Learning to read at Great Kimble School
At Great Kimble we strive to address the different strands of learning which must take place to ensure effective reading. The children begin these processes on entering the Reception class.
In order to access the printed or written word, children need to have knowledge of letters and the sounds which they represent. At Great Kimble we follow the ‘Letters and Sounds’ approach.
In their nurseries and pre-schools children begin by working on general sound discrimination tasks. This is referred to as Phase 1 of the Letters and Sounds approach to phonics which we use here at Kimble. It provides a vital foundation for reading as it teaches children to be able to distinguish between fine differences in sound. This skill can then be applied to reading skills. For some, this will continue when they arrive in Reception, whilst others will show their readiness to move on to specific letters and sounds. This is referred to as Phase 2.
Phase 2 phonics involves the children learning most of the consonant sounds and all the short vowel sounds. They move on to blending these sounds to make simple words such as j-a-m.
At Phase 3, children extend the range of letters and sounds they know. They now learn the last of the consonants and their sounds. They also learn consonant digraphs such as ‘ch’, ‘th’ or ‘sh’ and long vowels (digraphs and trigraphs) such as ‘igh’ which of course makes an ‘I’ sound or ‘ai’ which makes the ‘a’ sound. They continue to blend to make simple words.
At Phase 4 children learn how to use all of the letters and sounds they have so far mastered to make more complex words, including polysyllabic words.
At Phase 5 children learn more ways of making consonant vowel sounds. These sounds will already be known to the children but they will learn different representations of them, for example, in Phase 3 ‘ai’ is learnt as the long ‘a’ sound. At Phase 5, children also learn that ‘ay’ makes a long a sound and so does a-e as in cake.
At each of these phases, children also learn specific key words and tricky words. These must be sight read as they occur frequently in early reading books. Sometimes, these words cannot be read phonically at all and sometimes, the children do not have the knowledge to decode them phonically yet. They just need to be learnt. This is why children in the Reception class bring home words which they need to learn. The importance of parental support in this task cannot be overstated.
During the first year of reception, children also bring home ‘fish’ sounds which again we expect parents to support them in learning.
In Reception, children often begin their reading adventures with books which have no text in them. This process is targeted at another strand of learning for effective reading. Children discuss the pictures, they describe what they see and begin to pick out the characters. They learn how to describe the story and to make predictions about forthcoming events. They are introduced to language such as ‘the beginning’, ‘the middle’, ‘the ending’ and ‘character’.
The books which are available to our children are banded with colours and provide a steady progression of challenge for the learner. Broadly speaking they follow the phases of ‘Letters and Sounds’ and provide an opportunity for children to practise and apply their phonic knowledge and skills. In addition to this they develop the children’s understanding of fiction and non-fiction.
At Great Kimble, we endeavour to hear individual children read regularly and to provide parents with helpful comments which will assist in supporting their children. In addition to this we organise children according to need and hear them read in groups. Progress is monitored carefully with the use of targeted learning objectives and the aim is to develop confidence, understanding and technical ability in reading aloud. With skilful questioning, the children are guided to develop reading ability, not just in decoding and expression, but also, particularly at the higher levels, in higher level reading skills such as inference and deduction. Children who are reading at higher levels are also challenged with comprehension tasks during their independent learning time.
When children arrive in school, there is so much for them to learn in so many respects. It is not unusual for some children to be in need of extra input to help them to progress with their reading. There are different interventions which can be given in these circumstances.
Where children are not learning their key words quickly enough, they are given the opportunity to do precision monitoring with one of our skilful TAs. This involves rapid sight reading of a few key words until they are secure and then the words are duly changed for new ones. This occurs daily and really makes a difference to the fluency of a child’s reading.
Where a child is struggling with the decoding aspect of reading, this, is in the first instance, is addressed by careful grouping of children for phonics learning which takes place daily for all children and is a discrete unit of learning.
Where the need is more complex, children are given the opportunity to do the ‘Reading Recovery’ programme which is a more holistic approach, supporting the children to apply phonics and derive understanding of texts. Some children will also use the ‘Read, Write, Inc.’ programme.
Both of these interventions are delivered on a one-to-one basis and monitored for effectiveness regularly.
At Great Kimble, we pride ourselves on achieving good outcomes in reading for our children. But we appreciate that reading is not just a functional necessity of our society. We also strive to encourage the enjoyment of reading. For this purpose, we review the content of book stock in the library and encourage children to try new books. Children at Great Kimble have the opportunity, once a week, to visit the library. In Reception this is where the children have the opportunity to choose a book to borrow and share it with other children and an adult. They also share a range of stories from the library and are encouraged to talk about them. In KS1 pupils have the opportunity to borrow and share books from the library one lunch break per week. Friends of Kimble often make helpful suggestions about good books to have in the library: please do make your suggestions known so we can keep books current.
Reading at home
Please can we urge you to listen to your child read EVERY night, even if you can only spare 5 minutes? Whilst most parents are excellent at undertaking nightly reading when their child is a beginner reader, we do find that as pupils become more fluent parental input in the reading process can lessen. In order to help support you in this really important activity, your child should have a colour band book-mark to suggest some of the questions to ask and the points we need to ensure each child covers in order to be a good reader in every sense of the word. If your child hasn’t brought home a book-mark, please contact the class teacher to request one. We honestly believe that this is a school/home partnership – we will endeavour to do our best but we need you to work with us! Whilst we appreciate that many children are reading a wealth of books, with a wide range of genre, at home, the reading of the school book allows us to ensure that new vocabulary is understood, and that pupils are linking their reading to their writing. Thank you.
Reading is a great source of joy and learning. It is our mission to provide the children who come through our doors with the technical and cognitive ability to access a whole world of stories, ideas and information and to foster a love of books which will continue throughout their lives. In this mission, we are conscious of the need to involve you as parents and carers. We hope that this information will support you in the vital role which you play in your child’s journey to success and enjoyment in reading a whole range of texts.