Literacy at Howick
At Howick we recognise the fundamental importance of reading and the impact this will have on our children’s future academic achievement, wellbeing and success in life.
Children do not just become good readers and it is our intention to ensure that we carefully teach and provide them with regular practice from the moment they join us. By doing this we want to ensure that our children become fluent and engaged readers.
Reading is our priority and it is our intention to make sure that every child has the foundations to become a fluent, enthusiastic, engaged and lifelong reader.
From reading comes writing. At Howick we ensure that our early focus on reading and language will have an impact on writing and this is a crucial part of our curriculum. By the end of Year Six we intend our children to have developed a love of writing and to be able to express their thoughts and ideas clearly and creatively through the written word. We also intend to create writers who can re-read, edit and improve their own writing, and enable pupils to be able to confidently use the essential skills of grammar, punctuation and spelling. At Howick, we set high expectations for all our children to take pride in their work and have a fluent, cursive handwriting style alongside allowing their imaginations to flourish.
Our systematic synthetic phonics programme is consistently implemented in our EYFS and KS1 classes, continuing into KS2 for those children who require it. Our summative assessments and termly formative assessments are used to accurately stream and differentiate across these classes during a daily 20-minute phonics focused lesson. This is then revisited and embedded throughout each and every day.
Language and story
In addition to the mechanics of reading, we want our children to have a rich language and believe that this is done by immersing them in a story rich environment where there is time to talk, discuss and develop a better understanding of vocabulary. We are passionate about books, seeing how powerful they are as they provide our children with opportunities to imagine, explore and learn. As teachers, it is our job to ignite this passion for reading by promoting books and openly sharing our love of books. In order to ensure optimum impact, we choose books carefully considering the response they will get from our children be it curiosity, anger, excitement, laughter, empathy, the narrative, the vocabulary, the illustrations, the way that they will help our children to make links with who they are and also help them to the lives of people whose experiences and perspectives may be different from their own.
We talk about books with the children, knowing that this will help our children to have an increased understanding which will directly impact on comprehension skills and writing.
Each class has a novel which is read with them each day. Teachers ensure that the children give them their undivided attention during this time and it has become a well-loved part of the day.
There is also an inviting reading area with carefully chosen books allowing our children to escape from the classroom environment into whichever book they are reading.
We have also established Book Clubs allowing our children to read, discuss and review books as part of a Lancashire run initiative.
Reading in school and at home
At Howick we understand the importance of children reading at home. Each week the children in EYFS and KS1 are sent home with phonics sounds and games which will help them to practice the skills learnt in class.
We promote the value of reading and storytelling with our parents and send home directed comments to promote discussion and further extension of vocabulary as part of the home reading routine.
Our reading books are carefully structured in cumulative steps for children learning to read, so that they can decode every word as their knowledge of the alphabetic code increases. These books are often referred to simply as ‘decodable’ books.
During guided reading sessions, our children in EYFS, KS1 and Lower KS2 are organised into differentiated groups. Books are chosen that match their ability with note taken of words that may need explanation. During this time there is time for discussion and questioning, developing comprehension skills. Our upper KS2 class take part in whole class guided reading sessions with carefully chosen questions used to target the different abilities within the classroom.
We recognise the importance of teaching our children what a good listener looks like and the importance of listening. We do this through modelling, use of talk partners and praise.
Before children can write independently, they need to be able to say (aloud or just to themselves) what they want to write.
By ensuring our children have a language rich environment from the moment they start school we aim to ensure that they will have a wide range of words and ideas to draw upon when they are able to write. All the adults in school play a vital role in the development of this language and we ensure that they;
- Use thinking out loud to model new language for our children
- Listen to what our children say, praising and validating their use of vocabulary, responding to it and rephrasing/extending
- Asking a range of closed and open questions.
- Answering our children’s questions
- Providing explanations and models of accurate grammar.
- Thinking of opportunities to expand and develop vocabulary – visits, visitors, cross curricular links etc.
All of the above will help our children to articulate ideas in well-formed sentences, skills which will be transferred to writing.
We recognise that expecting children to write at length early on results in cognitive overload and might damage their motivation to write, both at this stage and later. For this reasons our EYFS staff support our children to compose sentences out loud, without requiring them to write. As their spelling develops, our children can begin to write sentences using the GPCs they have been taught so far, spelling some words in a phonically plausible way, even if sometimes incorrectly. As children’s knowledge of the alphabetic code increases, we encourage correct spelling
All teachers use the Lancashire Literacy Teaching Sequence to plan units of work. This includes 4 phases;
- Phase 1 Reading and response and analysis
- Phase 2 Gathering content
- Phase 3 Planning and writing
- Phase 4 Presentation
Through these carefully planned units, children study a range of genres and have the opportunities to read, respond, analyse, gather content, plan, take part in a highly modelled write and then write independently.
Spelling, punctuation and grammar activities are woven into each days planning as part of a grammar warm up. These skills are then explicitly modelled as part of the joint writing phase.
Working walls are used to show the progression through the unit. The content of the literacy working wall changes regularly to support learning and teaching as it develops in the classroom thus allowing children to access prior learning, make links to what they already know and apply this to future learning. The working wall enables children to refer to concepts and resources, supporting them to become more secure independent learners.
Learning to form letters and spell words requires considerable effort and attention. For this reason we do not teach a cursive or pre-cursive script in Reception.
At Howick we know that calm classrooms give our children the best chance to interact and make progress in reading and writing. Our behaviour policy is used to set expectations for the learning environment so that it is allow for optimum learning opportunities.
As a result of our commitment to reading and writing, we have a community of enthusiastic readers and writers who enjoy showcasing their developing literacy knowledge and skills. They are confident to take risks in their reading and writing, and love to discuss and share their ideas.
Our Gruffalo words are all over the school for the children to spot and say.
This year we will be using a different way of helping our children in Classes 1 and 2 to learn their high frequency words. These are often referred to as tricky words and are those that the children should learn to recognise by sight. Many are words that cannot be decoded/sound out in the usual way we teach the children.
In school we will be referring to these words as Gruffalo words and the same systems will be used in both classes to ensure continuity. The children will all be sent home with a list of Gruffalo words and we would ask you to work on learning these with them.
It is really important that the children do not learn these by rote as they will begin memorising the order of the words rather than being able to read them accurately. This means that the learning is not transferable so, when the words are placed in different contexts, the children will not recognise them.
To help with this we have included as few ideas to help. It is worth trying out a few of the different ways, as children get on with different methods depending on their learning style, and at different stages of their development. If you can find a way of introducing it into their interests that is a big help too, we learn better when something is fun, we want to do it and it interests us.
Please do not feel you need to stick to these ideas, they are just a guide;
To play snap you will need two of each keyword on individual pieces of paper, shuffle them and divide out between at least two players, then take it in turns to lay down a word. If the words match say "snap" the child tries to read the word.
To play pairs you will need two of each word on individual pieces of paper or card. Put all the cards face down, and then simply turn over two cards till you get a pair. Once you get a pair try and sound out, or read the word. This helps with memory too, as you try to remember where you saw the word before. The child could play this game on their own, or it can be played as a game with two people taking it in turns to turn over two words. Every time you get a match, pick those words up and you keep them, the winner is the person with the most sets of pairs.
Create bingo boards by writing the words on different pieces of paper. The bingo caller says a word, if the player has this word they can cover it up. The winner is the player who reads and covers all the words first.
Word treasure trails
Write the words on pieces of paper and create a trail around the house. Challenge your child to follow the trail reading each of the words. They could find some treasure at the end!
Finding the words in books
To also help not see words in isolation, and as part of reading, it's useful to get the child used to seeing the key words in books. So they aren't just words you have to learn, but there is a purpose to learning them. So initially pick just one key word the child is going to read in the book, then find a book that has a few of that word in, preferably a book they are interested in, or even comic, magazine whatever interests them. You read to them, guide under the words with your finger and they read all the keywords. They may need prompting, especially initially, but in time they will come to spot the word themselves. Once they have got used to spotting one word, you can move onto spotting more, and eventually you can progress onto reading together.
Combining with physical activities
If your child is an active child who learns more by doing, and you have a couple of words up around the house, you can get them to run to the word and back to you see how quick they can do it, and they have to try and get the right word. Another way to help this type of child is stick the words on the trampoline if you have one, or ride their bike or scooter to the correct word and back to you, or similar to hopscotch except with words instead of numbers, where they jump or hop on the words you are saying. Also using cars, trains, trucks in play to drive to the right word too.
Learning these keywords and learning to read can take days, weeks, months or years, it varies so much from child to child. If they are struggling with the activities and keywords to begin with, you helping them and telling them will help, as that is reinforcement in itself. The idea is to try and make it fun, as we want to ensure that our children are developing a love of learning to read.
World Book Day
There have been some strange happenings at Howick and they have inspired our reading and writing.
We love reading at Howick
This year developing reading is on our School Improvement Plan.
We are excited to be taking part in the Lancashire Fantastic Book Awards, a fantastic opportunity to promote reading skills.