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Older children help infant literacy

Paired learning with older children boosts five-year-olds' literacy at school. This is one of the findings of a Scottish research project investigating ways of adapting the classroom to allow for the exploration, hypothesis testing and modelling that characterises children's approach to writing before they begin school.

The small-scale study attempted to bridge gaps between home and school and enable children to build on pre-school writing skills by creating an informal environment for two groups of five-year-olds for a six-week period. An area was designated a "writing centre", with a notice-board to display writing and play areas with writing opportunities (such as a phone with message pad and a cafe with children's own menus). Pupils were paired for structured sessions with trained 11-year-olds who had themselves had low self-esteem because of earlier literacy problems.

Researchers found that the project group, particularly those who had cross-age tutors, made significant improvements in writing scores and attitudes compared to the other group. Younger pupils were more willing to write and more enthusiastic about writing, and enjoyed working with the older children.

Emergent Writing: The impact of structured peer interaction by JGNixon and Keith Topping, Centre for Paired Learning, University of Dundee. E-mail:

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