High-quality texts and real-life experiences are central to teaching children to write at Victoria Park. We use an agreed structure (attached) to demonstrate the craft of written communication. Children learn to plan, draft, revise and edit enabling them to have deep, reflective conversations about the content of their work, and assess how effectively it achieves the intended impact. All of this is underpinned by an understanding of purpose and audience, opportunities for speaking and listening, and grammar taught in context. What results from this is purposeful writing that pupils can be proud of.
We use consistent handwriting models and expectations, that start in reception with simple mark making and begins to model the ‘flicks’ in the children’s initial letter formation. Cursive handwriting is then modelled and taught explicitly – how to hold a pencil, how to sit, how to join – and used across the curriculum in years 1-6
We follow a whole school spelling programme that has a specific focus each week, looking at categories and families of words, and teaching strategies to identify patterns and make accurate predictions.
Developing a love of reading is essential to becoming a strong, independent reader and so it is one of our key priorities. We achieve this in a number of ways, which include:
Our Reading corners, act as ‘mini libraries’, stocked with high quality texts selected by our reading lead, and from a ‘wish list’ of books chosen by the children.
Other whole school commitments include:
- Resourced stage reading schemes, with support and directions provided for parents and helpers
- Book webs linked to thematic topics so children have a range of books to choose from based on current interests
- Smethwick library trips and Mobile library visits
- Visiting authors and poets
- Dedicated reading for pleasure sessions
- Reading assemblies, delivered by a diverse panel of adults, to break existing taboos around books
Reading is given a prominent place in the timetable, with all children reading, or being read to, every single day. We give it this prominence because it is hugely important to us.
We ask all families at VPA to spend 10 minutes a day listening to your children read at home or sharing a story – the difference this can make to a child’s ability to understand the world and develop a love or reading is immeasurable (Please find a link at the bottom of this page for supporting reading at home, or look out for our Parent Workshop sessions in our Community Café).
We recognise the importance that phonics has in teaching children to read. Regardless of year group, all children are supported to be able to read accurately and fluently.
Early reading skills, such as decoding, word recognition and phonological awareness, are taught daily in Early Years and Key Stage One.
We have developed our own systematic, synthetic phonics programme. This supports children with their grapheme recognition, segmenting and blending skills to be able to read and spell unfamiliar words. Once the children are secure with their first set of initial sounds, they move onto reading decodable books (non-fiction and fiction texts) which allow them to put their phonic knowledge into practice; this success motivates them to practise reading more.
To complement the phonics instruction, pupils also learn age appropriate ‘common exception words’, also known as ‘tricky words’. The ability to read these words on-sight will develop pupils’ reading fluency and spelling.
As pupils move through our phonics programme, they are introduced to the more unfamiliar graphemes with alternative spellings and pronunciations as well as prefixes and suffixes. These then become an integral part of the texts they are reading.
By Key Stage 2 we focus on ensuring pupils can read and understand age-appropriate texts with depth, accuracy and independence, providing additional support as appropriate.
Like our approach to writing, great texts are central to teaching reading comprehension skills. We source high-quality texts linked to our class topics and spend a week dissecting them. We study them for their vocabulary, their purpose, their subtext, their structure and the illusions they conjure. Together we discuss how the text made us feel, why the author chose the vocabulary and structure, and any other texts it reminds us of.
We use the VIPERS acronym developed by the Reading Shed to identify and develop specific skills that make an effective reader:
Vocabulary Inference Prediction Explanation Retrieval Sequence or Summarise
These 6 skills focus on the comprehension aspect of reading and not the mechanics: decoding, fluency, prosody etc. As such, VIPERS is not a reading scheme but rather a method of ensuring that teachers ask, and students are familiar with, a range of questions. They allow the teacher to track the type of questions asked and the children’s responses to these which allows for targeted questioning afterwards (The Reading Shed)