It is our ambition that every child at St Joan of Arc school is taught to read easily and with understanding. By providing the children with an engaging curriculum, we hope to instil a passion for reading and a love of writing in all of our children.
We aim to develop the ability and desire to read widely and deeply for pleasure. We believe that reading is the most important educational skill a child will learn at school and recognise that it should be at the heart of the curriculum.
Through developing a love of reading and engaging children with some of the finest children’s literature available, we also encourage them to be confident and thoughtful speakers; able to verbalise their thoughts and feelings relating to a wide range of texts and other stimuli. We provide daily opportunities for rich discussion, recognising this as a vital-learning opportunity where children formulate and develop thoughtful responses.
Phonics and Reading
Children learn phonics using the Ruth Miskin Read Write Inc. scheme. In the Early Years and Key Stage 1, the children learn to recognise graphemes (written representations of sounds) and their corresponding phonemes (units of sounds which we combine to form words). They then learn to blend sounds together to be able to read whole words and understand their meaning. As the children become more confident readers, we support them in developing their fluency, comprehension, reasoning and inference skills using a range of high-quality texts from Oxford University Press, Oxford Reading Buddy and from the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education’s Power of Reading selection.
Using the CLPE units, our English curriculum is planned to be engaging and broad. It is designed to develop children’s understanding of literary forms, extend their wider knowledge of the world and foster empathy for the human experience. Children develop their language competency by working with high-quality resources that show how language, grammar, phonics and spelling can be contextualised in meaningful ways. This is further supplemented using the Read Write Inc. spelling programme, which equips the children to understand the complexities of English spellings.
By providing our youngest children with a systematic phonics-based approach to reading, we give them the essential skills that they need to be come confident, independent readers. We use the Read Write Inc. phonics scheme which provides a clear framework for our teachers to teach phonics in a structured, supportive and suitably challenging way. Every child in Reception and Key Stage 1 has a daily phonics session and is given appropriately decodable, high-quality texts that they read at home and at school to develop their decoding, fluency and comprehension skills. Our use of high-quality class reading texts (selected from the Power of Reading units) in our English lessons, help to develop a love of reading in our children as they are exposed to a rich world of literature from across a wide variety of authors and genres.
Once children have mastered the main phonics sounds (usually before they start Key Stage 2), additional focus is placed on developing their comprehension, retrieval and inference skills. Our children read levelled books from the Oxford reading spine (including on the Oxford Reading Buddy online platform) to ensure that they are reading books which are well matched to their emerging reading skills. They read these books in class, and independently, and progress to more complex texts as they become increasingly skilful readers.
While most children will master phonetic decoding across their time in Key Stage 1, some children take longer to develop this key skill. To ensure that children still get the opportunity to master this core skill, children across key stage 2 who require it are able to access reading interventions including: x-code reading or Fast Track Phonics (years 3 &4) and the Fresh Start catch up programme (years 5 &6).
All children, at all ages and reading stages, have free access to the wide range of high-quality texts in our class reading-corner libraries. The children are free to take these books home to support their independence and their love of reading.
Across the school, from Nursery to Year 6, we teach half-termly units from the CLPE’s Power of Reading approach. Every year group studies at least six high-quality texts in depth across an academic year. These texts will be studied in depth so that children can immerse themselves in the richness of high-quality children’s literature. These units provide many opportunities to develop children’s reading, writing, oracy, dramatic and artistic skills, as well as enhancing other areas of the curriculum. The units allow children to enjoy the full experience of the text while helping the children to produce high-quality writing. Where appropriate, texts have been chosen to link to other curriculum areas (for example the Rhythm of the Rain by Grahame Baker-Smith in Year 4 helps enhance a science unit around changing states and the water cycle).
Typically, across a school year, children will study a poetry collection, a classic story, a piece of contemporary fiction, a traditional tale, a non-fiction text and a longer text to develop their reading stamina. Units are chosen so that children engage with a diverse range of literature reflecting a wide range of backgrounds and life experiences. Within each unit there are opportunities to write in a range of different styles so that children learn to become increasingly confident and adaptable writers.
From year 2 onwards, children follow a formal Read, Write Inc spelling programme. This spelling programme builds on prior phonetic learning and focuses on letter patterns, phonetic application and learning the National Curriculum words for each year group. The programme offers a systematic way to teach spelling over a one or two-week period through small focused activities that draw on the children’s knowledge of phonics. Children will be given weekly spellings to practise at home. As well as weekly spellings, children have the ongoing task of learning the National Curriculum words which are included in their reading records.
Children should have regular opportunities to practise their handwriting. In EYFS and Year 1 children learn to form letters and numerals fluently and clearly as part of their daily phonics lessons before starting to join letters in Year 2. In Key Stage 2, children continue to regularly practise their handwriting so that they are able to write fluently and legibly in all subjects using the school’s chosen font (boring boring text type). Additional support and opportunities to practise are provided for children who require additional help with their letter formation.
Reading and writing is woven throughout the daily life of our school, but we also have a range of special jobs and events that celebrate our love of reading and writing. These include:
- Each class electing class librarians at the start of the year.
- Celebrating World Book Day with a range of fun activities.
- Running a readathon with the help of the Parents’ Association.
- Each class has a ‘Buddy Class’ where children read with children from a different year group.
Children at St Joan of Arc School have a very positive view of reading and writing. The use of high-quality texts, across a range of genres allows the children to immerse themselves in their learning. Books, which are closely linked to their study of other subjects, support their learning of the world around them and help them develop empathy for others. As one of our children put it,
“The best thing about English is that you can put yourself into someone else’s shoes… You can really dive into the character’s feelings”
The children are encouraged to use the ideas and vocabulary that they experience through their reading as models for their own writing. This helps the children write with confidence and precision, producing some outstanding pieces of writing. By reading a wide range of books, the children learn to write in a variety of styles and to find their own unique writer’s voice.
Our systematic approach to phonics teaching allows our children to become confident decoders. In 2022, 90% of our Year 1 pupils passed the phonics screening text. This is comfortably above the national average of 76%. Furthermore, at end of Key stage testing in Year 2 and Year 6, our children performed well above the national averages in both reading and writing.