At Thundersley Primary School, the teaching of phonics begins in the Early Years Foundation Stage and is guided by ‘Letters and Sounds’.   Phonics is taught daily to enable our pupils to become fluent and confident readers with a strong phonological awareness. A variety of approaches and resources are used in the teaching of phonics to ensure that lessons are accessible to all learners. We aim to make the teaching of phonics as enjoyable as possible so that we can begin to develop the children’s love of reading, which is evident throughout the school. Children progress through the six phases of Letters and Sounds in EYFS and KS1 at an appropriate pace with plenty of opportunities for repetition and consolidation so that reading, and spelling become automatic.   Children’s progress is checked regularly so that they can receive extra support or challenge where appropriate.   

In EYFS and year 1 children are given a phonetically decodable book to read both at home and in school which is linked to the phonic lessons that have been taught.  After this, reading books are colour coded and children progress through the colours when they are considered ready.  Children also take home additional books to share with their families to encourage the enjoyment of a range of different types of books, and the development of their vocabularies.  At the end of Year One each child’s phonic knowledge is tested in a statutory phonics screening test.  This is a short, light-touch assessment to confirm whether individual children have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard. It will identify the children who may need extra support in future years so they can improve their reading skills.

We are very proud of the reading culture at our school and children have access to a wide variety of books, both in the classroom and in our wonderful library.  

Lucky Listeners

What is the aim of Lucky Listeners homework?

The main aim of Lucky Listeners homework is to develop children’s fluency when reading.  When children first learn to read they learn to decode ie to learn the sounds that letters (and combinations of letters) make, how these letters and sounds combine together to make words and ultimately to make meaning.  Many children can decode well but find reading with fluency more difficult.

Fluency is defined as the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. In order to understand what they read, children must be able to read fluently whether they are reading aloud or silently. When reading aloud, fluent readers read in phrases and add intonation appropriately.  Reading fluently is reading ‘like you speak’.

Some children learn to read fluently without explicit instruction, but this is not true for all children.  The National Reading Panel has concluded that a more effective course of action is for us to explicitly teach developing readers how to read fluently, step by step. 

This homework also helps children learn to read with expression and can develop their confidence in reading.

How does Lucky Listeners homework help with fluency?

Lucky Listeners texts are short texts such as poems, songs or an extract from a longer piece of text such as a story book or information text.  Repeated readings of the text help children to develop fluency.  At first, children may find it difficult, but with repeated readings, it will become easier and children will begin to read with more fluency.

How do we introduce Lucky Listeners in school?

The teacher reads the text to the children with the text visible on the large screen in class.  As the teacher reads, he/she points at the words.  This is followed by Echo Reading.  The teacher reads a line from the text (pointing at the words) and the children then repeat the line.  It is vital that the children observe this closely and are looking at the words as well as repeating what they hear.  This helps them to make links between the words they hear and the words they can see on the screen.  The final step in class is Choral Reading.  This is when the whole class reads the text together with the teacher pointing at the words as the children read.

Reading with expression/intonation

Good readers read with expression, altering the tone, speed and volume of their voices according to the punctuation and the meaning of the text. Expression and intonation are like the ‘tune’ of the text, whereas the words are the ‘lyrics’.  When the teacher reads the Lucky Listeners to the class, he/she reads with accurate expression and intonation so the children know how it should sound.  They quickly imitate the teacher’s intonation, especially during the Echo Reading phase.  When it’s time for choral reading, many of the children may independently read the text with some expression.

Lucky Listeners at home

The children should read the text a number of times at home.  Reading it 10 times is a good number of reads, but many children choose to read it much more often than this.  They can read it to whoever they wish and can even read it over the phone to willing relatives, on Skype/Facetime, to siblings, or even pets!  The Lucky Listener (or a parent/carer) should sign the back of the sheet – there is no need to date this or make a comment.

Revisiting the homework in school

The children with the most Lucky Listeners will receive recognition in class.  This could be in the form of stickers, housepoints and/or having their name/photo displayed in class as a Lucky Listener champion.  The teacher will then randomly select a small number of children to read their homework to the class, either individually or in twos and threes.  Teachers can tell who has practised the homework by the progress they have made in their reading.  One of the aims of the homework is to boost children’s reading confidence so teachers will, of course,  be considerate of children’s prior reading abilities when making these selections. 

The text is too difficult for my child to read independently.

We do not provide different levels of Lucky Listeners homework for children with different reading abilities.  Developing readers are given a colour banded reading book appropriate to their reading ability but this can sometimes mean they are exposed to a very limited vocabulary and text type.  Lucky Listeners can help to broaden children’s vocabulary and give them access to a wide range of texts that they wouldn’t necessarily read otherwise.  If your child finds it particularly difficult to read the text, please help them by Echo Reading (where you read a line and they repeat it after you) and Choral Reading (where you read it together).  Try to use interesting and accurate expression and intonation so that your child learns what good reading sounds like.  You could focus on just a short part of the text, rather than the whole text, so that it is manageable for your child.

My child already reads fluently

If your child is a fluent reader, they should still do their Lucky Listeners homework regularly.  The homework that we set will expose the children to a range of poetry and text types and a varied vocabulary.  Many of the extracts also have a range of punctuation which will also benefit your child as they will see the punctuation used in context.  In some year groups, the Lucky Listeners homework will match the writing genre being taught in school so that your child will begin to internalise the text structure and the text and language features with repeated readings.  Some year groups also set comprehension questions on the Lucky Listeners homework which will be much easier for your child if they have read it a number of times.

Should my child learn the text off by heart?

Although it is not the aim of the homework to learn it off by heart, many children memorise the texts verbatim.  They feel very proud when they can recite a poem or text by heart and this is particularly true for children who are not confident readers.  They ‘feel’ and ‘look’ like readers which can be a massive boost to their confidence and self-esteem.

Does it work?

YES!  We have been setting this homework for a few years now and we have seen it make a significant difference to children’s ability to read fluently and with accurate expression.    This has then had a positive impact on children’s ability to understand what they read.  We have also seen the positive impact it can have on children’s confidence in reading generally and in reading aloud to others.  Echo Reading and Choral reading are also really useful strategies to use with the reading books that your child brings home from school. It can sometimes take a lot of effort for a child to decode a whole sentence or page at the expense of understanding what they have just read.  If an adult then repeats the sentence (or the page) and encourages the child to Echo/Choral read, their understanding will increase.  In the lower years in school, we encourage many children to read their reading books 2 or 3 times to develop their fluency and their ability to read with expression, because we know these strategies work.