English and Reading

I use “Toe by Toe” by Keda & Harry Cowling to teach reading. It is a wonderful book for teaching reading systematically, from scratch. I have taught hundreds of children to read using this. It is a very logical approach, so it appeals to the more scientific children, who often haven’t found reading interesting because it didn’t seem to make sense to them. Normally, I break up the lesson with games or Lumosity. I don’t follow the author’s instructions, as it takes too long to do it her way and the children would get very frustrated.

I believe that reading well with understanding is the key to enjoying and succeeding at school. I encourage children to read daily and keep a record of what they have read. I listen to them read out loud and often record them doing it. If they don’t read following the punctuation they will usually omit it when writing, because they haven’t understood its purpose.

I take photographs of the pages with my Paper Pro, so that I can highlight a word that they struggle with and return to it later. I also can write next to the image, to remind them of a skill that they’ve learnt. This is such a good system, that I now use the images on an iPad, even if the pupil is next to me.

I have a good selection of books which I’m happy to lend, particularly the early reader ones. Children often borrow a book a day, so there’s no point in the families buying these.

I assess their reading age when they arrive and do it again when appropriate. The test that I use measures decoding and their reading age improves dramatically when they learn to read with Toe by Toe.

To improve reading speed and comprehension I use “Stride Ahead” by Keda and Frank Cowling. When practising comprehensions, I insist that they answer the questions using their own vocabulary, to show that they have understood what was asked for.

I have a pile of hundreds of the best pieces of creative writing that my pupils have done. I read some of them to inspire them to write well. It is a great honour if I copy what they have written and add it to the pile. I rarely write on their piece as I think that is discouraging. We might write some improvements on the opposite page in their book.

IXL English is a great way to learn grammar, spelling and punctuation.

I use Mrs Wordsmith to develop vocabulary. Children love the illustrations. I allow them to choose the cards that they like. They take them home and bring them back a couple of days later. Sometimes I get them to write out the definitions.

I often work with a pupil’s handwriting. I have great Stabilo EASYgraph pencils, left and right handed, which help them to hold their pencils correctly. I teach cursive writing and encourage them to take pride in the presentation of their writing. It is hard to feel really proud of a piece of writing if it is illegible and untidy.