St Nicolas CE Primary School

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English has a pre-eminent place in education and in society. A high-quality education in English will teach pupils to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions to others and through their reading and listening, others can communicate with them. Through reading in particular, pupils have a chance to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Literature, especially, plays a key role in such development. Reading also enables pupils both to acquire knowledge and to build on what they already know. All the skills of language are essential to participating fully as a member of society; pupils, therefore, who do not learn to speak, read and write fluently and confidently are effectively disenfranchised.

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Early Reading & Phonics

At St Nicolas Primary School, we give a high priority to the teaching of phonics as we know that reading is a lifelong skill that unlocks all learning. We are a two-form entry school so it is essential that our approach to teaching phonics and reading is accessible to all learners, regardless of background. Our aim is for all pupils to leave our school being able to read fluently and have a real love of reading. Therefore, we are dedicated to ensuring that early reading, through phonics, is taught effectively every day. 


Phonics (reading and spelling) At St Nicolas Primary we strive to ensure that all children become successful, fluent and confident readers and believe this is achievable through a combination of strong, high quality, discreet systematic phonics teaching combined with a whole language approach that promotes a ‘Reading for Pleasure’ culture. 

This is why we teach reading through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. We start teaching phonics in Reception and follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised progression (see phonics handouts below), which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through school. 

As a result, all our children are able to tackle any unfamiliar words as they read. At St Nicolas Primary, we also model the application of the alphabetic code through phonics in shared reading and writing, both inside and outside of the phonics lesson and across the curriculum. We have a strong focus on language development for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects. 

For more information and to watch guidance videos visit

Phonics Handouts

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Reading has a high profile at St Nicolas. It is the key to effective learning. Children are encouraged to appreciate books, to read independently, to make good progress and to take immense pleasure in reading. We aim to foster skills which will remain with the children for life. We aspire to support our children to become language rich by reading widely and reading ambitiously.

For a detailed explanation of how we teach reading across the school, including our Phonics provision, please refer to the document titled 'How We Teach Reading' which can be located the English folder above. Otherwise, see below for a summary of our approach and some tips for reading at home.

One-to-one reading: with an adult in Reception. Some children will access targeted one-to-one reading support through subsequent years, depending on individual need.

Guided reading: children are taught in a group with similar need. Focussed teaching session where children apply a range of strategies to read successfully, decoding new words, making meaning and building fluency. Children access a range of book type, publishers and genre to build their breadth of reading experience, reflect their interests and motivate them to read. Children are given the opportunity to talk about they have read, make connections, express opinions and demonstrate deep levels of understanding. Books are finely graded according to PM Benchmarking levels, ensuring close match between the book and what the child can do.

Shared reading: as a whole class, children share a text which may be above their own reading level. All children are able to listen, visualise, make connections, build and refine their own understandings, sharing these with others and to enjoy a high level of literature, exposing them to rich vocabulary, language structures and themes. This the impacts on their own reading, developing skills such as prediction and inference as well as promoting reading for pleasure.

Independent reading: children have the opportunity in the school week to read for pleasure, browsing the books available to select one they would like to read. Children can read these successfully, fluently and with expression. These may come from the library, class or year group reading areas or through recommendation. Teachers and support staff are able to signpost children to books they might enjoy and ensure that each child has a rich and varied reading experience.

Going home books: scheme books, again finely graded according using PM Benchmarking levels. Children should be able to read these independently and fluently. Children change these weekly and comments from parents and carers on how the child is reading are welcomed. Older children summarise and evaluate what they have read – with the reading record acting as a dialogue between them and their teacher. Children will also bring real books home to enjoy, either to share with an adult or to read independently.

Literature spine: the collection of books we feel at St Nics that all children should have read, heard and enjoyed during their years at primary school.


A Handbook for Parents of Early Readers

What is Reading?

‘Reading, like thinking, is very complex. When you think, all you have to do is produce responses from within you. When you read you have to produce responses which interpret what the author wrote, you have to try match your thinking to his.’ Marie Clay 1991

And this can only happen once a child has effectively learned to decode a text!

We teach reading through a balanced literacy programme, using a variety of approaches and materials.

We introduce and practise skills and strategies within a meaningful context. Activities are used to reinforce skills which are then always applied to context, to the complete reading picture.

Concepts around print are developed early:

  •       Working from the front to the back of a book
  •       Reading left to write through a word and across a page
  •       One to one matching
  •       Punctuation
  •       Capital and lower case letters
  •       Cover and illustrations

To be independent readers, children need to use a range of reading cues:

Visual cues – these enable children to identify letters, and their associated sounds (phonics) either on sight or by using these to problem solve.

Semantic cues – these enable children to use meaning to support problem solving. Whilst emerging as readers, this is likely to involve them using the pictures.

Syntactic cues – children use their inherent knowledge of correct grammatical structures to predict what would sound right.

When listening to my child read, what to do if…

…a word is misread or missed out…?

  • If it is an isolated case and the sentence retains meaning, leave it.
  • If it happens often, point it out at the end of the page, perhaps reading it as they have said it and see if they notice that it doesn’t match

…my child won’t concentrate…?

  • Check there are no distractions, or other more inviting activities on offer
  • Share reading with your child, maybe reading a page each.

…my child stops at a word…?

You could try several approaches (not in any order)

  • Prompt them to look at the letters
  • Prompt them to look at the pictures or think about what is happening in the story
  • Prompt them to try the sentence again
  • Prompt them to read on to the end of the sentence and then try again thinking about what would fit
  • Encourage them to have a go

If they are really stuck, tell them so they don’t lose the flow.

…my child is not reading clearly…they are plodding through with no expression…?

  • Share the reading with them, reading with expression yourself and encouraging them to do the same.
  • Notice punctuation and how we can use this to guide expression
  • Bring the story to life when retelling it after reading

…the book has been memorised…?

Don’t worry, this is part of learning to read. Children build confidence and can read with fluency and expression. They work on early reading behaviours, such as direction, build high frequency word recognition, and develop visual matching.

How to help…


  • Matching games: pairs, snap, bingo, etc
  • Words games: I-Spy, Can you see? Where is?
  • Odd one out
  • Follow the line, making a pattern 


  • About events
  • Read stories
  • Sing rhymes and songs


  • To your child talking
  • To questions asked
  • To opinions given


  • Share books, flap books, picture books
  • Use local library, book shops, charity shops
  • Read letters, postcards, signs, instructions, labels, etc
  • Share comics, joke books, computer, television

How can I Help?

Over time, your child will start to bring home a reading book to practise their reading. Children are taught to read at school, but a small amount of daily practise at home has a massive impact on the progress and development of reading.

Hearing children read can be divided into

3 parts…

Warm Up: Get comfortable, look at the front cover, what can children see, link it to their own experiences (inc. other books)

Reading: Read through the story

Reflection: Response to what has been read, relating it to experience, other books. Talk about characters, enjoyable bits and interesting sections. Give your opinions, too.

Before your child is ready to read he/she will spend time developing these skills:

  • Recognising letters and seeing the difference between letters
  • Understanding the purpose of books. This will include the child ‘reading’ aloud, making up the words or memorizing them, and taking pleasure in sharing books with adults or elders
  • Awareness of the direction of writing and direction of pages across a whole book
  • Being able to sequence a story or events
  • Link a story to their own life experiences
  • Begin to predict what might happen
  • Develop awareness of the connections between print and speech


  • Read stories to your child. This gives your child an example of good reading and enables them to enjoy more advanced texts
  • Children make best progress in learning to read when they have these opportunities at home and at school
  • Reading should be fun and enjoyable for you both!


Talk for Writing

We want to help all our children develop into thoughtful readers and creative writers and it is through the Talk for Writing approach that we believe we can achieve this. Through its multi-sensory and interactive teaching it enables children of all ages and abilities to learn to write a wide range of story/text types using various methods including:

  • Listening to and learning texts and stories;
  • Taking part in drama and role-play;
  • Drawing and story mapping;
  • Collecting words and language strategies
  • Building their working knowledge of grammar.

At St Nicolas we are all very enthusiastic about this approach as it brings out the best in the children and the teachers! (who have to write model texts for the children to use as the basis of their own writing) – we are all writers together! Writing becomes a joint adventure and the results are exciting!

What exactly is it?

Talk for Writing is an innovative approach to teaching writing developed by the literacy specialist and writer Pie Corbett. It uses high quality model texts to introduce the children to different story/text types which they then learn off by heart and scrutinise with a writer’s critical eye. You can find out more about Talk4Writing here:

Children learn the underlying structures and the process of planning using story maps. They also learn about the key strategies for creating interesting characters and settings and how to use a range of sentence types to create different effects including suspense or adventure.


Talk for Writing has three key phases which work together to develop knowledge, confidence and independence in writing:

Imitation: We usually like to start our Talk for Writing units with a ‘wow’ starter which fires up the creativity and imagination of the children before they immerse themselves in the model
text. During this phase the children learn a model text using actions and story maps. The key to success for the children is that they internalise the text type through repetition and rehearsal. They explore the structure of the narrative and investigate the different characters, settings and events. They also begin to look closely at the language used and the effect this has on the reader. We call this process ‘read as a writer’. The classroom becomes a dynamic, interactive resource filled with word ideas, sentence types and language tools collected by the children to use in their stories later.

Innovation: During this phase the teacher and the children begin to change aspects of the model text using their own ideas. They explore the text using different characters, settings or events and new ideas for descriptive language whilst sticking closely to the underlying structure. It is during this phase that the children work using their toolkits. The toolkits, based on the features and ingredients of the model text, remind children of the different strategies they could use in their stories and helps them to see the progress they are making.

Invention: During the invent sessions the children plan and write their own story based on the text type they have been learning. They experiment with the ideas and begin to explore their own style of writing using sentence types from the model text.



We use Letter-join as the basis of our handwriting scheme that covers all the requirements of the 2014 National Curriculum. 

Why Is Handwriting Important?

Handwriting needs to be really good as quickly as possible so that children can read their own work and, therefore, go back and check it. We teach the correct letter formation from day 1, introducing ‘tram lines’ as soon they are ready. All children should have good foundations in cursive handwriting by the time they leave year 1 or will be receiving intervention.

Handwriting is a basic skill that influences the quality of work throughout the curriculum. At the end of Key Stage 2 all pupils should have the ability to produce fluent, legible and, eventually, speedy joined-up handwriting, and to understand the different forms of handwriting used for different purposes.

We aim to make handwriting a fluent and automatic process that does not interfere with creative and mental thinking.

As a catalyst to speedy handwriting we encourage parents and carers to use the Letter-join resources at home and can arrange for free access to the Home Edition of Letterjoin.

School Aims:

We aim for our pupils to develop a neat, legible, speedy (fluent) handwriting style using continuous cursive letters that leads to producing letters and words automatically in independent writing. By the end of Year 6 pupils will understand the importance of neat presentation and the need for different letterforms (cursive, printed or capital letters) to help communicate meaning clearly.


Taught how to form letters correctly using print. Use pre-cursive patterns as part of fine motor skills work. Put in place fine motor skills interventions where this is impacting on ability to correctly form letters.

Year 1:

As soon as the class are correctly forming the printed letters, move to teaching cursive handwriting. Continue with fine motor skills interventions where needed. Use handwriting books for English.

Year 2:

Continue to explicitly teach cursive handwriting and expect children to be joining in their day to day work by half way through the year. Continue with interventions where fine motor skills are the issue
or where small group explicit teaching of handwriting is needed. Use handwriting books for English. Move to lined when ready.

Year 3:

Continue with interventions where small group explicit teaching of handwriting is needed. Build up fluency and consistency of handwriting. Expect all children to be joining their handwriting all the time.

Year 4 & Above:

Expect all children to be joining their handwriting all the time. Set the expectation from the start of the year and enforce them except where a provision map acknowledges that there are fine motor skills issues and an intervention is still needed. Continue to practice fluent handwriting and allow the children to start to develop their own personal handwriting style.