The primary approach in teaching pupils to read at Carter’s Charity Primary school, is through the systematic teaching of synthetic phonics. This takes high priority throughout Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1. Our six-phase programme has been based upon the structure and guidance of ‘Letters and Sounds’. This programme introduces pupils to the relationship between sounds (phonemes) and the written spelling patterns which represent them (graphemes), in a specific order within the context of a language-rich curriculum. Effective teaching, guided by ‘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 pupils know and understand, the better equipped they are to succeed in reading and learning overall.
All pupils in Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 have daily phonics lessons in small ability groups, where they participate in speaking, listening, spelling and reading activities, which are matched to their current needs. Our teachers draw upon observations and continuous assessment to ensure pupils are stretched and challenged, and to identify those who may need additional support. Timely intervention is then implemented, in order that, all pupils have the opportunity to reach their full potential. The six-phase structure of ‘Letters and Sounds’ provides useful guidance from which to map pupils’ progress. The aim is that by the end of Year 1 the teaching of phonics should be substantially complete, with word structures and spelling patterns being learnt during Year 2. Children then continue to build on these foundations, with further learning in spelling, 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. Those children who do not meet the required standard in the Phonics Screening Check by the end of Key Stage 1 are supported in Key Stage 2 with interventions to support their phonics development, thereby improving their reading ability and overall ability to access the curriculum and learning accordingly.
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.