Research School Network: Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2 Doireann Brennan, Reading Lead at Meols Cop, discusses key updates of the updated ​‘Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2’

Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2

Doireann Brennan, Reading Lead at Meols Cop, discusses key updates of the updated ​‘Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2’

by Research Schools Network
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In 2017, The EEF (Education Endowment Foundation) released their guidance report, Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2’. The report was devised as a component of a series of guidance reports focused on literacy recommendations from EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) to secondary level, with research being at the core of international expert discourse, so as to issue the most secure evidence base attainable. In November 2021, an updated report was provided, with additional advantageous features.

Needless to say, the complexity that is the teaching and learning of literacy cannot be explored at a superficial level. Pertaining to prior knowledge, vocabulary experience, and comprehension of language are continual challenging and confrontational issues that are at the core of providing for the metacognitive range of the young minds we seek to develop.

Children will often encounter difficulty with holding onto information for a sufficient amount of time, and with adequate clarity so as to make productive use of it, recognition that there exists an established relationship between literacy and working memory. At Key Stage (KS) 2, it is imperative that the development of children’s literacy skills is underpinned by a secure understanding of, and responsiveness to, the variety of interdependent components from which language comprehension emerges – expansion into fluent utilisation of vocabulary and language methods, and avenue to promote more thoughtful inference skills and contextual understanding.

Pertinent to all practitioners is a reliance on the moral imperative to teach successfully enough in order to permit your students to confidently participate in all manner of conversational topics – within literacy, you are essentially facilitating children to feel secure in their use of language, articulating themselves with sufficient merit, so as not to be dismissed from any affair or social hierarchy. This moral dilemma of teachers is often felt, and the updated report seeks to ensure clarity and guidance for teachers, providing best bets’ with regards to literacy.

Golden Thread

As a point of reference, prior to delving into the key updates, it is helpful to reiterate that this guidance is placed within a series of guidance reports encompassing a variety of developmental stages. Albeit, prevalent ideas are laced throughout the series of recommendations in its entirety – golden threads’ coincide within the literacy development of children throughout their school years. These golden threads’ account for speech, language and communication (oracy); explicit teaching of reading and repeated exposure to engaging with the written word; targeted modelling. Immersed within each of these is the teaching and learning of vocabulary.

Key Updates

Within the updated report, the Reading Rope’ illustration has been transformed into the Reading House’ model. The new figure distinctly conveying various aspects of reading comprehension whilst also establishing their interdependence.

Literacy 1

Additionally, vignettes are provided, which pose suitable questions as a starting point for discussion. This discussion could be utilised as part of staff training and/​or as a basis for staff/self-reflection. Notably, the Reading House’ illustration clearly communicates that at secondary level, there is a perceived assumption of phonological awareness, print knowledge, grammar and syntax, and vocabulary, as well as the other literacy components which constitute the frame of the Reading House’. Therefore, at secondary level, it would be reasonable to assume that reading comprehension is to be the focus. This poses the question, that if this foundational layer and structure has not been secured within a child’s reading learning journey up until KS3 – how can comprehension and fluency be achieved, and more importantly what interventions need to take place?

Considering the most recent research findings, time devoted to the development of vocabulary has increased through speech, language and communication, and collaborative learning. Examples and recommendations for how to assimilate elements of this into teaching are also supplied. As ever, the priority being on creating a sequential focus, as opposed to stand-alone lessons.

Further models incorporated in the revised report also demonstrate theories surrounding language acquisition through reading, distinct vocabulary and exemplifications of the individual components of reading fluency. Knowledge of the specificities is functional for teachers, both in relation to comprehension and as a visual memorandum for scope.

Literacy 2

The modernised configuration of the report also relates to the EEF Putting Evidence to Work – A School’s Guide to Implementation’, chiefly underscoring implementation as a key aspect of what schools do to improve and ensuring lasting change in teaching practice. Utilised in conjunction with the Literacy Guidance, the EEF Guide to Implementation furnishes an extensive bundle for school improvement within this curriculum operation.

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