We understand that literacy is a foundation to accessing learning in all other areas of the curriculum and literacy learning is encouraged, developed and supported at Manor Leas Infant School with great importance at every opportunity.
Literacy has three main aspects: speaking and listening, reading and writing. Each of these aspects supports the others so all are taught with equal importance. We strongly believe that high quality phonics teaching and learning and high quality speaking and listening experiences build the strongest foundations for good reading and writing development. Therefore, as we are an infant school supporting the youngest of learners, we place a strong emphasis on these key elements during each and every school day. We have literacy opportunities embedded throughout our curriculum and it is used to explore and develop learning in all other subjects.
Speaking and listening
At Manor Leas Infant School you will see speaking and listening taking place in every classroom during all lessons as we believe that high quality speaking and listening teaching will lead to high quality learning in all areas of the curriculum. Each classroom has a well used role play area, which is linked to a topic for that term. Many of our lessons across the curriculum require the children to work collaboratively, either in pairs or small groups, which encourages key skills such as listening and responding appropriately and negotiating. Our literacy topics will usually begin with an emphasis on speaking and listening. During literacy lessons we use techniques such as drama, freeze framing and hot seating to encourage the children to explore the text they are sharing as a class more thoroughly before they carry out any writing activities. This allows the children to have developed their ideas about the text before they are asked to write, promoting more thoughtful and interesting written pieces of work.
Phonics is taught discretely for 15 to 20 minutes at the start of each day through the use of Letters and Sounds, which follows a systematic synthetic phonics approach. We use a range of resources to support this teaching and learning including Jolly Phonics and Smart Kids. Letters and Sounds is split into 6 phases of teaching and learning. The children are first given the opportunity to practise their speaking and listening skills, often building on from what has already been delivered during the children’s time in their nurseries before joining us. The development of the children’s speaking and listening skills continues throughout each year group. Next, the children are taught one way of spelling every sound in the English language, e.g. ‘s’, ‘j’, ‘ch’, ‘ai’ ‘or’ and ‘ear’, at a rate of approximately 4 sounds per week. They also learn how to apply this knowledge to the reading and writing of words, captions and sentences. Through encouraging the children to applying their phonics learning throughout the day, most children quickly become able to have a go at reading simple words and sentences and writing phonetically plausible words and sentences independently. Once the children are secure in their knowledge of one spelling for each sound and how they can use and apply this knowledge, the children are taught to recognise alternative spellings for sounds, e.g. ai, ay, and a_e, and alternative pronunciations for one spelling of a sound, e.g. ‘ow as in cow’ and ‘ow as in mow’. Next they progress onto the finer points of spelling, such as how to add prefixes and suffixes and the rules for how to make words plural. In each phase, alongside the teaching of phonics is the introduction of reading and spelling tricky words, such as ‘said’ and ‘come’, that cannot be sounded out and have to be learnt as a whole word. It is expected that the majority of children will be secure in their knowledge and use of Phase 4 when they leave the Early Years Foundation Stage and secure in their knowledge and use of Phase 6 by the end of Key Stage 1, although not all children will achieve this. At Manor Leas, we fully understand that all children learn at their own rate and, as such, our lessons are differentiated to ensure that all the children’s needs are met within each session. During every phonics lesson there is a teaching assistant working alongside the teacher to support the children’s learning. This enables us to effectively deliver any additional support or challenge that specific groups may need at the appropriate level. This may be done through extra support within a whole class session or through separating the children into smaller, more differentiated groups with different activities and outcomes planned for each.
Shared reading most often takes place during the introduction to a literacy lesson using a book, text on screen or a film clip. The teacher and children read the text aloud together, stopping at various points to allow the children to discuss key questions relating to the focus of the lesson, e.g. plot, characters, settings, phonic link. More time is spent on shared reading at the beginning of a two or three literacy unit when a new genre is being introduced and explored with the children.
In Key Stage 1, guided reading takes place in each classroom for 20 to 25 minutes every day. The children are split into groups and throughout the week they rotate around a selection of tasks, mainly focussed on reading, but also on other literacy skills such as speaking and listening. One group each day reads the same book together in a group under the guidance of the class teacher. This book is chosen specifically to meet the learning needs of the group that the teacher is working with and is used to teach new reading skills and give the children an opportunity to practise their developing reading skills collaboratively with their peers and with the support of the teacher. During this session there is also a teaching assistant available to support either another group of children working on a task or specific individuals on an identified need.
In the Early Years Foundation Stage guided reading takes place in a similar format but may be delivered in smaller groups as appropriate to the children whilst the rest of the class are engaged in other adult led or child initiated activities. Once a child is assessed to be ready to benefit a guided reading session, they read in a group with the teacher once a fortnight.
Our school reading scheme ( Oxford Reading Tree, Pearson, Rigby, Nelson Thorne, Oxford Literacy Web, Ginn) has a wide range of fiction, non-fiction and poetry texts sorted into differentiated book band levels by a coloured sticker. We have a variety of published schemes within our school scheme to encourage a breadth or reading and ensure all children’s interests are met. In the Early Years Foundation Stage a member of staff listens to each child read independently at least once a fortnight. In Key Stage 1 a member of staff listens to each child read independently at least twice each half term. Children in all year groups with extra reading needs are heard read individually more regularly so that more targeted support can be given. The children’s independent reading books are changed as necessary and we try to ensure they access a varied range of books throughout a book band. When possible, children are encouraged to choose their own reading books from the correct book band level to promote independence and encourage interest. The children can also take home a ‘Share a book’ to share together with their parents. The children have the opportunity to change these books daily or they can keep them for longer to re-read if they wish to do so.
As with shared reading, shared writing mostly takes place during the introduction to a literacy lesson. During shared writing the children explore how they can include the key features of the focus genre in their own writing. They may use a shared reading text as a stimulus and they will work together, suggesting and modifying ideas, as the teacher models good practise.
During the activity part of the literacy lesson the teacher will work with one or more small groups to support and develop their writing. The teacher may scribe for the group as they compose co-operatively or alternatively they may offer verbal prompts and cues to support and encourage the children to be successful with their writing task.
Children are given many opportunities for independent writing within literacy lessons and throughout the curriculum. These opportunities take place through both teacher initiated and child led activities. Great importance is given to any writing or mark making that the children partake in throughout the whole school day. In Key Stage 1, each child will complete an independent extended piece of writing each week based on a given topic or theme.
We use a progressive published scheme for handwriting in every class which first focuses on forming individual letter families correctly and then leads on to teaching specific joins. The aim is that the majority of children will be using joined up writing fluently and accurately by the end of year 2. In the Early Years Foundation Stage, letter formation is first introduced alongside the children’s phonics learning to provide them with a multisensory approach. Each letter family is then revisited through the use of a workbook, with an adult led focus on handwriting taking place at least once a week. Specific handwriting lessons are taught to the whole class once a week in Key Stage 1 but there is an expectation that handwriting is considered during all writing activities.