Reading and Writing

At Blackthorns 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.

Phonics

All of our teaching and support staff have been trained in the phonics programme ‘Sounds-Write’.

Our teaching of reading and writing within the academy 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.

Reading

Our classrooms are full of visual stimulus to help children begin to read and write. Children take part in individual and guided reading sessions, led by an adult.

These sessions inevitably focus on the decoding of the words while children are learning to read. The focus shifts towards the children’s understanding of the texts they are reading as they become fluent readers and they begin to develop the skills of inference and deduction. In guided reading sessions, children may be sharing a book, poem, newspaper article or any other text relevant to their learning.

Texts are also shared with the whole class and children are also read to by the teacher on a regular basis. This enables the children to listen and really understand the meaning of the texts. It is also an important opportunity for children to share their thoughts and ideas and to learn from one another.

Our home reading books incorporate several different schemes, such as Dandelion Readers, Oxford Reading Tree and Sounds-Write texts. Children are encouraged to read at home on a daily basis and to discuss what they are reading, ensuring that they have a very good understanding of the meaning as well as being able to decode the words.

To supplement our school reading scheme we have also subscribed to an online reading scheme called ‘Bug Club’, which our children can access at home. This scheme requires the children to read a text and then answer questions about the text. Information is stored for the teacher to track the child’s progress.

We also encourage our families to make the most of the many ‘real’ reading opportunities in the home and to understand that reading a recipe or the back of a cereal packet is as much of an opportunity to develop reading skills as reading the school reading scheme book.

Reading is also developed and encouraged through using texts in other curriculum areas. Our cross-curricular creative approach to learning means that the children will be required to read and use what they have learnt in curriculum areas such as science, history and geography.

Using tests and Teacher Assessments we track all children’s progress in reading. Children not on-track to achieve the ‘expected’ level for their age are quickly identified. These children may begin to read every day for a short time with an adult in school or they may be placed on our ‘Rapid Reading’ intervention.

Writing

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.

Within school, we work explicitly on spelling, punctuation and grammar 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.

Teachers plan stimulating and engaging experiences to encourage the children’s writing, from finding giants footprints in the classroom, to World War 2 spy missions. These are all designed to give a ‘real’ context to the children’s writing and to bring the curriculum to life.

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 our ‘Yippee Yellow and Green For Growth’ highlighting process. 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.

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 children’s writing and, in conjunction with the child, identify individual targets for further improvement and development.

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.