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Kensworth CE Academy

With God by our side, we can move mountains

Early Reading and Phonics


Read to Me


Read to me riddles and read to me rhymes
Read to me stories of magical times
Read to me tales about castles and kings
Read to me stories of fabulous things
Read to me pirates and read to me knights
Read to me dragons and dragon-book fights
Read to me spaceships and cowboys and then
When you are finished- please read them again.


By Jane Yolen


At Kensworth CE Academy, we know that learning to read is a complex process with a range of skills that must be in place to succeed.  As reading is the gateway to the curriculum, it is given the highest priority in school and time is dedicated to sharing books through a daily story time in each class.


Our youngest children in Saplings are busy looking at books and listening to stories being read to them every day.  They are developing their phonological awareness through noticing words that rhyme, trying out alliteration and retelling stories in their play.  Our team are wondering what happens next in a story and our children are making suggestions based on their knowledge of the world and their imagination.


The children are using their listening skills to discriminate sounds in the environment and through playing musical instruments.  They may already know some letter sounds, for example in their own names or those of their friends and our skilled team support and develop this understanding in play and conversation.


Phonological awareness is essential for reading because written words correspond to spoken words.  Readers must have awareness of the speech sounds that letters and letter combinations represent to move from a printed word to a spoken word (reading), or a spoken word to a written word (spelling).  (Moats, 2010).


When children enter reception and join Chestnut Class, they already have a strong foundation and are ready to continue their reading journey, by sharing and enjoying books with each other every day; individually, in small groups and as a whole class.


‘The frequency of reading to children at a young age has a significant, positive effect on their reading skills and their cognitive skills later in life. Research shows that there is a difference in reading performance equivalent to just over a year's schooling between young people who never read for enjoyment and those who read for up to thirty minutes per day’. [OECD (2002) Reading for Change: Performance and engagement across countries p.16-17]


In the Early Years we are in a unique position of fostering this love of reading and supporting children as they learn to read to continue this lifelong relationship with books and reading.


Daily phonics lessons support the children to begin to sound out letters and blend them together to read simple words.


At Kensworth CE Academy we use Read Write Inc (RWI) Phonics to teach early reading.  RWI is a Department of Education validated phonics programme with a whole school approach to teach early reading and writing.


How we teach children to read and write?

Every child deserves success right from the start. We know that the sooner children learn to read, the greater their success at school. This is why we put reading at the heart of what we do.


We use a programme called Read Write Inc. Phonics to teach our children to read and write. We make sure every child can read the last set of phonic stories before they progress to our higher-level programmes, Comprehension and Spelling. Some children complete the programme in Year 1 and others in Year 2. Year 3 and 4 children who need extra support follow this programme too; struggling readers in Year 5 and 6 children follow a similar programme called Fresh Start.


During this time, we group children by their reading progress and re-assess children every half-term so we can place them in the group where they’ll make the most progress. We provide extra daily one-to-one sessions for children who need a bit of a boost to keep up.


How do we make phonics easy for children to learn?

Read Write Inc. Phonics depends upon children learning to read and write sounds effortlessly, so we make it simple and fun. The phonic knowledge is split into two parts.


First, we teach them one way to read and write the 40+ sounds in English. We use pictures to help, for example we make ‘a’ into the shape of an apple, ‘f’ into the shape of a flower. These pictures help all children, especially slower starters, to read the sounds easily. Children learn to read words by sound-blending using a frog called Fred. Fred says the sounds and children help him blend the sounds to read each word.


Then we teach children the different spellings of the same sounds, for example, they learn that the sound ‘ay’ is written ay, a-e and ai; the sound ‘ee’ is written ee, e and ea. We use phrases to help them remember each sound for example, ay - may I play, a-e – make a cake?


How do we ensure children can read every book?

The first thing we do is to give children books we know they can read – without any guessing. (We read lots of other stories to them, but do not expect them to read these for themselves until they start to read the Grey Storybooks.)


Before they read the story, they sound out the names of characters and new words, practise reading any of the ‘tricky Red’ words, and we tell them a thought-provoking introduction to get them excited about the story.


Then, over three days, children read the story three times: first to focus on reading the words carefully; the second to help them read the story fluently; and on the third, we talk about the story together for example, how characters might be feeling and why. By the time children read the story at home, they will be able to read it confidently with expression.


How do we teach children to spell confidently?

We use just two simple activities: Fred Fingers to spell regular words and Red Rhythms for tricky words.


Fred Fingers

We teach children to spell using ‘Fred Fingers’: we say a word and then children pinch the sounds onto their fingers and write the word, sound by sound.


Red Rhythms

We teach tricky words with Red Rhythms. We say the tricky letters in a puzzled voice and build the letter names up into a rhythm, for example, s-ai-d.


Children learn to spell new words and review past words every week, they practise spelling them with a partner and – when they’re ready – we give them a test to celebrate their spelling success.


How do we make writing simple for children to learn?

We teach handwriting, spelling and composition separately, gradually bringing each skill together step-by-step.


We teach children to form letters with the correct pencil grip and in the correct sitting position from the very beginning. They practise handwriting every day so they learn to write quickly and easily.


Once children can write simple words, we teach them to ‘hold’ a sentence in their heads and then write it with correct spelling and punctuation.


Very soon children are able to write down their own ideas. We try out different sentences together, drawing on new vocabulary and phrases from the Storybook they’ve just read. They practise saying their sentences out loud first so they don’t forget their ideas while they’re writing.  They also learn to proofread their own writing using ready-made sentences containing common grammar, punctuation and spelling errors.


How do we assess and track children’s progress?

For children to make the best possible progress, they will read Storybooks closely matched to their reading level, every day.


This means we group children by their word reading and fluency – not by their progress in comprehension or writing, or by their age.


Every half-term, we assess all children in YR to Y4 who have not yet met end of Key Stage 1 National Curriculum expectations for reading.


We assess Years 5 and 6 children who are at risk of not meeting end of Key Stage 2 national expectations for reading using the Fresh Start assessment.


The Reading Leader carries out all the online assessments to ensure children are placed in the correct group.


We track each child’s individual progress on the online assessment tracker. We use this to identify children who need more support through daily one-to-one tutoring.


How are slower progress readers supported?

We identify those children who are at risk of falling behind their peers immediately.


We make sure children ‘keep up not catch up’ from Reception.


The slowest progress readers in both KS1 and KS2 receive daily one-to-one tutoring for 10 minutes, in addition to their group session in the morning.


Children practise reading sounds speedily, learn to blend sounds into words and read a Storybook that is matched to the sounds they know and the quantity they can read.


What are the expectations of children’s progress on the Read Write Inc. Phonics programme?

After two years of implementation, it is expected that:


  • Reception children will be able to read Green Storybooks by the end of the summer term.
  • Year 1 children will be able to read Blue Storybooks by the end of the summer term.
  • Year 2 children will have completed the Phonics programme by the end of the spring term.


We have high expectations for our children to meet the expected standard in the Phonic Screening Check, and help all children to be accurate and fluent readers by the time they enter Key Stage 2.


How is the programme led to ensure these expectations are achieved?

The Reading Leader’s role is vital to ensure that the teaching of reading is of the highest quality and all children make rapid progress. They organise one-to-one tutoring for children who need extra support.


Importantly, they are released from class teaching duties during Read Write Inc. sessions so they can ensure reading teachers achieve a high standard of teaching. [Amend for any small school where this might not be the case.]


All staff have been thoroughly trained to teach reading. They attend a two-day Phonics training course and receive termly coaching from one of Ruth Miskin’s training consultants to ensure that children are making the best possible progress. They also have access to all the training on the Ruth Miskin Training School portal.


The Reading Leader organises further training in weekly practice sessions.


These ensure teachers get better at teaching every week: everyone practises together so they can teach reading confidently. They underpin the progress of all teachers and children.


The practice sessions set the agenda for the weekly coaching and feedback schedule. Reading teachers are coached and receive face-to-face feedback and practise of any steps that need further rehearsal.


Story and poetry time

Storytime is the highlight of every day. We have a canon of stories that children get to know really well, and others we read just for fun. Parents can find the list of stories on our school’s website so they can read these to their children at home. Children learn to retell the story, learn the refrains by heart and act out the stories in the role-play area. Children learn poetry too. We’ve chosen wonderful, memorable poems so children can learn them by heart. The poems focus upon feelings and situations with which young children are likely to be familiar, e.g. bedtime, siblings and feeling poorly.


How can parents help at home?

The children take home two books every few days:  a Read Write Inc. ‘phonics’ Storybook for children to read to parents, and a picture book for parents to read to them.


We also send home interactive, animated lessons from our Virtual Classroom so you and your child can join in with lessons at home. The online teachers help children to practice the sounds and words they have learnt in school.


Read Write Inc. ‘phonics’ Storybooks

Children will have already read the ‘phonics’ storybook two or three times in the reading lessons so they should be able to read it confidently. We encourage parents not to say, 'this is too easy'! There is guidance in the storybooks to guide parents too.


Children also take home a Book Bag Book which matches the book they have read in school.


Picture books

We show parents how to read the picture book with their child; to read it expressively and, once they know the story, encourage their child to join in.


We show parents how to talk about the pictures – to think about how the characters might be feeling and thinking.  We explain that it’s a great way for their child to learn new vocabulary – that even very early storybooks contain vocabulary that we don’t often use in conversations- scurry, delight, scamper.


The picture book is likely to be beyond their child’s decoding ability, so we don’t ask children to read the story to parents until they are able to read the later phonics storybooks.


Once we are sure they are confident with this process, we will begin to send books home that are matched to the child’s phonic knowledge so children can read with parents.  We use a reading record to track children's progress and ask parents to update this record every time they read with their child.   We will read all comments and answer any concerns or questions asked either in person or via the reading record.  We expect the children to read their book at least twice, ideally once at home and at school, before it is changed. 


We see parents as ‘co teachers’ in this process and know that reading at home leads to rapid progress as well as fostering children’s enthusiasm.  The comments made by parents in reading records are vital, enabling us to support children's learning at a personal level.


Children can select their own reading books that are matched to their individual phonic attainment.  Research tells us that ‘engagement in reading is strongly correlated with reading performance….’ [OECD 2002, Reading for Change, Performance and Engagement across countries] so it is essential that our children are motivated to read as well as securing reading skills.  We use a variety of reading books to give the children a wide choice of texts; fiction, non-fiction, poetry and later in Key Stage One, plays. 


Towards the end of Year One, our children will take the statutory Phonics Screening Test where their ability to decode a range of words will be assessed.  The test is made up of forty words altogether, twenty of which are genuine words and twenty are nonsense or ‘alien’ words.  Any child that does not reach the required standard will take the test again the following year.


Children are assessed formatively during phonics and reading lessons and when participating in individual and guided reading.  High quality reading records are kept for every child so that teachers can track and plan effective teaching and learning.


Summative assessments are carried out each half-term to inform planning and any interventions that may be necessary to prevent children from falling behind.  Half termly pupil progress meetings where each child’s attainment is discussed ensures that teachers can share successes, talk over any concerns, and devise support strategies if appropriate.


Instead of guided reading groups and a carousel of activities, pupils have daily reading lessons as a whole class. These lessons:

  • Are built around the teacher reading high-quality and challenging texts, which are dissected by the class through high-level questioning and discussion.
  • Include a range of activities – not all of which must have a written outcome – that enable pupils to develop their vocabulary and comprehension skills.


Why is this better than guided reading?

  • Pupils are regularly immersed in high-quality children's literature.
  • Pupils can improve speaking and listening skills, as well as developing comprehension skills.
  • More time is given to modelling skills rather than just assessing ability.
  • Behaviour for learning is improved as all pupils are engaged in the lesson


How does it work?

  • The teacher selects a high-quality piece of children's literature or non-fiction text that will challenge all pupils. It should be at a level beyond that at which they can read independently. The text can be linked to a relevant topic and used to benefit other subjects.
  • The learning objective for the session is the same for all pupils. Pupils will have access to the same activities and levels of questioning but with differing levels of support provided depending on pupil needs.
  • The teacher reads the text to the class, modelling fluency, intonation and comprehension, and pupils follow the text with their own copy.
  • The teacher uses skilful questioning and discussion to help pupils get to grips with new vocabulary and develop their understanding of the text.
  • Pupils work on activities that help them to develop their comprehension of the text. Depending on the activity, pupils may work in mixed-ability groups, pairs or by themselves.
  • Activities do not always need a written outcome, for example you may use drama to help children explore a character through role play, debates or freeze frames.
  • The teacher makes assessments at the end of the lesson to inform planning of future sessions.


Discrete reading sessions last no more than 30 minutes, to ensure pupils remain engaged and to make a distinction between these sessions and English or literacy lessons.


Whole class reading takes place regularly in KS1 and KS2 using echo, choral and individual reading out loud to build


Children have additional opportunities built in across the curriculum to practise their reading skills, so they recognise the importance of reading in accessing the rest of the curriculum and become familiar with Tier 3 vocabulary through topic work.


Children also read aloud to adults, with some children who need more practice, being targeted readers.


With a strong start in Reception and Key Stage One, our older children are reading more fluently and can interrogate the texts more deeply, drawing conclusions from the vocabulary and style of writing to develop comprehension skills. 


Many of our KS2 children are ‘free readers’ where they read books that are age appropriate but are not part of a reading scheme.  Our children are encouraged to talk about books they are interested in reading and their opinions are used to source additional books.