A present there seems to be a sea-change occurring within KS2 Reading. The difficulty of last year’s Reading test means that this year many schools are reconsidering their approach to teaching Reading, making adjustments to their curriculum to enable as many pupils as possible reach ARE by the end of Y6.
When preparing for the KS2 tests of old, many a Year 6 teacher would teach their class to use the P.E.E.technique so that their pupils, especially those sitting the old Level 6 paper, would be able to form extended written responses. These types of questions were rife in the Level 6 paper.
For the uninitiated, P.E.E stands for Point, Evidence, Explanation.
I have used the P.E.E technique for many years but over the last couple of years I have moved away from it, favouring other approaches within the classroom.
Firstly, I often find extended reading answers long-winded and lacking in detail when using the P.E.E technique. I think this is because it is very rare that in KS2 that we ask reading questions that require that this type of response. For example, take the question:
“In the book Matilda, what sort of character is Miss Trunchbull?
Use evidence to support your viewpoint.”
Using the P.E.E technique children may come up with this sort of response:
Using the P.E.E technique in this case has meant that a child has forced their response to fit the framework. I would argue that much better responses can be achieved by getting the children to make a point then justify it. Dividing the justification step up into “Evidence” and “Explain” often produces answers which are repetitive and stilted. They also miss out lots of high quality evidence.
Children find it very hard to differentiate between the steps of Evidence and Explain and lots of questions at KS2 just don’t require this type of response.
I would have been much happier if a child in my class had formed an extended answer such as this:
Here the child has used a range of different evidence to support their viewpoint. They have justified their points with suitable evidence but they haven’t been constricted by fitting their answer on to a framework: making a point and justifying it was enough. The reality in Key Stage 2 is that the P.E.E. technique risks over-complicating the written response and over-simplifying the use of evidence.
With my SATs hat on, I also can’t see any value to teaching children P.E.E. paragraphs as a test technique for an extended written response. When looking at the 2016 mark scheme for extended responses, children are awarded the maximum 3 marks for making three acceptable points or making two acceptable points with at least one supported by evidence. Teaching them to form a P.E.E. response for these types of questions would have meant that they were wasting valuable time writing a long response which lacked the necessary details to secure the marks.
It is also easy to get into the mindset of thinking that a harder Reading test paper must have meant more questions which required longer, complex answers. However, this just wasn’t the case. In the 2016 Reading paper, there were only two extended answer questions but this didn’t stop the paper from being challenging. The step up in difficulty came from for other areas:
A) The complexity of the language within the texts:
Taken from the 2016 Key Stage 2 Reading Paper
B) The high level of reading stamina and skimming techniques required to answer one- and two-mark questions:
In this time of change for Primary Reading, I remain unconvinced that getting children to focus on the P.E.E.technique is worthwhile. As an English Co-ordinator, Reading is most certainly on my radar this year but I will be encouraging teachers in my school to focus on other areas such as:
Building Reading Stamina: Children must be reading widely across Key Stage 2. Having a well stocked library which allows children to select engaging reading material pitched to their reading ability is vital. Children should also be exposed to texts which challenge them within reading lessons which is why we’ll be continuing to develop our Whole Class Reading approach.
Developing Vocabulary: We need to make sure we are making use of every opportunity to develop vocabulary. This needs to run throughout our curriculum, not just in Reading lessons. Again, children need to be encouraged to read as widely as possible. As a school, we will also be investigating the new vocabulary quizzes available on Accelerated Reader.
Getting Children to Justify their Viewpoint: Of course we want children to use evidence from the text when making inferences. Of course we want them to justify their views. Of course, as a teacher, I’ll be discussing how particular quotes give us insights into the text we’re reading.
What we won’t be doing, though, is spending lots of lesson time teaching children a set framework and getting them to force their responses to fit this framework. I’ve had enough stilted, repetitive extended responses to last me a lifetime!