Stisted C of E

Home Page

Primary Academy

Reading and Writing at Stisted


Our aim is to help every child become a confident fluent reader and for them to recognise the importance of reading for pleasure and for meaning. We have adopted a systematic synthetic phonic teaching programme that recognises the importance of pre-reading skills as well as an awareness that some children may require an additional orthographic level phonics approach to aid fluency.


The Reading Curriculum

Our reading curriculum identifies all the composite skills and conceptual understanding children need to be an effective reader. These composites skills and understanding come directly from the National Curriculum.


Our definition of skills is the application of key knowledge in the correct order and sequence. This means skills or complex tasks or processes are the by-product of knowledge acquisition.


The knowledge and the progression of knowledge children need to acquire reading skills is planned into our reading curriculum.


For example, children first learn the sound each letter shape makes before learning that blending these sounds together to form words. This is knowledge. The process or skill of reading is applying this knowledge. This requires practise until it becomes automatic.


The knowledge children need to be an effective reader has been carefully mapped out and can be download from a link below.

Systematic Synthetic Phonics
Phonics is a method of teaching children to read by correlating sounds with alphabetic symbols.


The teaching programme we use is Twinkl. This is an accredited Systematic Synthetic Phonic (SSP) teaching approach approved by the Department of Education.

Children learn the skill of segmentation. This means separating a whole word into corresponding units of sound/graphemes. This assists with early spelling and writing.


English is a complex language and not all words are spelt how they are pronounced so we teach a few 'tricky' words such as the, was and to by sight so that children can be introduced to books they can read.

To help children remember and learn specific phonemes and graphemes we may introduce an action, visual trigger or rhyme. 


Pre-reading skills


Pre-reading skills are the skills children need before they start to decode printed words. Many of these skills are learnt naturally, during the course of a normal childhood at home and in the nursery/preschool environment. They include visual discrimination such as learning to match shapes and patterns – an essential skill before they can match abstract letter shapes with sounds.



Pre-reading skill provision includes matching shapes and making patterns.



Where children need further development with visual discrimination, provision is made both in the classroom and our Montessori setting which has sensorial development as part of the curriculum.


Resources to refine the children's visual discrimination skills.


Children first learn to identify and match shapes before moving onto abstract printed letters.


Matching games such as Pairs or Snap help children recognise the same shape which they will later need to distinguish between different graphemes/letters.


Auditory discrimination is also an essential pre-reading skill. This is the ability to discriminate between different sounds. 


Auditory discrimination is a key pre-reading skill essential to help children distinguish between the 44 phonemes.


Musical activities, listening walks, sound stories, sound bingo, nursery rhymes, clapping and action songs help children acquire these essential skills needed to distinguish between the 44 phonemes (units of sound) in the English language.

Sound based activities develop children’s auditory discrimination.


Our approach places great emphasis on activities that are kinaesthetic and indirect preparation for future learning. 


For example; the practical life activities, such as using pouring jugs, tongues, pegs or tweezers to move items from the left vessel to a right vessel, develop not only hand to eye coordination but also tracking across the mid-line left to right which is an essential pre-reading skill.




Pouring jugs to develop children’s left to right tracking.


Children also need to have the motivation to read and language skills so they can understand what is being read and to share their knowledge and ideas. This can be encouraged by reading, displaying and exposing children to good quality books from an early age both at home and at school.



Multi-sensory approach 


We also use a multi-sensory approach to support our reading provision which centres on concrete visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning.  This includes a strong emphasis on methodology that underpins the Montessori approach to learning.



Our sand paper letters and sand trays support a kinaesthetic approach to learning the sounds that letters make.



The Montessori approach places great emphasis on activities that are indirect preparation and kinaesthetic. Indirect preparation refers to pre skills needed for learning that is to follow.


Our Montessori provision includes opportunities for sensorial development which isolates the senses, enabling them to be further developed. This is particularly important for auditory and visual discrimination skills. 




Our provision includes a sensorial curriculum designed to refine the senses.


        Activities to refine visual discrimination.


Montessori also uses a more direct multi-sensory kinaesthetic approach that has children building words (encoding) before actually reading them (decoding).


This approach is organic, as children are able to put the letters for the sounds they know together into a word before they are ready to interpret and string together the sounds of a word on a page.  


Children begin learning the letter sounds using sandpaper letters, which incorporate the sense of touch to further reinforce learning.




           A Kinaesthetic approach to learning the sounds each letter shape makes.


While the child learns the letter sound, the teacher says the sound it makes as they trace the letter with their fingers on a textured sandpaper inscription of the letter.

The teacher may also use the Three Period Lesson to teach each letter sound.


Once a child has mastered the sounds associated with each letter, they are introduced to large wooden letters (the moveable alphabet) where they match objects with the letter.



Matching the initial sound of each object with the letter (grapheme).


Children are also taught segmentation - the skill of identifying all the phonemes (sounds) within a word. 


Early reading skills - identifying and matching initial middle and final sounds.


The moveable alphabet soon allows children to learn to read and write at the same time whilst simultaneously developing the fine-motor skills needed for a controlled pencil 'pincer' grip.



The next step is for children to read simple captions or phrases before moving on to reading sentences.


Tricky words outlined in the Twinkl programme are introduced in sets at this stage. These are words that cannot always be decoded (read) using a phonetic approach. Children learn these by repeated exposure and practice until they are firmly embedded in their long term visual memory.

The first set includes the words is, it, in, at, a, the, and. Once learnt, this enables children to start reading simple captions or phrases.

The specially designed language boxes and phrase/sentence strips are carefully sequenced to build on children’s prior knowledge. 



Phrase strips build on prior learning including knowledge of letters and sounds and recognition of high frequency words.


Our Montessori, Early Years and Key Stage 1 classrooms are equipped with large and small moveable alphabets, languages boxes the children progress through and sandpaper letters.


Later, pictures of phonetic words are introduced for variety and additional practice in word building.



Montessori language box progression begins with pink before progressing to green and blue.


After the child has mastered two and three letter word building, they begin matching reading cards with the objects, and later pictures, and also begin working on building four or more letter phonetic words. 


Carefully designed language boxes allow children to build on prior learning.




The green language boxes progress from the pink and blue language boxes.

Soon the child can begin to read phonetic phrases and sentences, and match them with pictures. 


The Large Moveable Alphabet is also used to help children build and match phrases to picture clues.


Children begin by taking home picture books with no words to encourage discussion and interest for reading.

Phonetic based books are introduced so that children can use their newly acquired knowledge of sounds to decode words and read real words from an early stage. 

Later, children are introduced to books that require recall of high frequency words that cannot be decoded. These are words that need be learnt through visual recognition and memory.


The teacher will use a bespoke approach and carefully select and match the reading scheme books based on the child's learning needs. This will depend on an individual child's mastery of phonics.



Early reading books that require children to use their learnt knowledge of letters and sounds.


All children have access to a reading book to practice the sounds they have learnt and aby tricky words. 

Our early reading books are banded into 6 levels which reflect the order and sequence sounds and tricky words are introduced. This ensures children are given the right level of reading material to practise their early reading skills.


The core set of books we introduce children to is Rhino Readers published by Twinkl although we have a range of books from other publishers that we have carefully graded to ensure that no child is asked to read a book they cannot read because they have not been taught how to decode the words within that book.



The list of books that we have carefully graded from Level 1 to Level 6 from other schemes reading schemes include :

•    Jelly and Bean
•    Jolly Phonics
•    Songbirds
•    Moon : Amazing Child Phonic Readers
•    Songbirds
•    Read, Write Inc.
•    Big Cat
•    Project X
•    Floppy Phonics
•    Rigby Rocket Readers
•    Scholastic Connectors
•    Big Cat Collins
•    Project X
•    Lighthouse
•    Ladybirds
•    Snap Dragons
•    Look and See 


Beyond Level 6

Once children have achieved the objectives at Level 6 in the Twinkl programme. They move onto the Collins Big Cat Reading Bands. These have been levelled using the Insitute of Education bands for guided reading.



When children enter Key Stage 2, they have access to books in the school library arranged alphabetically and graded according to their Lexile score.

A book’s Lexile measure is analysed by MetaMetrics©. Lexile scores are an international standard for measuring the reading level and text difficulty of a book. This is where a book is given a readability or text difficulty level. The two main criteria it tests are word frequency and sentence strength. A text’s Lexile Framework works in increments of 10 with 10L being the lowest. Measures below 10L are classified as BR or Beginning Reader.

Children in Key Stage 2 are regularly assessed and given a Lexile Score to assist them with choosing a book suited to their reading ability. We currently use Reading Pro to do this. Reading Pro also allows children to take online quizzes to assess their understanding of books they are reading.

Teachers are also able to monitor individual pupil's Lexile growth over time and specific cohorts.


We use the following benchmarks which are adjusted for the United Kingdom proficiency bands :







Year 3




Year 4




Year 5




Year 6






Only children who have attained a Lexile score of 400+ at Key Stage 2 are put onto the Reading Pro system. Children remain on levelled phonic readers until they reach this point.



Orthographic level phonics

When a child can read a word instantly without putting in effort to decode it, the word has been orthographically mapped into their long term memory. This is essential because so many words are not pronounced as they are spelt.


Research suggests that some children with reading or learning difficulties cannot learn to read fluently by phonics alone and require a broader range of approaches running alongside phonic teaching. This is because learning to read is more complex than relying solely on blending sounds. Fluent readers actually use four processing systems : phonological, orthographic, meaning and context.


Most children acquire these abilities implicitly but a significant minority do not. These children need to be taught these processing skills explicitly. Alternative orthographical and alphabetic level phonics teaching includes:


  • onset and rime patterns (best, west, rest),
  • whole word recognition
  • chunking words into syllables (rather than phonmes) e.g butt-er-fly.



Key reading comprehension skills


There are 4 main comprehension reading skills. These are: 
•    Retrieval
•    Deduction
•    Inference
•    Interpreting authorial techniques


This is the ability where to find, interpret and understand literal information.


This is the ability to use logic and reasoning to deduce further or implied information.

For example, if Sally is wearing a yellow jumper and Poppy is wearing the same colour of jumper as Sally, we can deduce Poppy must be wearing a yellow jumper. The answer is certain. 

This is the ability to assume further information from the facts presented although it is not certain. It is probable but more like an educated guess. It must however be based on textual evidence.

For example, if Sally always seems to wear a yellow jumper on Monday and today is Sunday. We can infer that Sally is most likely to wear a yellow jumper tomorrow. It is not certain but the inference has some basis. 

Interpreting authorial techniques and literary devices
This is the ability to gain a closer understanding to an author’s intentions by interpreting their careful word choice or the way the text is presented.

Authors use a range of authorial techniques or language devices to steer and influence a reader either to give greater clarity, emphasis or paint a picture in the mind’s eye of the reader e.g. a flashback, personification, metaphor, alliteration, use of italics, bold print, subheadings, bullet points etc.

For example, if the writer writes that the car roared like a like lion, the purpose is to give the reader the impression or image that the car is a powerful noisy car by comparing with a lion with similar qualities. 


Reading for meaning

Children are taught to read for meaning from the outset through discussion, planned activities and questioning.  The quality of questioning and the ability of the teacher to guide readers to seek and interpret clues and search for meaning beyond the literal is critical otherwise children may continue to read texts at a superficial level and not understand what the author intended to convey. 

Questioning is used to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyse concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we do not know, to follow out logical consequences of thought or to control discussions. 


This grid illustrates how questioning can be used to put increasing demands on the reader to interpret the printed word. 

Simple closed questions focus on basic understanding and retrieval. As questions become more open and complex, the reader requires the use of their deductive, inferential and analytical skills.




Complexity of Questions Grid used by teachers to support children's thinking and comprehension.



Questions can also be framed based on Bloom’s taxonomy to help. The example questions below put increasing demands on the reader.



Who are the main characters?  What did they do?    



Why did the character run away?    



What can we learn from what happened to the main character?  



 What is do all the main characters have in common?



How might the main character have acted differently if…?  



Which character was most persuasive and why?

Guided Reading
This is where an adult reads and hears a small group of children read the same book or text. The teacher guides children to a deeper understanding of the text through word solving, defining unknown words to develop vocabulary, searching for and using information, maintaining fluency, encouraging predictions, inference, deduction, analysis and critique.

Shared Reading
Similar to guided reading but usually the teacher reads. The children can follow the text either in the book or as an enlarged version on the screen. This enables children to experience more challenging texts beyond their fluency ability to develop their vocabulary and comprehension.


The teacher models reading and interjects with explanations of the reading strategies they are using to read and comprehend the text as if they are wondering aloud.


The teacher may set the class follow up tasks based on the text to develop and deepen their understanding of the text.


Whole Class Reading
The teacher or class select a book or novel that the teacher reads a section or chapter of each day. The book is selected for a specific purpose e.g. its rich vocabulary, exposing children to new genres, or to promote the love for reading.



Close Reading
This involves the adult selecting a short passage and asking the reader, group or class to read the passage more than once and on each reading develop a deeper understanding. It is the role of the teacher after each reading to facilitate discussion through questioning


First reading – What is the text about and what are the important details?

The first reading is a superficial reading where the children are asked to summarise what the text is about in terms of a general understanding of the key themes, key details and key ideas. On the first reading they only need to summarise the passage and determine the main ideas. 

Second reading – How does it say it?

The second reading focuses on vocabulary and how the text is written. 

This is where the children zoom in on words, phrases, vocabulary, sentence structure and how the text is organised on the page. 

They may wish to ‘read with a pencil’ where they highlight or underline key words or phrases that are worthy of further discussion or clarification. 

This is where children identify unfamiliar words and phrases, seek definitions and clarification and offer reasons for specific word choices.  


Third reading –  How effectively does it say it?
The third reading focuses on the purpose of the text and how effective it is in conveying the key messages to the reader. 

The children identify the purpose and perspective of the author’s intentions or purpose including their choice of words or the way the text is organised. This is where the children zoom out again and analyse and evaluate the whole text. 




Example of Close Reading

Sally likes red but was wearing the same colour as Poppy. Tom was wearing a yellow jumper. Poppy was wearing the same colour as Tom. 



First Read 
•    What is this short piece of writing about?
•    Can you summarise it in your own words?
•    What is the main topic or theme?


Second Read  
•    Are there any words or phrases you are not sure what they mean?
•    Which words or phrases stick out?
•    Are there any unusual words?
•    Are there any patterns or repetition?
•    Can you think of an alternative or better word for ‘like’?
•    What do you notice about the sentence structure?


Third Read


  • What is the purpose of the text?
  • Does it convey this well?
  • What are the good/bad points?
  • Is it well written?
  • Do we need to use any inference or deduction?
  • Have we spotted any authorial techniques that need interpreting?
  • How could it be written in a clearer, less confusing way?
  • How could the sentence structure be changed to give greater variety and make it flow better?




Reciprocal Teaching

There are four sequential stages to this guided reading strategy.


The idea is that children will eventually lead the session themselves using prompt cards to provide the structure. Initially the adult will be the leader until they hand this role over to a child.


The main focus centres on the children devising their own questions and asking the group to discuss the answers.


The children learn to ask more in depth and searching questions as they become more familiar with the format.



  • What do you think this page/text/section/book is about….
  • What details might you expect to find…. (non-fiction)
  • What do you think might happen next and why ….(fiction)



  • Let’s think of as many questions we can ask about this text.



  • Are there any words or phrases that need explaining?
  • Is there anything else we are not sure about?



  • What is the text about and what are the most important details?



Reciprocal Reading

Reciprocal Reading is a teaching and learning strategy that is similar to Reciprocal Teaching since it asks children to use similar processes but in this instance readers improve their comprehension skills by exploring the printed word from different perspectives.

It is a structured method of guided reading where children are gradually taught to take on group roles to explore and find meaning in texts.

Each child is assigned a different role in the group and performs set tasks. 

The children operate as ‘book detectives’. The roles they might play in a reciprocal reading start with the processes they have experienced in Reciprocal Teaching :


The Leader decides who will do what. They are in charge! The Leader introduces the text and must try to ensure everyone is joining in and following. 


The Predictor asks all the readers to make predictions about the text based on information they already know. What do you think will happen? What will happen next? What will this character do now?


The Clarifier helps the group to identify confusing words, sentences and ideas. They help the group to understand the text. It can be useful to ask each reader to highlight confusing words, sentences and/or passages for discussion as soon as the reading is over.


The Summariser helps the group to identify the most important ideas in the text and what the text is mainly about. They provide a summary of the text.


The Questioner asks questions about the text. Guided Reading Questions by Bloom’s Taxonomy could be helpful in establishing which questions to ask in order to encourage higher-order thinking.


Later, other roles can be assigned such as :


The Illustrator draws or illustrates what they have read about in a picture, diagram or cartoon.


The Passage Master looks for what they think is the most interesting passage in the story and justifies their selection to the group.


The Feelings Finder finds words or parts of the story which show or describe feelings or emotions.


The Word Finder picks out new or interesting words used by the author and can give their definition.


The Link Maker links between this story and other stories or real-life events.

The children work together, play their different roles, and in the end they gain a more thorough understanding of the reading text, while also gaining valuable teamwork skills.


The children work together, play their different roles, and in the end they gain a more thorough understanding of the reading text, while also gaining valuable teamwork skills.


Independent Reading
This is where children read to themselves for enjoyment. They are not quizzed. It is important that children are fluent readers and can read silently to themselves. Great care must be taken in their selection of reading material to ensure it is not too difficult.

The school has a well-stocked library for children to take books home. Children with a lexile score of 300+ have access to this facility via Reading Pro which assesses their Lexile score and makes book recommendations based on each book’s readability. There are over 850 fiction books in our library ranging from a Lexile Score of 300 to 1300.




Developing positive attitudes to reading through a well-presented library.


The children independently check books in/out using a scanner and Tracking Pro - a library system suitable for junior aged children to use.


Themed days
We run annual book fairs, take children to the theatre and have regular dressing up days or activity days to promote books including World Book day. The purpose is to promote the love of reading.


Curricular impact and assessment

Assessment is not only important for rapid and sustained reading progress because it informs what a teacher needs to do next to move a child forward in their learning (assessment for learning), it also assesses to what extent the school is achieving its curricular intent for reading provision. 


This assessment process uses observations or assessment tasks which may be kept to help monitor individual progress and the impact of curricular provision and implementation.


We keep a formal track of:


•    Phonemes/graphemes the children know and can recall
•    High frequency words the children know and can recall
•    Year 1 phonic screening data
•    Year 2 and Year6  end of key stage assessments
•    Lexile scores from Year 2
•    NFER assessment data (Year 3 - Year 6)
•    Reading ability relative to the national standards/expectations


These are formal assessments at a moment in time and help track a child’s progress but can also be used to inform. 

Where there is a particular need, additional assessments may take place such as :


•    PM assessments – a finely tuned diagnostic tool 
•    Fluency scores

Leaders also keep a formal track of progress and attainment data as well as how reading provision is being delivered and its quality and impact. This assists with school self-evaluation and training needs.



Our online Reading Pro App not only helps plan children's next steps in learning but tracks progress across the school.


Targeted reading interventions

Children who are not making the progress expected should be identified and provided with an intervention to accelerate their reading. This may involve additional work on phonics, word recognition, fluency or lower order comprehension development.
The following questions form a diagnostic guide for ensuring the child receives the right type of help or intervention.



o    Can they segment and synthesise words?
o    Do they know all 44 phonemes and corresponding graphemes?
o    Can they decode unfamiliar words using phonetic knowledge?


o    Can they rapidly read all the 100 high frequency words?
o    Can they track along the line and to the end of the sentence as they read?
o    Do they use all forms of punctuation marks to assist them with tone, expression and

o    Can they skim and navigate a text to find a word or phrase or section?
o    Can they read to themselves for a period of time and summarise what they have



o    Can they recall and remember what they have read?
o    Can they self-correct if they mis-read a word by realising the sentence does not make

o    Do they understand the words they are reading?
o    Are they reading for meaning and can they summarise each sentence or paragraph 

      they read?
o    Do they attempt to read other irregular or unfamiliar words using sentence context

      by scanning to the end of the sentence?
o    Can they read silently for a period of time and summarise what they have read? 
o    Can they infer meaning from the sentence context?
o    Can they deduce meaning?
o    Are they sufficiently fluent that they can read with tone and expression?
o    Can they make predictions?
o    Can they make comparisons?
o    Can they identify key authorial techniques and their purpose in conveying a message

      more clearly or effectively?
o   Do they know what the following question words are asking them to do/find: who,

     what, where, when, which, why, describe, explain, how?
o   Can they verbally answer questions about a text and provide textual evidence?




Curricular Intent

Our writing provision is designed to help children to:


•    develop the skills required to be a fluent and confident writer in a range of genres

•    enjoy the writing process appreciate the importance of writing for a purpose and as a

      basic life skill

•    make good progress in writing relative to their starting points relative to national

      standards and expectations.



Pre-writing skills


Early writing is taught simultaneously alongside reading. This is because many of the pre-writing skills are similar to pre-reading skills such as visual/auditory discrimination, gross and fine motor co-ordination and early language skills including vocabulary development and speech.


Writing is very much a hands-on process where children develop hand strength early on during activities that encourage use of the “pincer grip”, such as the cylinder blocks. The hand position used to pick up the blocks is the same as the one used in holding a pencil.



The cylinder block activity assists with developing the pincer/pencil grip needed for writing.


Pouring and transferring activities teach children to transfer the contents from the left jug to the right jug to encourage left to right tracking which is an important reading and writing skill.

Further early writing skills involve practical life activities that use tongues, tweezers or pegs to transfer objects from a left vessel to the right vessel. This not only develops hand to eye coordination, it develops tracking across the mid-line left to right and pincer grip which are essential pre-reading and pre- writing skills.



This piece of equipment designed to strengthen children's pincer grip - an essential skill for holding a pencil



The pestle and mortar activity helps children build strength in their hands in readiness for holding a pencil. 


Transferring pegs from the left to right dish with the dominant hand strengthens the child’s pencil grip.


Threading and beading activities develop children’s hand eye coordination and pincer grip – essential skills before being able to use a pencil with control. 


These early pre- writing skills are all taught from the outset alongside our phonics reading programme because there is a close link between letters, sounds, speech and writing.



Children first learn the sound each letter makes


In the early stages of writing, children learn to construct words using wooden letters their knowledge of letter shapes and sounds. These are the same words the children learn through the reading programme.


Once a child has mastered the first set of sounds associated with each letter, they are introduced to large wooden letters (the moveable  alphabet) where they match objects with the letter.

They begin with matching the first letter with the initial sound of an object.

Children begin by matching the grapheme (letter) to the initial sound of an object.


Children soon realise that the letters and sounds they know create words.


Children then move on to building or encoding their first words first words consonant vowel consonant words (cvc) using only the letters and sound they have learnt. The first 6 letters and sounds they learn are : s - a - t - p - i - n 


The order and sequence of these are introduced are always the same as systematic synthetic phonics programme.



Children can build cvc words after learning the first 6 phonemes and graphemes.


The next letter and sound ‘m’ is introduced which enables children to write more words using the moveable alphabet.

Children use this knowledge to build cvc words that can be constructed phonetically


The next step is for children to sequence words together. This begins with an article and a noun. This requires children to learn high frequency words that cannot always be encoded (written) or decoded (read) using a phonetic approach.



Children learn the High Frequency Words by repeated exposure through a whole word look and say approach until they are firmly embedded in their long term visual memory.


High frequency words outlined in the Letters and Sounds programme are introduced in sets so as not to overwhelm the children. The first set includes :


is     it    in   at   a    the     and 


The children are then taught and progress to article-adjective-phrases using their knowledge of high frequency words and encoding words using their knowledge of letters and sounds.


They are taught say, rehearse and internalise the entire phrase before constructing it. 


Children are encouraged to form good writing habits by verbalising the whole caption before constructing it.


Our approach to early writing direct multi-sensory kinaesthetic approach that has children building words (encoding) before actually writing them on paper.


This approach is organic, as children are able to put the letters for the sounds they know together into a word before they are ready to interpret and string together the sounds of a word on a page. 

The advantage of using the Large Moveable Alphabet for early writing is that children gain success at an early stage of building words, phrases and sentences whilst not being hindered if they have not yet mastered correct letter formation.


This means children gain an understanding of a complete sentence often before they have the physical skills to write a sentence on paper.


After writing captions or phrases (labbelling objects or pictures), the children move on to constructing complete sentences.


At this stage, children only construct sentences based on prior learning and are not asked to write words they do not have the phonetic knowledge to encode or visual memory for spelling non phonetic words


Children are not expected to construct their own sentences at this stage because they may not have internalised the concept of a sentence or have the skills or knowledge to encode all the words.


Instead, children construct pre-determined simple sentences that are based on the letters sounds and high frequency words they have been taught and learnt.


Children are taught say and rehearse and say the entire phrase or sentences rather than build sentences word by word.


This is because writers need to verbalise and internalise language patterns and syntax before committing them to paper. These are the principles that underpin Talk for Writing.



The child uses the sentence strip to methodically self check and correct any errors.


Children are generally expected to construct labels, captions and simple sentences before they can physically write these sentences. Skills in mark making and eventually letter formation are simultaneously and systematically taught. 


Only when children have mastered constructing sentences physically with the moveable alphabet are they expected to write sentences on paper. This is because the demands may be too great. Children always begin with pre-determined sentences that are linked to the reading phrase strips so that they gain success from an early stage.





The children work towards forming recognisable letters and knowing the sounds these letters represent before moving onto writing simple words. This may initially be using a sand tray.


 Sand paper letters and sand trays are used to develop correct letter formation.



The order and sequence the letters are introduced are the same as our systematic synthetic phonics programme.


Where children are having difficulty with correct letter formation (handwriting), they may need additional activities to develop and strengthen their fine and gross motor movements, muscle strength in their fingers and their hand to eye coordination. 

This will enable them to develop a controlled pencil grip.

Activities to support developing fine motor skills include using scissors, tweezers, kitchen tongues, pipettes, clothes pegs, threading, buttoning, beading, weaving, pouring, painting, tracing, sorting, tightening nuts and bolts, fixing lego bricks etc.

However, gross motor skills should be sufficiently developed before fine motor skills. Gross motor skills refer larger actions involving the limbs such walking, balancing, hopping, skipping, twisting turning, rolling etc.



Practical life equipment designed to strengthen hand muscles needed for writing.


Developing fine motor skills for controlled pencil control.



Writing Progression


Children progress through the following stages. A more detailed sequence and progression can be seen in the Writing Bands we have developed which outline the skills, knowledge and understanding expected for each year group. These can be viewed at the foot of this page. 


Stage 1 :         Letter sound recognition
Stage 2 :         Matching objects with initial sounds 

Stage 3 :         Building cvc words with the moveable alphabet
Stage 4 :         Letter formation
Stage 5 :         Introducing high-frequency words
Stage 6 :         Articles, nouns and plurals
Stage 7 :         Noun phrases
Stage 8 :         Simple captions
Stage 9 :         Simple sentences
Stage 10 :       Independent writing
Stage 10+ :     Writing as an author for purpose and effect


Stage 1:      Letter sound recognition
Once a child is competent at the activities in Phase 1 Letters and Sounds, including orally segmenting and blending simple words, the following lower case letters (graphemes) and corresponding sounds (phonemes) are introduced. 


The blue letters are vowels and pink letters are consonants.


               s a  t    p  i  n       m  d   


At this stage, the child is not expected to write or form these letters, they are only expected to recognise the letter shape the sound each makes.


These letters and sounds are not introduced all at once. They are introduced one at a time on an interleaved basis. 

This is where children learn one phoneme/grapheme at a time whilst revising previously learnt phonemes/graphemes to help commit it to the long term memory. 

As a general rule, new phonemes/graphemes are not introduced until the previously introduced ones have been mastered.

Practising old with new is critical in enabling children to remember all they have learned whilst simultaneously moving forward.


Once the child fluently recognises the letter and sounds of s and a, the letter and sound t is introduced whilst recapping and revising the previous two. 


The letter and sound p is introduced, the first sound learnt is dropped and only the previous two are revised and so on.

The sandpaper letters enable children to physically feel and attach sounds to each letter shape. 




Sandpaper letters are used to support kinaesthetic learners


Upper Case Letters (Capital Letters)


Capital letters are taught alongside the lower case letters. However, a very clear distinction is made between the capital letter (its name) and the lower case letter (the sound it makes).


For some children, especially those children with cognitive learning difficulties, the lower case grapheme is sufficient at this stage.


Once the child has mastered recognising the grapheme (letter shape) with its corresponding sound (phoneme) for the first 6 letters and sounds, they progress to the next stage whilst simultaneously learning the next set of letters and sounds in the same sequence as the schools reading programme.

The following stages whilst outlining progression must overlap as children are not expected to learn all 44 phonemes and graphemes before moving onto Stage 2.

Stage 2:        Matching objects with initial sounds


By this stage, the child should be able to identify the initial sound of known words as this is part of Phase 1 : Letters and Sounds by matching the letters and sounds taught so far with objects beginning with that particular initial sound.


Here the child matches wooden letters from the moveable alphabet to a picture or object: 




        s        a        t                          



Matching each object's  initial sound with the corresponding grapheme  



Stage 3:      Building cvc words with the Large Moveable Alphabet


Children match picture cards with cvc labels before progressing to building these words using the Large Moveable Alphabet.


As part of the simultaneous reading programme they will be learning to blend and segment so that they can encode simple consonant vowel consonant picture card nouns. 


It is important at this stage that the only words the child is expected to build contain phonemes/graphemes that have been taught.


Children are not expected to write with a writing implement unless they have the fine motor skills and controlled pencil grip to do so.


Instead, they build words using the moveable alphabet as in the examples below :





The child works on the floor using the large mats, the moveable alphabet and picture cards. To avoid children misinterpreting the picture cards, these may need to be explicitly taught.


The child will eventually progress their knowledge of letters and sounds beyond the initial set in Letters and Sounds (satpin).    





Stage 4:     Letter formation 


Children begin letter formation when they have demonstrated sufficient gross and fine motor coordination. If this stage is too difficult or they are not ready, they should be given lots of opportunity to develop hand to eye coordination and muscle strength on a daily basis.


This means that children may progress to the next stage and continue building words, phrases and eventually sentences with the moveable alphabet until they have good letter formation and can write with a pencil.


This stage begins with children forming the shapes of letters in various media and larger than they would eventually write on paper e.g. in sand, or with chalk on chalk boards or on the playground. 


Our Early Writing Programme supports gross to fine motor coordination development


Letter formation should always be demonstrated by an adult. Letter formation begins with the sandpaper letters before they transfer this skill to the sand tray. 


It is very important that the child starts and finishes each letter at the correct point. This avoids the child forming bad habits.  
The child should not be held back from learning new letters and sounds and building new consonant vowel consonant words because they lack fine motor skills to physical form the letters.


Some children, especially those with physical disabilities, may take longer to develop fine motor skills and may need alternative communication strategies such as ICT assistance.
These children should continue with the reading programme and build words using the moveable alphabet.

The child may need the moveable alphabet or sand paper letter as a visual aid.

Once a child masters writing single letters, they can progress to writing consonant vowel consonant words they have already learnt using the moveable alphabet.


An interim stage would be writing consonant vowel consonant labels in a larger format e.g. the sand tray or chalk boards.


Letter formation


All children are taught to form their letters in the following way.



Letter formation showing children where to start each letter.

Children are taught to join letters when the teacher feels they are ready to do so usually by Year 3.


Children may develop their own style from this stage so long as it is fluent and consistent. 


Fine motor skill development 


Some children may not yet have the fine motor skills and hand to eye coordination to use a pencil with control at this stage.

These children will need additional activities to develop fine motor skills that develop hand strength and eventually a controlled “pincer grip” needed for holding and using a pencil with control.

However, this should not stop them progressing to the next stages and constructing sentences using the moveable alphabet.

Constructing sentences with the moveable alphabet will support their reading development as well as helping them to cement and internalise language patterns and the concept of a complete sentence.


Activities to develop fine motor coordination and a controlled pencil grip for writing


Children struggling with fine motor coordination may need further gross motor skill activities before working on smaller more controlled movements.


Stage 5: Introducing high-frequency words 


Children are not held back if they have not mastered letter formation at stage 4. They should proceed to this stage and beyond whilst practising letter formation.



High frequency words outlined in the Letters and Sounds   programme are introduced in sets. Here the first set is introduced so as not to overwhelm the children.


is     it    in   at   a    the     and


The child practises reading and writing these high frequency words using the look and say approach on flash cards and the Large Moveable Alphabet. 


These few high frequency words are essential for the next stages of labelling, captions and building simple sentences.



Stage 6:    Articles, nouns and plurals


The child now labels picture cards with an article and noun using the Large Moveable Alphabet. 





Plurals are introduced that conform to the simple plural 's'. Rules for other plural endings are taught at a later stage.


Articles and plurals are combined.



Stage 7:  Noun Phrases
The child should now have sufficient skills and knowledge to write simple article-adjective-noun-phrases. 


Only cvc adjectives and nouns should be used and carefully selected so that the child is not expected to build words with phonemes/graphemes they have not mastered. 


The child should be taught the associated adjective-noun-phrase orally first to avoid any ambiguity or misinterpretation. This can be reinforced by matching the picture and caption.


Our writing programme closely tracks and supports our reading programme.


Next, the child uses the moveable alphabet to write the phrase under the picture using the caption strip  as a visual aid if need be. 




                                           the   wet     cat


Finally, when the child feels confident they write the phrase using the moveable alphabet with the phrase strip turned over. This enables them access to the phrase strip if need be. They use the caption strip at the end to check their work.


When the first three phrases have been learnt, the child can progress through the remaining caption strips.



Simple cvc noun phrases with cvc adjectives


Simple cvc noun phrases with two cvc adjectives

Stage 8:    Simple captions


The child is introduced to each picture and learns the caption orally first. 


This is reinforced by the child matching a caption strip with the picture card before writing the caption underneath using the moveable alphabet. 


Some children may be able to progress to writing captions on paper.



Children progress to constructing simple phases with cvc nouns before moving on to sentences.

Stage 9:    Simple sentences


At this stage, the child will have enough spelling and phonetic knowledge and understanding to write simple sentences using the moveable alphabet. They will have been prepared indirectly for this by learning to read the carefully prepared simple sentence strips, matching them with their corresponding pictures and learning to recognise capital letters and the full stop.


Children now use these pre-prepared sentence strips and corresponding pictures to write them using the wooden letters before they construct their own sentences. This is because these sentences use knowledge and prior to learning so that the child gets a feel for and grasp the concept of a sentence.


This lightens the cognitive load and allows them to master sentence building in a controlled manner practically whilst learning letter formation until they can write a simple sentence under a picture in their books with a pencil.


The child should be taught to say the sentence out loud (oral rehearsal) before writing it out using the moveable alphabet


To support the child in learning the sentence orally, they match the picture card with the associated reading strip first. 



Children construct simple known sentences they can verbalise and have the knowledge and skills to construct.  




When children have developed a controlled pencil grip and and can demonstrate correct letter formation, they learn write sentences and captions on paper with a pencil.  


 Children progress to writing simple familiar sentences they can verblaise and have the knowledge and skills to construct.                                    

Stage 10:    Independent writing


Most children will now have sufficient knowledge and understanding to construct and write

their own simple sentences either with the moveable or with a pencil. 


Initially these should be single sentences or captions under photographs or pictures to support the process of forming and saying a sentence out loud before writing it. 



Visual prompts to support early simple sentence development.


The child should make phonetically plausible attempts at spelling unfamiliar words and in doing so achieve the Early Learning Goal for writing.



Children use their phonic knowledge to write words in ways which match their spoken sounds. They also write some irregular common words. They write sentences which can be read by themselves and others. Some words are spelt correctly and others are phonetically plausible.


Writing Early Learning Goal for end of Reception




Some children may find constructing their own sentences too difficult as the process requires them to draw on too many skills and knowledge they have not fully mastered. e.g. thinking of a sentence, remembering it and holding it in their head whilst they remember where the capital letter and full stop goes, remembering how the letters are formed, where to start on the page, how to spell the high frequency words, remembering all the phonemes and graphemes taught so far. Some of this cognitive load needs to be removed.


This can be achieved in two ways.


Firstly, adults may need to simplify the creative and inventive process of thinking of a grammatically correct sentence. This can be achieved by taking some of the sentence strips the children have already learnt to construct and getting them initially just to change one word.


Secondly, these children will need lots of support to verbalise and remember the entire sentence before attempting to construct it. An adult may need to help them learn the sentence and hold it in their head before they have a go at writing it.


We use Mighty Writer in the Reception class which provides visual symbols to help children orally rehearse, remember and internalise complete sentences before they attempt to write them.



Mighty Writer is used in the Reception Class to help children construct complete sentences.


One a child is secure at writing simple sentences, they can then progress to sequencing sentences. They should always be taught to orally rehearse what they want to write prior to committing it to paper.




Beyond Step 10:     Writing as an author for purpose and effect


Once a child has mastered writing a basic sentence, they are introduced to different genres and increasing complex sentence structures, authorial techniques and punctuation. 


The genres children study and learnt to write include :



Story writing









Imitation, Innovation and Invention


The principle methodology used for children to master writing in different styles and genres through scaffolding 


These are 3 sequential steps provide learners with decreasing levels of scaffolding support to help them internalise language patterns common to a particular style or genre before they are ready to write in a style unsupported.  


These are :


•    imitation 
•    innovation
•    invention 


This approach can be used for all genres including narrative and non-narrative.


The children learn the features of a particular genre by familiarising themselves with a model example, they then adapt a model example before moving on to writing their own piece of writing in that genre.




The first stage is imitation. A genre that is to be learnt is selected. A series of familiarisation activities are planned to immerse the children within the text.
This may include orally learning of a text or part of a text. The purpose of learning orally a short text is to help children internalise language patterns that are specific to the genre or style. 


Story maps and actions can help the children to learn the text orally.




This is the next stage. Once the children are familiar with the language patterns within a genre or have learnt a text orally, the children take the original text and adapt it but keep and maintain the structure.


Innovation can include :


•    Substituting specific words
•    Adding words, phrases or sentences
•    Altering sentences, order or sequence of words  
•    Changing of viewpoint


The children are encouraged to ‘hug’ the text closely to ensure the structure is maintained.

During this stage, the teacher models innovation using the Shared Writing. This is where the teacher uses and displays one text on a screen and models and explains how a text can be altered.

Grammar and punctuation are taught in context by the teacher at this point. Spelling patterns and conventions can also be reinforced.


Having immersed the children with a specific text type and language patterns through imitation and innovation, the children are now in a position to write their own piece using the same text type. 


This is the invention stage. For example, the children may been learning about writing a non-fiction piece about foxes for a wildlife magazine and are asked to write a piece about badgers for the next edition.




Children learn the grammatical rules, conventions and application of these both through shared writing (in context) and through discrete lessons and activities. Children learn word classes from an early stage using colour coded symbols.



Montessori grammar symbol (black triangle- nouns, blue triangle - articles, red circle -verbs, green crescent- preposition)


Grammar symbols are used to help children learn the functions of words within a sentence.


Talk for Writing


Talk for Writing is based on the premise that children need opportunities to verbalise, practise and rehearse language patterns before they can write fluently and confidently.


For experienced writers, many of the creative and thinking processes involved in writing are internal and automatic. This means many writers can hold an internal dialogue with themselves about the possible effectiveness of alternative language choices.


For developing writers, it is very helpful if these processes can be made explicit and explored through talk in a supportive learning context.


It is this developmental exploration, through talk, of the thinking and creative processes involved in being a writer that we are calling Talk for Writing.

Talk for Writing  develops children’s ability to 'read as writers' and enables them to explore the thinking and creative processes involved in generating and planning ideas and incorporating techniques learned from other writers into their own work.

It further allows children to rehearse the structure and sequence of a piece of writing and guides how the text should sound - its style and voice. It also encourages them to generate and rehearse appropriate language and grammar as they work collaboratively to plan, draft and improve their writing.


At early stage, children learn to re-write familiar stories. Visual aids such as story maps and actions help the children remember a story of by heart enabling them to focus on the mechanical process of writing without having to think about what to write. Creative composition comes at a later stage referred to as the innovation or invention stage.



Talk for writing and story maps help children internalise language patterns.



Children are initially taught to spell phonetically through the skill of segmentation. This skill is taught through our reading programme Letters and Sounds. 


Children are simultaneously taught to spell high frequency words that cannot be spelt phonetically through practise and repetition. 


As children develop, we teach children regular spelling patterns and common rules. These are practised through spelling games and regular word activities.


There are spelling phase packs the children progress through which are based on the expectations outlined in the National Curriculum.


Key vocabulary is displayed around each classroom to help children to learn to visualise the spelling of words.


As part of the Talk for Writing Process, we don’t discourage children to dodge or avoid words because they can’t spell them. 


Instead, we ask children to underline spellings that they are unsure about with a dotted line. This is because we recognise that fear of spelling can hamper creativity and writing fluency.


Teacher’s and learning Support Assistants model this strategy.


These words are then corrected by the child at the publishing stage. We teach the children to find out how to spell a word we are unsure about by asking them to look around their environment (magpie) and then use a dictionary or spell checker.


Teacher’s mark spelling by highlighting incorrect spellings by putting a dotted line underneath.  
We recognise that some children and some adults find spelling difficult and recognise the commonly held myth that if you are good at reading, then you will be good at spelling. This simply isn’t true for all children. There are many fluent readers that find spelling difficult. 


As a general rule of thumb, we recognise good spellers visually recall spellings in their head. This means they can ‘see’ or imagine the order and sequence of letters clearly as a mental image.


Weaker spellers generally do not have such a clear visual recall and therefore tend to rely on guessing based on their recall of other information they have at their disposal such as phonic knowledge, known spelling patterns or common letter combinations. 


This is why weak spellers may spell words such as ‘station ‘as ‘stayshion’ i.e. they are using their knowledge of the phoneme ‘sh’ but in the wrong context.


Although weak spellers often get most letters right or at least make a phonetically plausible attempt, the difference is they do not have clear internal visual reference to check that their spelling on paper looks the same as that in their head.


Weak spellers either do not notice their attempt does not look right or do notice but do not know what to do about it. Instead, they tend to rely on auditory recall i.e. what the word sounds like.


Many less confident spellers, especially adults, like to ‘see’ their spelling and write it down first to ‘see’ if it looks right. Again this is because the mental image or visual recall just isn’t clear enough. What they are doing is trying to see if their written attempt resembles their visual recall. What they can’t do as well is hold two mental images of the same word in their head i.e. what they think the spelling is compared with any mental image they already have. 


However, a reliable visual/mental recall is far more effective than auditory recall because we know that not all spelling is phonetic or that all spelling conforms to set spelling rules.


Therefore, if we want weak spellers to become better spellers, we need to teach them in a way that improves their visual recall giving them a sharper clearer mental imprint of what a spelling should look like.


We should also harness their relative strength in using auditory recall in a different way such as mnemonics and rhymes. 


The following section outlines a number of strategies that used together aim to teach children how to learn to spell accurately and consistently. 

Precision monitoring/teaching 

Precision monitoring/teaching is used for children with specific difficultly in retaining knowledge of spelling. It focuses on mastering a small number of spellings and embedding the learning through an interleaved approach. Progress is assessed on a daily basis using precision grids after short sessions of 5-10 minutes of teaching.

The moveable alphabet

This has the advantage of being multi-sensory and therefore more likely to embed learning in the long term visual memory. 


Children often learn best when tasks are practical. The physical moving of letters slows the thinking process down so greater thought goes into the choice of letters.


The moveable alphabet has the advantage of being colour coded where vowels are a different colour. This improves the chances of the visual image being more firmly imprinted into the child’s visual memory.


The child should be given the opportunity to self-correct and check their attempts against a ‘checking card’.


Magnetic CVC word strips


Similar to the moveable alphabet, these are self-correcting spelling strips that enable children to look at the shape of the word as well as the individual colours. 


Being practical and using colours, it offers a multi-sensory approach that increases the chances of learning becoming embedded. The principle is similar to the moveable alphabet.


Chunking and colour coding

This strategy involves breaking the word up into smaller units with each chunk represented  in a different colour. Research suggests that it is easier for the brain to learn and remember a 7 digit telephone number by chunking into 3 and 4 digits rather than learning it the 7 digits as a whole. This principle can be applied to spelling. The use of colour encourages a more memorable image than black on white.


e.g. 345  3287   is easier to remember than 3453287 even though the digits are the same.

So tomorrow becomes :      to  mor  row


Weak spellers tend to rely on auditory recall for spelling rather than visual recall. This is why weak spellers tend to rely on phonetic spelling. If auditory recall is a relative strength, then this can be harnessed by using an auditory recall process bet in a different way.

There are lots of ways to do this including :


i.    Acrostics – this is where the order and letters of the word needed to be learnt are

      put into a sentence e.g. to spell because can be remembered by an associated

      rhyme or silly sentence. It works because the sentence is more meaningful and            therefore more easily remembered.


B -  big
E -  elephants
C -  can
A -  always
U -  understand
S -  small
E -  elephants


ii.    A saying – This is where the saying becomes and aid memoire e.g. the word

       friend is often misspelt especially the order and sequence of the letters ‘ie.’  A

       real friend is there to the end.


iii.    Pronounce and exaggerate the silent letters in a memorable way 
e.g. Wednesday, February, science, scissors


Spelling games

Any spelling games or puzzles should ideally focus on the targeted spellings or pattern or rule being worked on in class. The purpose of spelling games is to get the children to put greater thought to the spelling so that it is more likely to go into the long term memory. This can include crosswords, word searches, hangman, scrabble, word lotto etc.

This strategy aims to get children to create a strong visual imprint of a spelling.


The process is as follows :


i.    The child looks and stares at the word for several seconds (the word should be

      isolated and clearly printed and larger than normal reading size font). Ideally, the

      background should be buff coloured as research suggests white may be too



      The letters do not need to be black ink. A different colour makes the word more

      visually memorable but make sure it is clearly visible against the background

      colour. Then get the child to close their eyes and picture it, ask them to open

      the eyes and repeat this process several times until the child is sure they can see

      the word clearly in their mind.


ii.    If they are having difficulty, to help them ‘lock’ the spelling into their internal

       visual memory, ask them to visualize the word in a different colour (say the

       colour). Ask them to visualise the same word getting bigger, smaller, moving up,

       moving down etc


iii.    The child is asked to stabilize and visualise the word in the clearest colour/size

        that works for them. Ask them to say what they see to check they have

        visualised correctly. 


iv.    The child open their eyes, keep their head still and to look up and picture

        it on a blank wall with eyes open – looking up is significant because of

        neurological links with visual recall and eye movement/positioning.

        (Visualisation takes effort for  poor spellers as poor spellers do not visualise

        effectively, if they did, they would be

        better spellers. Consider visualisation like a muscle – it needs exercising and

        effort to improve). Some may need to close their eyes again to concentrate.


v.    To further improve visualisation, ask them to visualize on the blank wall and get

       them to spell the word backwards (they are not to visualize the words backwards

       but to recall the letters starting with the last letter). This is significant because a

       child will have visually locked a spelling into their memory when they can do this.

       This skill may have to be learnt by starting with 3 letter words they can already

       spell to get them used to the process by visualizing a word but saying the letters

       in reverse order. This process should be guided by an adult.

Patterns and rules

Grouping words into spelling patterns or those that can conform to a rule often assists. e.g. words ending : tion,sion, cian (words ending in ‘cian’ tend to be those that refer to people i.e. musician, technician, beautician).


This is not a strategy in its own right and should be taught using the strategies outlined here e.g. the moveable alphabet, visualistation, spelling games, mnemonics and chunking.

Look, cover, write and check

This strategy is not sufficient on its own but can be used to supplement the above strategies. This is where the child takes a single isolated word they are learning. Ideally it should be written on to a card.


The child then looks carefully at the letters and sequence, covers or turns the card over, writes the word, turns the card over and checks their attempt and corrects any errors.


Again it should be specific and targeted high frequency words that are proving difficult or those that are part of a spelling pattern or rule.