Number 1 item on my list of 'Ten Things That Successful Phonics Schools Do' is:
Some schools call this role the 'Phonics Lead' but I like to use the term 'Literacy' because for me, phonics = basic literacy knowledge and skills. It's the foundations that, well, everything else, is built upon.
Appointing a designated leader is not only a sensible and practical measure but it also demonstrates that phonics is being recognised as important in your school.
What does the Literacy leader do?
It's a hot debate in phonics... should you vertically group children according to their ability irrelevant of their age? Or should you keep them in mixed ability, same age classes?
Here are my thoughts...
Whole class teaching:
Many schools report that they have tried to adopt vertical grouping but have now moved back to whole class teaching.
'My preference is whole class teaching for all the reasons listed above.'
Schools tell me that their results have been consistent irrelevant of whether they've vertically grouped or kept whole class. So, there seems to be a move towards whole class teaching which makes me happy - better application of skills, teachers with more responsibility and ownership, less logistical problems. However, vertical grouping can work effectively WHEN and BECAUSE phonics is made a priority and that is an important key message.
If you are a school with two or three form entry (more than one class per year group) it might make sense for you to horizontally group children for phonics within the year group. I work with schools who review the children in the year group as a whole, then split them into three or four ability groups - two groups staffed by class teachers and the other group/s staffed by teaching assistants.
A final note on grouping children for phonics...
However you organise your phonics remember that groups should be 'fluid'. Children make progress so quickly in phonics, and progress at different rates from one another. You should certainly review the groupings each half term but also be prepared to move children between groups mid-term if it will benefit them.
How does your school group for phonics? Let me know in the comments :-)
I often set teachers homework to come and watch this video.
'Learning from others is so useful.'
In many ways it's exactly what my job is - I spend lots of my working time visiting schools and sharing information about what others are doing that is or isn't working. This video is the lovely Sam Bailey talking at the Reading Reform Foundation Conference in 2015. She explains how she transformed outcomes for children in her first headship at a school requiring improvement and how, in just two terms at her next school (ranked 32nd worst in England on previous results) children's outcomes got on track for equally good, if not better, improvement. She is sure that Synthetic Phonics teaching has played a key part in this.
Enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments :-)
It's the Rising Stars Reading Conference 2019 next week and I've got a speaking slot. My talk is only 45 minutes long so I'm getting some extra information down in video and blog clips in preparation that people can find out more afterwards if they want to. I'm going to tell people about 'Ten Things That Successful Phonics Schools Do'. It's probably the main thing I talk about at the moment in one form or another.
'Schools are hungry to know the best ways of teaching phonics and there are lots of myths out there.'
'Schools that are already successful with phonics are auditing themselves to see if practice could be even better.'
I'd like to use the conference deadline to corner me into producing some long awaited Teacher Training Phonics Self-Study books too but, as ever, I'm completely swapped with a whole batch of work for different clients so we shall see.
Here's an overview of the things on my 'Ten Things That Successful Phonics Schools Do' list:
Click on any item on the list to find out more about what I'm saying.
Birmingham, Thursday 7th November 2019
Central London, Thursday 14th November 2019
Trainer: Abigail Steel
Price: £199 + VAT (Bring a colleague for £50 + VAT! Register for two or more places and pay £50 + VAT for the extra places)
Course hosted by Rising Stars
How do you turn even the most reluctant pupil into a confident and engaged reader? During this one-day course, reading expert Abigail Steel will explain how, providing you with the skills and understanding to improve your whole school reading provision for lower attainers in Key Stage One and Two.
Following positive feedback from last year's events, Steve Lomax and I are running these Feedback from KS2 SATs Masterclasses again (hosted by Rising Stars). Steve will cover the Maths papers and I'll be covering the English papers.
Birmingham, Tuesday 5th November 2019
London, Tuesday 12th November 2019
£199 (Bring a colleague for £50 + VAT! Register for two or more places and pay just £50 + VAT for the extra places)
Understand the performance outcomes of the 2019 National Tests and what strategies can be adopted in the classroom to identify and support pupils working below the expected standard.
Join me at this FREE event in London hosted by Rising Stars! I'll be talking about what a successful phonics school looks like. Here are the details...
When: Wednesday 19th June 2019
Venue: University of Westminster (Hogg Lecture Theatre), 35 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5LS
Trainers: Ross Montgomery (keynote), Abie Longstaff (keynote), Abi Steel, Siobhan Skeffington, Dee Reid, Pauline Allen
A FREE primary conference packed with practical and inspiring ideas on how you can raise reading attainment and enjoyment in your school.
Join top children's authors and literacy experts for Raising Standards Through Reading, and exciting one-day conference that will answer your burning questions:
Abigail Steel is an Education Consultant for Early Years and Primary (KS1 & 2) Language and Literacy. Her specialist area is Synthetic Phonics.
Click here to go to Abigail Steel's Amazon Author Page to browse and purchase her education books and literacy resources.