Reading and Phonics
At Tushingham, one of the most important skills that we teach our children is the life skill of reading. It is promoted as an intrinsic part of our teaching and learning across the curriculum, as the ability to read has a huge impact on children’s learning, their self-esteem and their future life chances. Through a variety of learning opportunities, we aim for our children to read with fluency, accuracy and understanding, but above all, we want our children to fall in love with reading. We want them to become enthusiastic, independent and reflective readers, who fuel their own curiosity and enjoyment through a variety of texts, helping them to grow emotionally, intellectually and socially.
In order to give our children a solid start in their reading journey, we use Unlocking Letters and Sounds, which is a DfE validated Systematic Synthetic Phonics Programme (SSP).
Phonics teaching begins in Nursery, where children explore Phase 1 of Unlocking Letters and Sounds. This important phase in our phonics programme helps to develop key listening skills and creates a solid foundation for the children’s future reading experiences. Within this phase, children focus on general sound discrimination of environmental sounds, instrumental sounds and body percussion, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration and voice sounds. Children in nursery experience regular, planned opportunities to listen carefully and talk extensively about what they see, hear and do. They will also begin to explore the skill of oral blending and segmenting.
In Reception, children begin phase 2, which allows them to make rapid progress in their reading journey. This phase builds on the children’s nursery experiences. Discrete, daily lessons, lasting 20-25 minutes, teach children to learn the main sounds heard in the English Language and how they can be represented. Children use oral segmenting and blending and then progress to segmenting and blending with letters. They also learn High Frequency words and Common Exception words linked to the phase that they are working on. The majority of the children will leave Reception being able to apply the phonemes taught within Phase 2, 3 and 4. Children will use their new learning to read and write simple words, captions and sentences.
In Year 1, through Phase 5a, b and c, children learn alternative graphemes and phonemes for the sounds that they have already been taught, as well as additional Common Exception Words. By the end of Year 1, children will be able to decode words to read them and encode words to spell them. In the summer term, children in year 1 are assessed using the Phonics Screening Check, which is a statutory check to identify whether children understand phonics to an appropriate standard.
In Year 2, most of the common Grapheme-Phoneme Correspondences (GPCs) have been taught and this helps children to read hundreds of words, by either by sight recognition or decoding quickly and effectively. Children then continue their reading journey through our Pathways to Read programme, which is a progressive, sequential and challenging programme that teaches reading skills through the mastery approach.
Here at Tushingham Primary School, we ensure that children are equipped with the reading skills that they need to access the curriculum as a whole, regardless of their starting points. In Reception and key stage 1, we promote a 'phonics first' approach when children are learning to read at school and at home. We use Reading Stars Phonics books, which are fully decodable reading books that follow the same cumulative progression of GPCs as our Systematic Synthetic Phonics Programme. At school, children practise their reading skills in our daily phonics sessions and through guided reading lessons. Each week, children are taught decoding, fluency and prosody skills. Initially, reading skills are taught using fully decodable reading books and as children move through the reading scheme, they read more complex texts, which challenge their inference skills. From year 2 to year 6, we use Pathways to Read programme, which follows a progressive development of reading skills through inspiring and engaging texts.
Reading at Home
We also use our Reading Stars Phonics books as part of our home reader model. Children are encouraged to read their decodable reading books many times over the week. Initially, they will focus on decoding the words and then they will re-read the text to develop more accuracy, speed and automaticity. This then allows the children to develop their comprehension of the text each time they read it. After reading the book many times, children can also begin to add in expression and intonation to bring the book to life.
Once children have completed the phonics phases and are reading at a higher level than the decodable books, we aim for them to become more fluent readers, reading with both speed and accuracy more consistently. They will read longer and less familiar texts with independence and the shift from learning to read to reading to learn begins to take place. Following on from these levelled books, children choose a ‘free reader’ book, which promotes a higher level of comprehension. Each class has carefully selected age-appropriate free reader chapter books for children to read.
Should children further up the school require fully decodable texts, we have invested in sets of books which are specifically designed for older children at the earlier stages of reading. We hope that these books engage and excite our older readers.
Reading for Pleasure
As a school, we are huge advocates for the development of Reading for Pleasure. Each class has dedicated Reading for Pleasure sessions in their timetable to ensure that children have an opportunity to fuel their own curiosity and enjoyment through reading. We have a selection of recommended reads in each year group and we promote these to ensure that children have access to carefully selected texts that challenge and inspire them as young readers. All children also select Reading for Pleasure books to take home and enjoy, alongside their school reading book. As well as learning new information and gaining new experiences through reading, we also understanding the role that Reading for Pleasure has in supporting better mental health and wellbeing amongst our learners.
Children are regularly assessed in phonics and reading throughout the year and any children who are not meeting age-related expectations are identified early and are given targeted phonics/reading support in order to bridge any gaps in learning. These include GPC recognition, blending and segmenting support and inference skills, and these are delivered through small group or 1:1 focussed interventions. Identified children are closely monitored to ensure that the interventions have a positive impact on their attainment and progression.
Similarly, children with high reading ability are challenged and motivated with higher-order questions, Gifted & Talented Interventions and workshops, and personalised challenging recommendations for Reading for Pleasure books from class teachers.
The aim of our reading curriculum is to prepare our children for the next stage of their lives, equipping them with the valuable reading skills that will enable them to contribute positively to their community.
When assessing the impact of our curriculum, we therefore look at progress, sustained learning and transferrable skills. From their starting points, children at our school make at least good progress.
Our children leave our school as readers. As reading is so embedded in our daily practice, it is a very natural action for children at our school to reach for a book. They are engaged and enthusiastic about immersing themselves in imaginary worlds, as well as enhancing their knowledge through books.
We continue to strive hard to equip our children with the skills to be able to read fluently and confidently in any subject. Our new reading model in EYFS and KS1 focusses on decoding words initially and then there is strong emphasis on re-reading books both at school and at home to develop fluency. Even in the early stages of using this new reading model, we have seen an improvement in children’s fluency and confidence in reading. This has then allowed children to develop an understanding of what they are reading. The skills that children gain from EYFS and Year 1, then naturally flow into our Pathways to Read scheme, which equips our children with the deeper skills of being able to read between the lines, as well as understanding how writers make vocabulary and organisational choices, based on their audience.
Attainment and progress in reading is measured using the statutory assessments at the end of EYFS, Key Stage One and Two. Attainment in phonics is measured by the Phonics Screening Test at the end of Year 1. These results are measured against the reading attainment of children nationally. Our school also uses our own mini-assessments to ensure children are on track to achieve their end of year targets. Assessment for Learning by teachers and teaching assistants is continually used throughout lessons to guide teaching and learning.
The SEND children have targeted interventions that help to bridge gaps in learning, and they therefore achieve well. We have many success stories that demonstrate our SEND children making excellent progress from their starting points in reading, and this gives them a solid foundation from which to continue to grow and learn from.
We know that reading is a key life skill so our strong drive to develop Reading for Pleasure at school has meant that reading has a high priority in our school’s curriculum. CPD opportunities have supported teachers and teaching assistants in understanding their children’s reading practices which has then allowed them to make personalised reading recommendations for children. This gives our children richer and wider reading experiences.