Warden Park Primary Academy, New England Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 3JR

01444 451264

Warden Park Primary

'Reach for the Stars'

Reading and Writing

At Warden Park Primary we teach reading in a variety of ways.  We have a 'Communication' curriculum that is rich in quality texts and immerses our children in a wide range of literacy experiences to generate a love of reading and writing.  Speaking and listening is vital and our children are given extended opportunities to talk and role-play before expressing their ideas through writing.


Research has shown that children learn the connection between phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (the written letter) best through a systematic approach.  At Warden Park Primary we use key principles and resources from the Read, Write, Inc synthetic phonics programme throughout our school.  The information below gives an overview of how this programme works, and there is also a link to general information about phonics.  In our Reception classes we also learn the Jolly Phonics songs to support the children in learning the 44 sounds they need to read and write with confidence.

Read Write Inc. 

Read Write Inc. Phonics is highly successful literacy programme created by Ruth Miskin and published by Oxford University Press. The training and support from Ruth Miskin Training, rated Outstanding by the Department for Education, ensure the programmes have the best chance of success in schools.

The Read Write Inc, programmes are carefully matched to the new curriculum, giving your children the best chance of success in the national tests. They show teachers, teaching assistants and parents step-by-step how to teach all children to become fluent readers, confident speakers and willing writers.

Our school uses Read Write Inc. Phonics for our children in Nursery to Year 2 and for our children in Years 3 and 4 who need to catch up.


Click here for a parent/carers guide to RWI. 


Read Write Inc. Phonics is used by over a quarter of the UK’s primary schools. It is a comprehensive literacy programme, weaving decoding, comprehension, writing and spelling together seamlessly. Ruth Miskin developed the program during her time as a headteacher in Tower Hamlets. She believes that in order for a school to be successful, every headteacher needs to adopt a consistent whole-school approach to teaching reading, writing and spelling. Fidelity to the teaching programme, rigorous assessment, tracking and one-to-one tutoring ensure that schools guarantee progress for every child.

For information and tutorials on how to support your child learning to read go to:http://www.ruthmiskin.com/en/parents/


This year are working on expanding our vocabularies at WPPA.  To help this, we have developed a game for the children to play!  The game is called 'Hide and Speak' and involves words being hidden around the school.  The children need to find the words and seek the meaning of them.  The final stage is to try and use these words in a sentence either verbally or within their writing.  The definitions of the words are listed below, please ask your children about the game and help them to understand the meaning of some of the words.  These documents are also helpful if you get stuck at providing a definition for any of the words!

Word Gaps: 5 Strategies To Boost Vocabulary 



What strategies can we use to improve vocabulary?

A limited vocabulary impacts pupils’ learning. Without enough language they suffer and their life chances take a serious dent.

What does the research say?

According to Jane Harley, Strategy Director for UK Education at Oxford University Press, “Language is at the heart of education and we believe that more needs to be done to address the issue throughout school and give teachers support to make a difference to these children’s lives.”

Vocabulary is intrinsically linked to academic success. Not having enough words ‘in the bank’ affects progress in school but also enjoyment of school (Why Closing the Word Gap Matters: Oxford Language Report, 2018)

You can see the huge word gap before children even enter the education system.

In ‘The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3’, Hart and Risley found that “in four years, an average child in a professional family would accumulate experience with 45 million words…and an average child in a welfare family 13 million words”.

The Oxford Language Report also brought to light a vocabulary deficit affecting secondary students. Almost half (43%) of year 7 “have a word gap that affects their learning” and that vocabulary is a bigger predictor of GCSE results [in maths and English Literature] than socio-economic background.

Language opens doors

If the percentage of words known in a text is less than 95%, this causes a major barrier to reading comprehension. Clearly, explicit vocabulary instruction is a priority across the curriculum to address word poverty. But what steps can we take to close the gap?

A helpful place to start is with Beck et al’s tiered system:

One – common everyday words that typically appear in oral conversations therefore children exposed to them at high frequency from an early age (warm, dog, tired, run, talk, party, swim, look…)

Two – high utility words characteristic of written text that are found across a variety of domains (contradict, circumstance, precede, retrospect…)

Three – low frequency and often limited to specific subjects/domains (pantheon, epidermis, oxymoron…)

They recommend a focus on tier two words “because of the large role tier two words play in a language user’s repertoire, rich knowledge of words in the 2nd tier can have a powerful impact on verbal functioning therefore teaching tier two words can be most productive.”

5 strategies to boost vocabulary

Here are some of the ways I have aimed to do this:

1. Reading challenges

This is an adaptation of Rebecca Foster’s excellent 5-a-day reading challenges.

I choose high-quality writing related to the scheme of work which students read in preparation for a reading challenge lesson. For example, in a unit on Shakespeare, there is everything from a Guardian article on arranged marriage to an extract from Atwood’s modern reimagining of The Tempest: Hagseed.

I identify a maximum of eight tier two words that students must learn for homework. Through the reading challenges, students not only build up a bank of tier two words related to the scheme being studied, but they also read around the topic, enhancing their wider understanding.

2. Retrieval practice

The reading challenge lesson consists of low stakes testing of the vocabulary.

We begin with cold-calling where all students stand, I pose a question (e.g. what does the adjective ‘anecdotal’ mean?) and then call on one student to answer.

If the answer is correct, we might use choral response to repeat the definition as a class.

If the answer is wrong, I allow hands up but return to the original student who must repeat the correct answer. You might know this as the ‘No Opt Out’ strategy from Doug Lemov’s ‘Teach like a Champion‘.

We then move on to comprehension questions, linking the vocabulary to the scheme of work (for example, do you agree with the notion that arranged marriage is a retrograde tradition?)

Because these questions require greater mastery of the vocabulary and are more open-ended, I will often ask follow-up questions such as: can you give an example? What evidence do we have for that? What might the counterargument be?

Lots of retrieval practice is a must to develop confidence with the new vocabulary. Students are also encourage to self-quiz on the words as part of their homework to help them learn the definitions.

Retrieval practice an effective way to retain the new vocabulary. There is no marking either and a great way of assessing homework and checking it has been done!

3. Writing challenges

Another magpied idea – this time Chris Curtis’ fantastic writing challenges.

Using the reading text as a mentor text, students aim to emulate the conventions and vocabulary used by the writer in their own piece of writing. This could be an opinion piece on arranged marriage or a short story about betrayal, for example. Through the writing challenges, students are practising using the vocabulary learned for specific effect in their writing.

You can use the above ideas in any subject area. Simply adapt the format of writing to make it relevant (e.g. a research piece in science).

4. Metacognition

For every piece of writing students must explain their vocabulary choices. This includes whether it is a lengthy writing challenge or a carefully crafted sentence.

I give students self-assessment sentence stems such as ‘I used the word ____ here to convey _____’ and ‘If I had used [synonym for word chosen] instead of [actual word chosen], the meaning/effect would have been different because ______’

In writing challenge feedback lessons, we look at examples of excellent vocabulary usage and explore why certain words have been used effectively in students’ writing.

When students metacognitively engage with their work, they think carefully about their word choices. They examine the precise meanings of words and the nuances between words.

5. Word exploration

In the reading challenge lessons, we explore the words by looking at the different words forms; identify synonyms and antonyms as well as the subtle differences between synonyms; create word families and explore the etymology and/or morphology of words.


Here are some links with ideas on how to improve vocabulary: