All the main points from the DfE’s new reading framework, including advice on reading corners, book displays and sandpits
Over the weekend, the government published anew framework for reading, which emphasises the importance of teaching systematic synthetic phonics to early years pupils and sets out how schools can best achieve this.
Some teachers have criticised the framework for being “rude and condescending”, and for “teaching us to suck eggs”.
But according to schools minister Nick Gibb, it will help to end the “vicious circle” of “demotivating” reading difficulties.
The DfE’s new reading framework: the key guidance
1. Pupils should have ‘back and forth’ interactions with adults
The framework says that pupils should have opportunities for “back and forth” interactions with adults, such as the teacher thinking out loud or modelling new language for children, as well as rephrasing and extending what pupils say.
It gives an example of how a class visit to a fire station might give opportunities for pupils to learn specific vocabulary such as “heat”, “smoke” and “extinguish”, while a woodland walk could help them practise the use of prepositions such as “between” or “underneath”.
“Later, by making a book from the photographs taken on the walk, teachers can revisit the language used and the children can learn to describe the events in greater detail on each ‘reading’,” it adds.
And it says that good listening must be modelled for pupils and that teachers should decide on a “signal to alert children to listen”.
2. ‘Hands up’ could disrupt pupils’ chances to talk
When pupils are paired together to give feedback, the teacher should choose which pair feeds back to the group to ensure that all pairs are ready to contribute.
“If children think they might not be selected, they might not engage fully,” the framework says.
It adds that using “hands up” can cut down on pupils’ opportunities for learning and talk, as it could benefit pupils who are accustomed to talking with their parents while disadvantaging shy pupils, those new to learning English, and those whose oral skills are less developed.
3. There should be daily storytimes
The daily timetable for Reception and Year 1 should include a storytime, a poetry or singing time, and one or more phonics sessions, the guidance says.
“Teachers are the best people to promote a love of reading because children, particularly young children, care what their teachers think about the stories they read aloud,” it says.
It provides a list of questions to consider when choosing a story to read aloud, such as whether it elicits “a strong response” and has “a strong narrative that will sustain multiple readings”.
It also says teachers should identify a core set of poems for each year group. The guidance says that “learning poems including traditional nursery rhymes such as Hickory Dickory Dock, Little Jack Horner and Baa Baa Black Sheep can also heighten children’s awareness of the individual sounds within words through alliteration, assonance and rhyme”.
4. Book corners should avoid ‘props’ as the main attraction
“The books themselves are the most important aspect of any book corner. It should be the words of the stories and not the props that transport children to different worlds,” the guidance says.
It adds that well-chosen books should engage pupils to the point that “they become unaware of whether they are sitting on a beanbag, an ordinary classroom chair or a bench in the book corner”.
“Time might therefore be better spent on selecting, displaying and promoting the books in the book corner than on decorating it,” it adds.
And it advises that the choice of books on display should not be overwhelming, as “the more choice that is presented, the fewer children are likely to engage”.
5. Pupils needing extra support for reading should be helped in small groups
The guidance says that some pupils may need extra support with reading from the beginning of their education and should be identified as soon as they start to fall behind their classmates.
“To enable children to keep up, they should be given extra practice, either in a small group or one-to-one, whether or not a specific reason has been found,” it says.
It adds that additional support should take place in a quiet area at a regular time every day so that pupils become familiar with it as a routine.
6. Pupils should have an hour of phonics per day by end of Reception
“Phonics sessions might be only 10 minutes long in the first few days,” it says.
“However, by the end of Reception children will need about an hour a day to consolidate previous learning, learn new content and practise and apply what they have learnt, maybe split into different sessions for different activities.”
7. Don’t mix reading schemes or phonics programmes
The guidance also advises against mixing reading schemes or phonics programmes used in schools to avoid confusing pupils.
“It is important not to confuse children by mixing material from different programmes or across different classrooms – hence the phrase ‘fidelity to the programme’,” it says, noting that some programmes might use the phrase “split digraph” while others might refer to a “magic e” sound – and that pupils should not be confused by different terminology.
8. Avoid using paint or water trays to teach reading
The guidance says that the use of sandpits or water trays to teach reading can hinder learning.
“Activities such as painting, colouring, modelling, playing in the sand and water tray are valuable for developing language, knowledge, cooperative play, fine motor skills, imagination and creativity,” it says. “Using them as vehicles for practising phonics not only takes away the integrity of the activities but also does not provide sufficient practice in word reading; for example, when ‘fishing’ for words in a water tray, or painting or making models of letters.”
The guidance also says that:
- Collecting evidence for early years pupils takes away valuable time for teachers to interact with them.
- Pupils in their early years do not need to learn a list of “high frequency” words.
- Teachers should display “decodable” books in order so that pupils do not encounter books that include phonics they have not yet learned. “For example, a book that includes the word ‘play’ should be placed so that children are not asked to read it until the digraph ‘ay’ has been taught.”
- The “best reading instruction for children with SEND is SSP [systematic synthetic phonics], taught by direct instruction”.
- Headteachers should appoint a literacy lead (or reading lead): someone to manage the teaching of phonics, reading and writing.