Success in reading underpins success in all subjects. Established readers have access to the riches of the curriculum and develop a love of reading that lasts with them a lifetime. Therefore, it is paramount that we have a clear and robust method of teaching reading to all children. Reading is multidimensional and draws on knowledge and experience, both personal and academic. The different strands of our reading provision, though interlinked, specifically target different dimensions of reading. Our reading spine ensures all children experience powerful texts across the curriculum.
Systematic Synthetic Phonics:
A robust programme of systematic synthetic phonics (SSP, or just ‘phonics’) is followed from the moment children enter school to the point at which they can read and spell fluently. Children learn about the link between letters and letter patterns, and the sounds they make. At Kirkstall Valley, we follow a modified version of the phonic progression in ‘Letters and Sounds’, which moves methodically through six phases and develops key reading and spelling skills: building links between written words and sound, blending, segmenting, identifying words that do not follow common patterns and ‘morphing’ words.
All children are assessed in phonics through school until the point where they are proficient as readers and as spellers. Where a child’s progress in phonics is slower, or where there are gaps, interventions and specially-arranged first-wave teaching ensure that all children leave school with the strongest phonic strategies possible.
For further details concerning our phonics strategy, please see the phonics policy.
Whole Class Teaching (Y2-6):
Reading is taught discretely in a thirty-minute reading lesson either four or five times per week. In years three to six, and in years two where appropriate, the key skills of reading are developed through whole-class lessons exploring beautiful, rich and authentic texts. Staff have carefully constructed a reading spine with texts for whole-class reading lessons that are pitched slightly above the independent reading ability of the children, offering challenge, opportunities to experience more difficult texts and to read forensically.
Across the course of the school year, children systematically access a wide range of literature: contemporary fiction, heritage fiction, picture books, novels, non-fiction texts and poetry. Some of these texts may link to the children’s creative theme work; many may not.
Teachers introduce a whole text, pivotal moments or challenging content by activating schema: creating links between what the child already knows and the text they are about to access. Lessons may also involve pre-teaching vocabulary and knowledge that children need to understand first to be able to access their reading. In nearly all guided reading lessons, children practice reading with fluency and expression. This can involve any number of collective reading aloud strategies:
- cloze reading, in which pupils follow text read by the teacher and fill in ‘gaps’ that they leave;
- choral reading, where pupils and staff read a passage aloud together;
- echo reading, in which key tricky sentences are modelled by the teacher and repeated by the children with similar intonation and rhythm.
- paired or group reading, with children reading to each other in small groups.
Teachers then plan activities to support children’s deeper understanding of their reading in a mixture of written and oral work. Teachers balance the level of children’s guided work with opportunities to work independently where appropriate, ensuring that activities are purposeful and give children chance to explore a range of reading skills.
In KS1, children access phonically decodable books in small groups. We are very fortunate to have lots of adults at Kirkstall Valley and so we are able to ensure that, for the most part, five adults work in reception and year one classes during reading lessons. Each adult is able to work with a small group on a book that is pitched appropriately to their need. Children revisit the same book several times over the course of the week, moving through a four part model: decoding, fluent reading, comprehension and deeper reading skills. This model is adapted at the beginning of year two to fit the needs of the class until the point where whole-class reading can become the main method of teaching reading. In year two upwards, some children may work in smaller groups whilst the majority of their class work on whole-class approaches so that they can become, first and foremost, secure with decoding using phonics.
Listening to Individual Readers
Reading lessons in some specially marked weeks throughout the year are devoted to listening to individual readers. At the beginning of the academic year and at the end of each half term, teachers have timetabled sessions to assess on children’s independent reading, allocate their book band and make suggestions to their home or free reading choices.
Classes will always have an ongoing schedule of listening to independent readers, depending on the age, habits and achievement of the class. These timetables are managed by the class teacher and will involve the entire force of the KVPS team.
Class reading sessions (the last twenty minutes of each day Monday to Thursday and during a designated slot on Friday) involve children accessing texts in a sustained reading session. ‘Class readers’ begins with iterative vocabulary quizzing and teaching. Children then reflect on what has happened in their story so far before the teacher models the reading of an exciting, emotive or profound story. Over time, it is the aim that all classes have at least enough copies of these texts so that children can share a copy to read between two.
A few questions may be asked during the session to check children’s understanding, but the focus of the session is building stamina, appreciating quality text and the enjoyment of having a story read.
In KS1, particularly in year one, where stories are much shorter, a ‘repeated reader’ model ensures children develop familiarity and love of a range of stories. Children read and appreciate a quality, short story over the course of a week. This may mean that the story is read several times in succession. Children are encouraged to join in, take part and retell the story. Over several weeks, a bank of stories will have been learnt and loved. They are kept in a special box in the classroom for children to access at will. Every half term, the class will explore again the books that they have collected in their repeated reader boxes, ensuring that the arcs of fantastic stories are committed to memory.
Teachers provide quality literature across the curriculum so that children develop the habit of reading to learn. Children should access texts that help facilitate understanding of key topics and spark curricular interests.
There are several texts that all year groups can access at different levels, often exploring social, moralistic or humanitarian themes. Though some of these texts are not as long or as complex as those accessed in other areas of the reading curriculum, they are no less valuable or powerful. Our reading assemblies give opportunity for staff to share these texts with all year groups, prompting discussion, empathy and an understanding of how books can reflect the world in which we live.
Children have an individual reading book matched to their reading capability which can be taken home to share with parents. In the early stages of reading, it is expected that a phonic-based book with recently learnt GPCs and words is the most appropriate choice. However, it may be that a different choice of book, particularly for those who have quickly mastered the basics of early reading, is more appropriate.
Each child has a ‘monkey record book’ for home-school communication. When an adult hears a child read, it is expected that this will be completed with relevant comments to parents.
Later on in school, many children will become fluent, confident readers who are capable of reading texts beyond the school’s book band system. These children can then become ‘free readers’ and choose their own books to read at home. These can be books they access from home, from the school library, or from the books in the class book corners at an individual teacher’s discretion.