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Archive for the 'Language and literacy' Category

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

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 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

Blog Editor, IOE Digital20 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’?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital9 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

Blog Editor, IOE Digital31 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

Blog Editor, IOE Digital10 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…)

Breadth and balance: the essential elements of a recovery curriculum

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 September 2020

Dominic Wyse.

Government guidance for schools reopening this month originally suggested that national curriculum subjects could be dropped in order to focus on key areas such as phonics. In the latest welcome U-turn, the guidance now says that “the curriculum remains broad and ambitious”. But at the same time it notes that “Substantial modification to the curriculum may be needed at the start of the year, so teaching time should be prioritised to address significant gaps in pupils’ knowledge with the aim of returning to the school’s normal curriculum content by no later than summer term 2021,” and goes on to give details.

The key question is, will the guidance’s emphasis on aspects such as “disapplication”, “the essentials”, and “phonics” lead to some subjects in the curriculum being neglected? The history of governments’ national curriculum reform in England suggests this will be the case.

The guidance continues, “For pupils in Reception, teachers should also assess and address gaps in language, early reading and mathematics, particularly ensuring children’s acquisition of phonic knowledge and extending their vocabulary. Settings should follow updates to the EYFS [Early Years Foundation Stage] disapplication guidance.”

And, “For pupils in key stages 1 and 2, school leaders are expected to prioritise identifying gaps and re-establish good progress in the (more…)

PISA 2018 suggests gender gaps in reading are closing. But I am not celebrating

Blog Editor, IOE Digital14 January 2020

Francesca Borgonovi.

Results from PISA 2018 reveal a persistent gender gap in favour of 15-year-old girls in reading. On average, across 35 OECD countries with comparable data, this gap was 39 points in 2009 but ‘only’ 30 points in 2018 – i.e. the gap narrowed by 9 points. 

I should be celebrating, but I won’t. PISA results in fact suggest that, on average across OECD countries gender gaps in reading closed because the performance of girls declined, rather than because the performance of boys improved. Even more worryingly, the decline appears to be especially pronounced among poorly achieving girls. 

(more…)

Nine key findings from PISA 2018

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 December 2019

John Jerrim.

Results from the PISA 2018 study have just been released. This is the triennial update of how the UK has performed on these closely scrutinised (and highly politicised) tests.

Given that this is election season, and that this is the first set of results since Michael Gove’s GCSE reforms properly took effect, I am expecting to see a lot of discussion about the results.

Some of which will, of course, be more accurate than others.

My job today will be to try and help people see the wood for the trees so we can all properly understand the results.

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Are all types of reading equal, or are some more equal than others?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital22 October 2019

John Jerrim.

It is widely considered important that children read regularly. A wide range of previous research has linked reading during childhood to improved language skills and higher levels of academic achievement more generally.

But does it matter what children choose to read? Does flicking through a magazine or reading a newspaper have the same benefits for young people as becoming engrossed in a novel? A lot less evidence currently exists on this.

In a research paper published earlier this year, my co-author Gemma Moss and I decided to explore this topic in detail.

(more…)

Oracy: children’s skills are skewed by deprivation and privilege. How can schools bridge the gap?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 October 2019

Julie Dockrell.

An All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has been set up to make Parliament and the public aware of how important the ability to communicate is as a life skill and the impact communication difficulties have on people’s lives. The APPG, which aims to press for increased provision of speech and language therapy, is to gather evidence this month.

Here is some of the research evidence that will be informing their discussions and their final report, due next year.

(more…)