Primary Primary Literacy

How to get ahead of the new primary curriculum – Key Stage 2 Reading, Speaking and Listening

This is where the expected learning really accelerates and where it’s important to have all the groundwork done. It’s hoped that concentrated intervention in Key Stage One will have helped many to the stage where they can access Key Stage Two material, even if it is more complex than would have been expected before the introduction of the new curriculum. There’s going to be an increased emphasis on classics including Shakespeare and classic literature with authors such as Dickens, Austen and others. The differing language in these, whilst seemingly irrelevant to today’s world, improves creativity and imagination, adding richness to their writing and speaking.


•    At this stage, reading is expected to be independent and instead of focusing on reading skills, should be a means to acquire information and to entertain. A good way of accomplishing this is to get the children to complete a bibliography related to a favourite topic or activity. Ask them to rate the book in terms of accessibility, appropriateness and what it should be used for. Independence should be monitored at periods appropriate for ability and there is still likely to be the need for intervention if not up with peers.

•    Ensure that the pupils have access to and are encouraged to read non-fiction titles. Much is being made at the moment over the lack of non-fiction reading that pupils undertake, limiting their knowledge of the world around them. A recent survey showed that in the average school, fiction outnumbered appropriate non-fiction by two to one.

•    Comprehension now focuses on just that, rather than the reading and moves towards inferential understanding.  In text books there are currently few questions covering this as it’s been classed as an extension skill in the past.

Make up some of your own and start the comprehension partway through the questions so as to move the pupils’ learning forward. It’s easy when you use ideas such as ‘How did xxx feel when?’ or ‘What did xxx think would happen?’

Ask them to decide where or when the story is set or the personality of the characters using questions such as ‘Do you think you’d be friends with xxx? Why?’

Speaking and Listening

At this age, pupils should have lost much of their inhibition over speaking tasks and should be able to listen to and assimilate information, questions and instructions given in oral form. What is necessary at this stage of the primary curriculum is to gain more practice in speaking and in a variety of ways and situations.

•    Being asked to give their views on information given in lessons is a good way to assess understanding as well as allow them to put information into their own words. It can allow them to question information or ask clarifying questions about it. Using the ‘Six honest serving men’ from Kipling’s The Elephant’s Child is a good starting point for teachers and pupils.

•    Debating allows pupils to listen to information and viewpoints, assimilate them and give their own opinions. It allows for mental acceptance or rejection of information and the use of parts or all of it to give a concurring or opposing view and through presenting their viewpoint, the expression of their thoughts.

•    Presentations to classmates and to the whole school in assemblies will be second nature by now as will end of term performances. As an extension, ask the children to take part in poetry or prose recitals individually, in pairs or small groups and not just to parents. Consider taking them into the community, at residential homes, hospitals or shopping centres so they get to perform to an unfamiliar audience.

•    Extend their presentation skills by getting them to prepare and deliver a five minute presentation to parents on an item of current affairs.

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