Evidential understanding, period knowledge and the development of literacy: a practical approach to 'layers of inference' for Key Stage 3.


By Claire Riley, published 11th November 1999

Claire Riley explains how she developed and improved the ‘layers of inference' diagram-already a popular device since Hilary Cooper's work-as a way of getting pupils fascinated by challenging texts and pictures. Working with the whole ability range in Year 9 she analyses her successes and failures, offering many practical suggestions for moving pupils into rigorous, extended and historically-grounded responses. The significance of her work is the relationship between evidential understanding, period knowledge and the development of literacy. By equipping pupils to read, enjoy and analyse challenging texts she defines history's direct contribution to literacy. If the Head of English (and I would add the ‘Deputy Head responsible for Curriculum'!) remains ignorant of the sophisticated learning happening in history-on audience, context, purpose and form of texts-then the school is failing to co-ordinate and to value its work in raising standards in literacy. Claire Riley also lays much stress on the mediumterm planning context. As well as the tight learning objectives relating to evidence, it is the wider lesson sequence, built around a valid historical question, that transforms a text (or a picture) from being ‘difficult' into being fascinating and intriguing, even for the so-called ‘less able'.

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