The project to be evaluated is an intervention called Word and World Reading programme. The concept behind this programme is based on research by Professor E.D. Hirsch of the University of Virginia whose work has attracted substantial interest among schools and policy makers. The rationale behind The Curriculum Centre’s project is that children need background knowledge and understanding to be able to comprehend what they read, and those with a broad base of factual knowledge find it easier to learn more. The programme being piloted aims to emphasise the teaching of vocabulary to address the vocabulary gap between disadvantaged and affluent children and to enhance literacy and comprehension ability of pupils in early Key Stage 2.
The intervention involves using specially developed knowledge-rich reading material, subject-specific resources and general vocabulary word lists, for literacy lessons as well as pedagogical CPD for teachers in History, Geography, Science and Art. The associated teacher training will emphasise consistent and sequenced use of vocabulary, direct instruction and teacher questioning.
Trials in the US reported promising gains in reading tests (Woodcock-Johnson III) especially in kindergarten, although the differences decreased by the third year. Using the standardised TerraNova test, however, no significant differences were detected for oral reading comprehension and vocabulary. No similar comparisons of gain scores were carried out for other subjects such as social studies and science. There is some evidence of effectiveness but not yet in England with this age group. Therefore further investigation, via a formative evaluation, is appropriate.