At Southwark, reading is a leading priority. We strive to teach our children to learn to read as quickly as is possible, for we know just how vital the skill is, and we aim to inspire our children to develop a passion for books, and, crucially, a deep love of reading.
We know that reading opens up exciting new worlds, and as a school, we have very carefully designed a reading curriculum that not only teaches the wide array of skills needed to move from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’, but also that enables our children to explore a brilliant range of books and authors, discovering a wealth of knowledge and vocabulary, as well as igniting children’s passions and individuality.
LEARNING TO READ
Our children learn to read using the ‘Read Write Inc.’ Phonics program, which is deeply embedded into our practice at Southwark and adapted to meet the needs of our school. It is a rigorous and systematic approach, taught daily, that teaches the sounds and words, as well as the blending and segmenting skills, needed to read and write.
The Phonics scheme starts in Reception and lasts for most children into Year 2. Pupils are grouped by reading ability and individually baselined at the very start of Reception, and then regularly assessed throughout the programme, to ensure that groupings and long-term plans remain sharply focussed.
For children not yet ready for Phonics, including those in Nursery, the foundations of communication and language are taught daily, including oral blending and learning rhymes. For children who start the programme but learn at a slower pace, a huge amount of work goes into Phonics top up where
gaps are filled with a real urgency. Phonics sessions continue until children can read with accuracy and fluency, with the Fresh Start program being used for a small number of children in Years 5 and 6.
We invite all parents and carers to attend meetings in EYFS and Key Stage 1 about how children are taught to read in school - with frequent communication being maintained throughout the rest of school.
READING TO LEARN
As well as being able to read the words on a page, we know the importance of being able to understand these words too, with reading comprehension being a key component of the curriculum. These foundations are laid in Nursery and Reception before formal lessons begin, taking place weekly in Key Stage 1 and daily in Key Stage 2 for children who have completed the Phonics program.
We use a novel-based approach to these lessons designed to meet the context of our school. Children study one age appropriate novel over a series of weeks, carefully selected to be rich in vocabulary and knowledge, and pitched to challenge and inspire. As part of each unit, children begin by reading non-fiction texts to deepen children’s understanding of the novel’s content.
Each year group focusses on specific reading learning objectives but the stages of learning are consistent across school: model, teach, guide, independent. The structure to each unit is as follows:
In order for children to access and understand the different skills of reading comprehension, we have the following reading characters that are included in units throughout the whole school:
READING FOR PLEASURE
At the heart of what we do here at Southwark is fostering children’s love of reading. In every year group, in addition to the reading that takes place linked to learning, we also have Class Reads, a time to simply relax and enjoy a good book! Class Reads take place daily in EYFS and regularly throughout the rest of school, and the books come from our Authors of the Moment, who include the likes of Roald Dahl and Malorie Blackman.
We endeavour to create learning environments throughout school that inspire children to want to read. In EYFS and Year 1, these include wonderful reading areas both inside and outside, which not only contain stimulating texts for children to share, but storytelling props too, which bring texts to life and develop children’s language. In Years 2 to 6, each classroom has a Class Library, which include a range of books written by the Author of the Moment, as well as other engaging and age appropriate books to enjoy.
As a school, we have invested in a carefully selected, ever evolving range of books that we hope will not only deeply engage children but also represent different cultures and backgrounds, and explore important modern topics and values.
READING AT HOME
For children to master the complex skill of reading, they need to practise little and often, at school and at home. For children learning to read, this is a combination of:
‘Reading a book’ where children use their Phonics reading books, sent home in a meticulous order, which contain only sounds and words they have been taught, and can therefore read independently, along with…
‘Sharing a book’ where children are read to by an able reader with books pitched above their level of word decoding ability, but vital for developing their enjoyment of reading and expanding their vocabulary.
The books our children are sent home with depends on where children are up to with learning to read:
In addition to the Phonics books and other books from class libraries that our children borrow from school, we also have our whole-school library that we encourage families to visit regularly.
Children should read at home as much as possible, every day ideally. As a minimum, our whole-school rule is that children read at home with an adult 3+ times a week for 10 minutes. We ask that parents and carers log children’s reading on our digital app, BoomReader, which is checked once a week in school. We strive to reach all of our families, but for those children identified as not reading at home, we endeavour to hear them read regularly in school with our army of parent volunteers.
We hope you value and love reading as much as we do!
At Southwark, writing matters. From teaching our youngest children how to how to hold a pencil correctly to form letters and words that have meaning, to equipping our eldest children with the complex repertoire of skills needed to write effectively for a range of audiences and purposes, as well as inspiring them to find their writer’s voice and flair. We want our pupils to fall in love with the beauty and power that words can have.
We know that reading is fundamental to developing a writer’s ability, and we place a real emphasis on children learning and applying their knowledge, understanding and vocabulary, as well as embracing the evolving world of technology in how our children access learning and improve their writing. We endeavour to overcome any barriers in our children’s way so that every pupil can communicate to the very best of their capability, with an understanding of the importance writing holds in improving life chances.
Alongside Phonics lessons, where, as discussed in the Reading section, children are taught the basics of reading and writing, children learn about different genres of writing in English lessons, with a wide range of fiction, non-fiction and poetry being studied. These units are generally 3 weeks in length and follow our long-term plans, in which children are taught specific year group objectives, including carefully considered critical knowledge.
Our writing units are linked to our immersive curriculum projects providing children with an opportunity to showcase their learned knowledge and vocabulary. Each unit centres around a model text, pitched above children’s current writing abilities in order to challenge pupils and enable progress. These model texts not only feature expert examples of year group objectives, but a plethora of rich language, including Tier 2 vocabulary (ambitious words not used every day) and Tier 3 vocabulary (technical terminology linked to projects).
As a school, we are driving improvement in writing this year, shaping a new whole-school approach, which comprises of three stages:
By learning to recite model texts off by heart, children internalise the vocabulary and language techniques needed to write. The approach also moves children from dependence to independence with the Practise stage giving children the opportunity to experiment with the author’s techniques, and discover and play with synonyms to broaden vocabulary, before this is applied independently in the final stage.
We have designed an approach that is inclusive for SEND pupils, as well as those for whom English is an Additional Language, who are all central to what we do here at Southwark. By learning model texts off by heart, which includes symbols and actions, texts become more accessible and enjoyable. The structure of the second stage where children change specific words around the frame of the original sentence also supports these groups of pupils.
SPELLING, PUNCTUATION AND GRAMMAR
Embedded into our English lessons are punctuation and grammar objectives, with children being taught objectives assigned to their year group, as well as revising previously learned objectives in order for these to enter children’s long-term memory:
Spelling is then taught during a separate weekly session, which takes place on a Monday. Throughout the week, children are then encouraged to practise the taught spelling objective at home, completing individually selected assignments set by teachers online, before a short test takes place at the end of the week.
As a school, we use the digital Spelling Shed platform to follow this structure, which is extremely popular and effective with children. For children for whom spelling is a real challenge, assignments are set that children can access and make progress with, either following previous year group objectives or by using Phonics Shed.
As well as teaching children spelling patterns and rules, children take part in challenge weeks where the National Curriculum’s statutory spellings are taught. We endeavour to provide opportunity for children to apply these spellings into their writing by identifying a list of statutory spellings that link into each English unit.
Handwriting is a key component of the curriculum across the whole school. From building the foundations in EYFS with motor coordination and mark making to motivating our Year 6 pupils to fluently produce immaculate handwriting at speed. Went want our pupils to become legible, fluent and fast, and we want our pupils to take a pride in their handwriting.
We know that for this intent to become the norm, and for our pupils’ standards of handwriting to improve throughout school, frequent practice is essential. As a result, in Key Stage 1 and 2, handwriting is taught 4 times a week in short 10-minute sessions to provide children an opportunity to practise the complex skill little and often.