Literacy at HWGA

Literacy at Handsworth Wood Girl's Academy

At Handsworth Wood Girls’ Academy a large majority of our students come from backgrounds whereby, academic language is not spoken very often in the home for a range of different reasons.  It is therefore the aim of our teachers to help address this issue by improving literacy skills in every subject.

Alongside regular English reading and writing assessments, all students must complete two literacy assessments per academic year.  The two main literacy assessments involve planning a piece of extended writing, which is based on the ideas taught in Literacy lessons.  Each assessment is measured in accordance to the national assessment foci.  The main foci of assessments are composition and effective writing.  Results are scrutinized to measure progression in literacy.  In order to improve our students’ literacy skills, the learning of literacy is divided into the key strands outlined below:

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AF1 — Write imaginative, interesting and thoughtful texts. 

AF2 — Produce texts which are appropriate to task, reader and purpose.

AF3 — Organise and present whole texts effectively, sequencing and structuring information.

AF4 — Construct paragraphs using cohesion within and between sentences.

AF5 — Vary sentences for clarity, purpose and effect.

AF6 — Write with technical accuracy of syntax and punctuation in phrases, clauses and sentences.

AF7 — Select appropriate and effective vocabulary.

AF8 — Use correct spelling.

Teachers and support staff aim to provide useful tips on how to remember key aspects of literacy. 

Teachers and support staff:

Challenge students to practise their skills in literacy.

Provide supportive detail by clarifying the rules and strategies that can be used to help students to remember key features of literacy.

Highlight common literacy difficulties.

Provide advance skills in literacy that best suits individual students’ needs.

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In reading, we encourage students to improve their skills by:

Visualising: formulate pictures in their mind.

Hear the writer: envision the voice of the writer.

Infer and interpret: read amid the lines.

Predict: think about hints in texts that suggest what will happen next.

Re-read: go back through parts of the text, skimming and scanning for information.

Whole School Resources Use to Develop Literacy Levels at Handsworth Wood Girls’ Academy

Sound Training

In order to help further develop students’ reading skills, we offer ‘Sound Training’, which is an intensive, vastly structured programme of study, explicitly designed to improve the ability of students who are underachieving, due to low literacy skills and a lack of knowledge of how words are formulated.    

‘Sound Training’ is a first-rate tool that we use to develop literacy skills because 50% is centred on decoding at word level and 50% of the course is concentrated on the development of words.  By engaging in these two areas, we note a major improvement on skilful decoding of language and improvements in spelling. 

The course is taught to small groups of students (no more than four at any time); this is because of the rigorous and intensive nature of the programme.  In these sessions, words are read and meanings deliberated on in specific and multiple contexts.  As a result, we have observed rapid progress in reading and spelling skills, which students continue to develop long after the six week intensive programme has ended. 

Some of the methodologies used in ‘Sound Training’ will be implemented across the whole school to ensure students receive consistent literacy teaching, regardless of the subject area.

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Spelling and Grammar Club

At the ‘Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar Club’, we teach the significance of decoding polysyllabic words to aid understanding and to ensure that none of the students fall behind in their learning.  Moreover, ‘Spelling and Grammar’ club provides explicit directives in word learning strategies.  This is achieved by analysing root words, prefixes and suffixes.   Studying these features is important, as it helps students to independently uncover unfamiliar words, which expand on their own knowledge of word.   We provide strategies for self-regulating word learning.  We use word conscious and word-play activities to motivate, enhance learning and improve knowledge of language.

Classroom Displays  

Each class room displays posters with key words and phrases specific to the subject area and the development of literacy.

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Classroom Resources

Each classroom is provided with ‘Literacy Pyramids’; these are place on desks during learning time to help improve students’ ability to write effectively.   Each literacy pyramid displays sentence openers, ambitious vocabulary, key punctuation and useful connectives.   Our literacy pyramids provide valuable guidelines for students, in terms of writing.  The pyramids allow our students to improve their sentence structures, by varying the use of punctuation.  Improved sentence constructions allow students access to more sophisticated vocabulary; it also allows them to consider the correct use of connectives (conjunctions) and to improve topic sentences or sentence openers.   

The pyramids provide useful guidelines in terms vocabulary.  They are used to support our students in creative writing tasks and non-fiction writing tasks; moreover, they can be adopted for uses such as peer assessment and self-assessment. 

Literacy pyramids are also used to develop and challenge our students, by focusing on vocabulary, connectives, sentence structures and punctuation; these components are crucial if we are to successful improve our students’ ability to write using high-level literacy guidelines.  The literacy pyramids provide direct methods of vocabulary building, which are explicitly tailored to make the writing methods of our students more effect.

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Accelerated Readers

Accelerated Reading (also known as) ‘Renaissance Learning’ is another way that which we develop our students’ levels of literacy.  It is an effective way of monitoring and managing the self-governing reading practice and the levels of attainment of our students.  This is because our teachers and the librarian take full advantage of the information that the programme generates to help our students to select books that are challenging enough to keep them appropriately engaged; but not too difficult to cause them to feel discouraged.  In addition, it helps teachers to monitor students’ vocabulary, growing Literacy and reading skills.

The Advantages of Accelerated Reading  


Offer students a lifelong passion for reading

Inspire students across the whole school to read a range of mind stimulating books

Promote the literacy standards of all our students

Permits access to instant reporting on each of our students’ progress

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