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Literacy at St. Mary’s


At St. Mary’s Infants we aim to develop children’s literacy skills through a topic-based approach. Wherever possible, we also try to provide opportunities for children to develop their skills through other subjects such as History, Geography and RE. Literacy lessons are taught 4 times a week with additional guided reading, phonics or spelling and handwriting sessions. 



The children are encouraged to read for enjoyment and understanding, as well as for information with the aim that all pupils will develop an appreciation and love of reading. We encourage children to read widely in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Reading focuses on two areas; decoding (word reading) and comprehension. Decoding skills are seen with both the segmenting and blending of unfamiliar words and the speedy recognition of familiar words. Good comprehension draws from linguistic knowledge (in particular vocabulary and grammar) and on knowledge of the world. Reading also feeds pupils’ imagination and opens up a treasure-house of wonder and joy for curious young minds.


Reading books are sent home regularly with a child’s reading diary, which is completed by the parent when they have heard their child read. The children are given reading scheme books which are colour coded and link to the National Book Band scheme. These book bands in turn link to the National Curriculum levels and the assessment grids. Within each band there are a good range of books from a number of publishers- these include Oxford Reading Tree, Jelly and Bean, Project X and Rigby Star as well as Real Readers (colour banded books that may already be on your bookshelf e.g. owl babies). When the children are ready their book band level is reviewed and if appropriate a new book band is allocated.


In Reception the children are given keywords to take home and practise reading and recognising. The aim is to improve each child’s sight vocabulary (ability to see a word and know it immediately without sounding it out). We ask parents to support us with this task to ensure the best possible outcomes for the children. These words are used regularly within reading and writing and, once learnt, they help children with their word recognition and flow of reading and writing.


From Reception class to Year 2 all children across the schools participate in weekly guided reading sessions where key skills are taught alongside high quality book discussion. We also have parents and support staff who help practise key reading skills through out each week and support guided reading sessions.


The school has a well-stocked library and each classroom has a variety of reading material including fiction, poetry, non-fiction, dictionaries and encyclopedias. The children have an allocated time to visit the library to change their library books once a week thanks to parent volunteers.


Phonics and Spelling

Being able to read is the most important skill children learn during their early schooling and has far-reaching implications for lifelong learning, confidence and well-being. High quality phonic teaching is the prime means by which we teach children how to read and spell words. At St. Mary’s we follow the Letters and Sounds and No Nonsense Spelling programmes.

Letters and Sounds is a phonics resource published by the Department for Education and Skills. It aims to build children's speaking and listening skills in their own right as well as to prepare children for learning to read by developing their phonic knowledge and skills. It sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills for children starting in reception, with the aim of them becoming fluent readers by the end of KS1. Phonics consists of:

  • Identifying sounds in spoken words
  • Recognising the common spellings of each phoneme (sound)
  • Blending phonemes into words for reading
  • Segmenting words into phonemes for spelling

By the beginning of year 2, children should know most of the letter sounds taught in EYFS and YR1. The focus of the No Nonsense programme is on the teaching of spelling, which embraces knowledge of spelling conventions - patterns and rules; but integral to the teaching is the opportunity to promote the learning of spellings, including statutory words, common exceptions and personal spellings.

Throughout the year the children will be taught to:

  • Develop a range of personal strategies for learning new and irregular words
  • Develop a range of personal strategies for spelling at the point of composition
  • Develop a range of strategies for checking and proofreading spellings after writing

Through No Nonsense Spelling children will be taught to spell by:

  • Segmenting spoken words into phonemes and representing these by graphemes, spelling many correctly
  • Learning new ways of spelling phonemes for which one or more spellings are already known, and learning some words with each spelling, including a few common homophones
  • Learning to spell common exception words
  • Learning to spell more words with contracted forms
  • Learning the possessive apostrophe
  • Distinguishing between homophones and near homophones
  • Adding suffixes to spell longer words
  • Applying spelling rules and guidelines
  • Writing from memory simple sentences dictated by the teacher that include words using the GPCs, common exception words and punctuation taught so far
  • Handwriting
  • In September 2018 we introduced a new handwriting programme called Kinetic Letters. It is a fantastic whole body writing scheme that has already had a huge impact within the school. There is a huge focus on building strength as this underpins handwriting: poor writing may be the result of poor strength. Children are not expected to do anything before they are developmentally ready for it and the different components of writing are mastered individually before being used in combination. Letters are learnt as movements not as visual shapes and movement remains central to developing flow and fluency. Handwriting is made easier using a pen and whiteboard while lying on the floor to write enables the hand to be held in the correct position for writing. As reading and writing are reciprocal processes, strengthening handwriting skills will support reading and writing development as a whole.


Talk for Writing

All children at St. Mary’s learn to write through Talk for Writing. Talk for Writing was developed by the author Pie Corbett. It is a fun, creative yet also rigorous approach to develop writers.

Talk for Writing starts with enjoying and sharing stories. Throughout the school, we place a strong emphasis on children reading stories and enjoying a range of literature. Through regular reading, we want children to build up an extensive and rich vocabulary for use in their own writing.

During the initial 'imitation' stage of Talk for Writing, children learn to tell a story off by heart. They retell a text with expression and actions and make use of a story map to support their retelling. Once the story is learnt, children are encouraged to adapt it. At the 'innovation' stage, children make the story their own, for example, by changing the character or setting. Finally, at the 'invention’ stage, children write their own text independently.