Most children learn to read and write in accordance with expected norms. However, there are some learners for whom literacy is a particular challenge and they face the significant risk of not being able to access the curriculum. In secondary school, this risk increases and has serious implications. It may lead to disengaged and disfranchised young people.
Prevention is better than intervention
However, before considering the processes of intervention, it may be helpful to revise the practices which should ensure high-quality literacy teaching. These are the ideas and beliefs that need to inform your philosophy about literacy and should be used to write an effective whole-school/whole-setting policy.
A number of teacher practices can be considered to be 'literacy essentials' and should be a natural part of the learning and teaching process. These include:
- making the learning objective clear in relation to word recognition or language comprehension
- providing feedback to learners
- creating a supportive learning environment
- responding to individual need through targeted differentiation
- ensuring teacher explanations are clear and well thought through
- promoting a love of reading
- having high expectations; expecting success
- asking higher-order questions.
Consider the list above and reflect on how some of these points may relate to different areas of pedagogy. For example:
- assessment for learning
- thinking skills
- planning for individual need
- teaching explicit literacy skills.
How do these different areas play a part in ensuring success in literacy?
You can see from completing this activity, that a holistic approach to learning and teaching is needed if the very best literacy provision is to be provided.
The following activity provides a model of a holistic approach to literacy and shows how the elements of assessment, target-setting and planning need to be interlinked.
In this activity you can order the holistic view of learning and teaching to show an operational model.
This cyclical model is only one representation of the way teachers can ensure that the learner is included in a model that builds success. It does not really matter what model is used as long as there is a common approach to moving the learner forward.
Knowing the learner well
The first cog highlights the importance of 'knowing the learner well'. This is best achieved through the step-by-step dialogue between learner and teacher advocated by the assessment for learning approach.
If you would like to revise or extend your knowledge of assessment for learning techniques, you may like to access the following resources.
Together with the more general principles of assessment for learning, there are a number of literacy specific assessments which can be used as diagnostic tools. These can be helpful in more clearly identifying where difficulties lie.
- Phonics assessment.
- Running reading records.
- Miscue analysis (external link).
When using these diagnostic tools it can be useful to relate the findings to the 'Simple view of reading (SVOR)' first advocated in The Rose Review (2006). This model underpins many of the literacy schemes used by today's primary practitioners together with the intervention programmes used in the primary and secondary environments. Using this model can help determine whether the learner needs to be set specific targets related to the skills of word recognition or language comprehension.
In the following activity you can revise your knowledge of the SVOR and reflect on the needs of four learners.
In this activity you are asked to construct a model of the SVOR by dragging and dropping the labels into the correct positions. Then, you can consider the profiles of four learners and place them in the appropriate quadrant.
After you have completed this activity, what might be your next steps for teaching?
When the diagnostic assessments have been completed, a clearer pathway can be identified and supported by setting SMART targets (external link).
Models of progression
Another cog of the holistic approach refers to 'planning for progression'. There are many different models of progression that can be used to ensure that learners move forward. However, the basic principle is that learning should be rehearsed enough to achieve fluency and automaticity before moving on to the next step. This approach involves the learner in a gradual and cumulative acquisition of skills.
The National Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) uses a model of progression based on learning outcomes where prior learning is used as a foundation for new learning. This model is underpinned by the common educational approach first identified by Vygotsky and outlined in the zones of proximal development. You can read more about this learning theory in Topic 4: Literacy and learning spaces.
However, another model based on the same learning theory and widely used in the teaching of literacy is:
In this model the learning is scaffolded at the beginning and then the 'teacher' fades away until the learner becomes independent in the knowledge, skill or concept. Then the process begins again as new knowledge is introduced.
The educationalist Pie Corbett suggested a variation of this model in his Talk for Writing programme where he advised that the learner needs to imitate the outcomes of learning before being able to change a small part and ultimately create a new example of the outcome. For example, learners may have to copy a familiar narrative before changing an ending, setting or character. Eventually, they will be able to invent a new story.
The following linked PowerPoint document offers a comprehensive exploration of some Talk for Writing strategies (external link).
Another model of progression is the one embraced by the reflective approach to learning and teaching.
In this cyclical model the outcomes of assessment, especially formative assessment, are used to inform subsequent planning and ensure that the learner moves forward.
It does not matter which model of progression is used as long as:
- literacy learning takes place in a planned sequence
- there is a gradual building of literacy skills
- rehearsal of skills continues until fluency and automaticity is achieved
- learning is cumulative.
Although these points apply to all literacy learning and teaching, they should provide a particular focus when considering methods of intervention.
In this subtopic you have revised the teacher practices needed for effective literacy provision and considered how these fit into a more holistic view of learning and teaching.
In particular, you have considered the aspect of knowing the learner well and revised your knowledge and application of Assessment for Learning. A range of reading has been provided so that you can increase your repertoire in the learning environment. Finally, you have considered different models of progression which allow skills to be built in a cumulative way.