At Hill West we are committed to ensuring that every pupil will learn to read regardless of their background, needs or abilities. We want children to develop a genuine love of books and thirst for literature. We want them to read books written by a wide range of authors and we want all of our children, before they leave us, to read many of the classics.
We understand that when children make good progress in Reading they also find success in other individual subject disciplines; fluent readers learn more because they can read and gain knowledge for themselves. The ability to read fluently, comprehend and interpret is a prerequisite to success in later life.
Early Reading and Phonics
Our school phonics programme is Letters and Sounds which sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills for children with the aim of them becoming fluent readers by the age of 7. It consists of six overlapping phases of which phase 2 – 4 are taught in Reception and phase 5- 6 are taught in Year 1 and 2. Phonics is taught discretely for 20 minutes daily for all children in Reception and KS1. As well as being highly structured our phonics teaching is taught through practical play based activities as well as songs, rhymes, games and stories. Alongside the daily teaching of phonics all children are assigned a stage appropriate reading book from Floppy’s phonics which contains 30 decodable adventures and 42 decodable non-fiction titles which all link closely to the letters and sounds phases. Following Floppy’s Phonics children move onto Oxford Reading tree books, which supports our rigorous approach to the teaching of reading by matching every child with the right book through careful grading with the right level of support and challenge to develop skills and foster a lifelong love of reading. Children complete these books while in Reception. In addition, all children are subscribed to reading eggs lessons following an assessment entry test. This teaches pupils how to hear, segment and substitute phonemes using rhymes and linking patterns in word families. Each lesson finishes with a real book for our pupils to put their phonic skills into action. New vocabulary and sight words are explicitly taught to move towards effortless word recognition.
Our school appreciates that vocabulary instruction is essential with studies showing that children with language difficulties at age 5 are four times more likely to have reading difficulties in adulthood (Law et al, 2017). By teaching a mere 300 to 400 words a year we can foster an annual growth of around 3,000 to 4,000 words (Quigley, 2018). Vocabulary teaching at Hill West is organised, cumulative and rich. Our staff area aware of the three tier vocabulary model. In tier 2 children are taught sophisticated words frequently encountered in written rather than everyday oral language. These words are the focus of our direct instruction. Rich knowledge of second tier words has a powerful impact on our pupil’s verbal development. Tire 3 words are taught through linked learning opportunities focussing on the technical aspects of a subject.
We know that children who read only one book a day hear about 290,000 more words by age 5 than those who don’t regularly read books with a parent or care giver (Logan, 2019). We know that children who read regularly for enjoyment everyday not only perform better in reading tests than those that don’t but also develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures. Therefore, it is our unquestionable duty to read to our children and expose them to the joys of story language while teaching them systematic, synthetic phonics so that children are fluent, independent readers by the age of 7.
Oxford Reading Tree
As a school, we use Oxford Reading Tree as our reading scheme to embed phonics and encourage pupils to read regularly at home. As emergent readers, pupils will begin their journey by reading wordless books, and, as their phonic knowledge grows, children move through the scheme and onto different stages. We feel that the Oxford Reading Tree scheme provides a great starting point for children as they begin to acquire and apply their knowledge of phonics and key vocabulary. However, once a teacher is satisfied that a child’s fluency and phonetical understanding is adequate, we encourage them to move onto “real” books. This may be an appropriately challenging book from our school library, or a book from home.
Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress
As a school we subscribe to a fantastic online resource called ‘Reading Eggs’, which contains games, lessons and e-books to help improve children’s reading skills. Reading Eggs focuses on a core reading curriculum of skills and strategies which are essential for sustained reading success; it completely supports what children learn at school. There are two programmes within Reading Eggs – Reading Eggs for 3-7 year olds and Reading Eggspress for 7-13 year olds. Of course, children younger than 7 can use reading Eggspress if it matches their reading ability and similarly there may be children who are older than 7 who will benefit from continued work on Reading Eggs. We use this programme primarily as a Home Learning resource, although children do have opportunities to access it in school as well.
Speaking and Listening
“Reading and writing float on a sea of talk” (James Britton)
There is no doubt that good communication and speaking and listening skills are fundamental to a pupils’ language and social development. Not only this, we believe that speaking and listening underpins learning and thinking is therefore an essential tool for all areas of the curriculum. We ensure that pupils are provided with many and varied contexts for talk, as well as direct teaching in the skills of speaking and listening. This begins in the Foundation Stage, where ‘Communication and Language’ is recognised as a prime area of learning. From the moment they start Reception, our pupils are encouraged to practise these skills through their rich and varied curriculum. Children will have opportunities every day to listen attentively in a range of situations, respond to others, ask questions about their experiences and express themselves.
As pupils move through school, speaking and listening is embedded through all of our teaching and learning. Our children love to take part in class debates, group discussions and drama activities that link to their Key Question. We encourage collaborative working and provide lots of opportunities for this each day. We also ensure that our pupils are able to use Standard English confidently in a range of formal and informal contexts so that they can have a deeper, meaningful level of collaborative conversation about a topic, responding and initiating using higher level questioning.
At Hill West we endeavour to create a purposeful atmosphere that will encourage children to become enthusiastic, independent and fluent writers. We work hard to ensure that writing opportunities link clearly to Key Questions so that children can apply their learning from across the curriculum, which means that children at Hill West are given opportunities to write for real life situations that stimulate their curiosity. Because they have opportunities to read a wide range of texts before writing, children are confident when writing for a range of purposes, using writing skills and techniques that are built on each year. A high priority is also given to the teaching of spelling, punctuation and grammar.
We encourage high levels of presentation and, as such, all children at Hill West Primary School are taught handwriting daily. This allows children to form letters correctly using four main joins. These are:
- to letters without ascenders
- to letters with ascenders
- horizontal joins
- horizontal joins to letters with ascenders
We have uploaded some useful videos to our YouTube Channel – Hill West Primary- which explain how we teach certain aspects of SPaG such as fronted adverbials, colons and basic punctuation. These videos are also available to watch on our Twitter page @hillwestprimary.