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Reading & Literacy


Literacy and the National Curriculum

The National Curriculum reflects the importance of spoken language in pupils development across the whole curriculum – cognitively, socially and linguistically. The quality and variety of language that pupils hear and speak are vital for developing their vocabulary, grammar and their Literacy is the ability to read and write, but also the ability to use language, numbers, images, computers, and other basic means to understand, communicate, gain useful knowledge.


The key to literacy is reading development, a progression of skills that begins with the ability to understand spoken words and decode written words, and culminates in the deep understanding of text. Reading development involves a range of complex language including awareness of speech sounds (phonology), spelling patterns (orthography), word meaning (semantics), grammar (syntax) and patterns of word formation (morphology), all of which provide the platform for reading fluency and comprehension.

When acquired, the reader can apply these skills to critically respond to texts, develop inference and synthesis; to write with accuracy and coherence; and to use information and insights from texts for informed decisions and creative thought. Our aim at St Luke's is to have the highest expectations of each of our children to maximize their abilities within literacy to function as effectively as possible with skills for life beyond childhood into adulthood. All our teaching supports children's access to literacy with the intention of enabling them to have an informed personal view and question what they read.

The development of language and literacy is a focus throughout the school day. All pupils are individually assessed in relation to their levels of language and literacy skills. There is a strong focus on the early stages in language, reading and writing, for example understanding that the printed word or symbol conveys meaning.

Spiky Profiles
Our children have many different learning profiles. Some of our children can read complex sentences and texts, yet face significant challenges in understanding the meaning of what they read. As such, specific interventions, levels of questioning and strategies to help them de-code text for cognition are key to planning for this child's progress in learning.  The reverse if also true, with some learners with their comprehension age exceeding their skills in decoding, requiring intervention and alternative technologies to support their access to texts.   


Literacy and English - St Luke's Curriculum

Spoken Language

  • Understanding for reading and writing.
  • Vocabulary in context is emphasised across the curriculum and teachers work closely with speech and language therapists.

Reading consists of two dimensions:

  • Word reading
  • Comprehension (listening and reading)


Writing consists of two dimensions:

  • Transcription (spelling and handwriting)
  • Composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech and writing)

Spelling, grammar, punctuation
Pupils are:

  • Taught to control their speaking and writing consciously and to use Standard English
  • Taught the vocabulary needed to discuss their reading, writing and spoken language.

The Teaching of Literacy 

Children with LDD tend to exhibit spatial relationship difficulties resulting in handwriting problems. Numeracy tends to be a challenge as a result of the abstract reasoning deficit our pupils with cognitive disabilities have. Word identification and phonics are often stronger than comprehension skills, which requires more abstract reasoning and, in general, the ability to go from parts to a whole. Comprehension also requires the reader to be able to understand implicit semantic relationships among words and be able to make inferences.

Some of our pupils are very sociable and outgoing and others tend to be shy and withdrawn. There is a common factor however, that all our pupils have difficulty reading nonverbal cues, which are often inappropriate in their social interactions.

Functionality in literacy, in a cognitive sense, involves visual processing and the harder to describe idea of perception. The affected individual does not form visual images easily and does not revisualise well (i.e. from memory). S/he also perceives the world differently than someone whose perceptual ability is seen to be intact. In a way, perception is the more spatial aspect of cognition, e.g. going from parts to whole, understanding cause and effect, etc. So a child with a deficit in this area would tend to focus on the details (and even perseverate on them) but fail to grasp the complete picture.

Direct instruction can be helpful. As the name implies, it involves directly teaching each aspect of a skill. It also engages the student orally, to ensure that they become an active part of the process. Direct instruction programmes are very sequential in nature, progressing in a building block way until the target skills are acquired and mastered.  These take account of developments in cognitive research and the proven benefits of interleaving, chunking and spaced retrieval practise; these principles underpin our approach to the teaching of literacy at St Luke’s.

A common element of all of remedial interventions on learning disorders is the use of verbal mediation and verbal self-direction, both for analysing information and for organising to perform a task. This means the child, when taught through direct instruction; how to talk him/herself through various steps, supports a more successful completion of the process or task.

This concept can be used to improve verbal reasoning, vocabulary development, reading comprehension, and social skills. Because writing involves cognitively difficult processes requiring idea development, organisation, and the ability to go from parts to a whole, it lends itself well to a verbal mediation approach.


Phonics & Reading Schemes

At St Luke’s we follow Ruth Miskin’s successful Read Write inc (RWI) phonics programme and teach reading and learners, consequently, work through the phonic’s programme’s fiction and non-fiction texts.  

Reading books in the library are banded accorded to this Oxford programme and work on the premise that learners should have access to books they can read independently alongside a free choice text that they can share with an adult irrespective of the level of challenge.  

read write inc


Reading at Home

Reading journals and books are sent home daily to allow parents to both play a role in and follow their child’s development in reading.  Parents are encouraged to read with their child as regularly as possible and teachers liaise regularly with parents regarding the most appropriate strategies for their child in order to ensure consistency between school and home environments.

For those children following the read write inc programme, children are encouraged to work with their parents to revise phonemes and practice decoding using phased texts.


Read our Reading Subject Rationale below:

Reading Subject rationale StLukes

Pupils at St Luke's School have access to a wide range of both fiction and non-fiction reading materials including several reading schemes so we can select the most appropriate for your child. Pupils are encouraged to use all our library areas as well as those at College and our local library in Redbourn. Children’s understanding of texts are monitored in order that they are reading a range of materials.

For pre-reading pupils, we use a range of activities to build up picture, symbol and then word processing skills. We teach reading skills through phonological awareness and phonics as well as through a whole word approach. Children are supported to develop a range of functional vocabulary, including food items, names, places and day-to-day curriculum areas and activities as well as the engagement in abstract concepts.

Why our approach to teaching reading is effective

  • We create meaningful, motivating and age-appropriate contexts and are particularly aware of pupils’ experience and comprehension levels. For example, we are aware of hyperlexia, and we may use personalised reading books.
  • We give children the opportunities to experience a range of symbols and texts for information and pleasure.
  • We reinforce the written word with symbols and photos and other communication aids such as PECS books and relevant software like Phonics Shark to build vocabulary in different contexts.
  • We present and refer to the written word across a range of contexts and environments. This helps your child to generalise their learning in reading.
  • We use real-life and functional situations to provide meaningful and motivating contexts for reading. For example, using instructions and, writing lists for aiding our memories
  • Seek to ensure that decoding skills have been mastered first (the pupil should read words accurately before s/he can understand meaning). Work within a phonics based reading curriculum where possible
  • Teach reading comprehension skills clearly, e.g. making inferences, deductions, understanding cause and effect, etc.
  • Develop self-questioning techniques to monitor comprehension
  • Teach pupils that they must interact with the text
  • Encourage verbalisation of strategies to enable students to internalise comprehension strategies (who, what, why, where, when, etc.)
  • Teach the organisation and structure of paragraphs
  • Teach signal words indicating transitions


Vocabulary Development:

Make concrete associations for unknown words whenever possible

  • Be "child centred", i.e. use words they encounter in their own reading, define words they want to know, work from known associations and understandings
  • Encourage pupils to verbalise and paraphrase their understanding
  • Work towards a depth in understanding - don't let them slide by with surface understandings
  • Connect words into meaningful semantic categories
  • Teach multiple meanings
  • Build semantic maps or webs
  • Highlight morphological rules and patterns, directly teach prefixes, roots, suffixes.



  • Provide brief daily practice to improve handwriting and legibility for those who can
  • Teach pupils to use verbal self-directions to guide those practices
  • Address posture, position of hand and paper, grasp of pencil, directions for forming individual letters
  • Teach keyboard and word processing skills to the student at a young age
  • Focus on only one aspect of writing at a time (e.g. pre-writing, writing, editing)
  • Use Shape Coding strategies to support children's improving comprehension
  • Hold high expectations for the pace and volume of written work, based on the pupil's demonstrated abilities
  • Teach transitional words
  • Teach organisational patterns for writing paragraphs, then for longer pieces of writing
  • Provide a purpose and structure for writing

There is a strong focus on functional literacy that fosters learners ability to engage with world around them and empowers them to play an active role in the wider community.


Handwriting without Tears

Developed by a registered occupational therapist, Handwriting Without Tears is a developmentally-based handwriting program. That means it pays attention, in a way that no other program we know does, to the developmental needs of people — of whatever age — who are trying to learn how to write.



SSAT, previously known as the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, has published guidance for heads of English on creating a vision for the department. 

The document suggests steps to take when formulating and implementing a departmental vision.

Creating a vision for your department, SSAT (Adobe pdf file)


Reading Outcomes Framework

Activity to encourage reading for pleasure and empowerment

This activity results in positive impact on one or more of the following reading engagement outcomes:

  • Attitudes to reading

  • Awareness of reading preferences & how to choose what to read

  • Confidence about reading

  • Identifying as a reader

  • Motivation to read

  • Reading behaviour (frequency, quantity, breadth & depth)

  • Reading environment

  • Sharing enjoyment of reading

  • Understanding how to find reading materials


Increased reading engagement can have a positive impact on the following outcomes for individuals


Health & wellbeing outcomes

  • Mental health

  • Physical health

  • Relaxation


Intellectual outcomes

  • Attainment

  • Critical thinking

  • Focus and concentration

  • Knowledge

  • Language and literacy


Personal outcomes

  • Being open-minded

  • Creativity

  • Empathy

  • Self-expression

  • Self-esteem


Social outcomes

  • Communication skills

  • Relationships

  • Social and cultural participation

  • Understanding self and others


Success in achieving these outcomes contributes to wider positive impact in the following areas

  • Cultural

  • Economic

  • Societal

The Reading Outcomes Framework


Phonics Teaching - 'Read, Write, Inc'

At St Luke's School, we follow the Phonics Programme 'Read, Write, Inc'

In the Uk, children are taught to read using phonics, which is a system based on the sounds (phonemes) that make up words:

First Steps

  • Children start by learning the individual letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make
  • When your child knows their first letters and sounds well, they are ready to read simpler words.  This involves the key skills of sounding out and blending.  For example, c-a-t; cat.
  • When you child is ready, it's time to meet the letter friends; letters that team up to make new sounds (such as ch, ee, or).  Teachers call these digraphs, which means two letters than make one sound.

Moving on 

  • We provide a language rich environment so that children can explore a variety of word types including CVC words - which is short for 'consonant/vowel/consonant' - words such as mat, hen, fox, cup.
  • We also learn about consonant clusters.  Some words have these are the start (such as step, clap, frog and street).  Some at the end (such as end, cats, lamp and best).
  • In addition to blending, the other key skill is segmenting.  This is the opposite of blending and involves listening to a word to hear which sounds make it.  The child then decides which letters they need to make the word.  This skill forms the foundations of spelling.
  • Any irregular words that do not follow the set phonic rules are called 'tricky' words.
  • Many tricky words are quite common and very useful; the, said, no etc.   We introduce them gradually, a few at each stage of phonics.

We use rhymes, actions and games to make learning as interactive and engaging as possible.

Children really benefit from practising their phonic skills at home, in addition to their learning in class.  We use homework activities to support this.

By improving speaking and reading, we develop our vocabulary.  An increasing size of vocabulary improves our abilities in making our needs understood.

Assessment of Reading, Spelling and Phonics

Star Reading (6yrs+): Reading age and diagnostic analysis for further teaching

Star Emergent Reading (6yrs and below): Reading issues and diagnostic analysis for further teaching.

Helen Arkel Spelling Test (HAST 2): Spelling age and diagnostic phonics teaching

Annual phonics test - DfE Key Stage 1 test (score out of 40)