Reading & Phonics
At South Borough we are passionate about reading and place it at the very heart of our curriculum. We know that reading ignites creativity, sparks curiosity, and stimulates the imagination in young children and for this reason we make it our mission to immerse our pupils in their reading journey from the moment they join us.
Learning to read is one of the most important skills children learn and we are committed to equipping all pupils with the tools to build and foster a love of both the spoken and written word. We believe that the teaching of reading is integral to a child’s understanding and appreciation of the world around them; a platform that allows learners to see beyond what they know, share in cultural experiences and develop the vocabulary they need to effectively express themselves. By immersing children in stories, poems and non-fiction texts, we aim to support the development of vocabulary, language and a love of reading.
Our reading curriculum is ambitious for all, and whilst taking into account the starting points of pupils, including those with SEND, strives to foster a lifelong love of literature amongst all learners.
At South Borough we are committed to ensuring that every child learns to read as quickly as possible. Our Early Years curriculum seeks to lay the foundations for our youngest learners by placing a strong focus on speaking and listening: skills we know are vital for early reading.
In Nursery, we develop pre-reading skills by providing a language rich environment where children are consistently immersed in spoken language and the written word within books, as they listen, share and begin to understand that words have meaning. There is a strong focus on the sharing of stories as well as the reciting of poems, songs and rhymes. We know that the predictability of rhymes in poems and songs supports children in memorising and re-using newly acquired words and phrases, and that the retelling of stories supports talking and listening skills as children begin to explore sounds and the language and structure of story - a vital part of the reading curriculum.
Within the early teaching of reading, children in Years R and 1 follow a systematic approach to the teaching of phonics through the ‘Read Write Inc’ programme, where they develop decoding and speedy word recognition, as they begin their journey to becoming fluent, confident readers. Children learn to read letters by their sounds, blend these sounds into words and progress to reading the words in a story. All children have opportunities to read sounds, words and books daily in a variety of ways, including individually or during paired or group reading and teaching consistently builds on what has been taught before.
Throughout their phonics learning, children learn the English alphabetic code: first they learn one way to read the 40+ sounds and blend these sounds into words, then learn to read the same sounds with alternative graphemes. They rapidly learn sounds and the letter, or group of letters, they need to represent them, in three sets of Speed Sounds lessons. Colourful phonics cards, together with simple and enjoyable mnemonics help all children to grasp the letter-sound correspondences quickly. High frequency words that are not phonetically regular are taught as ‘red words’ and are practised frequently. Speed sounds are taught in the following order:
Set 1: m a s d t i n p g o c k u b f e l h r j v y w z x sh th ch qu ng nk
Set 2: ay ee igh ow oo oo ar or air ir ou oy
Set 3: ea oi a-e i-e o-e u-e aw are ur er ow ai oa ew ire ear ure tion tious/cious
By the end of Year 1, most children will have reached the required threshold in phonics and will begin to progress to the ‘further reader’ stage and take part in ‘Whole Class Reading’ sessions. Children’s reading ability is regularly assessed, ensuring that those children who are not yet reading fluently remain in daily phonics groups, with the aim that they join Whole Class Reading lessons as they become proficient in decoding words.
Daily Whole Class Reading lessons support pupils in becoming fluent, independent readers, who show a good understanding of what they have read. Lessons focus on whole-class collaborative reading strategies, including oracy, vocabulary and comprehension. Whole Class Reading lessons develop key reading skills and incorporate a range of text and reading activities which are ambitious, engaging and informative. Teachers model fluency and accuracy by reading texts aloud to pupils, and vocabulary is explicitly discussed throughout every lesson. Working Walls, are used as an interactive prompt to support children in their current learning. This inclusive visual aid, produced by both children and teachers, provides an engaging and informative resource, giving all learners, including those with SEND, access to new learning, including newly learnt vocabulary and definitions, and is a useful tool for encouraging independence for learners.
All children read aloud daily as well as having regular opportunities to read independently and within a group. We believe that these combined opportunities are the essential components learners need to develop as fluent, enthusiastic and critical readers. We also believe that children should have the opportunity to show the breadth and depth of their understanding of a text through the use of written questions. Within Whole Class Reading lessons, children complete a selection of questions related to the text. These questions are carefully designed and differentiated where necessary, to ensure pupils develop a variety of skills, including but not solely: retrieval of information from a text, demonstrating an understanding of the author’s use of language, and the skill of interpreting meaning from a text, requiring the children to take less of a literal approach. Teachers carefully model how to answer question types and children are supported to use strategies to support their written answers. Peer discussion allows pupils the opportunity to learn alongside and from their classmates, whilst live marking gives pupils instant feedback, as well as being a useful assessment tool.
At South Borough we recognise that spoken language underpins the development of reading and provide a variety of speaking and listening opportunities. Our younger pupils learn through role play and the retelling of new or familiar stories, and as pupils progress through school, their oracy and listening skills are further developed through drama, discussion and debate. Year group productions are enjoyed by many and provide children with physical, social and emotional opportunities, as well as exposing them to a healthy appreciation of culture and the arts.
As pupils progress in reading they are encouraged to communicate ideas and express opinions of what they have read, as they develop their own reading preferences. With strong evidence that ‘Reading for Pleasure’ is linked to increased educational outcomes, we encourage a passion for reading within our school community, ensuring learners are regularly given opportunities to read independently or share texts with their classmates. ‘Extreme Reading Challenges’, ‘World Book Day’ and author celebrations are enjoyed by all. A class book is read daily to pupils. This book is carefully selected to ensure it both compliments learning and tunes in to children’s interests.
At South Borough we believe that the voice of the learner is key. Leaders ensure that regular pupil conferencing of reading takes place; information gained from these discussions is invaluable and gives teachers and leaders the opportunity to consistently reflect on teaching practice and its impact on our learners.
In Key Stage 2, a selection of pupils are selected to act as Reading Buddies. These children are chosen for their love of reading, effort and resilience when it comes to reading and their willingness to promote reading throughout the school. Amongst our older Reading Buddies are a group of children, carefully selected to ‘buddy up’ with some of our youngest learners, as they begin their early reading journey and develop their own love of reading.
At South Borough we strongly believe that helping pupils to make progress in reading is most successful when it is done in partnership between home and school. By communicating how we teach reading at South Borough, whilst offering suggestions as to how parents and carers can support their child at home, we are able to promote home, school and community links, alongside encouraging and celebrating children’s reading outside of school. All children are encouraged to share their love of reading at home and our home reading expectations are linked to the reading stage of the child. Our phonics readers will begin by taking home books or sound cards to practise with an adult, together with a book with words that they may not yet be able to read. This book is intended to be read to the child by an adult - offering a shared reading experience. Home reading expectations for our further readers ensure that children take home at least one reading book at a time. This book, whilst chosen by the child, is carefully linked to the pupil’s reading ability, as well as their interests. Teachers consistently seek to broaden pupil’s reading horizon by ensuring an engaging, wide range of books are available within each classroom, as well as using their own knowledge and expertise of fiction and literature to suggest breadth and depth of reading choice for developing readers.
Teachers use a range of assessment strategies to ensure children have the best opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to achieve age related expectations in reading. Continuous formative assessment. including verbal questioning, quizzes, partner talk, written comprehension questions, hinge or exit questions and of course listening to children read, provide both teachers and pupils with immediate feedback to close the gap between current learning and desired goals and ensures that teaching matches pupils’ capacity to learn as well as ensuring that any issues can be identified and overcome. Assessment of word reading, comprehension and spoken language from Years 1 to 6 is undertaken using the National Curriculum, English Programme of Study statements. Summative assessment is used at key points to give pupils, parents and teachers valuable information about a pupil’s overall performance at a specific point in their learning. Children will undertake a series of assessments, including a baseline in EYFS Reception, Phonics Screening Test in Year 1 and Standard Assessment Tests (SATS) in Years 2 and 6. Children in other year groups are assessed termly using NFER reading tests which reflect the style and format of the National Curriculum test.
Regular and robust assessment allows no child to go unnoticed at South Borough. Children who are amongst the lowest 20% of readers within a year group are quickly identified and supported to make accelerated progress where possible. Targeted phonics teaching as well as additional phonics tuition all sit alongside quality first teaching to ensure these children receive not only the additional support they need but that they are closely monitored to ensure any progress, however small, is identified and celebrated. In order to ensure the best possible outcomes for children who are not achieving age related expectations, a variety of both inclusive and adaptive measures are available, including the pre-reading and over teaching of a text or specific vocabulary within it, as well as access to a variety of technology assisted strategies, including Lexia, a progressive online reading tool aimed to support reading fluency and comprehension.
Phonics support for parents
Here are some videos for parents to watch to support with phonics learning at home: