SkillsMastery is a new online platform which aims to help students between 8 and 14 develop their literacy skills.

Poor  literacy skills can impact on childrens' lives in various ways, the main one being able to access the school curriculum and therefore not achieve to their true potential limiting their life chances. Poor literacy skills can lead to poor self-esteem and poor behaviour as a child struggles to access learning.

SkillsMastery is a new online subscription service which aims to help students between 8 and 14 develop fully assessed written literacy skills and grammar knowledge at their own pace.  Allowing students to independently access and progress in the knowledge and skills that they need, assessment and progress is available at all times so individual children and classes can be effectively monitored and evaluated. Written for the new Literacy curriculum, SkillsMastery enables measurable intervention and progress for both primary and secondary children using Literature to enable literacy in a meaningful way.

In 10 weeks, pupils who used SkillsMastery outperformed their peers in grammar by 66% – here’s how we made the difference.

The experiment

At Parks Academy, Hull a group of key pupils used SkillsMastery during Intervention Lessons. Each lesson was an hour long and the Intervention using SkillsMastery was done in groups of between 2 and 4 pupils over a period of 10 weeks on tablets or laptops. The Intervention pupils continued with literacy lessons as normal.

The results

  1. All of the students using SkillsMastery moved from below end of year 6 expectations to achieving end of year 6 expectations in both grammar and reading.
  2. Pupils who used SkillsMastery made 66% better progress in grammar, spelling and punctuation, than their peers who did not use SkillsMastery.
  3. Pupils who used SkillsMastery and improved on their reading made 40% better progress than their peers.
  4. All of the students using SkillsMastery achieved the expected year 6 expectations in reading and the Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation SATs. This means these pupils have started secondary school at a level which means they can access the learning and thrive, which may not have happened if they had not used SkillsMastery.

Reasons why this outstanding progress happened.

  • Grammar terminology is used, but explained through real-world examples.
  • Grammar features are shown in a literature or non-fiction context.
  • Links are made between the grammar feature and the effect of the feature.
  • Pupils are able to practise without fear of being exposed.
  • The principles of Mastery Teaching are used.
  • Memory is linked to learning and the repetitive nature of the course allows the grammar features to become embedded in to working memory.

Teachers using SkillsMastery have also noticed that children who display challenging behaviour like using SkillsMastery and show improved behaviour:

  • "I have one young man, who has very challenging behaviour. At the end of term, instead of going to the year 6 party he chose to stay and use SkillsMastery - despite the fact that SATs were long over. He just wanted to carry on and do better.", Richard Holt, Year 6 Intervention Teacher, Venn academy Hull.
  • Teachers have stated that they can use SkillsMastery as a bribe for good behaviour as the children enjoyed it so much.

SkillsMastery has also shown accleration of progress and achievement with those children who have English as an Additional Language, whose writing and reading does not match the fleuncy of their speaking.

SkillsMastery works because:

1. It helps improve memory skills

2. Pupils like using IT

3. Pupils like the repetition

4. Pupils can see grammar working in context and can see how and why it is used

5. It helps improve independence and resiliance

6. Children like rules and like to follow rules.

What does it look like?

The pupil experience is similar for each pupil. What is different is the pace that the pupil will master the grammar and literacy skills. Each level is based on a story from literature, which complements the current curriculum: Jason and the Argonauts, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Gulliver and Sherlock Holmes.

The text formats are based around the current curriculum expectations and are transformed to suit the curricula requirements. For example the first level is based on narratives, however the second level has some narrative as well as letters and diaries etc. Each text has been written with the needs of the students in mind and reflects the grammar that is to be taught e.g. if coordinating connectives are to be taught, then the text will have been written using coordinating conjunctions.

The pupils read each chapter or section of text first before completing the answers.

As pupils work through the SkillsMastery: Literacy they will encounter different types of questions:

  • drag and drop
  • cloze
  • fill in the gap
  • re-order
  • multiple choice
  • single choice

Each question is designed to allow students to show their knowledge and grammar skill.

Each level starts with a quiz which the pupil can only take once as a baseline. This measures their achievement in content, organisation, sentences, grammar and spelling.

This quiz is then completed again at the end to show progress. However using the principles of mastery, pupils will only be able to move on to the next level once they have mastered the content.

 SkillsMastery tests spelling and spelling rules, helping students become more accurate.

At the end of each level students recieve a certificate.

Skillsmastery is looking for funding to develop the gamification of the website. This means that more children will be engaged in the learning.

We are looking to develop:

  • avatars which can reflect the pupil's personality
  • rewards based mini-games
  • a badge system to show precisely skills a child has and still needs to acquire