Research School Network: Write all about it In the third and final part of this series, Allison Carvalho explores recommendation six from Improving Literacy in KS1.

Write all about it

In the third and final part of this series, Allison Carvalho explores recommendation six from Improving Literacy in KS1.

by East London Research School
on the

Recommendation 6 in the Improving Literacy in Key Stage 1 Guidance Report states:

Promote fluent written transcription skills by encouraging extensive and purposeful practice and explicitly teaching spelling.

IL strap

I’ll discuss two bullet points that can apply to older pupils too.

Transcription refers to the physical processes of handwriting or typing and spelling.’

Typing, especially in late Key Stage 2 and beyond, can be an effective way for children to show what they know.

Speech-to-text software could also be helpful. Of course, the classroom environment and the oracy and attitude of the learner are serious considerations before introducing this. Some children with handwriting difficulties may feel deeply self-conscious about either typing, or using speech-to-text software. As ever, the sensitive discernment of classroom teachers and input from parents are beneficial.

Children must develop fluency in these skills to the point that they have become automated. If children have to concentrate to ensure their transcription is accurate, they will be less able to think about the content of their writing.’

The italicisation is mine.

Automaticity of writing, and reading, may help to minimise the load on working memory during composition when lots of skills are used simultaneously (orchestration).

However, automaticity is not static. Nor is it easily acquired by those who may have specific learning difficulties (SpLDs).

Recent guidance from the SpLD Assessment Standards Committee (SASC) states:

There is an increasing recognition that age-related norms for typical’ reading and writing speeds can vary considerably according to the specific demands of the reading and writing task and different test standardisations.’

It goes on to state that higher level reading and writing skills and speeds are likely to differ according to the demands of the task. Granted, SASC broadly relates this to older learners, but young ones are also asked to do a range of writing tasks that make varying demands on their skills.

For example, copying carries a much lower cognitive load than planning and actually starting a writing task. Confidence and motivation may affect the latter. Have automatic writers mastered punctuation? Are we interested in quantity or quality? Have slow’ writers shown relatively strong grammatical skills for their age and subject knowledge, or creativity?

The teaching of cursive handwriting is a common policy in primary schools. However, learning to write in cursive script is demanding for some and may even make previously clear, printed handwriting illegible. Sometimes, pupils’ script may become laboured. This could be due to perfectionism, adjustment while acquiring a new skill, or an underlying difficulty with motor skills and visual-motor integration that only an occupational therapist can diagnose.

SASC’s guidance states that while there is no simple average writing or reading speed by age, the concept of typical ranges, depending on the task set, may be helpful in identifying non-typical performance’.

It concludes that exceptionally slow reading and writing speeds are always a cause for concern. Typical ranges are gauged by approved standardised tests, which, of course, are different. We find what we look for.

So, how is writing speed measured? Alongside qualitative evidence, one standardised assessment for children aged nine to 16 can help to identify whether learners need extra time for tasks and tests (usually 25%). Observant teachers already make this free, reasonable adjustment.

Schools are under tremendous pressure to deliver results, but transcription is complex. Therefore, we must consider the numerous factors that influence automated’ writing, starting with the development of a comfortable grasp or grip’ in Nursery and Reception.

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 1 in this three-part series

Part 2 in this three-part series

More from the East London Research School

Show all news

This website collects a number of cookies from its users for improving your overall experience of the site.Read more