In nursery and reception, children make marks and we teach them correct pencil grip (crocodile fingers) and to write their names. Over time, they begin to use sounds to write phonically and they also learn “tricky words” – which can’t be sounded but are used frequently in sentences. As appropriate to each year group, we use texts to inspire our children and develop their understanding of a range of genres.
A particular teaching technique we use is Talk for Writing which was developed by the author Pie Corbett. It is a fun, creative yet also rigorous approach to develop writers.
Talk for Writing starts with enjoying and sharing stories, then children learn to tell a story off by heart, using expression and action, which helps to consolidate learning. They then make the story their own by changing, for example, the character or setting; eventually this is written as an independent text.
At Grendon we pride ourselves on being a reading school. We ensure that reading is central to our curriculum and encourage all children to develop an enthusiasm for books.
Reading begins in our Muddy Boots Nursery, where children experience rich oral language as well as beginning their phonics journey by listening to, and looking at, sounds in the environment. We work closely with parents to encourage them to read to children, as well as sharing nursery rhymes and songs. This is something we encourage throughout school as well as in Early Years.
Our reading scheme follows the coloured book bands but is personal to our school and our phonics teaching. It contains a mixture of books from different publishers covering different topics and genres so that all children can find something that interests them. Children begin with wordless books to encourage them to talk about what they see and develop their vocabulary. They then move through the colour bands as their skills develop. They are encouraged to read regularly at home and are heard at school at least once a week. To ensure they are on the correct level, teaching teams carry our miscue analysis tests each half term, as well as asking comprehension questions about what is read.
As well as reading from the scheme, all children have a book of their choice that is read at some point on most days, either during early learning time or Everyone Reading In Class (ERIC) time. They also have access to the school library. Classes also have a class book (or several), sometimes linked to their topic for the half term, which is read aloud to them and can be used as a novel study within class.
In Reception books are available at all times, should the children wish to access them. In other year groups there is a reading corner with a selection of age appropriate books and somewhere comfortable to sit and enjoy them. In all year groups the children are exposed to a language rich environment through topic words, a range of topic books, working walls and other resources.
As a school we want all children to become confident and enthusiastic readers so we aim to help struggling readers as quickly and effectively as possible. All classes run a range of interventions and booster groups which are closely monitored, and all children, whatever their reading ability, are given lots of opportunities to practise their reading skills and develop their fluency, expression and comprehension.
As we are able to return to a more normal running of school, we will have the opportunity to restart our Storybook Cafes and reading evenings (we held one with the Roald Dahl museum recently!) where parents and children can spend time sharing books while enjoying a warm drink and a biscuit.
* Phonics/phoneme (sound of a letter) grapheme (how the letter looks).
Phonics is one of the first recommended steps in being able to read and eventually write. Phonics teaches us to hear the sounds in words and being able to blend them together to read or segment (separate) to write. At Grendon Underwood, we have developed the way we teach phonics to what we feel best fits our children. We use the Letters and Sounds teaching sequence and lesson structure and use the Read Write Inc letter rhymes for formation. Our practical and heuristic approach enables children to learn what is developmentally appropriate as well as enjoying a wide range of fast pace and exciting lessons.
Phonics teaching follows six consecutive phases, typically. However it depends on the individual child and their ability:
Phase 1 (Nursery-Year 2): This is an important element and one which is taught alongside and throughout every lesson. Children learn to distinguish different sounds and ascribe meaning to them (1. General sound discrimination – environmental sounds, 2. General sound discrimination – instrumental sounds, 3. General sound discrimination – body percussion, 4. Rhyme and Rhythm, 5. Alliteration, 6. Voice Sounds, 7. Oral blending and segmenting).
Phase 2 (Reception): 19 letter sounds are taught (s, a,t, p, I, n, m, d, g, o, c, k, ck, e, u, r, h, b, f, ff, l, ll, ss) as well as some ‘tricky words’. Tricky words are words that can’t be sounded out (the, to, no and go). By the end of this phase children will move on from oral blending and segmentation to blending and segmenting with letters. By the end of the phase many children should be able to read some VC (eg. in, up) and CVC (eg. cat, dog) words and to spell them either using magnetic letters or by writing the letters on paper or on whiteboards.
Phase 3 (Reception): to teach further 25 graphemes, most of them comprising of two letters (j, v, w, x, y, z, zz, qu ,ch, sh, th, ng, ai, ee, igh, oa, oo, ar, or, ur, ow, oi, ear, air, ure, er). They will also learn letter names during this phase, learn to read some more tricky words (he, she, we, me, be, was, you, they, all, are, my, her) and also begin to learn to spell some of these words.
Phase 4 (end of Reception): No new sounds are taught during this phase however this phase is vital in consolidating children’s knowledge of blending and segmenting phonemes and graphemes.
Phase 5 (throughout Year 1): is for children to broaden their knowledge of graphemes and phonemes for use in reading and spelling. They will learn new graphemes and alternative pronunciations for these and graphemes they already know, where relevant (ay, ou, ie, ea, oy, ir, ue, aw, wh, ph, ew, oe, au, a_e, e_e, i_e, o_e, u_e). Some of the alternatives will already have been encountered in the high-frequency words that have been taught. Children become quicker at recognising graphemes of more than one letter in words and at blending the phonemes they represent. When spelling words they will learn to choose the appropriate graphemes to represent phonemes and begin to build word-specific knowledge of the spellings of words.
At the end of this year, children also take part in the statutory phonics screening check. They will read 20 ‘real’ words (eg, s h o p) and 20 ‘alien’ words (eg. s h e m). More information about what is expected and how to support your child will be given nearer the time).
Phase 6 (Year 2): children become fluent readers and increasingly accurate spellers. Children move onto the Read Write Inc Spelling Scheme which is then followed throughout the rest of the school.
Like reading, writing is central to our curriculum. Different skills and genres are taught directly to the children and then used across a range of subjects. We take a cross curricular approach, linking our written work to the half termly Cornerstones topic being taught and the class books being read.
Our journey as writers begins in Muddy Boots and Reception, where children start to make marks and are taught correct pencil grip (crocodile fingers). They also begin to write their names and over time, learn how to form letters correctly. We encourage children to sound out as they write so that they scribe phonetically as well as learning “tricky words” which are words like ‘said’ for example, these cannot be sounded out but are used frequently in sentences.
As children move into Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 they are taught grammar, punctuation and spelling skills appropriate to their age, as well as learning how to write in a range of genres. We use a variety of quality texts to inspire our budding authors.