Acocks Green

 Reading at Acocks Green Primary School

At Acocks Green Primary School we love reading! Throughout their time with us here at school, learning to read is one of the most important things your child will do. From the very start, we ensure that a love of reading is embedded. Our aim is to enable all our children to become enthusiastic and reflective readers, who understand the importance of reading as a lifelong skill. Reading is the key to success!

Our children are encouraged to listen to and share texts wherever possible during the school day. We want our children to enjoy reading a wide range of books, as well as to be able to talk about these books and their authors with confidence.

We teach reading from Nursery right through to Year 6: from one-to-one reading with an adult, whole class story time, assembly time, daily reading practice sessions and independent reading. As soon as the children join us, we focus on the development of reading skills with daily story sessions, teachers and children sharing books both with and without words. This allows our children to develop an understanding of story structures and comprehension skills before focusing on words.

In Nursery, steps into learning to read begin with wordless books. These text types allow our children to develop their own story ideas by using their imagination to decide on the narrative to go with the pictures they see. Following on from this, we then begin the development of our children’s reading skills further through distinguishing between sounds. We actively support and encourage the children to listen out for sounds in their environment and experiment with a range of sounds using their whole body before moving onto listening out for the phonic sounds in words.

We believe learning phonics should be fun, so when they are ready, we start to teach the children letter / sound recognition. We are now using Acocks Green Primary School's own phonics scheme based on other DFE accredited schemes  to ensure it suits the needs of the pupils at our school. To enhance a multisensory approach to teaching phonics we still also use the Jolly phonics actions and songs to support our kinesthetic learners further with the acquisition and retention of the sounds. Our children are taught the sounds made by individual letters first, this then moves quickly onto looking at the sounds made by pairs of letters. A pair of letters that make one sound is called a digraph.

The children start following the sequence of sounds set out in the schools phonic progression. The first set of sounds are known as phase 2 sounds. As the children learn these sounds they will begin to read and bring home phase 2 reading books which have a red colour band on.


Phase 2 sounds can be seen here:

  1. s, a, t, p
  2. I,n,m,d
  3. g,o,c,k
  4. ck,e,u,r
  5. h,b,f,l
  6. ff,ss, ll, j
  7. v, w, x, y
  8. qu, z, zz, ch
  9. sh, th, ng, nk

Children then progress through phase 3, 4 and 5 where they will learn vowel digraph sounds and alternative ways of making sounds. To view Acocks Green Primary School’s full phonics progression, please click here.

Phonics sessions are taught daily and once ready, our children are not only learning how to read the sounds in words but also how these sounds can be written down. This is essential for reading, but it also helps children learn to spell. Alongside the teaching of sounds, our children will also start practising reading and writing ‘tricky words’ (words which don’t sound out easily). Words such as ‘to’, ‘the’, ‘said’ and ‘be’ are good examples of tricky words the children will learn. We do this to ensure our children gain knowledge of how to recognise these common sight words which can’t be spelt or read phonetically using the letter-sound correspondences, which they have been taught. We introduce these trickier words slowly and ensure the children have lots of exposure to them, with time given to both read and write them down so they become more familiar.

All children develop at different rates therefore we group our children according to the phonic phase they are working on rather than adopting a whole class teaching approach to teaching phonics.

Phonics workshops for parents of children in Reception are held in the autumn term. We aim to explain this all further to enable parents to support their child’s reading at home.

Our children practise their reading with books which match the phonic phase and ‘tricky words’ they know. These are known as fully decodable books as they allow the children to have reading success by using the skills taught in their phonic sessions. This does wonders for the children’s confidence once they start seeing that they can read. The children then progress through these stages throughout their time at school as their phonological awareness grows and develops.

More information on the teaching of phonics at Acocks Green primary school can be found on our Phonics Statement.


Individual reading sessions and reading at home

At Acocks Green Primary school we still see the importance of children having weekly individual reading sessions with teaching. These sessions ensure that children can demonstrate their reading skills while teaching staff focus individuals next steps. These next steps are recorded in children’s home reading diary so that parents are aware of how to support their child at home.

Children who have daily phonic sessions are classed as early readers as they are still acquiring the sounds in the English alphabetic code. For these children we use a selection of schemes for their individual reading session including Collins Big Cat, Floppy Phonics, Rising Stars Reading Planet, Oxford Reading Tree and Project X. These books are levelled into phonic phases so that the children can progress through the books in levels of difficulty, introducing the children to new words and sounds as they are taught in their phonic sessions. Teachers will choose books for the children that are carefully matched to their ability. Reading deliberately patterned, simple, repetitive grammatical structures create both confidence and success. Our aim, as the children move further on in school into Key Stage 2 is for them to be fluent readers. Once children have completed all the phonic phases and are recognising and reading words with all the sounds taught they are classed as fluent readers. Children will then have more choice over their individual reading book as they will have all the skills needed to tackle these more challenging texts. Following individual reading sessions children will take their book home to practice and share.

It is vital that children practise their reading at home often by being heard by an adult. This is important for all of our children, no matter what reading stage they are on. Even though our fluent readers may be able to read the words, they still need opportunities to discuss the meaning of the texts they are reading.

For our younger readers, reading little and often is most effective. Learning to read can be a hard and tiring process at the beginning. We’d like our parents to aim to read the given banded home reader book for about 15 minutes each day with their child. Parents then need to sign the reading diary to inform the teacher about what has been read. Books should return to school every day in a book bag so that they can also be shared with the children by an adult at school as well as be changed during the week.

For our readers in Key Stage 2, children have a little more choice over the books they can take within the reading stage they are on. Our teachers and teaching assistants make sure that the books taken are appropriately matched to their reading level, they also carefully monitor the amount children are reading at home. We like our older children to be reading for half an hour every day. Comments should again be recorded in their reading diary which is then checked at school. We encourage our children to read a wide range of authors and text types which they find in everyday life, as well as books.

Our teachers read regularly to the children too and every day, at 2.50pm, our day ends with class story time. This is so that the children get to know and love all sorts of stories, poems and information books. Listening to stories being read helps to extend children’s vocabulary and comprehension, as well as support their writing. We choose these books carefully as we want children to experience a wide range of books, including books that reflect the children at Acocks Green Primary School and our local community as well as books that open windows into other worlds and cultures. To further support this, we actively encourage our children to take home ‘real books’ from the class collection or from the school library that they visit each week. It is the reading and sharing of these real books that helps to instil children’s love for reading. These books may be of a higher level than they can read on their own, especially for our early readers. However, we want our children to experience books about all sorts of topics and from well-known authors so these books are great for adults to share and read alongside their children. Reading to children regularly, ensures they understand that reading is a pleasurable process. Children love to listen to stories being read or told.

Every classroom has an inviting book corner that encourages a love for reading. We curate these books and talk about them to entice children to read a wide range of books.


Reading Practice sessions

Each week children will also have a small group reading practice session. These are timetabled for 30 minutes throughout the school, starting from reception. Early readers who are having daily phonic sessions will read books from the The Collins Big Cat scheme for the reading practice session.

Children will work with other children who are at the same reading/phonic level so teaching can really be focused on their needs. Throughout the week, following the reading practice session, children will complete activities based on the text as well as having time to re-read the text during daily ERIC sessions. If the reading practice book used is also available on the Collins ‘e’ book library it will also be added to children’s virtual book shelf so that they can enjoy the book at home.

Teaching reading: Reading practice each week

  • We teach children to read through reading practice sessions each week. These:
    • are taught by a fully trained adult to small groups of approximately six children
    • use books matched to the children’s secure phonic knowledge or to appropriately levelled books for our fluent readers.
    • are monitored by the class teacher, who rotates and works with each group on a regular basis.
  • Each reading practice session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do not overload the children’s working memory. The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills:
    • decoding
    • prosody: teaching children to read with understanding and expression
    • comprehension: teaching children to understand the text.
  • In Reception these sessions start in Week 4. Children who are not yet decoding have daily additional blending practice in small groups, so that they quickly learn to blend and can begin to read books.

Comprehension sessions 

Each week our children have dedicated timetabled slots for comprehension. This is to ensure our children know how to gain meaning from the texts they are reading and thus gain further understanding.  The texts chosen for comprehension lessons are selected by teachers to further develop our children’s understanding of a topic being studied that half term or to further enhance their knowledge of the class author that half term or of the class story.  

Comprehension sessions are structured similarly to our reading practice sessions, whereby the children spend time reading through the text independently before the teacher intervenes. This is to allow the children some time to get familiar with the text that will be used in the lesson. They are then asked to re-read, this time reviewing it to identifying any vocabulary or phrases they are uncertain of for whole class discussion. Teachers then spend time unpicking the vocabulary or phrases chosen with the children, the teacher will have some of these prepared to ensure good comprehension is gained by all. Reading the text with the class aloud also takes place in these sessions to develop understanding through prosody. 

It is only when the text is unpicked and a solid understanding of the meaning behind it is gained by all, that the questions are then discussed answered in the session. The questions set are designed by the teachers to match our VERIC style of questioning from our reading practice. This allows for clear links better the lessons and so further enhances the children’s ability to answer these well in both lessons each week. In comprehension lessons, staff may include a mixture of these strands or choose to focus on just one to enhance the children’s understanding of how to respond to it. Structuring our comprehension lessons in this way allows for prescribed teaching of the strands and so allows the children to be confident in how to respond to each one in both comprehension and reading practice sessions each week. 

More on this can be read in our school reading policy.

Interventions and assessment

Some older children in key stage 2 will continue to access phonics through daily interventions, if they need further consolidation and development of their reading skills. We check the children’s reading skills regularly so we can ensure they are in the right groups for phonics and reading practice sessions, as well as to ensure they are on the right reading stage. Children will move to a different group if they are making faster progress or may have extra intervention if we think they need some extra help. We will always let you know how your child is doing.

We use various ways to find out how well the children are getting on in reading. We use this information to decide which phonic and reading practice group they should be in. In Reception and Year 1 half- termly phonic checks are completed with every child to review the sounds and tricky words they know on sight. In Years 2-6 half-termly reading comprehension assessment tests are completed.

In the summer term, the government asks us to do a phonics check of all the Year 1 children. This provides us with extra information about their progress. We will talk to you about how this is done in school as well as let you know how well they have done.

Year 6 also has statutory tests set by the government in the summer term, where their ability to answer questions about a text are measured. The children will be well prepared for this, so please don’t worry. We ensure our teaching includes lots of opportunities to discuss characters, settings and events. This reading for meaning is really important and only when a child can fully decode a text and answer questions about it, do we feel they are ready to move onto the next colour band reading stage.

We are fortunate at Acocks Green Primary to be able to provide the children with access to a wide variety of reading materials from story books and poetry, to non-fiction books, journals and newspapers as well as our new e book library. We believe that by engaging children in a variety of reading materials and reading experiences, they will become confident and keen readers. This then has an automatic effect on their writing style throughout their primary education. Experience shows us that children who are keen and confident to read because they have been given opportunities to share a text, also in turn become confident writers. The two don’t happen in isolation, they work side by side. So wherever you can, please take time to read a book together.

Remember we are always here to answer any questions you may have, so feel free to call or email your child's class teacher, the school English lead (Mrs Stait), the Early Reading lead (Miss Bradney) or pop in to chat to us at the end of the day.


Useful websites:

Oxford Owl for online texts children can read linked to their own reading level

Readiwriter for spelling activities set by your class teacher     (Years 1 -6 only)

Phonics play for learning sounds through flashcards and games

National Literacy Trust for fun resources and advice to help you support your children’s literacy development

Book Trust provides online information about children's books and includes information on Children’s Book Week and includes its Best Books Guide

Westley Road, Birmingham, West Midlands B27 7UQ

0121 706 2165