Research School Network: Recommendation 4 of Improving Literacy at KS2 Claire Bennett, Teacher at Billesley Primary School, draws on her experiences as a practitioner to help expound EEF guidance


Recommendation 4 of Improving Literacy at KS2

Claire Bennett, Teacher at Billesley Primary School, draws on her experiences as a practitioner to help expound EEF guidance

by Billesley Research School
on the

When teaching writing in Primary schools, one of the most significant challenges is reducing the cognitive load of the process in order for the children to progress. The myriad of necessary skills pupils must master in writing – including, but not limited to: coherence; transcription; awareness of context; punctuation; grammatical accuracy and spelling – can cause them to find the process immensely challenging and this impacts their attitudes to writing and their attainment in both the short and long term.

In the Improving Literacy at Key Stage 2’ Guidance Report (EEF, 2021), the EEF researchers posit that the cognitive overload associated with the writing process can be addressed through breaking it down into its component parts – planning, drafting, revising, editing and publishing – and focussing different lessons on these different skills. They write that this allows children to focus on each section separately rather than trying to do too much at one time. These parts of the process must be modelled and children must be supported to take on greater ownership and independence within them as they grow in confidence and ability. (Graham et al, 2012).

Planning is a key component of all successful writing. Schools choose to do this in a number of ways: picture planning; mind maps; diagrams, etc. The key facet is that the children must be able to decide what they wish to write and how they want to structure it prior to creating the sentences. This allows them to generate ideas without having to worry about the transcription elements of the writing process, and gives them space to focus on cohesion and coherence. Additionally, without spelling, grammar and handwriting as considerations, children can focus more on the creation of good ideas which form a foundation of effective writing. This is also the ideal time to address the audience and purpose of your text – an important factor in children achieving the expected standard at the end of Year 6.

Encouraging children to draft their writing allows them to accept that all writing does not have to be perfect as soon as it is committed to the page. Expected imperfection allows children to be more accepting of the idea that their writing can be changed and improved but avoids them becoming discouraged or convinced that mistakes make them a failure. The EEF report tells us that the use of scaffolds, such as checklists, as well as shared and modelled writes in this type of lesson, will support children in producing effective work. Additionally, lessons where the pressure of accurate spelling or lovely presentation is removed can hugely benefit children who struggle with these facets of transcription and allow them instead to focus on grammatical accuracy, effective vocabulary choices and including a range of skill.

Revisions to improve writing, and edits to correct it, are parts of the writing process that the report says should be given their own lesson. A key point to remember is that the onus here should be encouraging the children to develop the ability to do this independently. Marking codes, peer support and modelling of similar mistakes can all help in giving the children the skills to spot their own errors and opportunities for improvement, and the use of these should be gradually withdrawn as appropriate.

When it comes to publishing, the report points out that this is not always appropriate or necessary for every single piece of writing. However, when used well it can reinforce the purpose of the writing as well as instil a sense of pride and achievement that can be useful to motivate writers.


Educations Endowment Fund (2021) Improving Literacy and Key Stage 2. EEF: London. available at:

Graham, S., Bollinger, A., Booth Olson, C., D’Aoust, C.,MacArthur, C., McCutchen, D. and Olinghouse, N. (2012) Teaching elementary school students to be effective writers: A practice guide’ NCEE: Washington DC..

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