Working Towards The Literate Child at P6

In this section:


What are these tools for? 

The purpose of these tools is to support formative assessment in literacy and, over time, to raise attainment. The tools are designed to support teachers in analysing their pupils and identifying the changes to teaching that will give the biggest payoffs for literacy learning.   They are designed to complement assessments already in place (see below: ‘How do the schedules fit with other ELC assessments?’) and to generate direct, succinct information quickly. 

 The tools are based on research about what contributes most to children’s success in becoming literate.  They ‘tilt the mirror’ to provide a picture of what individual pupils know, believe and feel, so that education staff can change the provision (curriculum, pedagogy, class environment or support mechanisms) for individual pupils or whole classes and create the ‘literacy learning mix’ that is most enjoyable, efficient and effective. 

Back to Top

 Why take this approach?

Building on previous knowledge and matching the teaching content to pupils is, of course, essential to efficient literacy learning. But this is only one thing that affects pupils’ rate of learning.  Other things also matter: pupils’ aspirations; how they feel about themselves as readers/writers; how they think others see them; how they want to be seen; whether they see reading/writing as a useful and attainable goal; the amount of incidental consolidation, help, practice, motivation and support they get from friends; the quantity and quality of literacy activities across the curriculum; how they ‘bridge’ and connect literacy strategies within and across curricular areas, as well as how well they are inspired to engage in reading and writing for pleasure outside school.  All these affect pupils’ confidence and motivation, their willingness to ‘have a go’, to take risks, to persevere and ultimately, the amount of practice they get. This determines whether children make faster or slower progress in learning to read and write. Of course education staff must attend to progression in content matter, but they must also position and present literacy in ways that create a wide and powerful social and emotional engagement which benefits children and benefits their literacy learning.

 This is the new fabric of the curriculum and CfE reflects this shift in how learning is framed. It requires assessment that encompasses pupils’ skills and knowledge and their social and emotional engagement so that education staff get CfE curricular provision right. 

 The tools do not ask staff to assess each CfE overarching aim, strand, learning experience and outcome for Literacy and English and Literacy Across Learning.  This would take longer, generate more data than is needed, and may not produce the focus on analysis, prioritisation and action that is required.  However, the tools do generate information about the interface between the pupils and this broader curriculum, giving an insight into how CfE is being realised in the classroom.

Back to Top

 How are the tools framed?

Tool Categories May be most appropriate for…
Less Experienced Reader/Writer Pupils who are working  in, or arerecently emerged from, Early Level of Curriculumfor Excellence
Becoming Experienced Reader/Writer Pupils who are working in First Level,Or who have recently begun to work inSecond Level of Curriculum forExcellence.
Experienced Reader/Writer Pupils who are working well into the SecondLevel of Curriculum for Excellence


Talking and listening are mentioned in the tools where these impact significantly on reading and writing.  For example, being able to “tell news… without prompts” underpins the ability to generate ideas when writing. A child who quickly ‘dries-up’ when telling news will ‘dry up’ as quickly when writing. Noticing these children and providing appropriate practice and strategy instruction early, can prevent writing difficulties later.

 Each tool has four sections:                

  • Communication;
  • Engagement & Creativity;
  • Identity, Reflection & Confidence and
  • Take Action If… 

The scope of each is briefly explained in italics on the tool, under the section heading.  The column headed ‘Evidence, Priorities, Actions’ should prompt general reflections, itemize specific learning priorities, actions and people to consult, with a timeline.  

Back to Top

How should the tools be used?

Each school will develop its own specific policy for when, how often and on whom the tools are to be used.  Schools may want teachers to sample a cross-section of pupils, a particular group, or focus on the middle-achievers and under-achievers in a class – it depends on the issues facing the school and on the other assessment and monitoring systems in place. 

 Teachers should use the tool(s) most appropriate for the pupil and different tools for different pupils may be needed.  In completing the tool, teachers will begin to identify the shifts in the knowledge/skills, attitudes, beliefs or social behaviours that, if sewn more firmly into the curriculum fabric, would yield literacy benefits for the pupil. 

 Then, teachers should meet with a designated colleague (specialist, literacy co-ordinator or school manager) to discuss the pupils, the shifts they must make, and how these will be achieved. The school assessment policy will describe how these meetings are arranged, managed, recorded and followed-up. The meetings should be focused and challenging, resulting in all participants having a clearer understanding of the range of pupil needs, the priorities for individual pupils and the specific changes that will be made.  The changes may: re-focus the curriculum, teaching, timetable or resources; they may change the pace or teaching content, or they may highlight ways to make literacy learning more social, more coherent and better connected, provide more effective incidental or formal support mechanisms or more personal encouragement.  Together, these professionals should agree the changes and a timeline for implementation. If an item in the Take Action If… is highlighted, the meeting must identify colleagues with specialist knowledge, whom the teacher will consult about the child, and a reasonable deadline for this. 

 This is a mechanism for change and development. It supports analysis, clarifies priorities, articulates intervention plans, generates helpful ideas for resources and activities and a timetable for change.  It can also strengthen professional networks, deepen understanding of learning and be a powerful and supportive way of ‘spreading’ good practice. ELC teachers already work closely with others (including other class teachers, learning support teachers, literacy co-ordinators, home-link teachers, other class teachers, head teachers, ELC advisory staff, educational psychologists, librarians and speech and language therapists); the schedules focus this further. 

Back to Top

How do the tools fit with other ELC assessments?

Schools have different assessment policies and use a variety of formal assessments (e.g. trackers, PIPS, class tests, structured observations and folders of work) and informal assessments (e.g. teacher judgement, work/attitudes/ behaviours in class, and unstructured observations).  Each school has a different mix of assessments and will need to make its own policy decision about how the tools complement this. 

 Many will use the tools to ‘pool’ knowledge from various sources, enabling class teachers and school managers to identify priorities and implement the best ‘literacy learning mix’ at an earlier (rather than later) point in the school year.  The tools can also sensitise teachers and school managers to gaps that need addressing in terms of particular children (or CfE) and can inform agendas for discussions with parents and children.  ELC intends to publish case studies of how different schools integrate and use the tools with their other assessments.

Back to Top

Download the toolkit

The toolkit is available in PDF and Word:

Back to Top

CfE and pupils with severe and complex needs

A small group of staff worked together to look at how CfE applies to pupils with severe and complex needs:

Back to Top

Literacy Development Plan 2010-11

Copy of the literacy development plan for 2010 – 2011:

Back to Top

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sharing and supporting steps made by East Lothian learners, parents and teachers.