Teaching of Reading and Writing
At Evenwood C of E Primary School we believe that being able to read and write are the vital skills that enable us to understand and express ourselves more effectively.
These skills open the door to learning. We passionately believe in helping children to develop not only the technical skills of reading and writing, but also in engendering a love for literature and the different genres of writing.
All of our teaching and support staff have been trained in the phonics programme ‘Sounds-Write’. Our teaching of reading and writing within the school is, therefore, based on the Sounds-Write programme. This begins very early on when children join in Reception and continues until a child is a confident and competent reader and speller. Sounds-Write is used around the world and has been graded as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.
The knowledge of sounds and symbols is an important starting point for understanding and using written language and we believe that a strong and consistent approach to the teaching of phonics is vital for our children to begin to access the rest of the curriculum. This is, however, used in conjunction with many other strategies to help children to begin to read and write.
How it Works
Sounds-Write is effective in teaching pupils to read, spell and write because it starts from what all children know from a very early age – the sounds of their own language. From there, it takes them in carefully sequenced, incremental steps and teaches them how each of the 44 or so sounds in the English language can be spelt.
The words used in the teaching process and the conceptual knowledge of how the alphabet code works are introduced from simple to complex, in accordance with the fundamental principles of psychological learning theory. For example, at the start, simple, mutually implied (one sound, one spelling) CVC words (consonant, vowel, consonant) only are introduced. Pupils quickly learn to read and spell words such as ‘mum’, ‘dog’, ‘jam’ and ‘sit’.
When all the single-letter sound-spelling correspondences have been introduced and established, Sounds-Write initiates the concept that the sounds ‘<f>’, ‘<l>’, ‘<s>’ and ‘<z>’ can be spelt with the two letter-spellings ‘<ff>’, ‘<ll>’, ‘<ss>’ and ‘<zz>’, respectively. As the programme progresses, the complexity of one-syllable words is carefully increased through a variety of VCC, CVCC, CCVC, CCVCC and CCCVC words, such as, for example, ‘elf’, ‘hand’, ‘swim’, ‘trust’ and ‘scrub’.
After this, pupils’ understanding of the concept ‘two letters – one sound’ is further developed through the introduction of the most common consonant two-letter spellings: ‘<sh>’, ‘<ch>’ and ‘<th>’, in words like ‘shop’, ‘chimp’ and ‘thin’, for example.
Finally, two, three and four letter spellings of the vowels are introduced and pupils are taught how to read and spell polysyllabic words, starting with simpler words (such as ‘bedbug’) and gradually moving to the more complex (such as ‘mathematical’).
All of this is taught within a well-structured, incremental and coherent framework based on the knowledge – both conceptual and factual (see below) – on which the alphabet principle and thus the writing system is based and the three key skills needed to enable learners to use the principle effectively.
There are two codes used in sounds-write. The initial code and the extended code.
Our approach teaches the conceptual understanding needed to become an effective reader:
- that letters are spellings of sounds: visual language is a representation of spoken language
- that a spelling can contain one, two, three, or four letters – examples are: s a t, f i sh, n igh t and w eigh t
- that there is more than one way of spelling most sounds: the sound ‘ae’, spelt as <a-e>
- in ‘name’, can be represented as <a> in ‘table’, <ai> in ‘rain’, <eigh> in ‘eight’, <ay> in play’, and so on
- that many spellings can represent more than one sound: <ea> can be the sound ‘e’ in ‘head’, ‘a-e’ in ‘break’, or ‘ee’ in ‘seat’
Within this conceptual framework, we teach the factual knowledge required to become an effective reader and speller: the approximately 176 spellings that represent the 44 or so sounds in English, starting with the simplest one-to-one correspondences.
Reading and spelling also requires expertise in the skills necessary to make use of the alphabet code and pupils need to be able to:
- segment, or separate sounds in words
- blend, or push sounds together to form words
- manipulate sounds: take sounds out and put sounds into words
Sounds-Write provides opportunities for practising these skills on an everyday basis until pupils achieve the automaticity required for fluent reading and spelling.
Monitoring and Assessment
- Ongoing assessment
- Children are given a diagnostic test to assess their understanding and next learning steps.
- Their phonic knowledge is assessed 3 times a year.
- Y1 children complete the phonics screening test in the Summer Term.
- An action plan is put into place for children who have not achieved the required standard in the test.
- These children are re-tested the following summer.
- Class observations by Senior Leadership Team
- Spot check assessments.
If you have any queries or questions about the Sounds-Write programme please do not hesitate to contact a member of staff at the school.
At Evenwood we want all of our children to love books. A walk around the school will quickly show how we aim to inspire and nurture a love of reading. Books are easily accessible, valued and prized. Children’s progress and achievements are rewarded with our reading certificates and rewards which they work towards over the year. Staff are knowledgeable about children’s literature and encourage children to challenge themselves, helping them to make informed choices about what they read.
From Year 1, class texts are selected from the 5 Plagues of a Developing Reader, which include: Archaic Language, Non-Linear Time Sequences, Narratively Complex Books, Figurative/Symbolic Text Texts and Resistant Texts. The idea is that in each year, a child will cover all 5 plagues of reading so that, by the time they reach year 6 and beyond, they have a good understanding of all of them and are able to access the more complex books, expected of them in secondary schools. The 5 plagues of reading only consider narratives and poems, so we ensure children are exposed to a good balance of topic appropriate non-fiction books to help further develop children’s background knowledge of the subject they are studying.
Children participate in weekly comprehension sessions where they focus on a specific skill.
In EYFS and KS1, children read the appropriate leveled Sounds-Write books which accurately match the phonics sounds that they are learning. The children take the Sounds-Write books home to ensure that they match the sounds that they are learning in class.
Once children are secure with their phonics sounds and they can accurately blend the sounds and read fluently they move to read a wide and rich variety of books. These books are of high quality and foster the love of reading.
Reading for Pleasure
At Evenwood C of E Primary School, we encourage a reading for pleasure ethos through daily reading sessions, class story time, library time, outdoor reading, author visits and reading events, such as World Book Day. Children have independent access to a wide variety of high-quality texts in book corners and the school library. It is these tools and opportunities that we believe give our children the necessary skills to become thoughtful and confident readers for life.
Teachers nurture a love of books by introducing books with enthusiasm and enjoyment, promoting a sense of wonder and expectation as the book is explored. Teachers use quality texts in all aspects of their teaching across the curriculum and provide opportunities that extend and enrich the children’s learning. Teachers promote books and authors through ‘recommended reads’ which are displayed in their classroom.
Every day, pupils end the school day by sharing a story in their classrooms; adults read a class book aloud to the children to further promote a love for reading into every school day.
If you are looking for books to buy for your children here are some ideas.
One of the benefits of the Sounds-Write programme is that the children learn the link between sounds and symbols at a very early stage and begin to write the sounds covered immediately.
Teachers plan stimulating and engaging experiences to encourage the children’s writing, from finding giants footprints in the classroom, to ‘Going On A Bear Hunt!’. These are all designed to give a ‘real’ context to the children’s writing and to bring the curriculum to life. Where possible the planning is cross curricular and links with a book to enable the children to experience writing for a variety of purposes and audiences, such as a letter to ‘The Bad-Tempered Ladybird’ in Reception, Ancient Egyptian Newspaper Reports in Year 3/4 and Iron Age diaries in Year 5/6. Often, children are asked to produce writing which ties in with their geography or history topic, which offers them an opportunity to show that they have mastered certain writing skills.
In school we use ‘quality marking’ to ensure that children gain a good understanding of the things they are doing well and what they need to improve. This is achieved through yellow and green highlighting which are linked to our Thinking Skills strategy of ‘Thinking Hats’. The strengths of the writing are highlighted in yellow and the areas for development in green. The children are then given an opportunity to respond and improve their writing. The children are encouraged to use self and peer assessment to develop their own writing during a lesson. The children are given a green pen to make comments on one another’s work to show the next steps in their learning they also use them to show areas they have developed during the lesson. Again, this is all linked to the green Thinking Hat.
Children are encouraged to make links between reading and writing, using techniques and skills employed by authors of texts they have read. They also make links between writing and speaking, working hard to understand the differences in the language used for both.
Teachers make detailed assessments of the children’s writing on a weekly basis, which is informed by the Big Write. This information is linked with the marking and feedback the children receive. The information from the Big Write also leads into the Friday lesson which targets are particular skill the children need to develop. For example it might be the children struggled writing an introduction to a non-fiction text so they would work on this skill, or it might be that the children aren’t using commas in the appropriate places so this will be the skill they work on. It will also inform the following weeks planning and become a focus for teaching.
Parents are encouraged to help with their child’s writing development by helping their children to write for different purposes at home and by supporting in written homework tasks.
Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling (GPS)
At Evenwood, we work explicitly on grammar, punctuation and spelling to ensure that these technical elements of writing develop as the children progress through the school, whilst always focussing on the quality and content of the children’s writing. We teach a 45 minutes Basic Skills lesson every day to teach, develop and deepen the children’s skills and concepts relating to GPS.