Subject lead: Gavin Frost
Reading, writing and speaking skills are absolute cornerstones of good communication. We have a carefully designed curriculum that enables all children to achieve their potential by the time they leave Year Six.
At Colby School, we prioritise reading as both a means and an end in itself. We know that reading is the skill that unlocks so much of learning, but our focus on reading is to inspire an enthusiastic love of reading for its own sake too.
We place great emphasis on children becoming fluent, confident readers and help them to develop a love of reading for pleasure and an enquiring mind to read for information. Learning to read is one of the most important skills that your child will learn at our school, so we put as much energy as possible into making sure every child learns to read as quickly as possible. We also encourage parents to read at home with their children as much as possible to reinforce this ethos.
Our well-stocked library offers free-readers a wide range of fiction and reference books that they may borrow, along with magazines such as 'Eco Kids', First News, Okido and National Geographic Kids. Each classroom also has its own mini library which is accessible to all the children.
English programmes of study
'All pupils must be encouraged to read widely across both fiction and non-fiction to develop their knowledge of themselves and the work in which they live, to establish an appreciation and love of reading, and to gain knowledge across the curriculum. Reading widely and often increases pupils' vocabulary because they encounter words they would rarely use in everyday speech. Reading also feeds pupils' imagination and opens up a treasure-house of wonder and joy for curious young minds'.
Reading at Home
We understand that parents have a very important role in helping their children to learn to read which is why we work in close partnership together. Reception children's parents are invited to a meeting early in the Autumn term where we explain what we mean by 'phonics' and how we approach phonics teaching at Colby School. We also offer lots of tips on how parents can support reading at home and each child will bring a book(s) and their Reading Record home each day.
Reading Together in School
As well as reading to the whole class, teachers and teaching assistants run smaller guided reading sessions with children who are at the same level as well as one-to-one sessions, often assisted by parent helpers or older pupils.
Tips for Parents
• Allow your child to choose what they read.
• Allow your child to enjoy the same book(s) over and over!
• Try to minimise noise and distractions.
• Young children should be encouraged to turn the pages themselves and given time to discuss pictures with you.
• Ask children to predict what they think will happen next.
• Have fun using silly voices for the characters.
• Encourage children to join in with rhyme and repeating phrases.
• Be a role model. Talk about what you are reading to your child. This can be a magazine, news article or online magazine; it does not have to be a book. All reading is valuable and children can see a purpose for learning to read when they see adults engaging with it and enjoying it.
• Perhaps show them a recipe you are following when you are cooking.
• Join the local library and look online for events and activities aimed at encouraging children to read. Many books are available online as eBooks. And of course it’s free! There are often reading challenges and competitions during the school holidays.
• Talk about new words or ideas that children might not have come across before. Introduce them to the idea of looking them up in a dictionary.
• Identify an author or series of books which appeals to your child.
• Subscribe to a magazine which relates to your child’s interests.
• Ask family and friends to donate books and comics / magazines to you.
• When charity shops re-open, have a look for new material for yourself as well as your child.
• Play card and board games
The National Literacy Trust outlines reading development from birth and highlights expected milestones from birth to 10 years old. There are some fun activities to do on there, including ‘The Book Olympics’ and ‘Book Top Trumps’.
Oxford Owl have lots of information on phonics and eBooks for children amongst other resources.
The British Library has a children’s section which is suitable for Primary school children of all ages. It includes links to online storytellers and lots of varied activities.
All children in Year 1 and selected children throughout the school have access to 'Lexia', a reading and spelling programme. Children are given timetabled access to this online resource and are expected to access it at home as part of their homework studies. Teachers can monitor reading progress and children are rewarded with certificates for their achievements.
English at Colby School:
From the very first days in Reception, children begin their phonics journey. We teach fully synthetic phonics, which enables all children to de-code an increasingly complex range of sounds and words. By the end of Year Two, with support from home, children are confident to choose their own books and follow their individual interests whilst they are carefully guided to choose a range of genres of increasing complexity. We encourage the use of Reading Diaries right to the end of KS2, so teachers, parents and children can feel proud of their hard work. We listen to children read at school whenever possible and support some groups whom might need more individual attention. Our reading catch up scheme ‘Lexia’ does this brilliantly and children are encouraged to use it at home if appropriate.
As well as choosing their own books, children hear high quality books read in class, many of which generate drama, writing or speaking practice. We have a carefully chosen list of books so that each half-term, children engage in detail with a challenging, high-quality text. We have carefully balanced the types of books offered so children get familiar with books that are archaic, non-linear, complex, figurative or sometimes much more than they seem at first. We know from talking to older past pupils that they remember the experience of being read to with great fondness. We aim for children to continue being strong readers as they continue their journey into high school.
We follow the national curriculum targets for reading throughout the school.
We check what the children are able to understand with various tests and checks, but they are formally assessed in Year One, Year Two and Year Six. With a statutory Phonics Check and two National Reading Tests respectively.
Writing is just as important and highly skilled readers quite simply, write higher quality texts. Again, we follow the National Curriculum framework and base our work on what interests the children. Children have the chance to make marks and allow their writing to emerge from day one and this journey sees them end in Year Six being able to write for a range of purposes using complex grammar and vocabulary. In Key Stage One, children write not just stories, but a whole host of diverse texts like, poetry, recounts, instructions, letters and descriptions to mention but a few. Children in Year Three and Four add genres like newspaper reports and speeches to their toolbox and by the time they leave they will have also learned about balanced arguments along with opportunities to apply for responsibility roles.
We try and keep reasons for writing as real as possible. Whilst grammar and spelling are important, the reason for the writing is crucial. Children might write for the newsletter, emails to the wider world, each other or any of our partners.
The children write a much more closely marked text at least once every half term for the teachers to understand exactly where the children are achieving and what the next steps should be. Children have individual targets to guide them towards high levels of achievement. Children tell us they enjoy writing at school and they know how much their work is valued through honest, but always supportive feedback.
Above all, we want the children to enjoy English, have fun and feel empowered to communicate clearly whilst striving for that extra bit of success.
What does Phonics look like at Colby?
From their first few weeks in school, Reception children follow a systematic synthetic phonics program that is based on the Letters and Sounds approach. Children enjoy introducing individual letters or groups of letters and learning what sound or ‘phoneme’ they make. Children in EYFS, Year 1 and Year 2 enjoy daily phonics sessions when they follow the specific sounds and spelling patterns appropriate to their developmental stage. We practise blending sounds to make whole words using fun practical activities and learning. We carefully follow our children’s progress and timetable in extra phonics sessions to support individual children. Children take a reading book home to practise these new skills with parents and carers. Every half term we assess our children’s progress and to plan for the next stage of their phonics journey. At the end of Year One children will take the National Phonics Check which assesses how many of the 40 phonemes children can ‘read’. As the children gain confidence and competence, both their reading and writing evidences their progress.