Reading and Phonics 

Reading provides us with so much more than words on a page. It opens us up to a whole world of wonder, amazement and opportunities.  At Rowan Schools, we believe in sharing a love for reading with every pupil in a way which is both meaningful and personalised.  This can include sharing stories through puppetry; storytelling; sensory stories; multi-sensory approaches; massage stories; sharing a story; or just simply reading or listening to a book as a class.  Every pupil at Rowan School is supported to be able to access reading in their own individual way, ensuring we provide reading opportunities that are as unique as our pupils. 

At Rowan Schools we are on a reading journey, committed to ensuring we are giving our pupils the most appropriate and meaningful phonetical and literacy education possible.  We use a variety of reading approaches to meet the diverse needs of all pupils following our pathways to reading, which includes a pre-phonics approach, where we use the engagement areas as a support and a Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) approach. 

Reading for Preformal Learners: 

The class teacher will share stories and these can sometimes have been created and based on a published story, or made up. The stories are told orally and with expression and props be bring the stories alive. Stories can also be created and delivered electronically to support engagement, whilst still giving the pupils opportunities to explore actually books and written texts and illustrations. Published stories are adapted by the addition of symbols, simplified text and musical cues where appropriate. 

The stories are multi-sensory and each part of the story can have a sensory element. Stories are also used to develop basic skills in communication, language and literacy. 

Through the use of sensory stories that are repeated over time, it is possible for children to begin to anticipate the order of events in the story, respond consistently to the stimuli, demonstrate recognition of key parts of the story and to show enjoyment during the story sessions. It is intended that one story is the focus for two weeks which is delivered consistently by the staff team. 

It is expected that there are sufficient resources (visual and/or tactile) provided so that the children can have opportunity to explore and interact with the sensory item without waiting for extended periods of time for their turn. It is appreciated that some resources will need to be shared to allow the children to develop anticipation and turn taking skills. 

Developing pupils’ ‘pre-reading’ skills is an essential part of our literacy curriculum at Rowan Schools. Pre-reading skills focus on teaching children to tune into sounds (listening and attention), remembering them and gradually learning to name them, exploring books and beginning to recognise that print and illustrations have meaning.  

All pupils take a story home each week that they can share with their families. Families also have access to a range of online videos to create a love of sharing rhymes or stories in their home context. 

Reading for Semi-Formal Learners: 

Phonics is taught using the Read Write Inc programme. Read Write Inc. (Phonics) is a synthetic phonics-based reading, writing and spelling programme. In order to read with fluency and understanding children need to be accurate and speedy word readers. The programme starts by teaching the first 30 phonemes and gives pupils stories to read that contain only the sounds they know. The programme teaches the 44 phonemes and corresponding graphemes for them. It is structured and supportive, and includes decodable, age-appropriate stories and non-fiction texts. Activities associated with each text help the pupils discover and practise techniques for discussing and understanding stories and composing their own

A typical phonics session follows a set structure: Revisit and Review (Speed Sounds) -previously taught phonemes; Teach (a new phoneme / special friends – 2 letters but 1 sound) Practise and Apply. 

Pupils typically revisit the same phonemes and graphemes many times so they become embedded.  We understand that to progress in reading, children need to read with fluency and accuracy, otherwise their working memory will be overloaded and will impact on their ability to derive meaning from the text.  Our children need to become automatic in their recognition of phonemes so that they can decode words at speed and accurately. We are therefore always on the lookout for how we can reinforce our phonics across the school day.  

As part of the RWInc programme, the children are introduced to ‘red words’ which do not follow phonetic patterns and so must be learnt individually. 

Once children are working at the appropriate level (Red Ditty Level), they are introduced to reading books. The books include only the phonemes that the children have learnt and the ‘red words’ that they have been introduced to. 

At home, parents scan a QR code which takes them to a virtual classroom. The activities here match what the children have been learning in school. These activities include online reading books and videos for the children to watch and join in with. 

All pupils take a book home is can still be to share a story with their family but can also be a decodable book that they can begin to read themselves. They also have access to a range of online stories to create a love of sharing rhymes or stories in their home context. 

At Rowan Schools, we are currently using a combination of reading schemes; these include Read Write Inc, Oxford Owl and Project X. These enable us to include and engage each pupil in a variety of ways to ensure that all of our pupils have access to what they need to support their individual engagement, enjoyment and progress within their reading journey.   

Delivery may be whole class (in their own class or across several classes); smaller groups or on a one-to-one basis. Assessment allows us to ensure that pupils are placed in the correct groups and reading books are at the correct level for their phonetical learning.  

Reading for our Formal Learners: 

At a formal level, a varied and differentiated delivery of the curriculum. Pupils are exposed to the same broad range of topics and texts however, the delivery of these varies greatly according to pupils’ ability and understanding. This is to ensure that the students are able to experience the same broad range of classical and contemporary texts and concepts, however it is delivered to students on a level which they can access.  

The curriculum is continuously adapted and refined to ensure that it incorporates a range of both classical and contemporary texts, which will broaden the knowledge of our pupils and ensure that they are consistently challenged. The interesting topics and texts covered in the curriculum aim to awaken pupils’ curiosity, intrigue and reflection; they also allow students to make connections with other subjects and topics across the curriculum

The curriculum is carefully structured to allow pupils to continuously build upon skills and knowledge that they have already obtained. The structure and content of the curriculum allows our pupils to develop into critical and evaluative readers as well as confident and skilled writers.  

Use of stories to enhance our curriculum and learning: 

Pupils also have access to a rich variety of reading materials that are closely linked to other aspects of their curriculum for example PSHE and holistic themed lessons. We believe learning happens when pupils make sense of ideas in relation to what they already know. By including books across the curriculum, we believe that this supports knowledge and skills entering pupils long-term memory,

‘Sticky learning’. Kirschner, Sweller and Clarke (2006) satte that “Sticky learning is effectively the knowledge that stays with us forever, In other words: Learning is defined as an alteration in long-term memory. If nothing has been altered in long-term memory, nothing has been learned.” 

Reading aloud to all pupils: 

Stories have the power to open up the imagination, to create the background for a new topic, to supply new vocabulary and to provide a context for the big ideas and concepts. Doug Lemov makes the case that reading aloud is critical for developing vocabulary for all pupils, including secondary. Stories help pupils to make sense of new content, they help pupils to make connections and finally they are enjoyable! 

At Rowan Schools we believe that reading aloud to pupils has great benefits, such as they are exposed to vocabulary at maximum frequency–written text, especially difficult text, multiples the number of rare words they hear; it ensures exposure to a much wider range of words, with particular emphasis on rare words that only appear in print. 


Love of Reading 

Our aim is for all pupils to share and develop a love of reading. This includes, through learning to read using the systematic phonics and to be immersed in stories which further develops their language and understanding of the world around them. We have high aspirations for all of our pupils, supporting them to become fluent and confident readers, who can access a range of texts for pleasure and enjoyment.  


Our aim is for these skills to be transferred beyond the classroom and to apply their learning at home and in the community. 

We have a range of interventions, to promote progress and to close any gaps in learning: 

  • Fresh Start (Read Write Inc) 
  • Accelerated Reader 
  • One-to-One Tutoring (Read Write Inc) 
  • Lexia 

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