Golden threads

At the Dolphin School in line with our ‘states of being’ approach, we teach reading and writing as ‘authors’. 

The overarching aim for English at The Dolphin School is to promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written word, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment. As well as using the national curriculum, our English curriculum aims to ensure that all pupils: 

 • read easily, fluently and with good understanding 

• develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information 

• acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language 

• appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage 

• write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences 

• use discussion in order to learn; to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas. 

• are competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate. 



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What do we know? 

We know that a key tool to championing the disadvantaged and empowering children to gain access to great opportunities in life, is unlocking their ability to read easily, fluently and with good understanding. 

We know that our children come from a rich variety of linguistic backgrounds and so we tailor the texts we study and way we teach reading so that children who speak English as additional language are well supported. There is an additional focus on vocabulary with accompanying visuals to ensure understanding of new words is developed. 

We teach phonics through the Little Wandle phonics programme. Further information about this can be found on our Phonics page. 

We know the importance of representation in choosing our texts in order to engage our whole school community. 

Evidence suggests that children who read regularly for enjoyment develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures. In fact, reading for pleasure is more likely to determine whether a child does well at school than their social or economic background.  


What do we want? 

At The Dolphin School, we want children to find their own love of reading and we work hard to develop confident and independent readers by inspiring a love of literature and an enjoyment of reading for knowledge and pleasure. We aim to ensure that children can read a wide variety of texts with fluency, accuracy and understanding which will enrich their lives into adulthood. We want all children, regardless of background, to enjoy reading aloud.  


How will we achieve this?  

To enable all children to become fluent readers  

Our approach to the teaching of reading to EAL pupils who are new to English is underpinned by: 

1. Evidence of how EAL pupils acquire knowledge and skills in English. 

2. Knowing each pupil as an individual; their prior learning and existing skills & knowledge, and how these may affect development of reading skills in English. 

Evidence of how EAL pupils acquire knowledge and skills in English underpins our approach. We consider oracy skills, vocabulary knowledge, contextual support, multi lingual support and have high expectations for rapid progress 

We ensure that Reading taught in Dolphin School is representative and community-focused.  When choosing Reading books, books are carefully selected to explore that link to or build on our children’s experiences.  We equally plan and teach our reading lessons with EAL in mind by exploring and explaining new vocabulary regularly.  We strongly believe in championing the disadvantaged and as such we support all children to learn to read with the goal of all our children reading with fluency. 

We have a strong focus on the development of language skills and oracy for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading in all subjects. Every class has a Class Book time to end the day where age-appropriate books are read by the class teacher. Staff aim to breathe life into the words, capturing children’s attention and imagination at these special times of the day. 

Our children are heard read by an adult regularly and based on their need. For children who require extra support with their reading, we make sure that we increase the amount of time they spend reading to an adult to match their need. 

Volunteer readers also hear children read. These might be parents, UWE students, V6 Sixth Formers or older reading buddies from within the school. When a child reads to an older reader in school, their reading record is signed or stamped. Our children are expected to bring their reading record and reading book in to school every day.  


We allocate books to the children according to their reading levels. Until they have been assessed using Little Wandle phonics programme as having sufficient fluency, children will take home fully decodable books that are carefully matched to their phonics level. If their book level changes following assessment, a note will be made in their Reading Records. 


Phonically decodable books 


Foundations for phonics 

Phase 2 

Phase 3 

Phase 4 

Phase 5 












End Reception 





End Yr 1 


Once they have sufficient fluency and secure phonic knowledge to tackle any book at age-related expectations, our school follows the colour book band progression below. This is determined using a ‘benchmarking’ process to ensure we accurately track and assess pupils’ reading progress across the whole school, ensuring consistent and accurate levelling in reading: 

Benchmarked books 

























End Yr 1 





End Yr 2 

End Yr 3 



End Yr 4 

End Yr 5 


Children move on to the next stage after an informal benchmarking assessment with their class teacher or teaching assistant once they have shown they are confident in the word reading and understanding required for each coloured stage.  Although children might sound confident as a reader, we only move children on to the next stage once they have shown secure confidence in their reading fluency and comprehension of what they have read. If following benchmarking, a child has been moved on to the next stage in our coloured book bands, a note will be written in their reading record.  

Children are encouraged to independently change their books as and when they need to either in their classroom, or in the school library. There is a silent reading period every day for children to practise their reading and be heard by adults.  

Alongside children’s decodable reading book or their benchmarked colour band books, children may also take home a reading for pleasure book each week from the class book corner or the school library to share with their family. 

The Dolphin standard is ‘4 out of 7’: We expect our children to read to an adult or older relative at home at least four days out of seven each week. Regular readers are celebrated with weekly or termly reading rewards. 

From Year 2 upwards, we also have daily whole class ‘Guiding Reading’ lessons to teach the skills of predicting, clarifying, asking questions, illustrating, summarising and answering questions from a text. 



How to help your child with reading: 

• Read regularly with your child. Ten minutes a day makes a huge difference. Even if your child reads independently it is important that you listen to them read and check that their chosen book is suitable and that they understand what they are reading. 

• Ask your child questions about the text they have read to check that they understand what they are reading. You can use a school bookmark to help you with this. Ask your class teacher for one of these if you don’t have one. 

• Read to your child at bedtime. This is a good opportunity for children to listen to a range of stories and explore a variety of different genre. 

• Make a note of the date, book title and pages read in their yellow Reading Record to show that you have listened to them read. You may also include a comment about the reading you have heard. 



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What do we know? 


We know that writing is a fundamental skill that supports children in their learning and also prepares children for life beyond the classroom. We believe it is important to teach key skills to enable all children to see stories as part of a whole text and understand its structure, presentation and language. Teachers are provided with EAL-sensitive assessment tools that can help them recognise pupil language achievements and needs in writing. We know that we need to present children with a diet of texts that both represent them and expose them to other cultural backgrounds. We know that oracy-rich classrooms help children compose and experiment with language while preparing for the writing process.  


What do we want? 

We know it is important to ensure that children understand the purpose behind their writing and to provide children with useful tools to develop their independence in the planning process. It is vital that children develop their confidence and independence in building and writing texts for a specific audience and purpose. We want children to demonstrate an enhanced ability in writing with accuracy and for a variety of purposes, mostly at age-expected level.  


How will we achieve this? 

We use our holistic approach to teach key writing skills. For teaching narrative skills (fiction), our lessons flow out of a specific text. Many elements of the National Curriculum flow out of this one text. Reading skills will be developed and drama will play a significant part. Children’s stamina and skills are developed to write at length. Skills in writing are applied across the curriculum to ensure a broad and balanced learning experience. We teach a range of non-fiction writing that may be linked to the fiction or to our enquiry: instructions, non-chronological reports, recounts, persuasion, explanation and discussion. Poetry is also taught at least three times a year. 


Spelling, Vocabulary, Punctuation & Grammar 

We believe that spelling, vocabulary, grammar and punctuation are essential tools in helping children to write sentences and then create texts that make sense and flow well. Our aim is to equip all children to know, use and apply these tools in order to gain finer control over what they write thinking carefully about their content and style and how this is appropriate to their audience and purpose. As children grow in confidence in these skills, they will be able to make informed decisions on what and how they write. 

In our school, where so many children have a different mother tongue, it is even more important that the technical aspects of writing such as grammar are taught explicitly. Learning the rules of English specifically benefits EAL learners. However, it is undoubtedly true to say that having the technical language to describe sentence and word structure – terms such as suffixes, subordinate clauses, or adverbs - enables all learners to discuss their own writing and how it might be improved for impact on the reader.  

We teach spelling daily from Year 2, which enables online and home practice of spelling patterns and common exception words relevant to each year group. We use Spelling Shed to provide the spine of our weekly teaching and ensure continuity from Little Wandle, our phonics teaching scheme. A set of words based around this spelling rule is given to the children and practised in class.  

Vocabulary, grammar and punctuation is taught mainly within the teaching of English lessons in order to make clear the purpose and relevance of a specific word, piece of punctuation or grammatical term. These elements will be explored through identifying them in texts and by practising them before applying them in their own writing. At the Dolphin School we practice the active teaching of vocabulary across the curriculum and encourage our children to be ‘word aware’. Key vocabulary is part of every lesson and on every display board and we introduce children to new words on a weekly basis. 


A consistently high standard of presentation and handwriting is promoted across the whole school, which all children and staff recognise, understand and follow. For children and teachers, this aims to foster a sense of pride and respect in their work. Self-esteem is raised when children are able to communicate meaning accurately. Successful teaching of handwriting empowers children to write with fluent, legible and eventually speedy handwriting as they gain automaticity (writing becomes an ingrained habit).  

Handwriting is taught regularly through short, focused and discrete sessions and may be linked with spelling, grammar, phonic objectives or fine and gross motor skill sessions. Adults will model high expectations of handwriting and presentation at all times.  

Pre-cursive/print is to be used in Reception and Year 1: 





A cursive style of handwriting is taught at The Dolphin School from Year 2 onwards: 



The diagonal line joins soften as the writer becomes increasingly fluent. The style is taught as separate letters at first – not letter strings – and all the letters with their diagonal lead-in joins are taught to proficiency and automaticity before starting to join the letters into words. There are some useful free resources on this website: