Reading and Literacy
The benefits of high standards of literacy are self-evident. Over time at Reading Girls’ School, we seek to raise these standards through the six strands: screening and support; reading for pleasure; explicit writing instruction; reading for meaning; vocabulary instruction; and standards of speaking. The first three are our immediate priorities, and explained in more detail below.
Screening and Support
Reading is not pleasurable if you cannot do it. This is why screening and support is first in this list. We assess pupils’ reading age on entry to the school. Any pupils who fall one standard deviation below the mean (this equates to a reading age significantly below their chronological age) then take a second test pinpoint their area of weakness as either phonics or comprehension. Pupils then receive small group intervention on this area of weakness. Since these pupils have found reading difficult in the past, it is likely they have read much less than many of their peers and consequently have a smaller vocabulary, which is another barrier to their progress. Because of this, we enrol these pupils on to a vocabulary intervention programme to supplement their progress in the main reading intervention. We assess these pupils’ reading age midway through the year, and at the end of the year to check on their progress. We also assess the reading ages of all again at the end of the year to ensure no one has fallen behind.
This will be monitored by the literacy lead and SENCO, and the interventions implemented by teaching assistants. The literacy lead will evaluate the success of these interventions at the end of the year.
Reading for Pleasure
Reading for pleasure is strongly link to a multitude of positive benefits. Once at the level of a competent independent reader, our pupils can do can do fewer things better for themselves than pick up a book. While this may be true, it does make reading sound more like medicine-to-be-taken than enjoyable-thing-to-do. We focus on promoting it as the latter. At the beginning and end of the year, pupils take an attitude to reading survey that we use to measure our progress. During the year, Accelerated Reader is a central part of our strategy to motivate and incentivise pupils to read at their level, along with giving them the space in the timetable to choose books, seek advice and receive recommendations from our experienced librarian, and have the opportunity to read independently through library lessons. Adults in the school also demonstrate that they hold reading in high regard, and we communicate the message to parents that they should do the same.
The literacy lead implements this, with support from the school librarian. The literacy lead monitors throughout the year and evaluates at the end.
Explicit Writing Instruction
Teachers can write well, and have an intuitive understanding of what writing well means in their lessons. But with some basic understanding of how language works, teachers could take much more intentional steps to improve pupils’ writing in their subject. During CPD, teachers will be taught the mechanics of a simple sentence, and how this foundation is built on to create complex sentences that are the basis for expressing sophisticated thought in writing. With writing an ever-present, taken-for-granted part of most lessons, it is something that can be leveraged into something all teachers really care about: the progress of pupils in their subject.
The literacy lead will carry out the CPD, and classroom teachers will implement the strategies with monitoring from heads of department. The literacy lead will evaluate the success at the end of the year.
The literacy lead will report on the success of the first three strands of our aims at the end of the year.
We will look to implement the three other strands of our policy next year. For now, it is important to balance our long-term ambitions for pupils with the short-term pragmatism of getting things done, and doing them properly.