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Reading is the most important skill our pupils will learn at Ark Academy. That is why we place reading at the heart of all we do; teaching reading lessons explicitly and embedding reading into all subjects. Reading widens a pupil’s world, allowing them to imagine and experience the lives, settings and opinions of others which they may not otherwise be exposed to. We therefore recognise that it is crucial for all pupils to master the skills associated with reading in order to be able to access all that our curriculum offers them.

We want pupils to leave Ark Academy Primary as successful, balanced readers. Balanced readers are readers who can accurately decode text, read with fluency and prosody, and fully comprehend the information they are reading across a range of text types and genres. Successful readers will also have a range of strategies that they can employ to tackle unfamiliar vocabulary and texts.

As reading is such an important skill, we want the teaching of reading to be rigorous and thorough so that pupils are able to get the practice they need to master reading, alongside being engaging and enjoyable, so that we foster a love of reading and of reading for pleasure.

In the early years foundation stage (EYFS) and key stage 1 (KS1), pupils need a clear, systematic phonics programme to teach them the fundamental skill of decoding words to begin to build their reading fluency. Due to this, we have chosen to use the ‘Read Write Inc. Phonics’ curriculum; a nationally recognised programme that provides a solid foundation of key synthetic phonics and language comprehension skills that underpins all further reading. In addition to phonics, we have designed our own, bespoke reading curriculum that includes the teaching of culturally important fairy tales and nursery rhymes from the British and worldwide literary canon. This curriculum is reviewed annually based on the interests of the cohort and their attainment needs.

In KS1 and through key stage 2 (KS2), pupils complete the ‘Reading Revolution’ curriculum. We have chosen this because it was developed by English subject leaders at Ark Schools and rooted in the pedagogy of Doug Lemov’s ‘Reading Reconsidered’. It is a systematic, mastery approach to reading with a core focus on using high-quality, challenging texts to drive both the teaching of key reading skills and the development of pupils’ knowledge around a range of themes and concepts. The curriculum is designed so that pupils have exposure to a variety of genres and authors over the year. Short extracts are mixed with longer ‘novel studies’ each half term to enable pupils to understand the different purposes for reading. At its heart, the programme is equitable for all as we believe that every pupil has the right to access and participate in reading high-quality texts. In addition to this, pupils have daily ‘Read Write Inc. Spelling’ lessons that explicitly teach how to construct a range of year-appropriate spellings specified by the National Curriculum. This builds directly on the phonics programme and gradually enables pupils to be able to read non-phonetically decodable words.

For KS2 pupils who need significant additional support with reading (and those that join the school without a knowledge of phonics), we run a ‘Read Write Inc. Fresh Start’ programme. This approach is similar to the phonics programme in EYFS and KS1, but texts are more age-appropriate and appealing for the older reader.

Read Write Inc Phonics

Phonics is taught daily by high quality phonics teachers. Lessons include a range of oral, visual and written activities to ensure pupils are able to practise the skills learned in a variety of ways so that they make rapid progress. Pupils also repeatedly practise reading high-frequency words with irregular spellings (or ‘common exception words’). We make sure that pupils read books that are closely matched to their increasing knowledge of phonics so that they experience success and gain confidence as a reader.

At the beginning of reception, all pupils are assessed in phonics. The individual pupil’s journey through the phonics curriculum depends on their personal entry point and is tracked against age-related standards. Pupils are then assessed every six weeks and are grouped homogeneously, according to their progress in reading. In reception, we emphasise the alphabetic code and pupils rapidly learn simple sounds (phonemes) and the corresponding letter, or groups of letters, (graphemes) they need to represent them.

In year 1, pupils learn that some phonemes have more than one corresponding grapheme which rapidly extends their ability to read a range of words and more complex texts. Our aim is for pupils to complete the phonics programme by the end of year 1 (90% achieved this in 2018-19). Early writing sits alongside this and compliments the progress that pupils make in phonics, as embedding the alphabetic code early on means that pupils quickly learn to write simple words and sentences. To ensure that pupils keep up, those who need extra support in phonics have a daily, one-to-one phonics session with a highly trained staff tutor.

Reading Revolution

Reading is prioritised and is taught every day to the whole class as a stand-alone subject in Year 2 and KS2 through a robust ‘five day’ reading model. Pupils focus on one text for at least a week, enabling them to immerse themselves in the text and to enable their working memory to focus on exploring themes within it to gain a deeper understanding of the content.

Lessons are vocabulary driven with further emphasis on key reading skills such as: fact retrieval, inference, sequencing and summarising. One lesson is planned for pupils to answer a ‘big question’ related to the text being studied which draws learning together and helps to embed key skills into long term memory. Additionally, a ‘skill and drill’ lesson is planned which enables pupils to apply the skills learnt out of context. Reading, writing and discussion are features of all lessons and we believe that this approach allows for all pupils to participate fully. Furthermore, our curriculum is designed so that what is being read in ‘Reading Revolution’ lessons can be linked to the humanities and writing curriculums where appropriate.

Day One: Book introduction and vocabulary

Day Two: Sequencing and summarisation

Day Three: Close Reading with literal and inferential questions

Day Four: Close Reading and response to the BIG Idea

Day Five: Skill and Drill

There is a strong focus across the week on exploring vocabulary and all lessons have vocabulary tasks embedded, which give pupils the opportunity to practice using vocabulary in a variety of contexts and a change to explore the nuances of words to begin to build a deeper understanding of language.

Reading journey of our pupils

By the end of EYFS, pupils will have at least a firm grasp of ‘set 1’ phonics sounds, developing an understanding of simple phoneme/grapheme correspondence. Pupils will be able to segment and blend CVC and CVCC words with accuracy and fluency. Alongside the phonics programme, we develop pupils’ love of reading through planned immersive experiences linked to the high-quality texts taught. We expect pupils to learn at least eight nursery rhymes by the age of four. By the end of reception, pupils will internalise the narrative structure of traditional tales and be able to discuss them. Pupils will be supported to have academic dialogue about the events of stories they enjoy and will be encouraged to investigate stories further by making their own changes to them in writing lessons.

By the end of KS1, pupils will have mastered ‘set 1, 2 and 3’ phonics sounds which will give them effective strategies to read all phonetically decodable words. They will also have a bank of common exception words which they can recall when reading. Pupils will be able to understand and read common suffixes and prefixes which will support further vocabulary acquisition and understanding in KS2. Pupils will be able to read fluently and begin to read expressively. Pupils will understand that there are different types of book genres and be able to explain the purpose of some of them. Pupils will be able to make simple inferences based on what they have read and be able to sequence and summarise stories with some detail.

By the end of KS2, pupils will be able to discuss and form fuller opinions about the themes they read about in books. Pupils will be able to infer more complex information from texts, form impressions and be able to give evidence and justify their point of view through the ‘point-evidence-explain’ strategy. Pupils will be able to read at greater length, will have built a stronger stamina for reading and begin to comprehend texts at greater speed. Pupils will have a greater understanding of root words, prefixes, suffixes and associated vocabulary families and will be able to infer meanings of words using this knowledge. The links between reading and writing become more explicitly taught and pupils recognise that to be an effective writer, they need to draw on the styles of authors that they have read.

In year 7, pupils become familiar with the tropes, key features and literary movements across time and develop their understanding of western cultural capital (e.g., biblical canon and mythological tropes). Pupils also build on their inference skills and develop their skills of using ‘point-evidence-explain’ by learning how to be more analytical (‘point-evidence-analyse’) when reading. As pupils move through key stage 3, the link between reading and writing is strengthened further. Pupils move onto reading classic novels, including some Shakespearean texts in their original form and are taught to navigate texts from across the history of British literature. The foundation in vocabulary that pupils gain in the primary phase is key in enabling them to access the more complex language in these texts.