Research School Network: Improving Literacy in Key Stage 1: building bridges In part one of a three-part series, Allison Carvalho appraises recommendation eight from Improving Literacy in KS1.

Improving Literacy in Key Stage 1: building bridges

In part one of a three-part series, Allison Carvalho appraises recommendation eight from Improving Literacy in KS1.

by East London Research School
on the

Short of time? That’s why the EEF’s recommendations posters are such useful digests of its guidance reports. In part one of a three-part series, Allison Carvalho appraises recommendation eight from Improving Literacy in KS1.

Use high quality structured interventions to help pupils who are struggling with their literacy

IL strap

There are four bullet points under recommendation 8. Here are my thoughts about one, which can also apply to any Key Stage:

Regularly review children’s progress whilst they are part of the intervention to ensure the support indeed enhances their learning.

The italics are mine.

Tailored – not off the shelf’ – additional support sessions follow the assess, plan, do review, model. Every six weeks, progress is checked to evaluate the impact of teaching on the skills being developed. Revision happens continually, even if skills seem secure, because children need lots of repetition.

Additional support aims to minimise gaps in foundational skills. But how can we ensure that it enhances their learning? This part of the sentence implies transference to the classroom.

Firstly, as a classroom teacher, do you act on any recommendations in diagnostic reports? Do you read baseline assessments and progress summaries from additional support sessions? They outline what additional support programmes target. Ideally, a target should be included in learning plans.

If you’re doing all of that, what does the bridge between classroom and additional support sessions look like? Do you consistently provide scaffolds and strategies in class to support the spelling of, for example, target high frequency words? What about marking and retrieval practice? Are flash cards, practice books and word lists effective? Have you made time, daily, to use them? Do they go missing? Be honest!

What opportunities are there for children to use target graphemes within their everyday writing?

Realistically, is it possible to teach every single potential word with graphemes from a particular family (for example, words with /​ir/​, /​er/​, /​ur/​and even /​ear/​) and for children who may have working memory difficulties to remember when to use them? Do you praise plausible attempts?

Where is your guide to sounds? On the wall behind, or to the side of, children? On the table in front of them, or at the front of their books? Are children actually using it? Are you using it when marking and referring them to it? How often? Learners with literacy difficulties need extensive, meaningful opportunities to develop their encoding skills and to show what they know in class.

Texts used in additional support sessions must be accessible. I sometimes have to write non-fiction material because books are not at instructional level and/​or do not include the key vocabulary taught in class.

Consider whether you’ve provided material at the appropriate level. Is the text a barrier or gateway to enhancing learning? Do children need a bit more time to master new vocabulary? Regularly rereading key vocabulary and displaying it where it can be seen – in and out of context – may help. Chunk and discuss the syllables. Is a target sound in any of them?

Pupils attend additional support sessions when their literacy skills are below the level set by the government. However, as mentioned in a previous blog, they’re on their own unique journeys in a one-size fits all system. There are no quick fixes, only differentiation, strategies, patience and time.

Be mindful that pantomime-style dialogues between practitioners about children’s abilities could sound like one person thinks the other is lying; we may also unwittingly denigrate learners.

Oh yes, they can!”

Oh no, they can’t!”

Avoid this type of unhelpful baiting. Evaluate classroom resources. Work together. Drop in on a session to hear children read. They’ll feel ever so proud; you might too!

How strong are your school’s bridges and what are they made of?

Allison Carvalho is a Specialist Teacher and Dyslexia Assessor at Kaizen Primary School in East London.

For further reading, we recommend the EEF’s Literacy Development Evidence Review

All of the documents below are available via this page:

Improving Literacy in Key Stage 1: Recommendations Poster

Improving Literacy in Key Stage 1: Guidance Report

Reading Fluency: What might fluency practice look like in the classroom?

Reading and writing speeds and SpLD assessment from the SpLD Assessment Standards Committee (SASC) offers helpful guidance to teachers and practitioners. Please note: this is guidance and is not a formal synthesis or review of the research with a transparent methodology or peer review.

See also:

Does cognitive science imply quick fixes’? by Allison Carvalho 

Part 2 of this three-part series

Part 3 of this three-part series

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