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Reading at the Vale of Evesham School

Reading

At the Vale of Evesham School, we acknowledge that learning to read in its widest sense is central to the curriculum intent of the school. Progress in reading enables our pupils to access opportunities both in school and the wider community with independence and confidence. Reading provides pupils with rich communication opportunities and supports them in achieving their desired outcomes on leaving school. Our approach to reading:

  • Acknowledges that stimulus (e.g., smell/sound/facial expressions) carries meaning
  • Acknowledges that objects and carry meaning
  • Teaches that photographs and pictures represent objects, people and places and carry meaning
  • Teaches that symbols can be used as labels and to access text
  • Ensures that narrative can be accessed through sensory-based activities
  • Emphasises systematic synthetic phonics is our favoured approach to teaching reading using the Read Write Inc. Phonics programme
  • Teaches the reading of words, new vocabulary and comprehension

Intent

At the Vale of Evesham School, we intend for pupils to:

  • Understand their immediate environment so they feel secure and ready to engage in learning
  • Use objects, photos, and symbols to anticipate and predict
  • Read words
  • Foster a love for stories and literature
  • Read purposefully to gain information using non-fiction texts
  • Apply reading skills to engage with the wider community in preparation for life after school

Implementation

Phonics is timetabled prior to reading sessions where pupils apply their developing skills to reading books. The pace at which new phonemes are introduced is skilfully planned for using ongoing assessment to ensure pupils have successfully embedded their learning before moving to the next. The Vale of Evesham School has begun implementing the Read Write Inc. Phonics Programme across the whole school so that pupils experience a consistent teaching approach.

We ensure that pupils read books that are closely matched to their increasing knowledge of phonics and common exception words. This is so that, early on, they experience success and gain confidence in reading. Re-reading and discussing these books with the teaching staff supports their increasingly fluent decoding. Each key stage has separate reading books to avoid repetition and continue to provide motivating reading opportunities as pupils progress through the school.

An important part of literacy teaching is exposure to a diverse range of texts during literature lessons. Texts are carefully mapped across the year for the whole school. The literature suggested link to the units being taught within English lessons and also relate to the overarching theme for the term. Pupils will engage with literature above their reading ability; covering a broad range of themes, eras and cultures. They will access a range of motivating reading materials through a variety of media, both for pleasure and for purpose. Texts will be high quality often using adapted versions (particularly in UKS2 onwards) and promote meaningful discussions, drama-based activities and a celebration of literature. The texts chosen will go on to inspire and support pupils’ writing. Refer to the working document ‘Text Map’ for further details.

To promote a love for reading, all classrooms have reading areas that are resourced with books that engage and motivate learners, matched to their cognitive level. These books will regularly rotate and pupils are encouraged to take an active role in this. The school library is accessible to all and contains storybooks, sensory stories, poetry, audiobooks and a wide range of non-fiction texts. Pupils take home a book for enjoyment each week from either their reading corners or the school library.

Furthermore; all pupils engage in Reading Enrichment sessions each term with a different focus depending on the strand of the curriculum they are working on. These sessions are designed to celebrate a particular story, poem or author. Details of these sessions can be found within the Reading section of our website.

The below sections provide a summary of how reading is implemented depending upon the phase and strand of the curriculum.

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS):

Within Early Years, pupils enjoy stories and rhymes each day to support language development. These are carefully planned for and repeated using props, actions and special emphasis on repeated phrases and rhyme. All children have access to a reading corner supplied with tactile, picture and symbol books and are encouraged to make independent choices throughout the day.

Pupils accessing our Early Years provision have daily opportunities to develop phonological awareness through a range of engaging activities using Phase 1 (Letters and Sounds) aspects 1-7.

Our learners will develop early reading skills using objects of reference, photos and symbols as part of their daily routines. The early reading skills are taught sequentially once pupils reach reception depending upon the level of understanding of each child. Please refer to the ‘Pre-Phonics Teaching Sequence’ document for more information on this.

The Read Write Inc. Phonics program is introduced within our EYFS provision where pupils have developed communication and language skills required to engage with this. They will have opportunities to begin oral blending, practising using pure sounds and naming images before moving on to phoneme-grapheme correspondence of set 1 sounds. The pace and delivery of Read Write Inc is carefully adapted to suit the needs of our learners.

Semi-Formal Curriculum:

Pupils are given short-term targets each term which are shared with parents; these support their EHCP long term targets. Reading at home is promoted at the beginning of their school journey and continues throughout. Pupils working at the early stages of reading can access approaches such as ‘See and Learn’ to develop their understanding of photos. Symbolic awareness is taught through colourful semantics, matching activities and a total-communication approach embedded throughout the school day. With this text-rich environment, pupils can confidently understand timetables and engage in learning feeling secure. The sequence of teaching the pre-phonics skills can be found on our ‘Pre-Phonics Teaching Sequence’ document.

Pupils working on the semi-formal curriculum will be supported in developing their phonological awareness using multisensory approaches informed by Letters and Sounds Phase 1. Once these fundamental literacy skills are embedded, pupils will access systematic synthetic phonics using the Read Write Inc. Phonics programme. Pupils access daily oral blending activities and new sounds are introduced at a pace that suits their learning needs. Structured ‘Word Time’ sessions support learners to blend sounds that they know to read words. Pupils then have opportunities to apply their phonics skills to carefully matched reading books. The reading books vary depending on the Key Stage they are in; refer to the ‘Reading Book Guidance’ document for more information on this.

Whilst phonics is our preferred method of teaching reading, we recognise that for some pupils an alternative is necessary, or indeed a combination of approaches. Strategies such ‘action words’ or precision teaching work well to develop whole-word reading skills.

Interventions are targeted to support pupils not making the expected progress. A range of assessments support teachers in identifying areas of difficulty with phonological processing which can help inform interventions as well as a universal practice. Those accessing Read Write Inc are assessed on a half termly basis and the intervenors have access to the same resources as classes. Individual interventions may also include precision teaching so that specific sounds or words can be taught and assessed. Some pupils in first school will also access the Autism Resource Centre which will continue to work towards their literacy targets. The TEACCH approach is often used in this learning environment.

As pupils progress to high school, they will continue with the approaches above but also focus on reading for life. This includes reading whole words and symbols in the community or the working world. Various technological resources can support this to promote independence; the C-Pen is used with great success by several pupils. Within sixth form, pupils have further exciting opportunities to apply their reading skills in real-life situations such as the school café.  They will be encouraged to read words and symbols purposefully in a working environment to develop their functional skills.

Formal Curriculum:

Pupils are given short-term targets each term which are shared with parents.  They are encouraged to read at home regularly with a reading book (alongside their chosen book for pleasure) and reading records sent home on a weekly basis.

In middle school, pupils working on the formal curriculum will continue to participate in Read Write Inc. Phonics sessions four times a week. From year 8, pupils who require continued support with phonics will access Fresh Start (Read Write Inc). To support high-frequency word reading and address gaps in knowledge; some pupils will continue to engage in Precision Teaching.

Pupils working on the formal curriculum will complete a reading session to apply their phonics skills to carefully matched books. These sessions may include sharing a big book, 1:1 reading, guided reading and reading to a peer. Reading books are carefully selected to ensure they provide adequate challenging using age-appropriate themes. All pupils are supported to engage in a dialogue and answer questions from adults/peers about what they have read to develop their comprehension skills.

Within high school, pupils will continue to access dedicated sessions to phonics (Read Write Inc. Fresh Start) and reading.  Fluent readers in high school engage in 1:1 reading, guided reading using a range of plays, graphic novels, newspapers, non-fiction texts and stories. They will also enjoy a broad range of literature during their English lessons. In most cases, these are adapted versions of well-known texts that are skillfully differentiated by the class teachers. These texts empower our students to engage in conversations on a diverse range of topics as they work towards Entry Level qualifications (Pearson Edexcel).

Within sixth form, the focus on reading turns towards the real-life application whilst continuing to foster the love for books. Pupils will have access to weekly Newpapers (First News) and magazines. They will develop their understanding of forms and have opportunities to read job adverts within the school and apply. The sixth form café also provides a diverse range of purposeful reading opportunities and prepares our pupils for the world of work.

Impact

Reading is assessed termly using B squared Progression Steps for pupils working on the semi-formal and formal curriculum (KS1-3). We assess all pupils who are following Read Write Inc. Phonics and/or Fresh Start programme using the Entry Assessment. This initial assessment is used to inform groupings and gives a good indication of progress relative to their starting points. Pupils are assessed each half term to monitor the rate at which they are making progress.  This enables teachers to identify where interventions are required. In High School, pupils’ reading progress contributes towards their English Entry Level accreditation (Pearson Edexcel) and their work is moderated and verified internally and externally. Pupils throughout the school, who are reading words, are assessed annually using the York Assessment for Reading and Comprehension (YARC). Some pupils in Year 1 and Year 2 take part in the phonics screening programme where appropriate. This qualification enables students to develop the skills and confidence in reading for onward study, including Functional Skills English.

We work collaboratively with parents and pupils to set long-term reading targets as part of pupil EHCP annual reviews. As a school, we take prompt action to address lack of progress in reading. Pupil’s accessing the Read Write Inc. Phonics/Fresh Start programme can be easily identified and short term, targeted interventions are carried out by class staff or as part of an intervention in UKS2-KS4. When interventions are used, it is imperative that discussions are had at the start and end of an intervention with the class teacher to ensure progress made continues within the classroom.

Communication

At the vale of Evesham school, we recognise that early communication skills form the foundation of future learning and is crucial to an improved quality of life. Pupils are immersed in the communication process throughout their school life and it is an intrinsic part of our curriculum. Pupils are presented with opportunities to develop their communication through both planned and spontaneous interactions. To enable our pupils to communicate their needs, feelings, and ideas a multidisciplinary approach is often required drawing upon the skills of the teacher, speech and language therapists, MSI specialists and occupational therapists.

Within the school, we have two qualified Signalong tutors who deliver a training course to new members of staff and offer annual parent workshops. These tutors continuously support teaching staff with new signs required for key vocabulary being taught during each term for all strands of the curriculum. Signs and symbols are used along with speech and gesture, facial expression, eye contact and body language. Signalong is designed to support spoken language and the signs and symbols are used with speech in for key words.

We aim for all our pupils to establish a system of expressive and receptive communication that is appropriate for them. In doing so, pupils will access learning and develop positive social relationships. Methods of communication take many forms at the Vale of Evesham School, including:

  • Body language
  • Facial expressions
  • Eye contact
  • Gestures and pointing
  • TaSSels
  • Signing (Signalong)
  • Vocalisations
  • Use of objects of reference
  • Use of photographs
  • Use of symbols/drawings
  • Use of low and High-Tech AAC
  • Speech
  • Writing

Intent:

At the vale of Evesham school, we aim for our pupils to:

  • Recognise familiar people
  • Communicate a needs and choices
  • Ask question to gain information
  • Initiate polite and appropriate conversations
  • Develop skills to prepare them for life after school

Implementation:

Classroom environments are conducive to the communication styles of individuals learning within them. All classes display a timetable that communicates what pupils will be doing which facilitates an organised and predictable day; this also alleviates some anxieties for pupils. These may take the form of objects, photos, symbols or words depending on the communication level and style of pupils using them. A total communication approach is used across the school but the delivery differs according to the strand of the curriculum the pupils’ access.

Semi-Formal Curriculum

Daily Circle time activities are used to develop early attention and listening skills through group-based activities. Many of our semi-formal learners have difficulties with their attention. To develop these skills, ‘Attention Autism’ sessions begin in first school and continue until High School. These sessions offer irresistible invitations to captivate pupils’ attention and progress through stages 1-4 as they move through the school. Varied, motivating and appropriate resources are chosen to suit to pupils’ learning needs and age. In first school these sessions either daily or at regular intervals depending on need. As pupils progress into middle school/high school these approaches will form part of their weekly communication group sessions.

Stage 1 – Focusing attention

Stage 2 – sustaining attention

Stage 3 – shifting attention

Stage 4 – Focus, shift and re-engage attention (transition)

In first school, developing symbolic awareness is a priority to facilitate choice-making alongside spoken words where possible. In the first instance, photographs are used to develop their symbolic understanding of the world around them. A photograph supports the students to develop a link between the visual representation of an object or event and the real thing. Once this is achieved, widget symbols are introduced. Colourful Semantics is used as an approach to support pupils’ understanding of language and grammar; this approach is adopted throughout all phases and may include both symbols and written words.

Some pupils who have a symbolic understanding but do not communicate verbally may use PECS. These students are identified by SLT in collaboration with the class teacher because certain prerequisite skills are required. PECS is a very structured approach and has a defined hierarchy that must be followed for it to become a successful communication system.

Many of our semi-formal learners benefit from some of the approaches that are used within TEACCH including concepts such as ‘finished,’ ‘first’ and ‘next.’ This encourages pupils to transfer learnt skills to everyday activities including starting work independently using clear and concise language. Some pupils in first school will access the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) to receive focused time working towards communication targets in a low stimulus environment with 1 to 2 peers using the TEACCH approach. TEACCH workboxes are often used within semi-formal classrooms to work 1:1 with pupils on focused targets as they progress through the school.

Blank’s Levels of Questioning is used to inform the planning of questioning used for pupils working on the semi-formal curriculum. At this stage, the focus is on their immediate environment and requires concrete thinking requiring short or non-verbal responses such as pointing. Questions may include who, what and say (imitation). As pupils reach Level 2, they will be challenged to draw upon details that are not necessarily visible and require some basic analysis – who, what, where, what happened and describe.

In middle school, pupils can use word mats and ipad apps such as clicker to make requests, share ideas, ask/answer questions.

When pupils reach High School, they will work towards an accreditation

Formal curriculum:

Expressing emotions, sharing info, asking/answering questions, how they initiate communication and how well they are understood by others.

Pupils who access the formal curriculum in middle school have 2 speaking and listening lessons per week. These sessions support pupils to develop social skills using and are informed by NHS speech and language. Communication continues to be embedded within the curriculum. Literacy lessons continue to challenge pupils to increase their repertoire of skills including drama, debates and presentations.

Blank’s Levels of Questioning continue to inform the planning of questioning. Most pupils working on the formal curriculum are working at level 3 onwards which encourages higher-order thinking such as predictions, assumptions, reasoning and justification. Such questioning can be used across all subjects.

When pupils move into High School, they will work towards their Pearson Edexcel accreditation in speaking and listening. Importantly, pupils will have opportunities to develop essential life skills such as interviews, arranging appointments and making phone calls in a range of contexts. The focus is on developing communication skills to prepare for life after school. Pupils accessing the formal curriculum will continue to have 2 speaking and listening sessions per week.

Impact

Pupil progress is also reviewed at annual reviews where multidisciplinary teams contribute. Referrals can be made at any time to speech and language therapists/OTs. To ensure progress continues throughout the school; detailed transitions during the summer term. Including observations, communication profiles are written annually and updated throughout the year for pupils working on the pre-formal curriculum.  these are shared with all staff working with the pupil. and resources such as objects of reference.