This case study was written by Nicola Capper, Year 1 Teacher & Phonic Lead at St. Mary’s Academy.
StoryTime Phonics at St. Mary’s Academy.
Written by a Year 1 teacher who attended workshops, lesson observations and training from Michelle Larbey (English Advisor) and training from Fiona Maine (lecturer) and took active steps to put into practice the messages and strategies explored in relation to StoryTime Phonics.
I have been leading phonics in school for a number of years. Over the years, I have moved from whole class teaching to setting children by phase and back to whole class teaching again, so we don’t put a ”glass ceiling” on the children. I wasn’t enjoying teaching phonics and consequently the children were not engaged in the lessons. We were repeating the resources and games used but just changing the sound taught.
I had attended one of Michelle’s talk for writing courses and these had inspired me to teach creative and imaginative story writing lessons. When I was invited with a TA to attend a course run by Michelle called StoryTime Phonics, I jumped at the opportunity. With the full support of my head, we began the journey on how we now teach phonics at St Mary’s.
The biggest impact on me was made by the high quality picture books which we were going to use to teach phonics. We left the course with 6 picture books to start teaching phonic lessons. It was daunting but we were excited to implement this new, creative way to teach early reading. It was like unwrapping Christmas presents during the summer holidays as the lovely picture books were delivered to the school along with a set of StoryTime plans. From September 2015, we began to teach StoryTime Phonics in FS and KS1, contextualising phonics and giving it a real purpose.
The great thing about StoryTime Phonics is that it is based on letters and sounds but you introduce each new sound with a lovely story book. With each book is an action caption which links to the book and the sound being taught. Planning still follows the four elements – revisit/review, teach (new learning), practise and apply. Ideas are given for activities for practising and applying, they are multisensory and fun. Consequently, this interactive approach helps children to retain the new learning and of course it is engaging!
For the children in my Year 1 class, it is the power of the books which has made the programme so successful. Children have made a deep connection with the stories and characters from the books and instead of referring to the action caption, they relate the sound directly to a book.
So evident was this association with the books that we have a washing line in the classroom which shows the front cover of the book and the sounds linked to the book. You only have to say a sound and children refer to a book (‘er’ that comes from Six Dinner Sider, ‘a-e’ is what Caveman Dave Says). When writing children are observed looking at the washing line to remind them of the sound. How rewarding to see children applying their phonic knowledge in their writing books.
Right from the start we wanted a uniform look to StoryTime Phonics across the classes. This has resulted in a non-negotiable policy. All classes have a tricky troll bridge for those tricky troll words and a library shelf containing the fairy words. Interactive activities in the classrooms are provided with the StoryTime assessment games. Washing lines are evident in all of the classes.
In addition to the detailed planning are the excellent video clips that are introduced by the Phonic Fairy. These help to add a sparkle of magic to the lesson and the clips allow staff to develop their confidence and become more adventurous and creative with their teaching. Teachers started to take the ideas and activities and adapt them to meet the needs of their own class. We didn’t have a cave for Caveman Dave so we draped black cloth over tables, added a few fake bones, gave the children some torches and off they set on the adventure to find ‘a-e’ words in the cave.
The impact of StoryTime Phonics is fantastic. Teachers and TAs are delivering exciting phonic lessons and the children are eager to find out which book the Phonic Fairy will introduce next. Unfortunately, it is difficult to measure this enthusiasm and love of the books, but in July 2015 our data was way under the standard in the phonics check – after just one term of teaching StoryTime Phonics we predict that the vast majority of the children will pass this year. We feel this is due to the impact of StoryTime Phonics on the staff and their teaching and the love of the books by the children.
Written by Nicola Capper
Year 1 teacher, St. Marys Primary Academy
St Neots, Cambridgeshire