English sits at the heart of our curriculum – it is through language, story and text that children learn to form concepts, connect ideas and express themselves. Through the varying dimensions of literacy, children learn to both make sense of the world and shape their place within it.
Through the teaching of reading and writing, we place a heavy emphasis on developing a child’s vocabulary and love of reading. By the time children leave Snapethorpe in Year 6, the limited vocabulary that they arrived with in Reception, will have expanded vastly, giving them the language they need to understand increasingly difficult texts and express themselves in a wide range of contexts.
First and foremost, we want all children at Snapethorpe to develop a life-long love of reading that begins as soon as they step foot through our doors in nursery. To ensure we are successful in our approach to reading, we teach reading from all angles, so as to miss no opportunity to spark a child’s interest.
Through this love of reading, we deliver the programmes of study for reading at key stage one and two. These consist of two dimensions: word reading and comprehension. It is essential that teaching focuses on developing pupils’ competence in both dimensions.
Skilled word reading involves the speed in which children can work out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speed in which they can recognise familiar printed words. Underpinning both is the understanding that the letters on the page represent the sounds in spoken words. This is why the delivery of phonics and the early teaching of reading is fundamental to the progress children will make.
These skills are delivered through guided reading sessions, which are taught from Years 2-6. Across school, it is structured in a variety of different ways to suit the needs of our children. Guided reading offers the opportunity for the teacher to expertly guide and teach the children explicit reading skills that they need to unlock different texts they may come across. Guided reading lessons focus on the skills of comprehension, first through unpicking vocabulary, then moving on to unlocking the meaning of whole texts and critical appreciation.
As part of their reading journey, it is important that children are exposed to a wide range of reading materials. Teachers read a variety of written material regularly with the children, fiction and non-fiction, stories, reports, diaries and poems. Each year group has a class story/novel for teachers to read to their classes, exposing children to language and classic stories, which they may find too challenging to read independently.
We have a home-school reading system (up to Year 6), which requests that children read a book at the appropriate level for them, as often as they can. In Reception, children follow the Phonic Bugs reading scheme and, in Year One, children follow The Oxford Reading Tree and Songbirds reading scheme, giving them a thorough grounding in the fundamentals. Moving up into Year Two, children follow ‘book bandings’ ensuring they are making progress, as they move through school. These books follow the bandings within the Oxford Reading Tree Scheme. To allow staff members to check the accuracy of each book band, against the needs of the child, each child is read with at least once a week in school. The opportunities for 1:1 reading increases based on the individual needs of the child.
We have a fantastic library, where children go once a week to take out books and read with their teachers and each other. The library has a wealth of books, offering a range of titles, authors and text types. The library is also open before school for children to come and change their books or to simply read for pleasure.
Alongside this, we have regular author visits, books fairs and World Book Day. These events all contribute to developing and fostering a love of reading at Snapethorpe.
Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write by developing their phonemic awareness—the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate different sounds used in the English language. Children learn the correspondence between these sounds and the spelling patterns (graphemes) that represent them. At Snapethorpe, we place a strong emphasis on the teaching of phonics in the early years of reading and writing, in order to give all children a solid foundation for learning. Because not all words in the English language comply to the rules of phonics, we also teach ‘tricky words’ through repetition and retrieval.
The Teaching of Phonics
Phonics lessons at Snapethorpe are taught daily from Nursery up to Year 2. The sessions are short, fast-paced, engaging and each contain an emphasis on: revising a previously learned letter-sound correspondence, learning a new one, practicing this and applying it to sentence level work.
The teaching of phonics begins in Nursery and Reception using the ‘Story Time Phonics’ scheme. Sounds are introduced at a rate of one a day throughout the beginning of the academic year. Children consolidate these sounds in the Spring and Summer terms whilst learning to blend the sounds together, to read and write words. In Years 1 and 2, the children continue to follow the ‘Story Time Phonics’ scheme and learn alternative spellings of the previously learned sounds and refine their knowledge to become more fluid readers and more accurate spellers.
The Phonics Screening Check
During the Summer term in Year 1, children nationwide are tested on their phonic knowledge. This test helps us to identify children who have gaps in their phonic knowledge and may need further support in Year 2. The test is low-key and we endeavour to make it stress-free for the children. Essentially, the children are asked to read 40 words from a list, using their phonics to ‘sound out’ the word and then blend it if they need to. Parents are informed as to whether their child has achieved the national expectation within the child’s end-of-year report.
Reading at Home
Reading regularly with your child brings many benefits. Some of these include: exposure to a wide range of vocabulary, fostering the development of listening skills, spelling recognition, reading comprehension, and establishing essential English skills. Reading together is also a shared social opportunity between parent and child, to foster positive attitudes towards reading. The reading children complete at school is only a ‘part’ of their journey – it can make such a difference for them to read frequently at home too.
iRead is our home-school reading reward scheme. iRead provides children with opportunities to work towards different milestones within their reading journey. The more children read, the more opportunities children have to be rewarded with reading-related incentives such as: brand new books, visits to the library and a book store to purchase a brand new book.
In all year groups, we teach writing through high-quality texts and experiences such as: picture books, novels, poetry and immersive real-life experiences during school trips. During their time at the school, children will write a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts, including recounts, news reports, explanation texts, poems, plays and stories of all kinds. We use drama, role-play, storytelling and discussion to engage the imagination, before moving on to vocabulary exploration, sentence level practise and creative writing.
Throughout Early Years and Key Stage One, children are taught the key principles of writing in order to lay a solid foundation for developing their skills later on. An emphasis is placed on developing clear handwriting with ‘finger spaces’ between in each word. Children are taught to apply their knowledge of phonics to help them spell accurately. Our curriculum teaches the children to add variation and description to their work by developing their vocabulary, including the use of interesting adjectives and adverbs and developing sentence structure using conjunctions and sentence openers. By the end of Key Stage One, children have been taught the fundamentals of punctuation and grammar. This structural and technical knowledge is fostered alongside developing a love for writing as a lifelong means for communication.
This process continues into Key Stage 2, by which time children have mastered simple sentence structure enabling them to develop their writing style. As they progress towards Year 6, children are taught to write for a range of purposes – to entertain, inform, explain, persuade and discuss – using explicit sentence models and ambitious vocabulary. They then learn to shape these sentences into coherent paragraphs, before planning and creating their own original works of fiction and non-fiction. Children also apply their writing skills across the curriculum: writing up experiments in science, recounting events in History and describing processes in Geography.
To ensure our handwriting is presented legibly and to a high standard, we follow a progressive handwriting scheme across school. At Snapethorpe, we follow the ‘Sheffield Handwriting Scheme.’