A flying start

13th September 1996 at 01:00
Ann Brown is one of two Reception class teachers in a large urban primary. She makes an early start on literacy. Ann and her colleague - with the head - share out 60 or so home visits made each year to parents whose children are about to start school.

Each new child is given a booklet they have written called "I'm going to school". One section describes how children will be taught to read and write.

Parents' questions are addressed, like "What if my child can read already?" (Answer: "We take the children from where they are, they're not going to have to go back to square one").

Ann's class made very good progress. Many new entrants had scored quite low on a language test we gave pupils on entry. By the end of the year and the second test, most scored higher than expected and the best were reading simple books with enthusiasm.

Ann regards reading as a holistic process, in which children should not be left "thinking it was something that's been imposed from above". Parents come in on Wednesday and Thursday mornings and read with their children.

Anne gives children her three most significant reading efforts every week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday: "They change their books with me, have some input on either sight vocabulary, meaning or rhyming words, or it might be spelling linked with environmental print. There's a page per child in my school record book."

"I make more use of phonics, I was 'real booksy' before. I pay more attention now to spelling, which was a bit hit and miss in the past, and developing attack skills."

Ann's success seems to be based on a whole school policy, developed largely by the head during her MEd course.

Individual progress is celebrated. Her classroom has a rich print environment and she uses poetry extensively. Furthermore, the parents we interviewed were delighted at how fully informed they felt, and the the extent to which they became involved, even before their child started school.

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