At St. Bede’s Catholic Primary School, we recognise that being able to read is one of the most important skills children will learn during their early schooling. This has far-reaching implications for lifelong confidence and well-being.
High-quality structured and systematic teaching of phonics is at the heart of early education at St Bede’s. Daily phonics lessons ensure the vital skills of word recognition are taught, enabling children to become fluent readers. Once achieved, pupils are then able to concentrate on the meaning of the text and make the shift from learning to read to reading to learn. Reading is an essential skill to allow children to fully access the world around them.
At St Bede’s, we follow the Sounds-Write programme of teaching phonics. Sounds-Write is a linguistic phonic approach to teaching reading, which begins with the sounds in the language and moves from sounds to the written word. aiming to ensure that all children are fluent readers by the time they leave KS1. This is an entitlement we want to achieve for every child. Our reading scheme in Reception and Year One is entirely decodable, using Sounds-Write texts and Phonics Dandelion Readers. In Year Two, children will have sufficient phonic knowledge to read more complex texts and can progress to free reading.
Phonics and Spelling
The Sounds-Write programme is used to teach phonics and spelling. In Nursery, the children are taught an awareness of sound and sound identification (environmental, instrumental and body percussion), moving onto accessing the initial code of the Sounds-Write programme by half term of the Spring term. All pupils in Reception begin the initial code in the September of their Reception year and continue their phonics journey throughout Year One and into Year Two, with the aim of leaving KS1 as fluent readers, secure in word building and recognition.
Sounds-Write is a strong phonemic awareness instructional programme, developing three phonemic awareness skills: blending, segmenting and phoneme manipulation.
Conceptual Knowledge and Understanding
The programme is based around the conceptual understanding needed to make sense of the process of learning to read and write. Pupils are taught the 4 concepts below:
- Letters are symbols (spellings) used to represent individual sounds in speech
- A sound may be spelled by 1, 2, 3 or 4 letters – dog, street, night, dough
- The same sound can be spelled in more than one way (one sound – different spellings) – rain, break, gate and stay.
- Many spellings can represent more than one sound (one spelling – different sounds) – head, seat, break.
Pupils are taught the 3 skills segmenting, blending and phoneme manipulation which need to be practised and perfected to become a fluent reader:
- Blending – pushing sounds together to build words, e.g. /s/ /a/ /t/ à sat
- Segmenting individual sounds in speech to read and write (pulling apart the individual sounds in words), e.g. pig à /p/ /i/ /g/
- Phoneme manipulation – manipulating individual sounds (inserting sounds into and deleting sounds from words) to enable one sound to be replaced by another (sound swapping). This skill is important to test alternatives for spellings that represent more than one sound.
Alphabet code knowledge
To become a fluent reader, pupils must be taught all the common ways of representing English speech sounds (phonemes). Sounds-write uses a systematic approach, teaching simple 1-sound:1-letter correspondence (Initial Code) to teaching sounds represented by several different spellings (Extended Code).
All adults involved in teaching phonics have attended a 4-day training programme on the delivery of Sounds-Write and use the same language consistently when teaching about sounds and spellings.
Progress in phonics is monitored half termly, including lesson visits and pupil progress discussions and is tracked using Phonics Tracker.
Pupils in EYFS and KS1 are given additional support as required to master their phonics. Pupils in KS2, who have gaps in the phonics, continue to be supported through timely and effective intervention and decodable readers for older pupils.
Sounds-Write (lessons 11 – 15) is used in the teaching of weekly polysyllabic spellings at KS2 alongside resources from Spelling Shed.
At St Bede’s, we use the Rising Stars, Cracking Comprehension scheme to teach reading comprehension. During discrete lessons, children are taught the reading skills and strategies needed to explain their understanding of a wide range of texts.
The Cracking Comprehension programme incorporates whole class teaching using an interactive teaching text, listening comprehension questions, group and class discussion text (with the teacher modelling the process of reading the text, zapping the question, searching the text and cracking the answer), and an independent task. Within each unit, there is a teaching text and a practice text. In the lesson following completion of the teaching text, pupils complete a practice text allowing them to independently practise the processes and strategies taught. Children self/peer mark as the model answers are shared with the class, with the teacher monitoring progress.
Within the teaching notes of each unit, Cracking Comprehension identifies the relevant national curriculum content domain being assessed through each question, allowing the teacher to target specific skills.
Reading comprehension is also taught in context in writing lessons and linked into foundation subject areas where possible.
In Year 2 and throughout KS2, we use Accelerated Reader, a programme that helps staff manage and monitor children’s independent reading practice. Accelerated Reader aims to develop a culture of reading through choice and is pupil-driven and teacher-guided, thereby ensuring children are reading books best matched to their interest level and reading ability.
At the start of each half-term, pupils complete a Star Reading test that determines the child’s reading age; calculates a zone of proximal development (ZPD), comprising a range of texts at a level that will challenge the child without causing frustration or loss of motivation; and a points target. Every book is given a points value based on the length of the book (number of words) and a points target is set for each half-term (an individualised target based on how many words the pupil should be able to read across the term).
Upon completion of the Star Reading tests, children are given a bookmark that details their personalised data and subsequently aids them in choosing books matched to their interest and reading ability. It is important that pupils read with a high degree of comprehension within their ZPD. As children are reading books at their own reading and interest level, they are more likely to enjoy what they are reading and be successful readers. Once the children have finished a book, they will quiz on the text, assessing their understanding, points being awarded in accordance with their quiz performance.
Pupils access books from the KS2 library which offers a broad range of fiction and non-fiction texts. Children enjoy 20 – 30 minutes daily reading practice in school and are also encouraged to read daily at home. Accelerated Reader is continuing to be successful in school, having a positive impact on children’s progress in reading fluency and understanding, affecting all areas of the curriculum.
At St Bede’s we want to instil a love of reading in our pupils as this is key to improving children’s cognitive development and success in school. Reading independently, being read to and engaging in discussion about stories carries huge benefits that last a lifetime.
Timetabled daily Storytime encourages reading for pleasure and is a lovely way to end the school day. Sharing high quality texts with pupils builds their vocabulary, widens their imagination and transports them to new and unfamiliar places, allowing them to discover more about the world and themselves. By reading to pupils, children are continually having to make small inferences, working out how the narrative is going to develop and resolve.
Staff use VIPERS (vocabulary, infer, predict, explain, retrieve and summarise) question stems to ensure Storytime is purposeful.