St stephens 4

Philosophy for Teaching English

At St Stephen's we intend for our children to leave us as effective and confident readers and writers who have had experience of high-quality books throughout their time with us and are skilled and successful communicators. 

Developing a love of reading, writing, story and communication is at the very heart of our curriculum. We use high quality picture books to inspire every term's learning, using the Power of Pictures methodology, these develop an understanding of narrative, the relationship between text and images, helps to explore the world around us, and ensures children hear, read and broaden their use of high-quality vocabulary.

Phonics, Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar

  • In Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, twenty-minute phonic sessions take place daily following 'Unlocking Letters & Sounds', which is our Systematic and Synthetic Phonic programme.
  • For children in any year group who find phonics challenging, precision teaching is used to target the specific phase necessary.
  • Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children also spend time spelling common exception words.
  • In KS2 discrete spelling sessions happen 4 times per week.
  • Phonics teaching continues into Key Stage 2 for any child who is yet to be secure in all phonic phases.
  • Grammar is taught discretely and then embedded in writing sessions, so the children experience a 'learn, apply, learn, apply' approach to developing grammar. 


We recognise that excellent reading skills are the key to accessing the whole curriculum and have an embedded and sequential approach to developing reading skills from Reception through to Year 6. This is central to a vibrant reading culture in which books and reading are celebrated in order to ensure our children become, and remain, enthusiastic, passionate and confident readers. 

Alongside our phonics programme and the English National Curriculum, our reading curriculum offer includes the following:

  • In Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children are heard by the teacher at least twice per week with some children identified for daily reading.
  • Individual reading at both home and school is recorded in Reading Records.
  • In Reception and Phase 1, regular reading comprehension takes place. This frequently uses the VIPERs approach (Vocabulary; Inference; Prediction; Explanation; Retrieval; Sequence/Summarise)
  • In KS2 Guided Reading (typically in a group) takes place daily, with some children also being heard reading individually on a daily basis.
  • Written reading comprehensions take place frequently.

Reading Book Provision

  • We primarily use phonics as the route to teach children to read (decode) words.
  • Your child’s reading book will be specifically chosen for them by the class teacher, according to the phonemes that they know and are practising. It will be a book that the children can decode using their phonics knowledge.
  • Your child will read each book at least 3 times. This is to develop Decoding, Fluency and Prosody:

Decoding (1st read) is using phonemes to work out what the word says. What will this look like?
Fluency (2nd read) is reading the word without having to use blending to work out what the word says. What will this look like?
Prosody (3rd read) is being able to read for meaning and use expression to convey it. What will this like look?

  • If your child hasn’t achieved this by the third read, then they may need to read the book again.
  • We will give children books which they can read 95% of the words accurately. Reading at home, should be pleasurable and for them to show you what they have learned.
  • Your child will continue to read a phonemically decodable book, until they are secure in all of the Phase 2-5 phonemes, and they can read at a speed of 90 words per minute. Then they can bring home books which are not fully decodable.
  • This is not linked to the age of a child or their year group, but this purely linked to the above criteria.
  • It is important to remember that not all children have the same learning journey. Children learn at different paces and so they may need more time to consolidate knowledge. We will use precision teaching (very specific one to one phoneme catch up) to fill Grapheme-Phoneme-Correspondence gaps.
  • In KS2, where children still need structure to support their reading, we use the Rapid Readers Scheme.

Reading for pleasure

We promote the love of reading at St Stephen’s. The aim is that children know how it feels to be a fluent and accomplished reader,

We want children to read for pleasure! 

  • We want children to love hearing stories, every class teacher reads daily to their class. We read a wide genre of texts and talk about them.
  • In Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, we will send home bedtime story books which you can share together. Reading to your child will expand their vocabulary, support them in learning how to use expression and to understand the character, feelings and situations. We will change every time we change the reading book.
  • All children have timetabled opportunities to use the library, with staffed small group sessions running four afternoons per week. The library is also open four times a week after school (3:20pm-4:30pm), so children and parents can come and visit, browse, read together and borrow more books.
  • Reading challenges, World Book Day and author visits help to enhance our reading curriculum. 
  • Regular ‘book blankets’ to give children the opportunity to explore the texts we have in the classroom and enjoy sharing them with their friends.
  • Every classroom has a designated area to celebrate reading and promote ‘good reads’ for children by recommending books to one another.


  • All children should use the school’s agreed script for handwriting. St Stephens Handwriting Script
  • From Term 3 in Year 1 we aim for all children to be joining their handwriting unless there is a specific reason why they cannot. 
  • Talk For Writing is used as a teaching tool, which uses story mapping, group story recital and story innovation to help children to develop their own narrative voice.
  • The Power of Pictures | Centre for Literacy in Primary Education ( is becoming embedded in our practice to intertwine the development of reading and writing skills. In this approach, children interrogate text and pictures and the relationship between them, both as readers and as writers. See our picture books.
  • Children have frequent and varied opportunities for sustained writing across the curriculum, with a series of focused shorter tasks flowing into a longer application activity.
  • Children are given the opportunity to write in varied genres in both fiction and non-fiction and these are mapped out across the curriculum to ensure a broad and consistent coverage.
  • Fiction and non-fiction writing genres are covered each term.
  • Every term, children learn a topic-related poem off by heart and put in their poetry anthology.