Education Endowment Foundation:Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2

Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2

Seven recommendations to improve literacy teaching for 7 – 11 year-olds

This report offers seven practical, evidence-based recommendations that are relevant to all pupils, and particularly to those struggling with their literacy. To develop the recommendations, we reviewed the best available international research and consulted experts to arrive at key principles for effective literacy teaching.

This second edition of the guidance report presents the same recommendations as the first but also offers additional examples, explanations, and resources to support educators to put the recommendations into practice. The report is one of a series of four guidance reports that the EEF has produced on the theme of language and literacy. It focuses on pedagogy and approaches to support the literacy development of pupils between the ages of seven and eleven in Key Stage 2. However, teachers may also find it useful for older pupils who have fallen behind their peers, or younger pupils who are making rapid progress.

Guidance Report

Second Edition


School Phase


Develop pupils’ language capabilities

Purposeful speaking and listening activities support pupils’ language development. Purposeful activities include:

  • collaborative learning activities where pupils can share their thought processes;
  • reading books aloud and discussing them, including use of structured questioning; 
  • and pupils articulating their ideas verbally before writing.

Promote high quality dialogue in the classroom, between the teacher and the pupils and between pupils, to support pupils to develop their thinking and use of language.

Extend pupils’ vocabulary by explicitly teaching new words, providing repeated exposure to new words, and providing opportunities for pupils to use new words.


Support pupils to develop fluent reading capabilities

Fluent reading supports comprehension because pupils’ cognitive resources can be redirected from focusing on word recognition to comprehending the text.

Develop pupils’ fluency through:

  • guided oral reading instruction — teachers model fluent reading, then pupils read the same text aloud with appropriate feedback; and
  • repeated reading — pupils re-read a short and meaningful passage a set number of times or until they reach a suitable level of fluency.

Prioritise understanding pupils’ current capabilities and teaching accordingly. Most pupils benefit from an emphasis on reading fluency in Key Stage 2 but some may continue to need support with foundational reading capabilities such as decoding.


Teach reading comprehension strategies through modelling and supported practice

Teach specific strategies that pupils can apply to monitor and overcome barriers to comprehension. These include:

  • prediction (based on text content and context);
  • questioning;
  • clarifying;
  • summarising; and
  • activating prior knowledge.

Model and scaffold these strategies; then support pupils to increasingly use reading comprehension strategies independently, with less and less prompting from the teacher.

Texts should be carefully selected to support the teaching of these strategies.


Teach writing composition strategies through modelling and supported practice

Writing can be thought of as a process made up of five components:

  • planning;
  • drafting;
  • revising;
  • editing; and
  • publishing.

Effective writers use a number of strategies to support each component of the writing process. For example, planning can be improved through the strategy of goalsetting. Describe and model how, when, and why pupils should use each strategy, support pupils to practise with feedback, then gradually reduce support as pupils increasingly use the strategies independently.

Giving pupils a reason to write — and someone to write for — can support effective writing and provide opportunities to teach pupils how to adapt their writing for different audiences and purposes.


Develop pupils’ transcription and sentence construction skills through extensive practice

Fluent writing supports composition because pupils’ cognitive resources are freed from focusing on handwriting, spelling, and sentence construction and can be redirected towards writing composition. Extensive practice, supported by effective feedback, is required to develop fluent transcription skills.

Monitor pupils’ handwriting to ensure accurate letter formation habits, providing effective feedback to promote efficient and fluent handwriting.

Consider the types of spelling error pupils are making to identify appropriate strategies for improving pupils’ spelling. Explicitly teach spellings and provide pupils with extensive opportunities to practice them. Pupils should also practise sentence combining and other sentence construction techniques.


Target teaching and support by accurately assessing pupil needs

Use high quality assessment and diagnosis to target and adapt teaching to pupils’ needs. Rapid provision of support is important, but it is critical to ensure it is the right support.

Integrate formative assessment into classroom teaching strategies to help ensure that teaching is appropriately targeted and that pupil needs are identified.

Diagnostic assessment can be used to inform professional judgement about the best next steps; it also makes teaching more efficient by ensuring that effort is not wasted on rehearsing skills or content that a pupil already knows well.

A range of diagnostic assessments are available and staff should be trained to use and interpret these effectively.


Use high quality structured interventions to help pupils who are struggling with their literacy

Schools should focus first on developing core classroom teaching strategies that improve the literacy capabilities of the whole class. With this in place, the need for additional support should decrease. Nevertheless, it is likely that a small number of pupils will require additional support.

There is a strong and consistent body of evidence demonstrating the benefit of structured interventions for pupils who are struggling with their literacy. The first step should be to accurately diagnose capabilities and difficulties in order to match pupils to
appropriate, evidence-informed interventions that target specific areas of difficulty.