X Close

IOE Blog

Home

Expert opinion from IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society

Menu

Archive for the 'Language and literacy' Category

What works for teaching phonics, reading and writing?

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 12 October 2023

Mixed ethnic background group of children reading a digital tablet in a library.

Credit: Vectorfusionart / Adobe

Dominic Wyse.This is the third of three blog posts about the teaching of phonics, reading and writing. The approach of this blog series is characterised as ‘A Balancing Act’:

  1. Understanding the PIRLS 2021 results;
  2. England’s narrow approach to phonics teaching;
  3. What works for phonics, reading and writing.

The Balancing Act: Part 3

Research published to date strongly suggests that the most effective way to teach phonics, reading and writing is a balanced approach – one that carefully combines different aspects of reading and writing in all reading and writing lessons. For example, when children are age five to six there would be a clear emphasis on phonics, but this would not be taught as separate synthetic phonics lessons, nor would the emphasis on phonics unduly dominate the other important aspects of teaching reading such as comprehension, motivation for reading, engagement with real books more than decodable books, etc. A balanced approach to teaching reading and writing is not the same as the synthetic phonics-led approach currently enforced in England (more…)

England’s approach to teaching reading is too narrow

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 11 October 2023

Small girl holding reading book up to a teacher in an empty classroom.

Credit: Cavan for Adobe

Dominic Wyse.

This is the second of three blog posts about the teaching of phonics, reading and writing. The approach of this blog series is characterised as ‘A Balancing Act’.

  1. Understanding the PIRLS 2021 results;
  2. England’s narrow approach to phonics teaching;
  3. What works for phonics, reading and writing

 The Balancing Act: Part 2

In order to judge if England’s approach to teaching reading is narrow or not, we need a clear picture of what typically is happening in primary school classrooms. We also need a clear picture because some commentators may claim that England’s approach is not narrow. Although we lack large-scale independent evidence of observations in classrooms, by combining teacher survey data with the details of statutory policy and related requirements it is possible to identify aspects that are part of England’s approach.

The list below needs to be understood as a whole because it represents multiple policy levers (more…)

Teaching synthetic phonics and reading: PIRLS of wisdom?

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 10 October 2023

White pearl in the lip of a clam shell.

Credit: By-studio / Adobe Stock.

Dominic Wyse.

This is the first of three blog posts about the teaching of phonics, reading and writing. The approach of this blog series is characterised as ‘A Balancing Act’:

  1. Understanding the PIRLS 2021 results;
  2. England’s narrow approach to phonics teaching;
  3. What works for phonics, reading and writing

The Balancing Act: Part 1

In an article in the Telegraph newspaper in May 2023 the Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb MP, claimed “Our ‘obsession’ with phonics has worked”. The claim was based on his interpretation of the Progress in International Reading and Literacy (PIRLS) 2021 study published earlier this year. The minister’s main point was that “England was fourth out of 43 comparable countries” because apparently teachers had “embraced phonics”. England’s average scale score in PIRLS 2021 was 558, compared to a score of 559 in the previous round, in 2016.

(more…)

How the outcry over a Reading test reveals wider problems with SATs

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 24 May 2023

6 year old girl sits with head on her hand and writes with a pencil

Credit: Phil Meech, UCL.

Alice Bradbury.

One of my daughters did Key Stage 1 SATs ‘quizzes’ last week, and she found it tiring and emotional. Some of her friends were in tears over how they did, and this is without the pressures of having your results used to appraise the whole school. Judging by the outcry over the Reading paper, the Key Stage 2 SATs week was especially tough for pupils, parents and teachers alike this year. But this concern over SATs goes much deeper than one difficult paper; many parents and teachers have simply had enough of what they see as a damaging system. (more…)

Reception Baseline Assessment, algorithmic bias and the reification of ‘ability’

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 17 January 2023

Girls in a primary school classroom talk over laptop screens. Credit: Phil Meech for UCL IOE.

Credit: Phil Meech for UCL IOE.

Guy Roberts-Holmes and Lucy Kaufmann.

The Department for Education (DfE) had attempted to introduce its contested and controversial Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) for four-year-olds since 2015. Reflecting a wider realisation of the COVID-19 pandemic as a powerful catalyst for ‘re-imagining’ education with digital education technologies, the DfE implemented RBA as a statutory assessment in September 2021. (more…)

Language teaching and learning beyond vocabulary and grammar: our success stories

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 15 March 2022

Zhu Hua, Caroline Conlon, Camilla Smith, Fotini Diamantidaki and Áine McAllister.

The strong reactions from the language teaching and learning community to the Government’s French, German and Spanish GCSE subject content review are hardly surprising. If the review’s intention was to make the subject ‘accessible’ and to motivate students, then making a few tweaks to words, themes and topics, question types and grammar will not do the job.

Learning another language is not simply about putting words and sentences together; it is about communicating ideas, feelings and experiences; connecting with people and cultures and broadening horizons. Language curriculum, assessment and pedagogy need to focus on developing intercultural competence.

So what has worked well in classrooms? How do we create space for cultural exploration and exchange of perspectives? And what role does (more…)

Phonics teaching in England needs to change – our new research points to a better approach

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 20 January 2022

 
Sokor Space/Shutterstock

Dominic Wyse and Alice Bradbury.

Arguments about the best way to teach children to read can be intense – they’ve even been described as “the reading wars”. In England, as in many other countries, much of the debate has been over the use of phonics, which helps children understand how sounds – “phonemes” – are represented by letters.

The government requires teachers to use a particular type of phonics teaching called “synthetic phonics”, and the emphasis on this technique has become overwhelming in English primary schools.

Supporters of synthetic phonics teaching have argued that teaching of phonemes and letters should be first and foremost. On the other side have been supporters of whole language instruction, who think that reading whole texts – books for example – should come first and foremost.

Our new research shows that synthetic phonics alone is not the best way to teach children to read. We found that a more (more…)

Breaking down barriers: why do we classify some languages as ‘community’ and others as ‘modern’?

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 9 December 2021

It is claimed that, on average, one in five of school-aged children in Britain have a first language other than English (The Guardian). These languages are often labelled as ‘community languages’ with many of them identified as the ‘languages for the future’ (British Council) in terms of supply and demand.For instance, the top ten ‘languages for the future’ are Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Arabic and German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese and Russian, all of which are spoken in communities in Britain. Yet, as the Guardian article and numerous reports point out, support for the community languages in the UK education system, from early years to further and higher education, is seriously lacking.

Part of the problem is the labelling. Languages that are part of the school and university curriculum are usually called ‘modern languages’, ‘foreign languages’, or ‘modern foreign languages’. Some of the community languages (eg Italian, Mandarin Chinese) are part of the school curriculum, but most are not. The classification of which language is a modern language for schools, and which is a community language seems somewhat arbitrary and largely a result of the history of language teaching in this country. It is also connected to Britain’s (more…)

How Polish complementary schools have helped transnational children stay in touch during the pandemic

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 31 March 2021

Sara Young.

Trying to stay in touch with friends and family during the Covid-19 pandemic has been challenging for everyone. Lockdown has been particularly hard for teenagers. But how has it affected those children and young people who are transnationals, and have family and friends in more than one country? (more…)

What bookworms need to thrive

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 10 February 2021

IOE Events.

The benefits of reading for pleasure are many and varied, from the development of comprehension skills and vocabulary, to the enrichment of imagination and empathy.

For younger children, reading for pleasure builds the proficiency in literacy that accelerates their learning across the school curriculum, and this becomes a virtuous circle as they move on to more demanding texts.  But not all children – or adults – view reading as a favourite pastime. For our latest ‘What if…?’ debate, we brought together children’s author and poet Joe Coelho, literacy experts Charlotte Hacking and Professor Gemma Moss, and social scientist, Professor Alice Sullivan, to assess the barriers and enablers to cultivating committed readers (you can learn more about our panel here).  Along the way, we were delighted to be treated to a poetic tribute to reading, books and libraries.

Our discussion highlighted how the way in which literacy is taught and assessed in schools can be as much of an impediment as an enabler. An over-emphasis on reading as a proficiency and a sorting mechanism, manifested (more…)