistent pattern. The books have a look and feel that appeals to older readers. The illustration and layout styles are older, more sophisticated, and photographs are not sanitised or doctored. The books do not shout their educational value. The only indication that the books follow a structured approach is on the back cover where a discrete number in a football indicates the reading level.
Goal! at Secondary Level: Year 10
Gillian Green, Literacy Coordinator, Lakeside School, Hampshire
"We are a special school for boys with Statements of Special Educational Needs for Behavioural, Emotional Social Difficulties (BESD). We have a group of very disaffected Year Ten boys, whose reading and spelling ages are six to seven years. These boys are extremely reluctant to engage in any reading activities. We recently purchased the packs of first, second and third levels of the Goal! scheme.
Each day we have a tutor reading period of twenty minutes. The class tutor (an art specialist) was finding life difficult during these periods. Reading schemes we already had in school were failing to inspire the boys - the group felt they were too "babyish" for them. We were reluctant to fall back on magazines etc, as the boys obviously needed a graded scheme to make any real progress.
When I took the first selection of Goal! books (some from each level) to the tutor room, the boys literally fell on them. They saw them as relating to "real" life - they were in the position of telling teachers about the footballers - i.e. they were now the experts. I gradually introduced the other books. A non-specialist teacher (as their tutor is) is now able to read with the boys in a non-confrontational way.
I have used some of the worksheets from Goal! in group literacy lessons. Again, the real life aspect of the work makes the boys feel ready to engage. I have used one of the plays also, with similar results. I plan to check the resource and hopefully order more plays for literacy group use.
I would have no hesitation in recommending this series to other schools with similarly disaffected older boys. The variety of texts, colour, content and associated written work has proved successful in that boys will engage with it. This has not always been the case with other schemes."
Goal! at Primary Level: Years 3-6
Lynne Oliver, SENCO, Buckinghamshire
"Four days a week I am part of a county team that schools can choose to buy into. Mostly we are asked to assess pupils at School Action or School Action Plus struggling with Cognition and Learning. In our reports we recommend possible strategies to support the pupils in their learning.
I am also SENCO in a small junior school with a higher than average number of children needing extra support via Provision Maps. In both settings I often recommend the Catch Up Intervention.
I am very excited about the Goal! scheme as I frequently need to recommend a scheme that is:
a) phonic in approach
b) appealing to boys
c) appealing to reluctant readers
d) different from all those other books the pupils have tried and failed with
e) is about real life
f) fits well with The Catch Up Intervention method
I am, at present, trialling it with 3 boys (Yr3/Yr4/Yr6) at the school where I am SENCO, and the reaction has been very enthusiastic. One encounter was with a Year 4 boy who is really, really struggling and is very reluctant. I asked him to 'trial' them for me. He showed a marked reluctance until he started reading and then he was off - really working hard at the phonics and discussing the pictures. He even agreed to read a second book at the same sitting!
I am particularly pleased with them because of the phonic content. I still don't understand why there are so few good phonic based schemes out there. I am very excited about taking them into other schools to trial with pupils and recommend to Head Teachers and SENCOs."