Early Reading at Riseley
At Riseley C of E Primary School we teach reading using a variety of strategies and methods, which are altered to meet the needs of the children where possible.
We are lucky to have an excellent Nursery where our children begin their journey to becoming a fluent reader. In Nursery our children spend time listening to sounds, through Nursery Rhymes, sound games, singing activities and by sharing books and listening to stories.
At Riseley C of E Primary School we teach synthetic phonics using 'Little Wandle Letters and Sounds' as a central scheme. We also use resources and activities from a variety of other sources to complement this scheme. This allows us to be flexible and support children's individual needs where required. Some children find phonics very difficult to master and may require a more 'look and say' approach. If this is the case, our children will receive support to learn to read using this method.
Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised was born out of a collaboration between Little Sutton Primary School and Chesterton Primary School (part of Wandle Learning Trust) which started during the Covid lockdown.
Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised has been built around the update (Letters and Sounds improving rates of progress 2021) and draws on the excellent practice of both Little Sutton Primary and Chesterton Primary, as well as their work with schools around the country.
Their complete phonics programme also draws on the latest research into how children learn best; how to ensure learning stays in children’s long-term memory and how best to enable children to apply their learning to become highly competent readers.
Learning to read
Neurological research has identified an area of the brain dedicated to the process of reading which Dehaene calls ‘the letterbox’. This area is not operational from birth; rather, the neurological pathways are established as we learn the connections between letters and sounds. These pathways and activation of ‘the letterbox’ provide the basis for automatic word recognition and fluent reading.
Reading is complex: it is more than just word recognition. Comprehension plays a vital role in reading too. Comprehension starts with our understanding of oral language and develops rapidly on the back of word and sentence reading.
Both of these are strong reasons for children learning to build words from their letter-sound components at an early age, when their brains are at their most plastic. Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised is firmly based on these principles.
How we learn
Effective learning is dependent not only on what is learned, but on how it is learned. Dehaene identifies four ‘pillars of learning’. These are simple ideas in themselves, but they form the basis of understanding that unites education with neuroscience and leads to the most effective learning.
These four pillars are central to the resources and teaching approach of Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised.
1. Focused attention
Preferably for short periods, regularly and frequently repeated
Our short, daily lessons achieve precisely this focus on what needs to be learned, without extraneous distracting activity. Videos model how teachers can maintain focused engagement and this is reinforced by exactly matched and engaging resources.
Each lesson gets to the true understanding of the purpose of the learning, not as chanted ‘learning objectives’ written up on a whiteboard, nor as automatic ‘thumbs up’ at the end of a lesson, but by children knowing that each new sound learned means that they can read more words.
This is immediately demonstrated through reading words and sentences in the lesson, and applied in fully decodable reading books during reading practice sessions.
2. Active engagement
Continual expectation of children in chorus and individual oral response
Dehaene is clear that active engagement does not mean children are left to find out things for themselves, nor that there are involved in poorly focused activities. In Little Wandle lessons, active engagement is achieved through the continual expectation of children in chorus and individual oral response. This is immediately followed up by the activity of reading and writing words and sentences to apply new sounds learned as well as to practise previously learned ones.
Further active application comes in regular reading practice sessions with decodable books, demonstrating to children themselves their rapidly growing ability to read.
3. Error feedback
Errors are best countered by a teacher modelling the correct response
Learners need errors corrected so that they can continually adjust and improve the mental model they are constructing. However, this needs to be achieved without the disincentive of overtly negative response or the creation of a fear of failure. In GPC learning and in word reading, errors are best countered by a teacher modelling the correct response, encouraging the child to repeat this, and so providing the correction without any negativity.
This approach is central to our pedagogy. It is supported in our materials, where mnemonic and word cards, sound buttons, etc. also provide the opportunity to quickly go back to secure learning as a way of correcting errors in a positively encouraging way.
4. Practice and consolidation
Small items of learning are practised and repeated many times.
This repeated practice in our lessons is an essential element of committing learning to memory. Learning is also revisited frequently, both discretely and through direct and immediate application. One lesson in every five is devoted to revision and consolidation, equating to one whole week every half-term.
Learning is also regularly practised and consolidated through application in reading practice sessions with decodable books, in writing sessions, and with further opportunities encouraged throughout the school day.