Phonics & Reading
At St Mary's School, we value reading as a key life skill, and are dedicated to enabling our pupils to become lifelong readers. We believe reading is key for academic success in order for children to ‘Shine as lights in the world’. We intend to encourage all pupils to read widely across both fiction and non-fiction to develop their knowledge of themselves and the world in which they live, to establish an appreciation and love of reading, to gain knowledge across the curriculum and develop their comprehension skills. It is our intention to ensure that, by the end of their primary education, all pupils at St Mary’s are able to read fluently and with confidence, in any subject in their forthcoming secondary education.
What do we teach? What does this look like?
Our whole curriculum is shaped by our school vision which aims to enable all children, regardless of background, ability, additional needs, to ‘Shine as lights in the world’
Phonics and the teaching of reading and writing
Our pupils learn to read and write effectively and quickly using the Read Write Inc. Phonics programme. The programme is for pupils in EYFS to Year 2 who are learning to read and write and any pupils in Years 3 and 4 who need to catch up rapidly. We use the read Write Inc Freshstart programmme for struggling readers in KS2.
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 EYFS 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’ (red 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.
Our aim is for pupils to complete the phonics programme as quickly as possible, developing confidence and skills in decoding so that they can comprehend. The sooner they complete it, the sooner they will be able to choose books to read at their own interest and comprehension level.
Development of reading skills across the school
Once pupils have completed the Read Write Inc Phonics programme they move on the Literacy and Language programme usually at some point during Year 2. This programme is taught across Years 3 to 6 and ensures progression and high standards as it builds on the learning in Read Write Inc .
As pupils move through Key Stage 1 and into Key Stage 2 they are encouraged to increase their repertoire of texts, beginning to make critical judgements about these texts, selecting authors, formats and genres that they prefer. They experience a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books, poetry, plays, reading scheme books, magazines and comics.
Pupils learn about poetic devices, develop further knowledge about rhyme and rhythm and explore a wider range of word-play such as riddles, puns and jokes.
Pupils are able to read for information, developing a growing knowledge and understanding of the conventions of non-fiction texts.
Overall the pupils read for pleasure and for purpose. They develop the confidence to read independently and fluently, understanding how punctuation is used to add meaning and becoming aware of the use of dialogue and speech. They begin to understand inference and figurative language as well as understanding subtle meanings within texts.
All classes are read to each day. This brings them into contact with a wide range of literature and ensures pupils are hearing more complex language structures and storylines than they may be able to read for themselves. It also fosters a culture of reading for pleasure and relaxation. Pupils also have access to books in their classroom and our school library.
Fresh Start is a phonics-based approach to teaching older children. Starting with rigorous assessment, every child is taught at the right level for them with fun age-appropriate activities. The Fresh Start intervention is focused on ensuring that less confident readers are given the skills to overcome barriers to reading and therefore to learning; it also develops a love of reading with age-appropriate anthologies full of amusing stories, plays, edgy reports and non-fiction texts.
Read Write Inc. Spelling
Daily 15-minute lessons in spelling help children develop their spelling knowledge and accuracy in an engaging way. Spelling rules and concepts are introduced in a systematic way which encourages children to build on their phonological awareness and recognition of spelling patterns and conventions. The programme also encourages children to develop their use of adventurous words and build their confidence in extending their vocabulary for writing. Pupils keep their own spelling log as a record of individual progress.
Regardless of background, ability or additional needs, by the time children leave St Mary’s School, they will: - be enthusiastic and motivated readers who are confident and will enjoy reading a wide variety of genres and text types - have the skills to decode words in order to be able to read fluently with a secure understanding of what they have read - be inspired by literature and will read for pleasure.