Elm Academy Whole School Reading Strategy
At Elm Academy we believe that reading underpins the entire curriculum and therefore put it at the forefront of pupil’s learning. We are determined that every pupil, irrespective of background, will become a fluent and confident reader. From the moment pupils join Elm Academy, we encourage them to build progressively on reading skills whilst engaging them in high quality, enjoyable texts. We do this through carefully monitoring the sounds pupils are being taught and ensuring the books they are reading are in line with this, to give the pupils the opportunity to embed and apply new sounds they have learnt before moving onto more challenging texts. This not only develops their skills as readers but fosters a love of reading, something we hope they build upon and keep for life. By embedding reading into our Curriculum, carefully choosing a range of challenging texts from a wide variety of authors and genres, we ensure pupils are exposed to reading opportunities consistently, giving them the opportunity to embed and extend their understanding in a range of contexts. To ensure pupils at Elm Academy become fluent, proficient readers whilst developing strong comprehension skills we use the following rigorous teaching strategies:
- Read Write Inc. Phonics – As soon as pupils start school in Early Years and Key Stage 1, they are taught the synthetic phonics scheme Read Write Inc. It is a phonics-based approach to reading which allows children to progress at a rate individual to them. By learning the smallest sounds, children can break down unknown words to read fluently, as well as, learning words that cannot be sounded out. The aim is to become a successful and independent reader, ensuring children have a love of books and an enjoyment of reading. Pupils have daily phonics lessons which are taught as soon as all the children are in school and are regularly assessed to ensure staff can address any gaps swiftly, supporting our pupils to make progress with their reading abilities. Pupils are assessed every half term on their knowledge of the sounds they have learnt and their ability to apply these independently. If they are unable to do this, targeted interventions are offered to ensure specific gaps are quickly filled. The RWI Phonics scheme is sequential; and ensures pupils are consistently building upon prior knowledge when learning to read. Pupils continue their phonics learning as they progress through the school until they are secure with their phonetic knowledge and can apply this confidently to independent reading. All staff across the school have had appropriate RWI Training which is then followed up and consolidated by the Phonics Lead and Vice Principal for Teaching & Learning to ensure the effective teaching of phonics is embedded. Recap sessions and Drop-In Question sessions are continually offered over the course of each academic year to ensure training is fresh and kept up to date.
- Whole Class Reading – As pupils progress through the school they experience Whole Class Reading sessions where pupils enjoy a high-quality text and engage in discussion with their peers and teacher to develop a deep understanding of the text. Pupil discussion is guided by VIPERS sentences starters; questions about Vocabulary, Inference, Prediction, Explanation, Retrieval and Summarise. They will also experience Reading Comprehension sessions two times per week, where pupils develop the ability to apply a range of reading skills to a piece of text they have not seen before. This gives the pupils the chance to develop VIPERS skills across a wide range of texts.
- Story Time – Daily, all pupils will be involved in story time. This is an allocated, protected time slot in the pupils’ timetable where they can listen to and enjoy an engaging text. This is aimed to develop pupils’ love and passion for reading. We hope pupils will then carry this love of reading with them throughout their lives.
- Increasing Knowledge of Tier 2 Vocabulary – We are constantly striving to develop and widen our pupils’ bank of vocabulary. To support them with this, we teach five Tier 2 words a week that are taken from our Whole Class Reading text. The pupils learn the meaning of these words and are then taught the etymology (the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history) before putting the words into context and thinking of synonyms and antonyms for the words. The pupils then hear these in context when reading the text as a class and can also apply these words independently in their writing.
- Variety and Love of Reading – We believe it is vitally important that all pupils are exposed to a wide selection of authors from different cultures, ethnicities, gender, and backgrounds to support their wider understanding of the world around them. That is why all our Whole Class Reading books and Story Time books are meticulously hand-picked by our teachers and the Senior Leadership Team to ensure all these different elements are reflected on and are woven throughout our curriculum.
To develop pupils’ passion for reading we engage in numerous events throughout the year including Roald Dahl Day, World Book Day and ‘Get Caught Reading’. These events encourage pupils to enjoy reading further and are always a big success at Elm. We also invite in a range of authors and other writers to encourage pupils to read a wider range of books and develop their writing skills. We see reading as a vital tool in developing pupils’ cultural capital and these events play a key part in this.
Staff at Elm expect parents/carers to listen to their children read at home for 5-10 minutes per day and to record this in their Planners so they can apply skills learnt at school. All pupils are sent home with at least one banded book of their choice that is appropriately challenging for their stage of reading, for them to enjoy at home. The carefully banded books ensure that pupils are practising the sounds they have learnt in school whilst consolidating previous knowledge. Any home reading is then celebrated through house points, Reading Champion Awards, tea parties and in whole school assemblies. We support parents/carers with this by offering parent workshops that inform them how their child is taught to read at school so they can support them effectively. We also provide sheets that give the parents/carers a range of questions and activities that they can complete with their child at home to engage and challenge them with reading further. As part of their home reading, we encourage pupils to re-read their books to develop fluency and promote that parents ask them a variety of questions to develop their understanding.
- Classroom environment – Every classroom across the school has a bookshelf stocked with banded reading books in a range of genres, poetry and non-fiction. These are changed throughout the year so that pupils have access to a wide variety of reading material. In all classrooms, there are topic boxes, which link to the knowledge pupils are learning that half term, for the children to use and access to support their learning further. We have many class sets of books so that the whole class can read aloud or follow the words when a teacher or peer is reading aloud. When appropriate, classrooms have the RWI Soundmat displayed on the wall to support children who are not yet fluent readers. Teachers also regularly discuss books they are enjoying with their class to encourage and promote a reading environment across the school.
- Elm Academy Reading Schemes – Reading skills in the lower school are taught mostly through Ruth Miskin’s Read Write, Inc. phonic scheme. The children begin learning letter sounds in Reception and put them together to read simple words. They also learn some key words, which cannot be sounded out. They move on to reading very short stories, called ‘ditties’, followed by longer and longer texts over the next 2 or 3 years, until they are fluent. They also answer questions about the texts that they have read. All of this is done in the context of a small group, set according to the children’s own reading confidence.
Pupils in years 5 and 6 have access to Reading Plus where they can work on their reading speed, accuracy and understanding. This scheme exposes pupils to a range of different text styles and supports them to become more fluent readers.
Every pupil in the school has access to Oxford Reading Owl which has a vast online library where all books are banded in line with the school’s book banding system. This will support pupils to engage in a wide range of books, appropriate for their reading level, and to develop a love of reading.
- Interventions – We understand that all pupils progress at different speeds during their time at Elm Academy. To ensure all pupils gain a deep and rigorous knowledge of key skills that enable them to read fluently, we swiftly put in place a number of interventions that support our wide range of pupils where assessments show necessary. These include rapid reading, reading catch up, RWI interventions, daily 1:1 reading, pre-teaching class texts and extended schools and are taught by highly qualified staff. These not only ensure that pupils have no gaps within their understanding and are working at, as a minimum the same reading age as their chronological age, but they also develop pupils’ confidence in their ability to read and fully comprehend independently. When pupils join Elm Academy mid-year, they are assessed on entry to ensure any appropriate interventions are swiftly put in place to ensure they catch up and any gaps in knowledge are closed. Heads of Year, alongside the Vice Principal for Teaching and Learning will look at how the pupil assessed and use their experience, knowledge, and training to decide the most appropriate intervention that will catch the child up as swiftly as possible.