Improving literacy: how to embed the EEF guidance

How to embed the EEF guidance on improving literacy in your school

The EEF’s report, Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools, is designed for secondary teachers across all subjects. It provides recommendations on reading, writing, talking, vocabulary development and supporting struggling learners.

In this report, the evidence becomes clear: developing a curriculum-wide approach to literacy boosts students’ chances of success.

But with the research available, what steps can you take to ensure you’re embedding the strategies recommended in the EEF guidance?

Improve literacy in your school

The EEF state in their report, Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools, that “every teacher communicates their subject through academic language….reading, writing, speaking and listening are at the heart of knowing and doing Science, Art, History, and every other subject.”

Ofsted’s report, Moving English Forward, goes on to confirm this:

“Schools need a coherent policy on developing literacy in all subjects if standards of reading and writing are to be improved. Even with effective teaching in English lessons, progress will be limited if this good practice is not consolidated in the 26 out of 30 lessons each week in a secondary school that are typically lessons other than English.”

These reports work together to make the important point: literacy is crucial to every subject in a learner’s academic career, and subjects should be taught through methods of disciplinary literacy to ensure learners fully understand all of their learning, not just the literacy of English lessons.

Find out more about disciplinary literacy


How do I embed the EEF’s guidance for improving literacy?

Involve all teachers and ensure they are engaged in using language to promote learning in their subject.
Identify the particular needs of all students across all three domains of literacy – oracy, reading, and writing
Ensure active engagement in literacy – activating prior learning and providing opportunities to apply skills so that students find it rewarding
Make strong links between school and home.
Plan for the longer term, emphasising the integral relationship between language for learning and effective teaching in all subjects.

Below, we summarise the key recommendations from the EEF’s report and suggest some of the ways in which each could be achieved in practice.


EEF recommendation

Summary of EEF recommendation

Bedrock Learning’s suggested application

1. Prioritise disciplinary literacy across the curriculum Ensure all teachers are supported in teaching literacy and communication skills, especially subject-specific literacy Instruct teachers on vocabulary tiers and specialist Tier 3 vocabulary
Guide them through key things to consider when teaching new terms, such as our maths examples
2. Provide targeted vocabulary instruction in every subject Teachers should teach academic language using approaches related to etymology and morphology to help learners make connections Evaluate your current vocabulary teaching
Train teachers in vocabulary curriculum design
Download our free roots flashcards resource
3. Develop students’ ability to read complex academic texts Train teachers to convey reading strategies such as using prior knowledge, making predictions and questioning Consult our article, 10 top tips for teaching your students subject-specific terminology, for a variety of suggestions including presenting terms in context and breaking words down to identify their roots and suffixes
4. Break down complex writing tasks Teachers should give explicit instruction, like breaking down writing into planning, monitoring and evaluation. They should motivate students with approaches such as collaborative and paired writing Bedrock Learning contains activities writing activities that encourage learners to scaffold their learning using their own language
5. Combine writing instruction with reading in every subject Teachers should ensure students can recognise what good writing looks like in their subject Utilise model answers, structures and responses and go through them with learners, teaching through the unique language of your particular discipline – find out more
6. Provide opportunities for structured talk Teachers should model subject-specific talk by guiding well-structured discussions with students Our articles on teaching Tier 3 vocabulary and the curriculum-wide impact of improving literacy provide a framework for this
7. Provide high quality literacy interventions for struggling students Schools should have a whole-school approach to supporting students with the weakest levels of literacy, especially in Year 7, and monitor the impact of interventions Bedrock Learning’s alpha test, deep-learning algorithm and monthly progress report ensure teachers can praise the highest-achieving learners and encourage those with the weakest levels of literacy


To find out more about how the EEF’s guidance can be implemented, watch our free webinar on implementing disciplinary literacy. For free templates, slides and audit documents you can use to kickstart your implementation of the EEF guidance, read Miss Ashton’s reflection blog.

Develop strong literacy and confident voices in your school

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