Reading & Phonics
Literacy is a whole school priority at Finch Woods Academy and when it comes to reading and writing (and oracy for that matter) we place competency as a priority across the curriculum. Each year we will continue our focus on developing the reading skills of all pupils across the full curriculum.
When pupils join our school, we often find that Literacy is a huge barrier to learning. Many pupils have gaps in their learning, or have struggled to keep up with their peers in mainstream schools. At Finch Woods Academy, we work to remove those barriers, giving pupils a fresh start; concentrating on key life literacy skills, and approaching learning and literacy in creative ways.
At Finch Woods Academy, everyone reads. It is expected. It may be at different levels and in different contexts; one may have a fishing magazine while another is enjoying a meatier text, but there is something for everyone. The staff of Finch Woods Academy are confident in their conversations with pupils about reading and we have a number of displays that celebrate the importance of reading for our pupils.
For a small school we offer access to an extensive library of texts. In the school building, we have a space dedicated to books and reading skills. However, the books available also extend to an online library that pupils can access on reading tablets. Pupils can often be found taking the lead in choosing texts for pleasure reads. When we read for enjoyment, it is important that our interests are catered to so the pupils take the initiative.
We have appointed Reading Ambassadors in the school to promote new texts and help pupils find texts that may interest them. We use pupil voice to purchase new reading books for the library every few weeks. This keeps our reading offer fresh and up to date. The books we read are often future award winners and we ensure that pupils have access to the most current literature available.
Every day, pupils have reading time on their timetable. This could be group reading as a form, independent reading of a book that they have chosen from the library, or paired reading with a member of staff. For a few, Sonny the school dog becomes a reading buddy. For an unconfident reader, reading to a non-judgemental furry friend can offer them a ‘way in’. Sonny the rescue dog serves as a reading buddy to some of our pupils. Always happy for a calm voice and a friendly cuddle, we combine reading time with the relaxing experience of spending time with him to develop pupil confidence, and a love for reading time.
Reading at Finch Woods Academy is fully inclusive, and as stated, can take many different forms. However, what we do is guided by the data collected at key points in the year. All pupils use Accelerated Reader. The baseline test gives them a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) score that ensures that the books that they are directed to are at that ‘sweet spot’ level of challenge where they will be able to read and understand them independently, while also making excellent progress.
Books are colour-coded and the library is organised in such a way that pupils know where to find the books best matched to their levels of reading ability. Books are purchased every few weeks so there is always a great selection of age and stage appropriate texts for all readers and there is always the opportunity for bespoke orders for pupils with a ‘book wish list’.
We use the data gained from Accelerated reader to track progress and organise intervention if required. This could be additional support in reading time, or it could be withdrawal sessions in the reading breakfast club to target a return to phonics teaching with ‘Fresh Start Phonics’ at Key Stage 3, or additional support for Key Stage 4 exam reading skills for our older pupils.
Our pupils thrive from practical and kinaesthetic areas of the curriculum and we have found opportunities to embrace texts and reading in these contexts. Our Forest School and Outdoor Education classes use map reading, breaking down decoding skills for practical purposes. Our enrichment activities include motor mechanics with instructional materials to aid pupil understanding of car maintenance. Our governors come to the school and read with pupils. The pupil voice research shows how pupils have moved from having little confidence in their skills, to finding reading “relaxing” and “a way to chill out”.
Outside of school, pupils can access a range of reading resources while at home. All pupils are enrolled on to the online library system so that they can access books on remote devices. All pupils also have ‘lexia’ access; which is a reading adaptive learning package that is used by pupils both at home and inside school.
If you have any ideas of how we could improve reading at Finch Woods Academy further, please share them with Mrs Rhead or Mr Harvey.