Early Reading and Phonics at Our Lady of Grace
A. Prioritise reading
At St Mary’s and Our Lady of Grace we value that reading is a key life skill which unlocks the wider curriculum, and therefore we are committed to help our pupils develop a lifelong enjoyment of reading. We understand that the teachings of reading is fundamental to the school’s improvement each year and have a sharp focus from the very start to maximum progress. We prioritise early reading and are determined that every pupil will learn to read, regardless of their background, needs, or abilities. All pupils, including the weakest readers, make sufficient progress to meet or exceed age related expectations.
Daily phonics is taught as a discrete session of 20 minutes where children are grouped according to ability to ensure that all children reach their full potential.
Many opportunities are provided for pupils to practise and extend their reading in other areas of the curriculum.
B. Love of reading
All staff are committed to help our pupils develop a lifelong enjoyment of reading. Teachers talk knowledgeably about children’s literature and encourage pupils to talk about what they have read.
Teachers read aloud in a way that excites and engages them, introducing new ideas, concepts and vocabulary to stimulate their imagination and expand cognitive development. Children are read to daily which helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word. Teachers show parents the importance of reading aloud to their children by inviting families to join the class for shared reading sessions.
The learning environment promotes reading with an engaging, well utilised reading area in each classroom. This is a safe and stimulating area that includes a wide selection of books which are valued and cared for. These books will include fiction and non-fiction texts, poems and rhymes to develop pupils’ vocabulary, language comprehension and love of reading. In Foundation Stage and Key Stage One, the classrooms have displays with graphemes to support the teaching of phonics.
Children take part in a class ‘book exchange’ where children donate a book and then they can take a book from the exchange selection. Children are given the time to read and most importantly discuss the books they like. The teachers and other staff members will model this process and encourage the children to reflect on their own reading and share their opinions as much as possible.
C. Programme and Progress
The teaching of phonics at St Mary’s and Our Lady of Grace is based on the Letters and Sounds guidance (DFE 2007) which has been adapted to meet the expectations of the National Curriculum and the early learning goals with aspirations to exceed. Teachers use a range of interactive resources to plan and deliver effective, high quality lessons.
The school has clear expectations of pupils’ phonics term-by–term, from Nursery to Year 2. (Please see Phonics Long term)
D. Books match sounds
We support the children's application of phonics by matching their school and home reading books to the sounds that they have learnt or are learning in class. Phonically decodable books are sent home on a regular basis to enable the children to read with fluency and apply their knowledge of the letter/sound patterns taught.
Teachers show parents how they can practise reading sounds and words and listen to their children read decodable books during ‘Phonics Information meetings’ and ‘Watch Me Read’ sessions’.
Children who are just beginning to learn the letter/sound correspondences are learning at the same time to tell stories using books which do not have words to begin with. This is crucial in the development of spoken language and vocabulary and it is a necessary stepping stone towards becoming an accomplished reader and writer.
E. Phonics from the start
The teaching of synthetic phonics begins in nursery where children learn to discriminate between sounds in the environment through the use of rhyme, rhythm and alliteration. The foundation stage is a ‘language-rich’ environment that focuses on developing children's speaking and listening skills to lay the foundations of phonics. The emphasis is to get children attuned to the sounds around them and ready to begin developing oral blending and segmenting skills.
Children are then taught the 26 graphemes and practice recognising phonemes in “CVC” words. They have opportunities to apply their developing phonic knowledge and skills in the context of shared reading and writing. We use a range of exciting rhymes, songs, practical activities and outdoor learning to embed reading in a range of contexts, demonstrating to children the impact of reading in every aspect of life.
Discrete, daily phonics teaching in differentiated groups continues into KS1. The children continue to learn new graphemes for the phonemes they already know, as well as alternative pronunciations for the graphemes. They are also taught the Common Exception Words for Year 1 and 2 as set out in the National Curriculum (2014). The teaching of reading in Year 2 and above continues to improve reading accuracy and fluency as well as further developing pupils’ interest and pleasure as they learn to read independently with confidence.
F. Catch up quickly
Teachers are responsible for assessing the progress of all pupils in their class. Ongoing assessment of pupils’ phonics progress is used from the start of nursery and is sufficiently frequent and detailed to identify any pupil who is falling behind the programme’s pace.
Teachers identify children and targeted support is given immediately. Children are given additional practise daily to ensure that they can recognise sounds and blend with confidence and accuracy; this helps all children keep up with the pace of the phonics programme. Leaders meet frequently with individual teachers to discuss the progress of their pupils and plan how to best support pupils who are making insufficient progress.
Leaders ensure that late arrivals are assessed immediately and accurately and appropriate support is given if necessary.
G. Early reading experts
St Mary’s and Our Lady of Grace have developed sufficient expertise in the teaching of phonics and reading. Staff are expert in teaching systematic, synthetic phonics and have a clear understanding of how pupils learn to read. They ensure that children are given quality lessons and daily opportunities to practise phonics and reading through whole class shared reading, paired reading and guided reading with an adult. There are also regular opportunities for children to read on an individual basis.
Teachers, teaching assistants and all teachers who are new to the school are given CPD to ensure staff are well trained and knowledgeable.
Leaders work closely with all staff to ensure that they continually develop their practise.