Literacy and Reading at Verulam School
What is our vision for literacy?
Literacy is a key component of becoming a successful and employable citizen of an ever-advancing world. Every member of staff at Verulam School, from Learning Support Assistants to canteen staff, strives to embed literacy in their everyday responsibilities; literacy is integral to every facet of successful learning. It is not the sole responsibility of the English Department, but rather should be fostered and actively taught across all disciplines. Verulam School’s literacy strategy takes the recent guidance from the EEF Report (2019) and looks beyond a generic-basket approach to embed literacy instruction within all departments. The EEF Report states that Disciplinary Literacy has been identified as the most impactful strategy in improving literacy in secondary schools, and at Verulam School, we will ensure our young men and women can confidently ‘write like a scientist’, ‘read like a historian’ and ‘speak like a mathematician’.
Explicitly Teaching Vocabulary at Verulam School
At Verulam School, we believe that developing an extensive vocabulary is vital in all subjects. We therefore focus on the importance of learning new vocabulary and provide targeted vocabulary instruction in every subject. Teachers use the Frayer Model to help deliver new vocabulary and provide opportunities to explore and revisit those key words again throughout the year.
Word of the Week
Every week, we have a Word of the Week – shared with staff, pupils and parents. Form tutors and teachers firstly introduce and use this word in their lessons for that week. We have a dedicated House Point (H2 WotW) for teachers to issue for an attempted written or verbal use. In some years, pupils see the half termly WotW’s in their spelling tests.WotW-25.09.23
View all of the Word of the Week 2022-2023
Why does reading matter so much?
There is undoubtable evidence that connects reading for pleasure and student academic attainment. The OECD report states that reading for pleasure is one of the most important indicators of future success for children. Similarly, reading for pleasure has many other non-academic benefits, including increasing empathy, improving relationships with others, reducing the symptoms of depression and improving wellbeing throughout life (The Reading Agency 2015).
Supporting struggling readers requires a co-ordinated effort across a school. No particular strategy alone should be seen as a panacea, but careful diagnosis of the reasons why an individual pupil is struggling should guide the choice of intervention strategies. Although using advice from Quigley, Lemov, Visser-Furay and others, we are primarily using both the EEF Guidance (Reading Comprehension Strategies Key Findings July 2021 & Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools Report) and the DfE Reading Framework July 2023 (in particular Section 4: Children at risk of reading failure).
No Shelf Control: Reading and Library Newsletter
Reading at Verulam School
Reading is championed, encouraged and promoted across all areas of the school, including:
- Fortnightly reading lessons in our library for Year 7 & Year 8;
- A range of specialist reading intervention support sessions for struggling readers, including:
- Read, Write, Inc. (a catch up and intervention programme designed by OUP and Ruth Miskin. This contains phonics (sounds and graphemes), spelling, non-fiction and fiction comprehension);
- Reading Fluency Project (an intervention programme for pupils with low fluency based on the principles of Herts for Learning’s Reading Fluency programme);
- Reading Comprehension Programme (an intervention programme for pupils with low comprehension that focuses on literal comprehension, inferential comprehension, summarising text and word recognition strategies);
- Year 7 Reading Buddy Scheme with trained Sixth Form students.
- Form Time Reading Programme (every Monday, form tutors read aloud to their forms to give tutees the opportunity to experience new texts, learn and contextualise new vocabulary and be exposed to a range of cultural references that they may not experience in their everyday life):
- Year 7 and Year 8 is novel-based reading – over the course of the academic year, form tutors will read:
- Boy 87 by Ele Fountain
- A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll
- When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle
- The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
- Year 9 and Year 10 is short extract-based reading and when and where appropriate, necessary and relevant, each reading extract is connected to the theme of the week.
- A range of current and topical books in the library which is at the heart of the school;
- Regular seasonal and event-based reading challenges;
- Celebrating World Book Day.
At Verulam School, we have a tiered approach to our reading intervention programme. The PDF diagram shows the processes that goes into supporting the bottom 20% of readers in Year 7. Once they have been identified, their type of need is distinguished (phonics, fluency or comprehension) which informs what type of extra support they would benefit from most. This support comes in the form of either a trained Sixth Form Reading Buddy which takes place during one form time a week for two terms, or a 12 week-long specialist small group intervention session ran by trained LSA’s in place of two timetabled lessons a week.Lowest 20% Reading Overview 2023
Verulam School Reading Lists
There are 11 bespoke reading lists to help navigate reading interests. These are:
- Books of Chinese Origin
- Books to Celebrate Muslim Culture
- Books of Black Origin
- Books of South Asian Origin
- Books for Gamers
- Books of LGBTQ+ Origin
- Books to Promote Inclusion and Disability
- Books to help Mental Health
- Books for Career Paths
- Books for Remembrance and WW1
- Books to Remember the Holocaust
Each recommended book has a short blurb to give a ‘taste’ of what the title is about; these lists have been designed to help students guide their reading interests towards particular areas if they are reluctant readers or have a particular interest in a subject. All of these books are in stock in our library._Verulam School Reading Lists Full List
Recommended KS3 Subject Specific Reading Lists
Every subject has created bespoke subject specific reading lists for Key Stage Three (Year 7-9) which are displayed in their classrooms and referred to where appropriate and necessary in the curriculum. This helps build reading relationships within each subject specific classroom. These reading lists are designed to help students guide their reading interests towards particular subject areas if they are reluctant readers or have a particular interest in a subject.KS3-Subject-Specific-Reading-List
Verulam Reading Challenges
Alongside seasonal and event-based reading challenges, there are 8 “Verulam Reading Challenges”. For each challenge, there is a list of 8-12 books that pupils could read. Pupils must read 6 of these books (and complete the Accelerated Reader quiz) to complete the challenge. Each challenge represents a key theme; the challenges are:
- Read Your Way Around the World…
- Read Your Way Through Numbers…
- Read Your Way Through the Universe…
- Read Your Way Through Books of LGBTQ+ Origin…
- Read Your Way Through a Changing Planet…
- Read Your Way Through History…
- Read Your Way Through Books of Black Origin…
- Read Your Way Through Sport…
For example, the “Read Your Way Through Books of Black Origin” challenge includes the following books:
- Ace of Spades
- Freedom: 1789
- Tristan Strong Punches A Hole In The Sky
- Ghost (Track Series #1)
- Black and British: A Short Essential History
- The Humiliations of Welton Blake
- Dear Justyce
- You Are A Champion
Pupils would need to read 6 of these 8 books within this challenge to complete it. Upon completing each book, pupils will need to take the corresponding Accelerated Reader quiz that counts towards their overall Accelerated Reader score. Completing one “Reading Challenge” will result in a Letter of Recognition towards the Blue Stag Award.Verulam-Reading-Challenges-Lists-2022-23
Reading and our Local Community
Partnership with Books on the Hill
Verulam School is proudly partnered with local independent bookshop, Books on the Hill. Verulam School not only has monthly book suggestions from the stores specialist children’s bookseller, but opportunities to publish book reviews both in store and online on their website. Books on the Hill has a dedicated page on their website, https://www.books-on-the-hill.co.uk/verulam which is password protected (password: Verulamreads). Here, the recommended books are displayed alongside our published reviews. The Verulam Community can receive 20% off with the code Verulamreads too, both online and in store.
Reviews in Waterstones, St Peters Street, St Albans
Students have regular opportunities to write reviews for our local Waterstones bookstore. These are displayed next to the book for members of the public.
Year 7 and Year 8 Book Club
All students in Years 7 and Year 8 are invited to participate in book club on Tuesday lunch times in Room 4. During this club, pupils have the opportunity to discuss books they are currently reading and write reviews to share in the library, at our local Waterstones store or/ and with local independent bookseller ‘‘Books on the Hill’.
Poetry By Heart
All students in the school are encouraged to participate in the Poetry by Heart competition which culminates in performances by winning students at The Globe Theatre in London after school and regional rounds. The competition is sponsored by Homerton College, Cambridge and has lecturers as part of the judging panel. Students learn and perform poems with a focus on their oracy and reflecting meaning through voice, building confidence whilst enjoying poetry.
Debate Club (Year 9’s to Year 13’s)
This club runs after school for an hour once a week. Students learn to work as a team to research topics, structure arguments and communicate effectively. They compete in competitions locally, nationally and internationally.
Exploring ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ through drama
To coincide with their study of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, all Year 7 students will be invited to take part in a drama workshop, encouraging them to approach the play from an actor’s perspective. Through a range of group activities, the year group will delve deeper into the play’s thematic ideas, characters and plot.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace- Stratford-Upon-Avon:
Year 8 students will have the opportunity to visit the birthplace of Shakespeare, enjoy a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, tour his home and begin to contextualise their in-class learning. Taking place across two days and one night, students will be able to immerse themselves in Shakespeare’s early life, whilst developing relationships with peers and staff.
Poetry Live: GCSE Poetry
This trip will be aimed at KS4, inviting students in both Year 10 and 11 to take part in the day trip to Milton Keynes Theatre where poets of the ‘Power and Conflict’ cluster (assessed within Literature Paper 2), will read and examine their poems. Students will have the opportunity to ask questions, will be given guidance from chief examiners of their exam board (AQA) and how to approach unseen poetry within the exam.
Verulam has partnered with Scholastic Publishing in order to give all students the opportunity to explore a range of books and develop their love of reading. Spread across one week, students will have the opportunity during their dedicated library lessons and break and lunch time to explore the texts on offer and find what interests them. Students will all be given the opportunity to take part in a competition, with the prize being vouchers to spend at the fair.
Verulam Reading Council
Verulam School has a dedicated Reading Council who meet every half term to discuss key events and ideas with our Lead Practitioner Mr Pettitt. These meetings are seasonally focused; for example, the new stock purchased by the Sponsored Read in March was chosen by this council and the book tasting event in June for this new stock was organised by this council. Similarly, we have small trips planned for the council to develop our partnership with Books on the Hill where we will focus on current local, national and global reading trends.
To celebrate and encourage a lifelong love of reading at home and at school and World Book Day, Verulam School holds an annual two-week sponsored read in March. This annual event is organised in conjunction with a book publisher and all the money raised goes towards new books and resources for our school library.
In 2022-2023, our target was £600 and we raised over £1800! Our chosen publisher Usborne Books contributed a further 60% of the total raised in extra free books to the school.
In 2023-2024, our chosen partner is Books on the Hill, our local independent bookstore in St Albans.
Supporting Your Son At Home with Literacy and Reading
It is crucial that students have support from home with their literacy and reading. Please find below a document that was shared with Year 7 and Year 8 parents at an evening workshop on supporting your son at home with literacy and reading. This booklet includes many top tips to supporting at home, including supporting with writing, speaking and listening, and reading.Parental-Literacy-Workshop-Booklet-2022