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Literacy at The John of Gaunt School

Literacy at The John of Gaunt

At the John of Gaunt School, we strive for excellence in reading. Our ambition has no ceiling; we understand how important it is for our students to have reading age in line with their chronological age. We deploy a range of strategies to support our students with reading for both pleasure and academic study. We explicitly teach both subject-specific and high-frequency words for mature readers – known as tier 2 vocabulary - and model comprehension strategies across the curriculum.

We aim to foster a deep understanding of the reciprocal relationship between reading and vocabulary by embedding explicit teaching during lessons, tutor time and as part of our homework expectations. We strive to create a culture that values paying attention to new words and developing a curiosity about language.

All of our staff have received training in explicit vocabulary teaching. Furthermore, each curriculum area provides opportunities for reading academic language within engaging non-fiction texts and model writing. 

In addition to a whole-school approach to literacy, we also run specific interventions for students identified as reading below their chronological age. These students receive intensive support to close the gap using Reciprocal Reading Strategies and SRA Corrective Reading. 

We are also a Talk for Writing school, and all of our staff have trained to use this framework. Talk for Writing underpins our teaching principles, specifically, our teaching of literacy.

What is Talk for Writing?

Talk for Writing is an engaging teaching framework developed by Pie Corbett, supported by Julia Strong. It is powerful because it is based on the principles of how children learn. It enables children to imitate the language they need for a particular topic orally, before reading and analysing it and then writing their own version.

What is Corrective Reading?

Corrective Reading is a powerful Direct Instruction remedial reading series that solves a wide range of problems for struggling older readers, even if they have failed with other approaches. Explicit, step-by-step lessons are organised around two major strands: decoding and comprehension.

What is Reciprocal Reading?

Reciprocal reading is a structured approach to teaching strategies (questioning, clarifying, summarising and predicting) that students can use to improve their reading comprehension.

Our literacy Strategy has two core aims:

  1. Every student with a reading age in line with their chronological age.
  2. Students to have developed ‘word consciousness’
  1. Every student with a reading age in line with their chronological age.
  2. Students to have developed 'word consciousness'.

What we do: 

Whole School

Talk for Reading: Talk for Reading is a tried and tested whole-school approach developed in high attaining schools, often in challenging areas, and is proven to raise standards. It is a core component of the Talk for Writing Framework. 

Talk for Reading focuses on the importance of deepening understanding of the texts read. It is a framework to facilitate the explicit teaching of the reading strategies of whole-class modelling and shared reading. 

Explicit teaching of Tier 3 vocabulary (subject-specific vocabulary) through engaging activities and Talk for Writing strategies.

Reading Challenge: As part of the Wiltshire Year of Reading and our Character Education Awards, we have compiled a list of literary classics and award-winning books that will inspire and challenge our students. 

We want to instil a love of literature, showcase a diverse range of books and promote the beauty of reading for free. All the books featured on the reading challenge are in stock in our well-resourced library. With the inclusion of a digital list and blurb, we encourage our students to try something new and diversify their literary diet. 

Furthermore, students can earn Digital Badges and work towards their Gold Award pin badge or Excellence pin badge by completing the reading challenge. 

KS3

Read-Out: We believe that it is important to celebrate and share the value of storytelling which is why we have created a reading programme for tutor time. 

Designed to take students on a journey through some of the best fiction and non-fiction texts, every student in years 7-9 has a 20-minute Read Out session three times a week. In these sessions, students are read aloud to by their tutor.  

The books selected were chosen to provide students with a variety of literary experiences. Texts will introduce students to fascinating characters who have powerful stories to tell, often set in the backdrop of significant historical events. These stories deepen empathy and foster the development of emotional and cultural capital whilst supporting students to read a diverse literary canon. 

Explicit teaching of Tier 2 vocabulary 

Before reading aloud, tutors will have identified tier 2 words that could inhibit understanding. As they read, tutors will teach these words in context - using a synonym that retains the original meaning.  Once a week, tutors will also explicitly teach tier 2 vocabulary through low-stakes quizzing. 

Explicit Learning of Tier 2 & 3 vocabularies 

Every Friday, KS3 students self-quiz ten words – five subject-specific and five from either their Read-Out list or the Word of the Day (as published in their homework books).

 Independent Reading Time 

The homework expectation is that all students in KS3 will read independently for 20 minutes per day. They must then record the page number and either a summary, predication, question or text map (pictorial symbols) of what they have read in the daily log. 

Why twenty minutes?

Research has shown that reading for pleasure is more important to a student’s educational achievement than their family's wealth or social background.

Also, research has shown that just 20 minutes spent reading will improve a student’s reading ability and concentration.

*Source: Reading for change, OECD, 2002.

Literacy Intervention: Students reading below their chronological age are given specific help to close the gap. Using Corrective Reading and Reciprocal Reading strategies pupils receive 40 minutes literacy intervention four times a fortnight.

Years 7 & 8

Library Lessons: Once a fortnight, students have a specific, timetabled lesson in our school library. These lessons combine traditional library teaching and engaging activities. Students will learn how to use the Dewy Decimal System, engage with different genres and text types (both fiction and non-fiction) and have time to peruse the library stock. Each lesson begins with the students being read to – either an extract from a featured book or a topical text selected to engage students with social, historical or global importance before moving into activities linked to the reading.

In addition to these timetabled strategies, last year we launched our literature festival: Word Fest. Literature Festival. This included a programme of workshops and author talks across Key Stage 3 and whole school activities such as ‘book and bake takeaway’ and dressing up as a favourite literary character. https://www.wiltshiretimes.co.uk/news/19427323.school-festival-set-spotlight-literature/