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Learning to decode text accurately is just the start of the reading journey.  Reading is all about establishing meaning and appreciating the purpose and intentions of the writer. In order to achieve this, our approach to reading is based on a set of principles. We aim to encourage not only a love of reading, but a high level of competence in the subject. Our key principles are:

  1. Independent reading

As teachers, we must set children up to be independent readers – for future schooling and for their own pleasure. The amount of time students spend in independent reading is the best predictor of reading achievement. However, we also believe children shouldn’t spend endless amounts of time reading without purpose. As a result, reading in the classroom is purposeful and leads to one of the following activities.

  1. Independent written work

In order to display their understanding of a text, a child’s ability to write a written response is crucial; written answers to comprehension questions are embedded in our education system. We prepare children to answer these well, so that they can show their levels of understanding. 

  1. Reading aloud

Reading aloud allows children to access high level texts, enables them to hear how unfamiliar language and sentence structures should sound and is proven to aid comprehension of a text. As a result, teachers regularly read aloud to children. The Teachers as Readers project found that hearing books read aloud gave children a model for their own independent reading. We encourage children to find opportunities to read aloud themselves, both at home (with a family member) and at school.

  1. Teacher-led discussion and modelling

‘Book talk’ – where an adult models a reader’s thoughts and encourages children to do the same – is often the most enjoyable part of a reading lesson. Throughout the school, skilful teachers use discussion to encourage initial responses to text and modelling to coax deeper meaning from children.

  1. Questioning

Effective questioning has a very important role to play in reading lessons, not only as part of whole-class or group discussions, but on a one-to-one basis. If a child asks a question, our skilful teachers will ask a question in return and refer the child back to the text, rather than instantly providing a model answer.

  1. Focus on vocabulary

Having a good vocabulary is the gateway to understanding – if we don’t understand the words we read, then we can’t understand a text. We provide children with opportunities to hone skills such as morphemic and contextual analysis. We often teach unfamiliar words before children encounter them in the text. We also use independent reading in KS2 and reading journals to help children become confident in selecting and finding the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary when they read.

  1. A range of texts

This is crucial. We ensure that children read widely. Within lessons, children are exposed to printed or spoken words, films and pictures. Including both fiction and a non-fiction texts increases understanding of the fiction text and give more contexts for the non-fiction text. It’s also a great way to provide opportunities for discussion of other issues, from world affairs to grammar and punctuation use.

  1. Deliberate focus on skills

Whether during whole class reading lessons, small guided group sessions or 1:1 reading, we use this time to focus on particular skills. We =focus on a range of key skills, each one linked to its own individual icon, and we use this ‘universal language of skills’ across the school. The skills are:

  1. A teacher who loves reading

We believe that teachers must be readers too and when children see this, it motivated them to read. Projects such as the Spark! Book Award, where Barnes was announced as School of the Year, showed that when children see their teachers as readers, they want to do the same. The impact this has on attainment – ‘the will that leads the skill’ – is proven.

Teachers focus on developing seven aspects of learning:

AspectReading strategiesKey phrase
1Use a range of strategies, including accurate decoding of text, to read for meaningDecode accurately. Read with basic understanding (recall)
2Understand, describe, select or retrieve information, events or ideas from texts and use quotation and reference to text Seek, find and understand. Literal response to text. Refer to examples in the text
3Deduce, infer or interpret information, events or ideas from textsInference and deduction. Read between the lines; interpret information; put yourself in the character’s shoes. Use evidence from the text to support views
4Identify and comment on the structure and organisation of texts, including grammatical and presentational features at text levelWhy is the text presented and organised as it is? Comment on structure. Comment on presentational features
5Explain and comment on the writers’ use of language, including grammatical and literary features at word and sentence levelWhy did the writer use that word/phrase/image/sentence construction/ punctuation? Awareness of the impact of the language used on the reader; literary awareness
6Identify and comment on the writers’ purposes and viewpoints, and the overall effectWhat are the ‘big messages about life’ here? What are the writer’s attitudes, values and view on the world? What is the writer’s purpose?
7Relate texts to their cultural and historical contexts and literary traditionsWhat style of writing is this? Which literary genre does it sit in? How does this text relate to the world of literature? Can you put the text in context: socially/historically/culturally?

To help develop children develop these skills adults should pose questions for them when they are reading. The links below are to a range of generic question prompts that adults can use to formulate questions to pose when their child is reading. These can also be found in the Support for Parents section.

Reading questions