The primary approach to teaching pupils to read at Carter’s Charity Primary school is through the systematic teaching of synthetic phonics. The ‘Letters and Sounds’ six-phase programme is used as a time-bonded, structured programme which introduces pupils to phonemes and graphemes in specific order within the context of a language-rich curriculum. Effective teaching using ‘Letters and Sounds’ enables pupils to see the relationship between reading and spelling from an early stage, such that the teaching of one reinforces understanding of the other. Decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling) are treated as reversible processes.
Initial teaching of the programme is rooted within widely accepted best practice for the Early Years Foundation Stage in which pupils’ speaking and listening skills are prioritised. At Carter’s we believe that the more words the pupils know and understand, the better equipped they are to succeed in reading and learning overall.
The six-phase structure of ‘Letters and Sounds’ provides a useful map from which to plan pupils’ progress, the pace of which is guided by assessments of pupils’ developing knowledge and skills. Pupils are ability-grouped within classes for daily phonics sessions to ensure they are taught at an appropriate pitch. Teachers assess pupils regularly and where pupils are judged to have fallen off trajectory, rapid intervention (through additional small group teaching sessions) ensues, to help them catch up with their peers. The aim is that by the end of Year 1 the teaching of phonics should be substantially complete, with word structures and patterns learnt during Year 2, and securing teaching and learning in spelling continuing throughout Key Stage 2.
Pupils’ phonics ability is tested at the end of Year 1, using the statutory Phonics Screening Check. Pupils who do not reach the threshold receive intervention and are tested again at the end of Year 2. Results are reported to parents.
At Carter’s Charity Primary School we aim to foster a love of books and of reading. We value books and reading so both have a high priority. Pupils encounter books through shared, guided and independent reading, through weekly class library sessions, through reading research within foundation subject areas and through general reading to gather information both at school and at home. Pupils read in groups, on their own, with teachers and teaching assistants, with families, with buddies and with Reading Volunteers.
We choose not to limit pupils to following a single reading scheme but recognise the importance of pupils applying their developing reading skills through reading books which are appropriately pitched. Teachers therefore help pupils select books which are appropriate for their reading ability using the ‘Book Bands’ system which is applied to books in school. ‘Book Banding’ is a method of grading the reading level of a book. The bands enable the books to be graded from the simplest texts suitable for very early readers through to texts for fluent readers. Each band is given a colour and the appropriate coloured label is stuck to the book. A range of reading scheme books, picture story books and non-fiction books from different publishers can thus be graded so pupils can select from a wide range according to their interest, knowing that the book will not be too easy or too hard due to its colour sticker. Early readers will practise their blending skills using phonetically decodeable texts selected by their teacher and also enjoy picture story books which they have selected from the school library.
Pupils in all year groups regularly hear stories read aloud and we try to ensure we keep up to date with the best quality children’s texts. Teachers share their love of books with pupils through talking to each other and to pupils about what they are reading themselves and through taking every opportunity to express and promote the importance of reading in their lives. We agree that you can’t teach reading for pleasure, you have to share it.