Phonics & Reading
At Leonard's we love to read and our main aim is to instil a love of and a passion for reading in all our children. We have regular visits from authors and illustrators who come to school to read to the children and share their passion for reading.
In Reception and Year 1, reading is taught through the Read Write Inc programme which adopts a synthetic approach to teaching phonics. Synthetic phonics is simply the ability to convert a letter or letter group into sounds that are then blended together into a word.
When using RWI to read the children will:
- Learn 44 sounds and the corresponding letter/letter groups using simple prompts
- Learn to read words using sound blending (Fred talk)
- Read lively stories featuring words they have learnt to sound out
- Show that they comprehend the stories by answering questions
When using RWI to write the children will:
- Learn to write the letter/letter groups which represent the 44 sounds
- Learn to write words by saying the sounds and graphemes (Fred fingers)
When using RWI the children will also work in pairs:
- To answer questions
- To take turns talking and listening to each other
- To give positive praise to each other
Help your child learn to read words by sounding-blending (Fred talk) eg. c-a-t = cat, sh-o-p = shop. Children learn to read words by blending the letter-sounds that are in the Speed Sounds set (shown further down the page).
Help your child to say the pure sounds ('m' not 'muh', 's' not 'suh' etc.) as quickly as they can, and then blend the sounds together to say the whole word.
Reading Books Sent Home
Children in Reception who are learning the first 44 letter sounds and are not blending fluently will bring home sound sheets and picture books. Once children can blend fluently and know the first 44 sounds they will bring home either a red Ditty book, an Oxford Reading Tree Songbirds book, Big Cat Phonics Book or a Floppy’s Phonics Book.
Read Write Inc Books
Please encourage your child to read though the speed sounds page first, then the green and red words page and then check your child understands the meaning of words on the vocabulary check page, before they start reading the book. Your child will have read this book at least three times before they bring it home. They should be able to read this book with fluency and expression by the time they bring it home and they should have a good comprehension of what the book is about. At the back of the book are questions for you to do with your child.
A vital part of learning to read is being read to so where possible, please try to read stories to your child before they go to bed. This will help develop a wider vocabulary which makes a significant difference to their understanding, comprehension skills and improves the quality of their writing.
All pupils are encouraged to read widely across both fiction and non-fiction to develop their comprehension skills, knowledge of themselves and the world in which they live, to establish an appreciation and love of reading, and to gain knowledge across the curriculum. Reading widely and often increases pupils’ vocabulary because they encounter words they would rarely hear or use in everyday speech.
We aim for all of our children to become fluent readers and we aim to extend their reading and research skills with increasingly stimulating, challenging and varied texts. Where possible, links are made between the different subjects so children can learn to use and apply skills they have learnt in many different and imaginative ways. As children progress through the school they will widen their range of reading material, discuss texts with other pupils, and explore character, plot and preferences. We aim to stimulate children’s interest in books and feed the habit of reading for pleasure, which will last a lifetime and fire the ‘curiosity of young minds.’
The children at St Leonard's take books home daily. Parents are strongly encouraged to read to their child as well as to listen to them read. We use a range of different reading schemes, including Read Write Inc (R and Y1) and Accelerated Reader (Year 2-6).
We teach pupils to:
decode letter-sound correspondences quickly and effortlessly, using their phonic knowledge and skills
read ‘tricky’ words on sight
understand what they read
read aloud with fluency and expression
write confidently, with a strong focus on vocabulary and grammar
spell quickly and easily by segmenting the sounds in words
acquire good handwriting.
In addition, we teach pupils to work effectively with a partner to explain and consolidate what they are learning. This provides the teacher with opportunities to assess learning and to pick up on difficulties, such as pupils’ poor articulation, or problems with blending or alphabetic code knowledge.
We group pupils homogeneously, according to their progress in reading rather than their writing. This is because it is known that pupils’ progress in writing will lag behind progress in reading, especially for those whose motor skills are less well developed.
In Year R we emphasise the alphabetic code. The pupils rapidly learn sounds and the letter or groups of letters they need to represent them. Simple mnemonics help them to grasp this quickly. This is especially useful for pupils at risk of making slower progress. This learning is consolidated daily. Pupils have frequent practice in reading high frequency words with irregular spellings – ‘tricky words’.
We make sure that pupils read books that are closely matched to their increasing knowledge of phonics and the ‘tricky words’. This is so that, early on, they experience success and gain confidence that they are readers. Re-reading and discussing these books with the teacher supports their increasingly fluent decoding.
Alongside this, the teachers read a wide range of stories, poetry and non-fiction to pupils; they are soon able to read these texts for themselves.
Embedding the alphabetic code early on means that pupils quickly learn to write simple words and sentences. We encourage them to compose each sentence aloud until they are confident to write independently. We make sure they write every day.
Pupils write at the level of their spelling knowledge, that is, they use their knowledge of the alphabetic code and the tricky words they have learnt. They can soon spell more complex words confidently and accurately. The quality of the vocabulary they use in their writing reflects the language they have heard in the books the teacher has read to them; they have also discussed what the words mean.
Assessing and tracking progress
We assess all pupils from Year R to Year 1 on the Read Write Inc. Phonics. This gives us a very good indication of how well they are making progress relative to their starting points. We do this for all pupils, whenever they join us, so we can track all of them effectively, including those eligible for the pupil premium.
By the end of Key Stage 1, our pupils are able to read aloud age-appropriate texts accurately and with sufficient speed. This means that we can focus on developing their comprehension, preparing them well for transition to Key Stage 2. Their good decoding skills mean that they have a sound strategy for decoding unfamiliar words when they come across them at whatever stage or in any subject, even into secondary school.
Impact across the curriculum
Our teachers are enthusiastic about using the Read Write Inc. programme because they can see how well pupils learn from it and the progress they make, not just in English but across the curriculum.
Quality of teaching in our school
The programme’s ‘cycle of instruction’ means that, after direct instruction and guided practice, the pupils teach another pupil. In this way they all rehearse and consolidate what they have been learning. This helps the pupils to make their understanding clear to themselves and helps the teacher deal with any misconceptions. ‘Partner teaching’ is a key assessment tool. We also use this approach very effectively in other subjects.
Assessment is a critical element of our programme. The teachers assess:
pupils’ phonic knowledge
the speed at which pupils are able to read the text
their understanding of the stories they read
We record the results from the Sound and Word Assessments, which take place every eight weeks, on the Assessment Tracker. These data allow us to intervene in different ways. For instance, we quickly move pupils to another group if they are progressing faster than their peers. Those who continue to struggle have one-to-one tutoring so that they keep up.
The homogeneous groupings allow the teachers to focus on all pupils for the whole lesson. This means that all the pupils are engaged, with a positive impact on their behaviour. They learn to participate fully: we agree with them the rules for working in a group or discussing with a partner. We discourage ‘hands up’ for answering questions because we believe that all pupils should answer every question. The teacher selects pupils to answer.
The values of courtesy, consideration and kindness are at the heart of every lesson, taught through the programme and embedded in other lessons. All the staff use the same positive strategies for behaviour management across the school. Working well together, as part of a team, is at the core of the school’s work – for staff and pupils.
The school’s shared vision is that every pupil learns to read quickly and continues to read – widely and often.
The role of the reading leader is critical. Alongside the head teacher, the reading leader drives the teaching of Read Write Inc. Phonics, ensuring it is taught with fidelity so that all the pupils complete the programme as quickly as possible.
The reading leader’s roles include:
ensuring pupils in the ‘lower progress’ group are making good progress and organising one-to-one tutoring for the pupils who need extra support.
keeping the groups homogeneous, i.e. at the same reading level
providing further training (through demonstration, coaching, monitoring)
ensuring that our teaching of reading is of the highest quality and that all our pupils make progress.
Teachers alert the reading leader to any pupil whose progress is faster or slower than the rest of their group.
Guided reading is taught weekly in all classes throughout school.
In Reception and Year 1, this is embedded within their English units.
From Year 2 - 6, an additional Guided Reading lesson is taught. This is taught as a whole class and as is based on a class novel. We use the reading domains to support the planning of these lessons. To supplement this, we also use RIC (Retrieve, Interpret, Choice) activities to further develop the children's inference and deduction skills.
Accelerated Reader is used from Y2-6. The children take an initial 'Star Reader' assessment which gives them a book level. It also gives teachers detailed information about the children's reading ability. The children then take home books from their book level. Once they have read and understood the book, they complete a 'Quiz'. This checks their understanding of the text they have read and again provides the teacher with further information about the child's progress.
Accelerated reader provides reports and data analysis for individual children and groups/whole class. Therefore, teachers can use this to identify any children who may need additional support with their reading.