Literacy Interventions Part 1: Choosing Interventions

1 December 2018

Recommendation 7 from the EEF’s Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2 guidance report is as follows:

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

From this seemingly straightforward recommendation, a series of questions arise:

  • How do I know which program to choose?
  • What is the best way to implement a program?
  • Who should deliver any interventions?

In this series of blogs, we are going to attempt to answer these questions. This time we look at choosing an appropriate intervention program.

We would love to be able to recommend one particular literacy program that would be guaranteed to fix any literacy gaps, but we are not so naïve as to suggest that is possible. However, we do acknowledge that this is something that schools want to know. There are often many of these literacy programs with claims of effectiveness that can be hard to resist and there is always the idea that school A did program X and their results went up so we should too.

A good principle is to start from the needs in your school rather than a particular package. There will always be competing needs that should be diagnosed and addressed; one package will not fix everything. Obviously, every pupil is different and a one-size-fits-all approach will never serve their needs.

When narrowing down to a particular program or approach, we suggest first looking to see if the program is aligned with the recommendations in the guidance report:

  1. Develop pupils’ language capability to support their reading and writing
  2. Support pupils to develop fluent reading capabilities
  3. Teach reading comprehension strategies through modelling and supported practice
  4. Teach writing composition strategies through modelling and supported practice
  5. Develop pupils’ transcription and sentence construction skills through extensive practice
  6. Target teaching and support by accurately assessing pupil needs

If there is a particular program that you are interested in, Evidence 4 Impact is a database worth checking, with many educational interventions listed – and not just those for literacy. After searching, you will be met with brief information about each intervention, together with its evidence rating. You can click on the intervention to find out more. It’s also interesting to see interventions which have not been evaluated.

The EEF’s ‘Big Picture’ section on Language and Literacy is another place where you will find evaluations of programs and promising strategies. You can also find their summary of some evaluations of TA-led programs here.

Another comprehensive source for information about the effectiveness of some programs is ‘What works for children and young people with literacy difficulties? – an overview of the effectiveness of literacy intervention schemes’ (Brooks, 2016). This documents many studies (of varying quality) into literacy interventions and aims to answer the following questions according to the author:

“What intervention schemes are there which have been used in the UK in an attempt to boost the reading, spelling or overall writing attainment of lower-achieving pupils between the ages of 5 and 18, and have been quantitatively evaluated here?

What are those schemes like, and how effective are they?”

This is worth reading as a summary of many approaches and the overall implications, but is also worth dipping into to find if your prospective intervention has some efficacy.

Hopefully these sources have helped you to refine your next steps. But, there is no guarantee that something which worked before will work again in exactly the same way. We can make it more likely that something will work by getting the implementation right. And that is the focus of our next post.

Posted on 1 December 2018
Posted in: Uncategorized