Early Reading and Phonics
At St Mary & St Pancras CE Primary School we believe that for all our children to become fluent readers and writers, phonics must be taught through a systematic, synthetic and structured phonics programme.
We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme to plan and provide daily engaging phonics lessons. In phonics, we teach children that the letters of the alphabet represent a different sound, that these can be used in a variety of combinations and are put together to make words. The children learn to recognise all of the different sounds and combinations that they might see when they are reading or writing. Our phonics teaching starts in Nursery and follows a very specific sequence that allows our children to build on their previous phonic knowledge and master specific phonic strategies as they move through school. This is to enable our children to tackle any unfamiliar words that they might discover. At St Mary & St Pancras, we also model these strategies in shared reading and writing both inside and outside of the phonics lesson and across the curriculum. We have a strong focus on the development of language skills for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.
How we teach phonics
- In the Nursery, children follow Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised ‘Foundations for Phonics’. The focus is on daily oral blending, phonological awareness and language development through nursery rhyme activities.
- In Reception and Year 1, children follow the progression within the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme. Phonics is taught daily with a review session on a Friday.
- Phonics starts in Reception in week 2 to ensure the children make a strong start.
- By the end of Reception, children will have been taught up to the end of phase 4.
- By the end of Year 1, children will have been taught up to the end of phase 5.
- Reception lessons start at 10 minutes, with daily additional oral blending – increasing to 30 minutes as soon as possible.
- Year 1 lessons are 30 minutes long.
- Year 2 complete a phase 5 review unit in Autumn 1, moving on to the Bridge to Spelling programme in Autumn 2. They then complete the Little Wandle Spelling units for the remainder of the year.
- Assessments are rigorous and take place every 6 weeks. This information is used to plan appropriate provision for any children falling behind as well as those with more significant gaps.
- Identified children in Reception and Year 1 participate in ‘Daily Keep-up’ sessions which target individual gaps in learning, both for GPCs and additional blending practice. Assessments are conducted every 3 weeks to track progress and ensure the intervention is adapted to meet the needs of the children.
- Children in Year 2 and above who need more support with mastering the phonic code and becoming fluent readers engage in the ‘Rapid Catch-up’ programme. They have 6 sessions a week comprising of 3 phonics lessons and 3 ‘reading practice’ sessions with a phonetically decodable book matched specifically to their knowledge.
Reading practice sessions
- Children across Reception and Year 1 apply their phonics knowledge by using a full matched decodable reader in a small group ‘reading practice’ session. Year 2 children (and beyond if appropriate) engage in ‘reading practice’ sessions during Autumn 1 before moving into Guided Reading in Autumn 2, or when they are ready.
- These sessions are 15 – 20 minutes long and happen three times a week. There are approximately 6 children in a group.
- The sessions follow the model set out in Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised.
- In Reception these sessions start in week 4. Children who are not blending yet use wordless books.
What does ‘home reading’ look like for early readers?
- The children take home a fully decodable book to ensure success is shared with the family. This may be in the form of an actual book or a digital version that has been assigned them using our Collins Big Cat eBook digital library. Children will only be sent home with decodable books containing sounds and words they have already been taught.
- The aim is that your child reads with 95% fluency as the book is fully decodable. If books are sent home that your child cannot decode, it can lead to frustration for the child and parents/carers.
- This means that the children should not be reading books independently that include sounds they have not learnt during phonics lessons. Your child should be able to read the book without any significant support. If they are reading fluently, this is the appropriate book and is not too easy for them.
- They will also bring home a ‘sharing book’ for you to enjoy together. We want children to engage with a wide range of rich texts, not limited to their decodable book. This will be a book higher than their reading ability and should be read to them to generate discussion, encourage a love of books and develop their vocabulary. Please do not expect your child to read this independently.
How do we assess phonic knowledge?
- In Reception and Year 1, at the end of each week there is a review session which recaps the learning. There are also whole review weeks (pre-planned and bespoke review weeks to address gaps identified by the class teacher’s ongoing formative assessment).
- In Reception and Year 1, the children are assessed every 6 weeks using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessment tracker.
- Children identified in Reception and Year 1 as in danger of falling behind are immediately identified and ‘Daily Keep-up’ sessions are put in place – sessions follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme. These children are assessed every 3 weeks.
- Children in Year 1 sit the Phonics Screening Check in the summer term.
- Children who do not pass the Phonics Screening Check in Year 1 will re-sit this in Year 2.
- Children who are in Years 2-6 and need ‘Rapid Catch-up’ provision are assessed every 3 weeks.
If you are a parent and would like more information about how to support your child with phonics at home, please follow this link to find the Reception and Year 1 overview as well as videos of the sound pronunciations, letter formation sheets and other helpful resources.
We would also love to see you at our STMP coffee mornings and workshops so keep an eye out for future dates!
At St Mary & St Pancras, we value reading as a key life skill. We choose engaging and challenging core texts as the basis for units of work. By the time children leave STMP, they should be confident selecting and reading a wide range of material and enjoy regularly reading for pleasure.
Our readers are equipped with the tools to tackle unfamiliar vocabulary and material. They are able to recommend books to their peers and enjoy reading a wide range of genres, including non-fiction. Children enjoy participating in discussions around books, including evaluating an author’s use of language and how this can affect the reader. We encourage our pupils to see themselves as discerning readers and to be confident in discussing not only whether they enjoy a text but also the extent to which they agree with it. We ensure that the books we read as part of our reading curriculum and in our book corners are representative of our wider school community and reflect the diversity of our children’s lived experiences.
How we teach Reading
We teach reading strategies for reading comprehension, including prosody, through daily guided reading lessons (Years 2-6) in addition to our daily English lesson. These lessons cover a variety of texts/genres including fiction, non-fiction and poetry pitched at an instructional level. A member of staff leads these sessions with a group of up to six children. Classrooms are set up as ‘Reading Carousels’ so children working independently engage in meaningful reading tasks providing suitable challenge designed to deepen their understanding of a text.
Reading lessons include:
- An element of prosody (reading with feeling)
- A close look at key vocabulary that children may be unfamiliar with
- Unpicking the key skill focus for that lesson (retrieval, inference, prediction, summarising, vocabulary, making links)
- Modelled answering of questions
- High quality discussions based on targeted questions to encourage children to think analytically and inquisitively about their reading
- Opportunities to apply the day’s reading skills independently
‘Reading Carousel’ activities vary from class to class depending on the focus skill/strategy but can include:
- Activities with a focus on developing vocabulary
- Reciprocal Reading – a child led book group with each child taking on a different role to support the discussion
- Activities with a focus on deepening understanding of syntax, sentence structure, figurative language, meaning of phrases etc
- Activities with a focus on understanding of the text as a whole. This could be in the form of bespoke questions about the text extract, drama or as a response task such as writing a diary entry.
In addition to our reading lessons in Year 1-6, we also provide children with:
- Opportunities to read for pleasure
- Story time timetabled for fifteen minutes a day, at least three times a week.
- Regular, open ended discussions about stories and books.
- 20 minute weekly assembly focused on texts recommended by the children
- Designated reading areas for children to use, including the Reading Gazebo which can be accessed during playtimes and lunchtimes.
- Opportunities to read and discuss a wide read of genres including poetry and non-fiction (including weekly newspapers to ensure children are aware of local, national and global issues).
We also have a number of reading enrichment activities, including:
- Celebrations for World Book Week including competitions and lots of amazing costumes!
- Annual Bedtime Stories day.
- Engaging in the Key Stages 1 and 2 ‘Reading Road Map’ challenges.
- Visits from authors and poets. For example, Neal Zetter visits our school on an annual basis!
In addition, 1:1 reading is put in place for children that need extra practise. Books that the children take home are carefully chosen to match the children’s interests and their level of fluency.
Reading environments and choice to promote reading for pleasure:
All classrooms contain an engaging, clearly labelled, tidy book corner with a range of classic and new, high-quality fiction and non-fiction texts.
A reading area is available next to our school hall so that children can access books throughout their playtimes.
Newspapers are made available and regularly changed so that children can keep up to date with current affairs.
Children can seek advice from any staff member on how to choose a book that they will like and exposure to new authors and genres.
Time every week to choose a book and read for pleasure.
Dedicated time each week in our school library.
Daily opportunities to engage in quality discussions about books.
Access to enthusiastic staff:
- with good knowledge of children’s books and who enjoy participating in book talk.
- who are motivated and participate wholeheartedly in reading enrichment activities such as World Book Day.
- who model the love of reading!
At St Mary & St Pancras, we look for ways to inspire and motivate children so that they see themselves as writers. We have created our own bespoke Writing Curriculum underpinned by rich texts to match the needs and interests of each year group. Children engage with high quality picture books, novels and non-fiction. They are immersed into the text through a wide range of interactive and cross-curricular teaching approaches including:
Responding to illustrations
Only small pieces of text are shared at a time, building suspense and excitement for learning. This enables development of a wide range of reading strategies, including prediction, inference, questioning and analysis. Children take ownership of the text and engage with it creatively and deeply as they become enthusiastic and critical readers of a range of text types. Whilst developing a love for reading, these texts also inspire children to write creatively with a sense of audience and purpose.
We establish the purpose and audience for writing and make the learning journey explicit throughout our teaching so that children know why they are studying a particular text type, the skills and knowledge they will develop, and what the expected outcome will be. Real experiences and events are used as much as possible to make writing opportunities meaningful and engaging.
We provide a range of writing opportunities and levels of support including; shared, modelled, guided, collaborative, paired and independent writing. Children write in a variety of genres and forms, in different curriculum areas and using a wide range of stimuli. Writing is usually modelled and success criteria is shared or agreed with the children before they start writing to ensure they know what they need to do to be successful. Children are taught to take responsibility for assessing whether they have achieved the criteria and what they need to do to improve their writing. They are also taught to plan, draft, edit and publish their writing. Quality marking and verbal feedback informs children of their next steps, to which they respond with purple feedback pens.
In addition to daily English lessons, children in Key Stages 1 and 2 produce a piece of extended writing once a week. This task may be linked to any area of the curriculum. The session begins with teacher input, modelling of writing and high quality discussion after which children engage in the creative writing task completely independently. This provides a valuable opportunity for children to apply the writing skills they have been learning. Throughout the year, tasks include a range of purposes and genres and are based on a variety of stimuli including characters, film, images, music, real-life experiences and texts.
Grammar and punctuation is embedded in English teaching (both reading and writing), following the National Curriculum framework. This ensures that children have a solid understanding of grammatical rules in context of real text and can apply them accordingly. Classrooms are language rich learning environments appropriate to the age and needs of the children. High quality vocabulary and scaffolds for grammatical concepts are displayed around classrooms and children are encouraged to use these.
In addition to coverage in English lessons, we use the No Nonsense Spelling scheme as a basis for teaching spelling patterns and strategies to Key Stage 2 classes. We aim to equip children to spell fluently through a developmental process of investigating patterns and learning to apply a range of strategies appropriately. We use explicit, interactive teaching which draws children’s attention to the origins, structure and meaning of words and their parts, the shape and sounds of words, the letter patterns within them and the various ways they can learn these patterns. In order to study words like this we have to take them out of context for the specific teaching of spelling. We believe that this is best achieved little and often and through stimulating, multi-sensory activities and games.
Children take pride in the presentation of their work and are taught following the Nelson Handwriting programme. Key Stage 1 classes practise daily and Key Stage 2 classes three times a week. The script used in school (NTprecursive) provides a model for the children. We maintain high expectations for presentation of all work in all subjects as well as quality of writing content. A ‘Golden Pen’ award is given to one child from each class every week during Celebration Assembly to commend effort in presentation.
At St Mary & St Pancras, we believe that literacy is a fundamental life skill as it develops children’s ability to communicate effectively, preparing them to deal with a range of real-life situations. Through high quality English lessons, we teach children to express themselves articulately using both spoken and written language and ensure they understand how to transfer these skills across the curriculum and to other real life situations.
We aim to teach our children to express themselves clearly and confidently, matching their style to the audience and purpose. Children are expected to speak in full sentences; this is encouraged and modelled by all staff. They learn to listen and respond to literature and develop the skills needed to participate effectively in a range of situations. Ways in which we do this include:
Recounting events and experiences
Drama (including a Shakespeare Project in Years 2 and 5, Creative Court workshops in Y6)
Talk partner work
Whole class discussions across the curriculum
Philosophy enquiries (P4C)
Debating (including whole school questions)
Class performances to the school.