Reading the Watermore Way!
At Watermore, our aim is for all of our children to become fluent and enthusiastic readers. In the earliest stages of their time with us, we want them to be able to decode words quickly and efficiently, opening up the entire curriculum.
We share a wide range of texts from diverse authors, portraying an equally wide range of inclusive images, designed to engage and excite all children. Books to share are carefully chosen to fit with the school’s mission to prepare all learners for their next stage of their school careers and give them a good understanding of the world around them.
We teach phonics and reading using the Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS).
When children first begin reception, wordless books are used to help develop ‘book talk’, and are taught in guided groups led by either the teacher or Teaching Assistant. This not only includes sharing stories that the children have been told, and the language of storytelling (‘Once upon a time….’ ‘One sunny day…’ ‘Happily ever after….’), but also helps develop the basic skills of holding books, turning pages, and treating them with respect. These books are taken home to share with parents.
Phase 1 phonics are taught in the first few weeks of reception. This includes:
- Oral segmenting: splitting the word into its component phonemes
- Oral blending: hearing and repeating a word from its phonemes
- Environmental and instrumental sounds to develop their listening skills
- Signing and learning rhymes
An example of oral phase 1 phonics may include asking ‘Whose name begins with T?’ or ‘Can you put on your s-o-ck?’ These opportunities for teaching are done throughout the day, rather than as a formal, structured lesson.
The Reception Year
Once the children are in full-time, phase 2 phonemes are taught. We teach four new sounds per week, starting with s, a, t, p, i, n. Segmenting and blending are taught as ‘reversible processes’, to encourage the children both to split the sounds, and then blend them together. This is taught as a whole class.
Once the children are secure in this, books containing these sounds are introduced. The teaching of phonics, and the reading resources, both follow the ELS scheme so are designed to be used in tandem. The books are introduced in the guided reading groups, and contain the first sounds learned as well as ‘I’ and ‘the’, known as ‘tricky words’ and the first high-frequency words. The phonically decodable books are then taken home, for the children to read to their families. This may be the hard copy, or the electronic copy. They are also asked to choose a Sharing Book from the boxes in the shared areas. These books are not completely decodable, and are designed to be read partially by the child but predominantly by the person the child is reading with. This encourages the children’s love of reading through being able to share this time with the family, and choose books that appeal to them.
New books are introduced throughout phase 2 as new sounds are taught. New phases are taught throughout the reception year, and books continue to be introduced as new sounds are taught.
The children are also given sets of high frequency and tricky words to learn. Each set contains 5 words and the children practise these at home and during their 1:1 reading time. As they become confident with a set they are given some new ones. Practising the first 100 words like this aids their fluency and automaticity.
Working with Parents
At the beginning of term 2, families are invited to a phonics and reading meeting. They are introduced to the phonics scheme and the ways it is taught. We encourage them to read as much as possible at home, and introduce the Reading VIPERS:
These skills, and this language, is then used through the school, up to and including year 6.
Phase 5 is introduced to all children in the summer term. This includes the alternative spellings for previously taught sounds (e.g. the vowel sounds in house and cow are the same, but spelled differently).
Catch Up Programme
Children are assessed at the end of each phase, including twice in phase 3. By the end of reception, we would aim for all children to have learned phases 2-4, as well as the beginnings of phase 5.
Interventions are planned in throughout the year for those who need extra practice and revision. This may take the form of informal extra class teaching or small group work in class. They may also work with the school’s speech and language specialists, or undergo precision teaching, whereby a member of the teaching staff works with the individual for a short, intensive period over 6-8 weeks. These forms of interventions are also used throughout year 1 and 2.
Early assessment happens in year 1 to assess the amount learned and retained from reception, in order to give the teacher a clear understanding of the children’s starting points. Phase 5 is taught from the earliest possible point in year 1, and takes most of the year.
Phonics teaching in year 1 follows a similar pattern to reception. Whole-class phonics is taught daily, with additional interventions and support groups throughout the year. These groups are assessed frequently, and altered based on need.
Books continue to be linked to the phonics scheme, and phonically decodable books continue to be used in lessons and at home, in addition to the ‘Sharing Books’. Once children are confident in reading the phase 5 phonemes, they move onto the colour-banded books. We would aim for children to be confident in phase 5 by the end of year 1, but several children may continue to use the phase 2-5 books into year 2.
In the summer term, all children in year 1 undertake the Phonics Screening, which is a national, statutory assessment. The teaching of phonics does not change because of the test, but some children will work with the precision teaching team in the weeks leading up to the assessment window.
At the beginning of year 2, all children are assessed against all previously taught GPCs (grapheme-phoneme correspondence). Those who require further support for any phases including phase 5 will participate in intervention lessons with either the teacher or teaching assistant.
Reading continues to be taught in guided groups throughout most of the year. By the summer term, whole-class reading lessons are introduced using the VIPERS to explicitly teach reading skills.
Year 3 – 6
Building on this structure, children from year 3 -6 continue to with daily reading lessons as a whole class. These lessons:
- Are built around the teacher reading high-quality and challenging texts, which are dissected by the class through high-level questioning and discussion.
- Include a range of activities – not all of which have to have a written outcome – that enable pupils to develop their vocabulary and comprehension skills, using VIPERS.
- The teacher takes opportunities to listen to individuals reading after they have read and modelled good practice.
During our 30 minute whole class reading lessons, children explore a wide variety of genre, both fiction and non-fiction which allows them to access, share opinions and understand what they are reading. They are given opportunities to speculate on the tone and purpose of texts they explore as well as consider both the texts’ themes and audience.
Each teacher uses a key text and this is chosen carefully and is planned so that the children receive a breadth of literature that covers contemporary, cultural and classic authors. The books are however chosen primarily to engage the children and will provide a vehicle to enrich and extend vocabulary through the language.
All children throughout reception and key stage 1 are heard read by an adult weekly; fortnightly in KS2. Children’s progress is regularly measured, using VIPERS reading skills for comprehension and running records for fluency and accuracy. Children are encouraged to read within their zone of proximal development (zpd) and are formally assessed and at least three points across the year.
Creating a Love of Reading
At Watermore, we believe that all children have the opportunity to develop a love of literacy as well as build on the skills needed for the next stage of their education. We firmly believe that reading is the key to all learning and so the impact of our reading curriculum goes beyond the results of the statutory assessments.
We promote reading for pleasure as part of our reading curriculum. Children are encouraged to develop their own love of genres and to review their books objectively. There is strong evidence that links reading for pleasure with educational outcomes and it is of great importance that there is a connection between home and school in encouraging children to read. It has been wonderful to see so many parents and carers attending parent reading mornings, supporting library visits and also volunteering to read with children on a weekly basis.
Our whole school ‘Reading Bingo Challenge’ focuses on breadth of reading and book talk between home and school. Children are encouraged to take their time with the reading challenge - It is designed to take the majority of the year! We kindly ask that all parents support their child in completing the challenge by talking to them about their reading book and listening to their child read regularly. Once they have completed their Bingo Challenge (which can be found inside their reading record) children will receive a Headteacher’s Award.
Pupil voice and active participation and is highly valued and celebrated at Watermore, from our reading buddies (partnering KS1 with KS2 classes) and year group librarians who assist their peers, to our Year 6 Reading Ambassadors who manage our school library and run their own book club during lunchtimes. The main library and the class reading corners are also filled with books suggested by the children, through pupil conferencing.
We are mindful of the re-use books and are always keen to use ways to spread the love of literature as far and as wide as possible. In June 2021, we set up our own Community Book Shelf (located in the main school entrance) where children are welcome to ‘swap a book, take a book or donate a book’ as often as they wish.
STAR time – Sit Together and Read
At 3pm every day, all classes stop and listen to the reading of an aspirational class book. Members of the Watermore team really enjoy having this quality time to read aloud performing poetry, chapters or extracts with the children - it's a real highlight of the day! We are keen to introduce new books, authors and themes and so use this time to share books from our recommended reading lists - a copy of these can be found on each year group page.
It can be tricky to encourage some reluctant readers and dyslexic readers to engage with reading at home. Reading school books together, hearing stories read by adults or older siblings and listening to audiobooks can all help to make reading time special. Some companies sell books specifically designed for an older audience who still need some reading support. Below is one example of a site that produces these books.
Recommended Reading List
Below are 100 recommended reads for each year group. The lists are not exhaustive and you are more than welcome to look at the lists of other years too, but they can be a great place to start if you are unsure of what to read next. If you particularly enjoy a book, please recommend it to a friend and let your teacher know during book talk time. If you think of another book that you think should be added to the list, let us know! Happy reading!
Book Finder – What to Read Next…