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Phonics & Reading

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go"

Dr Seuss

At Willow Tree Primary School, we believe reading is at the heart of a child’s education. Reading is therefore one of our main priorities. We have a high quality, robust and systematic approach to the teaching of phonics. The core principles of our phonics programme are anchored in the Read, Write, Inc. programme. Our high-quality phonics teaching helps children develop their reading and secure the crucial skills of word recognition that enables children to read fluently. This approach ensures all children of a range of abilities are targeted and supported from the very beginning of their reading journeys. As children become more confident readers they are supported in the development of active reading strategies and comprehension skills. It is important to us that every child becomes passionate about reading and has the desire to want to learn to read for themselves. We aim to inspire a true love of reading, by providing a wide range of high-quality texts from a range of genres. Our ultimate aim is for all children at Willow Tree to be enthusiastic, fluent and motivated readers.

Teaching Reading in EYFS and KS1

Our children learn to read effectively and quickly using Read Write Inc, a systematic synthetic phonics based programme.

During phonics lessons children:

  • Decode letter-sound correspondences quickly and effortlessly, using their phonic knowledge and skills
  • Read common exception words on sight
  • Understand what they read
  • Read aloud with fluency and expression
  • Write confidently, with a strong focus on spelling, letter formation and punctuation
  • Spell quickly and easily by segmenting the sounds in words (using Fred Fingers)
  • Develop good handwriting

In addition, we teach pupils to work effectively with a partner to explain and consolidate what they are learning. We group pupils homogeneously, according to their progress in reading.

EYFS and KS1

In Reception and Year 1, children learn:

  • Single letter sounds
  • Diagraphs (special friends)
  • Tri-graphs (special friends)
  • Simple mnemonics

Pupils rapidly learn sounds and the letter or groups of letters they need to represent them. Once they are ready, children will read books that are closely matched to their increasing knowledge of phonics and common exception words.

Year 2

Pupils in Year 2 continue to progress through the Read Write Inc. programme. Children are regularly assessed and grouped into small focus groups for shared reading. 


Children access our reading scheme at age-related expectations, unless additional intervention is needed. They also have access to our library and class libraries if they are a free reader who no longer needs a structured scheme.

Shared Reading

Once children are confident with recognising, blending and reading Set 1 sounds, they begin shared reading. During shared reading, children will:

  • Listen to the teacher model how to read a short chunk of text
  • Discuss the meaning
  • Work with a partner taking it in turns to read the same chunk of text
  • Make basic inferences based on what they have read
  • Comprehend what they have read
  • Articulate their thoughts and ideas
  • Communicate what they know and understand

Reciprocal Reading

During reciprocal reading sessions children will:

  • Work in mixed ability groups or classes
  • Focus on the meaning of the whole text rather than decoding
  • Participate in shared reading
  • Listen to each other developing each other’s points of view and agreeing or disagreeing.
  • Pupils talk to each other listen and ask key questions when needed and use scaffolded talk prompts to generate high quality talk
  • Explore their own and other people’s ideas, thinking about concepts and vocabulary in greater depth
  • Follow the process of a pre-read, predicting, questioning, clarifying and summarising with the teacher
  • Pupils will then complete a follow up activity
  • Take part in child-led discussions from the three planned questions. A ‘looking’ question (retrieval), a ‘clue’ question (clue) and a ‘thinking’ (sharing your thoughts and opinions based on the text and real-life experience) question.

Assessment in EYFS and KS1

Children are assessed using the RWI assessment every 6 weeks and re-grouped according to this outcome. Reading groups are fluid to ensure all children are supported and challenged.

Class teachers are responsible for listening to all of their children read in order to monitor their reading progress.

Children are assessed using the RWI phonics assessment three times a year. They are also assessed using materials from previous Phonics Screening Checks.

Assessment in Year 2

Children are grouped by ability using the RWI assessment. Assessment is ongoing and formative. In addition to this children regularly complete comprehension activities and reading tests.

Assessment in KS2

The lowest 20% of children in each year group will be assessed half termly and intervention strategies put into place accordingly. These include the ‘Switch on reading’ intervention and Looking and Thinking. Any children who do not make progress in phonics will be assessed using the Phonological Assessment Battery (PHaB2) and York Assessment of Reading for Comprehension (YARC) These assessments will accurately identify those children who have significant phonological difficulties and need additional help to process sounds in spoken language.

Teachers and teaching assistants are trained in Inference Training. This programme will be used for those children who need further support and who are not in the lowest 20%.

Teachers are responsible for moving children through the banded books and changing their levels when appropriate. Teachers are trained to use the Salford Sentence reading test and PM Benchmark to assess which banding a child should be accessing.

Children are assessed three times a year using tests from NFER which closely mirror the National Curriculum expectations for each year group. Question analysis can be completed for these to enable teachers to plan future learning for groups of children.

Tutoring (RWI)

Children in EYFS to Year 3, continue to receive daily 1:1 tuition tailored to their individual needs. Children in Year 4 and 5, who require additional reading support will also receive this tuition.

Our aim is for children to become fluent readers by the end of Key Stage 1, through the teaching of systematic phonics.  Decoding is taught as the prime approach to reading and pupils will become increasingly familiar with this strategy. They will develop the confidence to work out unfamiliar words in any new texts they encounter by the end of the RWI programme. 

Pupils will develop their fluency and comprehension as they move through the school enabling them to access a range of texts independently. 

Attainment in reading is measured using statutory assessments such as the end of EYFS, Key Stage 1 and 2 and following the outcomes in the Year 1 Phonics Screening check. Additionally, we track our own reading attainment through the use of RWI half termly and screening assessments, PiXL reading papers alongside ongoing teacher assessment. We continue to strive for children to achieve the expected standard in the phonics screening check. Currently, this is 82% nationally (2018-2019) by the end of Year 1 and 91% nationally (2018-2019) by the end of Year 2.

We believe that reading is the key to unlock all learning and so the impact of our reading goes beyond statutory assessments. All children will be given the opportunity to read and share texts from a range of cultures or genres to inspire them to question or seek out more for themselves.

We want Staff and children at Willow Tree to be able to talk confidently about their favourite authors, books and genres. They will be able to make recommendations and also highlight links between books they have read. As they reach the end of their reading journey at Willow Tree pupils will be equipped with the necessary reading skills and a love of literature which will help them to enjoy and access all aspects of their future learning.