We believe that all teachers are teachers of Literacy. A range of activities are ingrained within each subject’s core curriculum and in every day Academy life. The development of strong literacy improves the life chances of young people and gives them the key skills that are the fundamentals of everyday life. Literacy includes reading, writing, speaking and listening; all of which are developed each day and are a core element of all curriculum areas.
Below gives some examples of the strategies we use with pupils to nurture and develop the literacy of all of our pupils. These are strategies that are not confined to the Academy and they are areas that can be practised and developed at home.
Literacy in Form Time
The whole school reads routinely once a week during registration time. Drop Everything and Read is an initiative, which has been wholeheartedly embraced across the Academy. This independent reading programme helps students build a lifelong reading habit and refines and develops both their written and verbal oracy skills.
Teachers will work with small groups and read a novel to them during this time while others listen to students reading their novel out loud. It’s great to see the whole school community engrossed in their book!
Twice a year a Book Fair aimed at KS3 is held by the Library and English department encouraging readers to further develop their interest in reading at home. This is a great opportunity for students to fully embrace their passion for literature.
As part of actively promoting written and spoken literacy, our Literacy Coordinator (Mrs Das) tailor-makes resources for all form tutors to use which are designed to address and rectify specific weaknesses in basic spelling, punctuation and grammar. Every two weeks, form groups are encouraged to focus on a single element of punctuation or grammar alongside key vocabulary that coincides with the theme of the fortnight. Students are required to evidence their understanding of the specific skill through a variety of written tasks (occasionally an extended transactional task) which assess their grasps of written and verbal oracy.
The aforementioned grammar or punctuation foci are disseminated across the academy both in form time and in lessons and can be used as a basis for peer and self-assessment.
Our year 7 and 8 cohort have a Library lesson each fortnight as one of their English lessons. During this hour, students are guided towards books that interest them; leading on to activities which further develop their individual reading age – for year 7s, this is via Accelerated Reader. These activities could consist of retention testing, spelling tests and vocabulary tests that are completed at the beginning or end of either these lessons or an English lesson.
All teachers are aware of students’ current reading levels and can use this information to guide students towards progress. Teachers are able to use this information and data to either lead whole class readers or smaller more personalised groups where students read aloud to the teacher. As a way of engaging our students, we run an ongoing yearly competition called ‘The Reading Challenge Wall’ which encourages students within their class to read as many books in the year as possible as a whole. The Librarian displays the page number of each class and where they have read up to which spurs other classes to want to beat them. We have found this to bring classes together and encourage them to read much more than they originally were.
Another way of branching out across phases, we also have our year 8 cohort reading alongside our Nursery students. Once a fortnight our students get together and read in small groups in the Library space with their nursery mentees. Our year 8s enjoy the responsibility of working with the younger years and becoming exceptional role models for them. We have found this to be an incredibly successful element of our Library lessons and something that we will continue to support and plan for.
To help support your child’s progress even further, there are a number of things you can do to help at home:
- Reading for a minimum of 30 minutes every night.
- Reading a variety of genres (fiction/ non-fiction/ magazines/ newspapers) to develop awareness of how language changes with different types of texts.
- Writing reviews/ offering recommendations
- Visiting the local library
- Read the book then watch the film – discuss differences and similarities in the story and why there are any changes
- Creating a ‘To Read’ list for the year with a target to complete ‘x’ amount of books.
Accelerated Reader is a whole-class reading management and monitoring programme that aims to foster the habit of independent reading among primary and early secondary pupils. The internet-based software initially screens pupils according to their reading levels, and suggests books that match their reading age and reading interest. Pupils take computerised quizzes on the books they have read and earn Accelerated Reader points related to difficulty.
Accelerated Reader has positive effects on reading comprehension and reading achievement. Once ‘Star-Reader’ tests are taken, AR suggests novels for pupils to read to challenge and inspire them. This is a guaranteed way to ensure pupils are always being stretched and are never sitting within a comfort zone. As these books are leveled by their sentence length, average word length and word difficulty, we can expect to see a rise in ambition in all pupils’ writing with a significant boost in their word choices.
Our pupils engage with Accelerated Reader during their library lessons. In this time, they reflect on their fortnight of reading, test their understanding of their test and have time to engage in often independent and sometimes teacher-led reading.
Peer Reading Mentoring Programme
This is a targeted, year-long enrichment session that is specifically designed to boost their literacy levels throughout this academic year. The Peer Reading Mentoring Programme enriches students who are below their expected reading age to support students in developing their reading skills to put them in line with their age and peers. These sessions run on three days of the week during form times targeting each year group individually. As this is a year- long course, we ensure all students’ who are chosen for this programme are carefully picked based on their reading test which is completed in the first few weeks of term 1.
The scheme is a great opportunity for your child to spend quality time with a variety of texts that build on their existing reading skills. This will benefit their performance in English and across other subjects as it provides them the chance to read aloud with their mentor which benefits their progress not just in English but all subjects across the academy. Alongside this, mentors are encouraged to test their mentees with: spelling, vocabulary and retention activities within these sessions too. Academy Sixth formers, year 10 students and year 9 students are paired up with their mentees who have exercise books and reading log booklets to track their progress and test their knowledge based on what they are reading. Mentors are encouraged to pause students and ask them questions based on what they have read within the chapter to test their retention skills. To support them further, regular spelling or vocabulary tests are encouraged to be conducted weekly within their exercise books by their mentors. To further support the progress of mentees, we also have a ‘Reading Journey Wall’ in the Library space, which tracks attendance, reading effort and page number. We use this as a visual reminder for students to take control and responsibly for their own progress within this scheme.
All of our Mentors are trained at the beginning of the year by Miss Le Brunn and re trained in term 4 to ensure their skills and support are to the best of their ability. We address their roles and responsibilities and highlight the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of being a mentor. We provide guidance on how to engage and support their mentees by offering a variety of strategies to do so, in particular if a student is struggling with a word how to approach this in a professional way.
As an Academy, we are always trying to find new ways of bringing our secondary and primary phases together, therefore we decided to branch out and begin a new peer reading scheme for our year 7 and year 3 students. Once a week, our year 7s visit the primary school and read for an hour with their year 3 mentee who are chosen based on their reading levels. Not only does this programme support students academically, it creates positive and meaningful relationships amongst themselves to want to learn and improve. The older years enjoy their sense of responsibility and purpose for trying to make their mentees stronger readers in preparation for secondary school and life.
Extra Literacy Lessons
Reading and writing are key to a child’s development and are skills needed to access the adult world fully. Whether students attend university or not, as they get older, they will be expected to complete more sophisticated reading and writing tasks.
To support some Year 7 and 8 pupils in accessing the mainstream curriculum and further embedding their literacy and numeracy skills, an additional literacy curriculum has been developed as an extra support for targeted pupils. At the Hundred of Hoo, our broad curriculum has been specifically designed to mirror many ‘Step-Up’ qualifications that bridge the literacy gap whilst making use of the Lexia ‘Power Up’ program.
Lexia PowerUp is designed to help pupils primarily in KS3 to improve their basic reading and comprehension skills. However, it can also support pupils in KS4 who are struggling to access the GCSE curriculum. The program helps teachers address gaps in fundamental literacy skills while helping students build the higher-order skills they need to comprehend, analyse, evaluate, and compare increasingly complex literary and informational texts.
Lexia creates a personalised learning experience designed to target students’ specific learning needs without impacting on teaching time and resources. The program assesses students’ reading abilities and automatically places them at the appropriate level in 3 Study Strands:
- Word study – targets gaps in basic reading skills and develops academic vocabulary.
- Grammar – improves written composition and reading comprehension.
- Comprehension– teaches the skills required for higher order text analysis.
PowerUp helps to engage, challenge, and motivate students to take ownership of their learning as once placed, students work independently on each strand where they can monitor progress on their personal dashboard. The program features game-based motivational elements, which include: auditory and visual feedback, animated rewards, age-appropriate songs and humour and video hooks.
To support independent learning and maximise time on the program, it can be used at home and is available on multiple devices.
Step Up/On Curriculum
Reading and writing are key to a child’s development and are vita skills needed to fully access the adult world to the peak of their potential. Whether Pupils attend university or not, as they get older, they will be expected to complete more sophisticated reading and writing tasks. Step Up curriculums exist nationally as a booster of these fundamental reading and writing skills. The approach is focused on skills-based activities and tasks which covers English and literacy.
Pupils undertaking these additional lessons will be taught to read a range of texts (literature/non-fiction) in a variety of forms (letters/leaflets/diaries etc.). Pupils will cover comparative skills and learn to use personal opinions to inform their comments. A range of comprehension skills will be focused on, encouraging Pupils to develop their ability to locate, comprehend and explain the content of a text. With regards to writing skills, Pupils will learn to write in an effective and coherent manner using grammar and punctuation and spelling accurately. Alongside this Pupils will develop a wider vocabulary that can be embedded appropriately in both written and spoken form. Pupils will also be able to demonstrate a confident control of spoken English.
Knowledge Organisers and Exercise Books
From Sept 2019, our year 7 and 8 pupils have used Knowledge Organisers in all of their subjects. Using these, pupils prepare for lessons by learning their specialist vocabulary, spellings and definitions of new words in advance. Not only making lessons more accessible, but improving subject specific literacy. In all subjects, pupils are tested sometimes daily, often weekly and always termly on their retention.
At The Hundred of Hoo Academy, our exercise books also support literacy. On each cover, pupils have access to key spellings, formula and equations. The Literacy page has been designed to support academic writing and is applicable to most subjects.
The use of Class Charts and Google Classroom to reinforce our strategies
At Hundred of Hoo, there are opportunities for Literacy everywhere. All our teachers have access to Class Charts to reward points for things such as: Neat Handwriting, Secure Spelling, Good / Outstanding Reading, Good Comprehension and Extended Writing.
- Break it into sounds (d-i-a-r-y)
- Break it into syllables (re-mem-ber)
- Use a mnemonic (necessary – one collar, two sleeves)
- Say it as it sounds (Wed-nes-day)
- Words within words (parliament – I AM parliament)
- Use a keyword: process as a key word for excess, recess, etc.
- Visual memory (look-cover-write-check)
Introducing new keywords and subject specific vocabulary
- In years 7-8, pupils are introduced to new specialist vocabulary through their Knowledge Organisers.
- In later years, pupils are introduced to the word during lesson time.
- Say the word.
- Ask pupils to say the word out loud.
- Ask pupils to read the word as it is used.
- Ask pupils to use the word in a description or explanation. Write it on card and put it on display for the rest of the scheme of work
- Use subject specific vocabulary in starters, use total recall quizzes to test the retention of subject specific vocabulary