Synthetic Phonics

The primary approach to teaching pupils to read at Ambleside Primary school is through the systematic teaching of synthetic phonics. The ‘Letters and Sounds’ six-phase programme is used as a time-bonded, structured programme which introduces pupils to phonemes and graphemes in specific order within the context of a language-rich curriculum. Effective teaching using ‘Letters and Sounds’ enables pupils to see the relationship between reading and spelling from an early stage, such that the teaching of one reinforces understanding of the other. Decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling) are treated as reversible processes.

Initial teaching of the programme is rooted within widely accepted best practice for the Early Years Foundation Stage in which pupils’ speaking and listening skills are prioritised. At Ambleside we believe that the more words the pupils know and understand, the better equipped they are to succeed in reading and learning overall.
The six-phase structure of ‘Letters and Sounds’ provides a useful map from which to plan pupils’ progress, the pace of which is guided by assessments of pupils’ developing knowledge and skills. Pupils are ability-grouped within classes for daily phonics sessions to ensure they are taught at an appropriate pitch. Teachers assess pupils regularly and where pupils are judged to have fallen off trajectory, rapid intervention (through additional small group teaching sessions) ensues, to help them catch up with their peers. The aim is that by the end of Year 1 the teaching of phonics should be substantially complete, with word structures and patterns learnt during Year 2, and securing teaching and learning in spelling continuing throughout Key Stage 2.

Pupils’ phonics ability is tested at the end of Year 1, using the statutory Phonics Screening Check. Pupils who do not reach the threshold receive intervention and are tested again at the end of Year 2. Results are reported to parents.

Enjoying Books

At Ambleside Primary School we aim to foster a love of books and of reading. We value books and reading so both have a high priority. Pupils encounter books through shared, guided and independent reading, through weekly class library sessions, through reading research within foundation subject areas and through general reading to gather information both at school and at home. Pupils read in groups, on their own, with teachers and teaching assistants, with families, with buddies and with Reading Volunteers.

We choose not to limit pupils to following a single reading scheme but recognise the importance of pupils applying their developing reading skills through reading books which are appropriately pitched. Teachers therefore help pupils select books which are appropriate for their reading ability using the ‘Book Bands’ system which is applied to books in school. ‘Book Banding’ is a method of grading the reading level of a book. The bands enable the books to be graded from the simplest texts suitable for very early readers through to texts for fluent readers. Each band is given a colour and the appropriate coloured label is stuck to the book. A range of reading scheme books, picture story books and non-fiction books from different publishers can thus be graded so pupils can select from a wide range according to their interest, knowing that the book will not be too easy or too hard due to its colour sticker. Early readers will practise their blending skills using phonetically decodeable texts selected by their teacher and also enjoy picture story books which they have selected from the school library.

Pupils in all year groups regularly hear stories read aloud and we try to ensure we keep up to date with the best quality children’s texts. Authors visit school regularly, sharing their skills and enthusiasm and helping Ambleside pupils see the processes involved in creating books.
Teachers share their love of books with pupils through talking to each other and to pupils about what they are reading themselves and through taking every opportunity to express and promote the importance of reading in their lives. We agree that you can’t teach reading for pleasure, you have to share it.
You can find great resources for reading at the Oxford Owl Website – here you can read from the screen or have a story read to you!

Ambleside Primary School is a Reading School

At Ambleside we recognise the relationship between attainment in and enjoyment of reading. We aim to develop positive attitudes towards reading and foster a love of books through the school’s enthusiastic reading culture. As a school we take specific action to ensure we are equipping pupils with the skills to become readers and to ensure reading is promoted as a high-value activity. We use the six strategies detailed in this report to organise reading for pleasure and support Ambleside pupils in becoming confident, keen and capable readers.

Supporting Staff

In order to teach reading effectively, staff need to have the necessary knowledge and skills. Our monitoring cycle and staff self-review identifies areas of strength and weakness in teaching and these are addressed through whole school CPD; the appraisal process; targeted ‘courses’ for individuals and further peer to peer support to share good practice. We use in-house expertise as much as possible as well as working in partnership with the six schools in our Education Improvement Partnership to share and draw upon strengths and access shared training opportunities.

The structured, systematic teaching of phonics is the primary approach to teaching reading so an on-going programme of CPD ensures staff are equipped to do so. We use data analysis alongside lesson observations and pupil interviews to identify areas of need and regularly review, and where necessary adjust, whole class and catch-up provision.

Teaching the Reading Curriculum

Our data analysis identifies pupils who have fallen or who are at risk of falling behind in their reading and interventions are put in place. These are either small teaching groups in addition to classroom provision or specific strategies used within whole class teaching to help accelerate progress. Half termly pupil progress review meetings between Senior Leaders and class teachers judge the impact of interventions and groupings are amended or teaching support redeployed according to need. We acknowledge that reading enjoyment and reading achievement are interdependent, so identification of need is key to ensuring all our pupils can participate fully in the reading curriculum.

Reciprocal reading strategies are used within daily guided reading sessions to aid comprehension processes and in KS2, we expect pupils to use the reciprocal reading sequence to guide an independent group discussion around a shared text. Active comprehension strategies are taught hierarchically from Year 1 to Year 6 within guided reading sessions and comments on pupils’ acquisition of these skills written in the teachers’ guided reading records. National Curriculum levels are used to assess pupils in reading with staff making judgements using their understanding of the competencies which underpin each level to identify gaps in pupils’ skills and knowledge. Teachers use the levelled assessment focuses to guide and pitch their questions and again record comments in their guided reading files.

Vocabulary development is recognised as a priority, so teachers use all available opportunities to clarify and extend pupils’ understanding of new words. Guided reading sessions are a prime opportunity to do this but new subject vocabulary is also introduced in science, maths and topic lessons. In the early years, pupils’ vocabulary extension is planned for within focus activities. A specific programme, ‘Let’s Talk’, is also being developed as an early intervention to give breadth to the vocabulary of those pupils who arrive in our Nursery with limited speech and language.

We recognise the need to increase pupils’ reading stamina and their independence, so pupils are given daily opportunities to read alone, silently, and also to complete ‘read and respond’ exercises to test their comprehension. They learn to make choices about what to read using the selection of books in the class ‘book box’ and are given opportunities to talk about preferences during one to one reading sessions with teachers, teaching assistants, adult helper or reading volunteers. New books are promoted by the teacher and pupils can talk about reading materials brought in from home during ‘sharing time’.

Throughout school, teachers read aloud to their classes several times a week. We value reading aloud and hearing books read and recognise that sharing a text is a special time which should be guarded despite the time pressures of the curriculum.

Pupils in Year 5 are trained as Buddies and they provide weekly one to one support for identified pupils in Year 1 who need additional support with their reading. This peer support takes place in the library each week and reviews involving pupils and outside providers demonstrate that there are tangible benefits for all those involved.

Developing the Reading Environment

Each class has its own book box containing a range of reading materials. Each day, time is allocated for pupils to select books from their class book box and read in a ‘cosy corner’ or in other shared school spaces for example the outdoor courtyard area. Our pupils enjoy reading together and can regularly be witnessed reading play-scripts aloud or sharing a big book with a friend. The materials in the class book boxes are currently being refreshed, with all of the Key Stage 2 classes having had new books since the Summer Term. Emphasis is placed upon any new additions to the book boxes and teachers make a special event of introducing new books so pupils begin to consider whether they might enjoy reading them and so learn about their own personal reading preferences. Having observed this process in a Year 6 class recently, I enjoyed being approached by pupils independently who said e.g., “Miss, I’m going to read the one called ‘Scare yourself silly’,” or, “Miss, I’m going to read the book that says if an alien landing really happened because it’s true!”

The school library continues to be used as a resource by all classes, but is currently under development. There is a planned programme of renewal taking place between 2013 and 2015. The aim is that the school library can be used as a reference library to support teaching and learning in cross-curricular topic and subjects such as science, history and food technology. We want all pupils to learn to use the Dewey system to locate books independently. The school’s design, with its large areas of glass is conducive to remote supervision, so the library can increasingly be used for independent research, particularly as pupils move into upper Key Stage 2. We want pupils be involved in running the library so once restocking and cataloguing has taken place, Junior Librarians will be nominated and trained.

Corridor and classroom displays regularly show pupils work associated with key texts or authors e.g. Horrid Henry or Oliver Jeffers. This not only shows and celebrates what pupils have learnt but also extends the pupils’ knowledge of authors and ‘must reads’.

Reading is promoted and utilised in all subject areas, whether this be on-screen reading as part of topic research; keeping up to date by reading the Newsround website; finding out about young scientists and nature in different parts of the world by reading Young National Geographic, or using information books to extend knowledge in a range of subject areas.

Targeting Resources

The Governors value reading and have allocated a generous budget to be spent strategically between January 2013 and 2015. This will be used to restock class book boxes as referenced above and replenish the library. It is work underway with impact judged and reported to Governors each term.

We fund the Reading Volunteers programme and are grateful to the volunteers who commit an afternoon each week to support groups of identified pupils. Their input has a tangible impact on the pupils who they work with and further develops those pupils’ love of reading through the success those sessions bring.

Early intervention is recognised as imperative when it comes to reading, so the school employs a teacher for five mornings a week to focus on intensive reading support for pupils in Year 1. This one to one support aims to accelerate the progress of identified pupils who are eligible for the Pupil Premium and is subject to regular review.

Celebrating Reading

Adults in school are the pupils’ role models, so we demonstrate that we are readers by sharing with pupils what we are currently reading. Each adult has an ‘Ambleside Loves Reading’ card which they display outside their office or classroom. Teachers and other adults talk enthusiastically about reading and weave their love of reading into assemblies and presentations.

Authors are invited into school and work with each year group, supported by funding from the Education Improvement Partnership. Each year group has an annual project either with an author or illustrator e.g. Kes Gray in Year 1, Helena Pielichaty in Year 4 or to promote a key text e.g. work with Nottingham Playhouse to develop performances based on Phillip Pullman’s ‘I Was a Rat!’ There are annual quizzes to promote reading – the ‘Book Awards’ in Year 3 and ‘Question of Sport’ in Year 5 whereby teams from the six EiP schools compete to demonstrate their knowledge of a set of books – with Ambleside demonstrating their skills by being regular winners or at least runners up!

Classes visit the local library on a monthly basis to encourage membership and good habits outside school time. This year there was an increase in the number of pupils taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge (Spooky House) but next year we aim to win the book token for the most improved school.

On National Poetry Day, pupils perform poems aloud to their class and focus on poems during guided sessions. During Book Week, each class choses a key text from which to select characters to dress up as. They then introduce the characters to the rest of the Key Stage in a special celebration assembly in order to extend other pupils’ knowledge of favourite texts. Last year, pupils enjoyed meeting Mad Old Sal from Room 13 as well as dressing up as a variety of undersea characters from The Rainbow Fish.

We welcome the Book Fair to school each year and encourage teachers to take their class into the Book Fair space for story-time and to browse through the books. This also coincides with Parents’ Evening to ensure as many people as possible have the opportunity to buy the books at a reduced price.

We’ve started a weekly, after-school Book Club where pupils read and recommend books to each other. It’s well subscribed and its members are particularly looking forward to the sessions which will take place in the local library.

Engaging Parents

Our families support pupils by reading with or to them each day, either after or before school, and signing their reading diaries. They are informed about pupils’ reading levels and of course attend Parents’ Evenings and school events to find out about the reading curriculum.

The Oxford Owl website is linked to our school website so that a range of texts can be accessed to read on line at all times.

When classes have studied a key text as an extended literacy unit, our parents have surpassed themselves with the creative homework projects which they have completed with their children! For example, large models of the ‘Peggy Sue’ were constructed during the Year 6 work on Kensuke’s Kingdom and not only were costumes created for Year 4’s ‘I Was a Rat!’ day but also 100 family members turned up to watch their performance.

Parents supported the Year 5 team in the Question of Sport, inter-school quiz previously mentioned and this year we plan to build on this by hosting a ‘Dads and Lads’ quiz night which has reading research as its theme and celebrates parents and children enjoying reading together.

We know that we can do more to inform parents about and involve parents in reading for pleasure, so we use termly stakeholder surveys to stay updated on parents’ views and always aim for improvement in the way in which we respond.

Moving Forward

With greater involvement of parents high on the list, and inviting pupils to be ‘Reading Champions’ who promote reading , we know that to become an outstanding reading school we must do all of the above and more.

We await with bated breath the results of Year 3’s ‘Text Factor’ as another opportunity for pupils to make decisions about the reading materials which we select for school and will continue to elicit the views of pupils in shaping our reading provision and strengthening our schools’ reading culture.

Raising pupils’ attainment in reading is a priority for every member of the school staff as is developing a love of reading. In the knowledge that excellence and enjoyment are reciprocal processes, we strive to enhance and support children’s reading, so Ambleside pupils love to read because they can read.

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Ambleside Primary School
Minver Crescent

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Ambleside Primary School