How Does Our Learning Grow?

At St. Bernadette Catholic Primary School, our aim is to support pupils acquiring the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding to become lifelong learners and linguists. Through Literacy, we strive to ensure that pupils are able to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions to others, and through their reading and listening, others can communicate with them. This ensures that we not only develop the ‘whole child’ in which they have the fundamental tools to achieve in our school and the wide world beyond but the character and resilience needed to succeed in modern Britain. This is underpinned by our core values, whereby children are challenged, with support, and learn to develop diligence in order to improve their literacy skills.

Recognising that fluency in the English language is the foundation to success in all areas of the curriculum, the key skills of literacy development are reinforced, taught and exploited through every subject area. Teachers will seek to take advantage of opportunities to make cross-curricular links. They will plan for pupils to practise and apply the skills, knowledge and understanding acquired through literacy lessons to other areas of the curriculum.

Reading

At St Bernadette, we strive to ensure that all children become successful, fluent readers by the end of key stage one and believe this is achievable through a combination of strong, high quality, discrete systematic phonics teaching combined with a whole language approach that promotes a ‘Reading for Pleasure’ culture. Being able to read is the most important skill children will learn during their early schooling and has far-reaching implications for lifelong learning and well-being.

 

Phonics

We believe that all of our children can become fluent readers and writers. This is why we teach reading through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. We start teaching phonics in Nursery and follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised  programme of progression which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through school.

As a result, our children are able to tackle any unfamiliar words as they read. At St Bernadette, we also model the application of the alphabetic code through phonics in shared reading and writing, both inside and outside of the phonics lesson and across the curriculum. We have a strong focus on language development and vocabulary for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.

 
Nursery

We believe the importance of getting children off to a good start with reading cannot be overstated. The teaching of Early Reading starts from Nursery here at St Bernadette.

  • We provide a balance of child-led and adult-led experiences for all children that meet the curriculum expectations for ‘Communication and language’ and ‘Literacy’. These include: 

    • sharing high-quality stories and poems 

    • learning a range of nursery rhymes and action rhymes

    • activities that develop focused listening and attention, including oral blending

    • attention to high-quality language.

  • We ensure Nursery children are well prepared to begin learning grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) and blending in Reception.

We understand that key features of a rich curriculum which are essential to Phase One and beyond are the range and depth of language experienced by the children.

 

Reception and Year 1

We teach phonics for 30 minutes a day. In Reception, we build from 10-minute lessons, with additional daily oral blending games, to the full-length lesson as quickly as possible. We continually review the week’s teaching to help children become fluent readers.

Children make a strong start in Reception: teaching begins in Week 2 of the Autumn term.

We follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised expectations of progress:

    • Children in Reception are taught to read and spell words using Phase 2 and 3 GPCs, and words with adjacent consonants (Phase 4) with fluency and accuracy.

    • Children in Year 1 review Phase 3 and 4 and are taught to read and spell words using Phase 5 GPCs with fluency and accuracy. 

Year 2 and Key Stage 2
 
We timetable extra phonics sessions for any child in Year 2 or 3 who is not fully fluent at reading or has not passed the Phonics Screening Check. These children urgently need to catch up, so the gap between themselves and their peers does not widen. We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments to identify the gaps in their phonic knowledge and teach to these using the Keep-up resources – at pace.  

If any child in Year 3 to 6 has gaps in their phonic knowledge when reading or writing, we plan phonics ‘catch-up’ lessons to address specific reading/writing gaps. These short, sharp lessons last 10 minutes and take place as often as required. 

Teaching Reading
 
Reception and Year 1 & 2
 
We teach children to read through reading practice sessions three or four times a week. These:
    • are taught by a fully trained adult to small groups of approximately six children

    • use books matched to the children’s secure phonic knowledge using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments and book matching grids on pages 11–20 of ‘Application of phonics to reading’, as well as a range of texts from various other schemes, such as Songbirds, Bug Club, Oxford Reading Tree and Project X.

    • are monitored by the class teacher, who rotates and works with each group on a regular basis

Each reading practice session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do not overload the children’s working memory. The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills:
    • decoding

    • prosody: teaching children to read with understanding and expression

    • comprehension: teaching children to understand the text.

Key Stage 2

Children across Key Stage 2 are taught using the Whole Class Guided Reading approach for 30 mins, four times a week.  

The main objective during Whole Class Guided Reading, is establishing the requisite skills, including modelling and questioning, introducing new vocabulary and encouraging children to ‘read between the lines’. As language matures and increases, their ability to ‘create a picture’, and in some cases, fill the background knowledge required to become competent in comprehension, is key.

The more a child gains from the content of a book, the more they will develop their inference and deduction skills, transferring this knowledge to future books. If this element of reading development is nurtured and supported, the child will begin to grow the skills required to interpret an author’s intent and the ability to pick up on nuance and contextual cues.

We use the Herts For Learning Reading Platforms to ensure progression across the key stage.

 

Reading at Home

Decodable reading practice books and reading for pleasure books go home for parents to share and read with and to children.  As the children progress through the Reading Bands, reading books are chosen to match their ability and to develop a love for reading.

We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised parents’ resources to engage our families and share information about phonics, the benefits of sharing books, how children learn to blend and other aspects of our provision, both online and through workshops.
 
Recently at St Bernadette, we introduced the GoRead online reading record.  This digital approach allows the children's reading to be recorded at home and at school by parents, staff and the pupils themselves and will be taken with them throughout their time at St Bernadette.  Not only does the system log which books the child reads, it also allows staff and parents to share information with each other, such as words that the child found tricky to read, what they enjoyed, etc. For more information on Go Read, please visit their website at https://go-read.co.uk/ 
 
Parents are also provided with detailed Reading Expectations guidelines for Year 1 to Year 6 to aid their understanding of the expected standards of reading in each year group and to give them ideas for supporting reading at home. (see Resources below)

 

Reading for Pleasure

‘Reading for pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child’s success.’ (OECD 2002)

‘The will influences the skill and vice versa.’ (OECD 2010)

We value reading for pleasure highly and work hard as a school to grow our Reading for Pleasure pedagogy.

  • We read to children every day. We choose these books carefully as we want children to experience a wide range of books, including books that reflect the children at St Bernadette and our local community as well as books that open windows into other worlds and cultures.

  • Every classroom has an inviting and diverse book corner that encourages a love for reading. We curate these books and talk about them to entice children to read a wide range of books. 

  • In Nursery/Reception, children have access to the reading corner every day in their free flow time and the books are continually refreshed. 

  • Children in foundation stage use ‘story sacks’ in class which include quality stories, non- fiction books and resources such as puppets to support their development of the love of reading and fire their imagination and interest. 

  • Visits to the local library will also be arranged for children.

 
Writing
 
Since the academic year 2020/2021, we have been using the Herts for Learning writing approach.  This scheme aligns with the National Curriculum 2014 expectations and includes detailed English plans and planning platforms which support teachers with their daily planning and teaching of writing, as well as assessment criteria and exemplification materials.
 
Through our writing units, we aim for our children to be bursting with excitement and brimming with pride at the writing they produce.  Each unit of work uses creative teaching ideas and 'hooks' to gain the children's interest, whilst enriching them with quality texts as models for their own writing.  Grammar and spelling is embedded into the teaching and children are given many opportunities to edit, improve and publish their writing.  We also give our children opportunities to 'free write'; their own writing completely without limits!
 
SPAG
 
Spelling, punctuation and grammar is embedded into our teaching of writing, as well as taught discretely in lesson starter sessions.  Spelling expectations are taken from the National Curriculum (see Resources below) and spelling rules and patterns are taught to enable children to understand show to spell new words, rather than just learn a spelling list by rote.  Spelling patterns are practiced through games, such as using Purple Mash and the Spelling Shed.  Children are also taught the expected Common Exception words for their particular year group.  (see Resources below)
 
Handwriting
 
Since the academic year 2021-22, we have been using the Letter Join scheme to teach and practice letter formation and handwriting across the school.  Our aim is for children to develop a fluent and legible, cursive handwriting style to ensure they reach the standard expected at the end of each key stage.
 
Vocabulary
 
We know from research that the size of a child’s vocabulary is the best predictor of success on future tests. At St Bernadette, we also know that a good understanding of a wide range of vocabulary supports success across the whole national curriculum. Vocabulary is a strong indicator of reading success (National Literacy Trust, 2017). Therefore pupils are regularly taught new vocabulary in all areas of the curriculum.

Developing vocabulary occurs through indirect instruction; using rich reading experiences to grow vocabulary ‘naturally', paying attention to context to work out meaning and using background knowledge.  It is also taught through direct ‘robust’ instruction. Good vocabulary instruction involves asking children to make decisions about which words to use in their writing for effect. 

Effective ways of teaching vocabulary include:

  • explicit teaching of appropriate vocabulary words 
  • multiple exposures to same words in varying contexts (speaking/listening, reading, writing)
  • working with a partner or small group to analyse words
  • story retelling using key vocabulary from texts
  • use of props or concrete objects to explain vocabulary
  • explicit discussion of comprehension together with vocabulary
  • ensuring vocabulary instruction is embedded across the curriculum
  • 'Word of the Week' focus and the use of word walls in classrooms

It is crucial that children have explicit and robust instruction in vocabulary, to support their verbal and written communication. The explicit teaching of vocabulary allows students to access academic language and discourse, and facilitates their comprehension of increasingly complex texts.



Please find below key documents relating to the teaching of Literacy in the school.