The Reading School
Here at Longden we are a reading school. Our aim is to ensure that every child at each phase of their schooling is surrounded by the hallmarks of a literate environment. In every class base there is a reading corner with a range of books, fiction and non-fiction. There is a central school information library from which children are encouraged to borrow books to take home and enjoy. Mrs Cox, our part-time librarian, assisted by pupils, oversees the collection and maintains a broad range of subject matter so that every child will find something of interest there. Termly topic work is supported by collections of books from the local library service. Our annual whole school theatre trip is to see a dramatized version of a book, usually a children’s classic. Every Spring term the children enjoy visits from two authors (KS1 and KS2) as part of the local Bookfest celebration of children’s literature. Our annual Bookweek gives children a chance to share their favourite books, to read together, and to hear once again some classic stories read aloud. Each Bookweek finishes with a special assembly: dress as your favourite book character alternates each year with dress for a bedtime story! Every term, each class leads one of our Open the Book assemblies where children present a dramatized version of a well-known Bible story. Children learn poems for recitation in special assemblies for Mother’s Day or Advent. At Christmas every child takes part in our annual drama productions; humorous, musical versions of the Nativity and a well-known fairy tale are the usual subjects.
Each year Y4, 5 and 6 visit Stratford to see a Royal Shakespeare Company production of a play. These visits are to a specially staged version from the RSC’s Young Person’s Shakespeare initiative and are accompanied by workshops that help children deepen their engagement with the work of Shakespeare. So far we have seen Comedy of Errors, Taming of the Shrew, King Lear, Tempest and a version of three plays, The Famous Victories of Henry V. In 2016 the drama club presented A Midsummer Night's Dream as part of a national celebration of the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare. Last summer, the drama club presented an ambitious production of Twelfth Night. In Spring 2018 the study focus will be Julius Caesar. In recognition of its commitment to theatre and Shakespeare, this school has been asked by the RSC Education Department to lead and develop the first RSC associate schools network in Shropshire, starting Autumn 2017.
Every two years, pupils in Oak Class (Y5,6) take part in the Shrewsbury Bookfest Children’s Book Award. In the Autumn term they are given six novels from the long list with the aim of reducing this to one or two recommendations for the short list. Then in the Spring term, along with all other participating schools, they receive copies of the six shortlisted books to read and choose their recommendations for the ultimate winner. The result is announced at a special Bookfest ceremony held at the local theatre where the children have an opportunity to meet all shortlisted authors and to share their Bookfest experiences through readings, book reviews, film and drama. By the time the competition is over, most children will have read between four and eight novels of the best new fiction from the publishing houses. 2016's winner, Jane Elson, was so impressed with the work of Oak Class she paid a special visit to us (see photo below) to present a workshop and to sign copies of her books.
In April 2017, talented local artist, Rory McCann, was commissioned by the school to paint a mural for our information library. The subject was to reflect the contents of the library. Each class was assigned letters of the alphabet and subject areas in order to choose items for the mural. Working from a very diverse and challenging list, Rory produced the mural around the theme of the power of books. Thanks are due to the PTA who generously funded this project.
Learning to Read
Our aim at Longden School is to teach every child to read in such a way that they will enjoy a life-long appreciation of the pleasure and benefits of reading. Children are introduced to the Letters and Sounds scheme of synthetic phonics in Nursery with the aim of making them aware of print in the environment and the representation of familiar language sounds in their names and everyday objects and activities. Access to the main school’s reading scheme and to phonics teaching in YR is available for those children showing aptitude at this early stage.
The daily phonics lesson in Willow and Maple Classes (YR,Y1) builds on these early experiences as the children engage with formal, systematic teaching designed to ensure mastery of the key sounds and their associated letters (reading) and letter formation (writing). Use of Jolly Phonics material helps to make these sessions fun and memorable for the children. More able pupils can be taught within the Y1 group, focusing on the later stages of the phonics programme. Likewise, Y1 pupils who need more time to master the fundamental sounds can re-visit their earlier teaching with the YR group. Access to a ‘reading recovery’ type programme is available for Y1 pupils who may need extra support in making these important early advances in their reading.
Daily phonics lessons continue into Ash Class (Y2,3) with the addition of a greater focus on writing. Here the Letters and Sounds programme supports children in acquiring knowledge of the more complex letter patterns found in English spelling. Awareness of the role of grammar in supporting reading comprehension and in writing at length becomes increasingly important as children move towards greater independence in their literacy skills. All pupils are screened at the end of Y1 to assess their phonics skills; those pupils who have not acquired mastery of basic letters and sounds at that stage are supported throughout Y2 with a one-to-one programme of phonics teaching delivered by a trained member of staff. Pupils in Y3 who require additional support in their literacy have access to twice weekly sessions in Fresh Start, our catch-up programme for KS2 pupils.
Throughout Willow, Maple and Ash Classes, use is made of the Oxford Reading Tree scheme including focused phonics readers. This ensures that reading material of the correct difficulty level and containing the necessary focus on developing phonics skills is available to children and their parents for use at home. Each child has a reading diary and this is used as a record for both teacher and parent to use when noting progress in the child’s reading development. Beyond Willow and Ash children are encouraged to read beyond the structured scheme and to explore a range of authors and genres in a bid to discover their own preferences and to extend their knowledge of the breadth and quality of children’s fiction, both classic and contemporary. Teachers continue to read to children in order to develop through discussion comprehension and vocabulary and to give access to books that children might not otherwise encounter.
Assessment, recording and reporting
Informal assessment of children’s reading is continuous through hearing individual readers, group reading and reading across the curriculum in other lessons. Children have an individual reading book that reflects the stage of their development and which is used in individual reading sessions to assess progress and to highlight next steps for learning. In guided reading children will read from the same text and the teacher will focus on developing a specific reading skill. Reading ages (a nationally standardized measure of reading ability) are tested each year as a ‘dipstick’ measure of progress. This is also important in matching children’s learning needs to the reading material. A more in-depth assessment of reading incorporating reading and comprehension skills is made at the end of each term using National Curriculum criteria and this result is used in the whole school’s termly progress tracking system. Information from both of these measures is used by teachers in reporting termly to parents. At various points, children take statutory tests, the results of which are published to parents in annual reports: for children in Y1 this is the phonics check, Y2 the end of Key Stage 1 tests in reading, writing and maths and Y6 the end of Key Stage 2 tests in Reading; Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation; Writing; and maths. The school is currently implementing a new system of assessment to complement the recent curriculum changes. More information about this can be found on this site in the statement related to assessment.