Exeter Road | Teignmouth | Devon | TQ14 9HZ
Telephone: 01626 774091

Literacy Strategy

At Teignmouth Community School we recognise the value that literacy brings to the lives of students. Not only is literacy essential to the personal and social development of young people, but it enables them to comprehend, analyse, evaluate and disseminate knowledge with confidence and clarity. Broadening vocabulary and providing students with strategies to create meaning from unfamiliar words enables students to excel in every subject across the curriculum and beyond secondary education, which is why we have prioritised explicitly teaching vocabulary in our tutor time programme.

Alongside being actively taught vocabulary, students will read and discuss anthologies of short stories, fiction and non-fiction extracts, with their tutors, which introduce them to a range of diverse voices, genres, historical periods and, consequently, the richness of vocabulary that forms these written texts. Our aim, alongside the Year 7, 8 and 9 Accelerated Reader programme, is to create a unified focus on the importance and value of reading, for purpose and pleasure, to create independent life-long readers.

Our approach during Tutor Time


Excellence in any subject requires strong reading and it is our responsibility, as teachers and tutors, to prepare students to read with precision and independence, through modelling effective reading. For this reason, we have transitioned from individual reading, to collective reading, to enable students to develop fluency, through listening to adults modelling good reading. Students will then have opportunities to read aloud, which is essential if they are to develop fluency and, consequently, develop their comprehension, as the two are strongly associated with one another. Additionally, this approach of collective reading facilitates peer discussion, subsequently improving students’ engagement with the written text.


Possessing a broad vocabulary frees up space in working memory and increases reading for pleasure and motivation to read (Alex Quigley 2018), as students are not having to continually grapple with unfamiliar vocabulary, which inevitably reduces the enjoyment of reading. For this reason, we believe it essential to combine reading with direct vocabulary instruction, if we are to significantly improve students’ comprehension and engagement with written texts. We have carefully selected vocabulary which are high frequency within cross-curricular academic writing and are important for understanding and expressing complex ideas; these are words which are unlikely to be acquired implicitly through social interaction, so it is essential that these are taught. Fundamentally, we aim to develop the confidence of our students, through providing opportunities for exploring, discussing and interacting with new vocabulary, discussing layers of meaning and teaching them strategies that they can use to decipher the meaning of unfamiliar words, developing independent and resilient readers.

Expand the Headings below for an overview of what students can expect to focus on, once a week, during tutor sessions.

If you have any questions about the Tutor Time Programme, you can email Claire Ross at claire.ross@teignmouthschool.co.uk

Short stories are rewarding for all readers, as some will appreciate the suspenseful, action-based narratives, whilst some may feel accomplishment upon the completion of the narrative, and others may appreciate the crafting and economical word use of the author. The stories are organised into the following three categories: ‘Diverse Voices’; ‘19th Century Ghost Stories’ and ‘Dystopia and Thriller’, to provide a specific focus for each half-term.

The ‘Diverse Voices’ collection introduces students to short stories beyond the traditional English literary canon, broadening their cultural knowledge and encouraging them to engage with challenging ideas such as: justice, freedom, diversity and equality. These stories enable students to experience a range of global perspectives and empathise with characters in situations vastly different to their own.

The collection of ‘19th Century Ghost Stories’, including the macabre tales of Edgar Allan Poe and an introduction to the psychological Gothic through H. G. Wells’ The Red Room and Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, forms an important part of the English literary heritage, in which these authors utilised literature as a vehicle to explore cultural anxieties, in this time of rapid progress and significant change. Victorian literature is incredibly challenging, as a result of the complex ideas and vocabulary, so this collection of stories acts as excellent preparation for studying The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as their English Literature GCSE text.

‘Dystopian’ short stories, and the Dystopian genre generally, through novels and television, are undoubtedly gaining in popularity, in their unique and often bleak portrayals of futuristic societies, in which technological advances can have damaging consequences. Many students will already be familiar with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and will have the opportunity to read a short story which inspired Collins to write her Dystopian novel.

Each week, students will be introduced to a new word, during Autumn 2 and Summer 1 (see 2020-2021 timetable for specific vocabulary), using a 7-step process, designed to ensure that they are truly understanding and then embedding this new and complex vocabulary.

  1. Read It: The word is displayed, alongside common variations (e.g. transfer and transferable) and students are asked to discuss the meaning of this word, with their peers, prior to whole class discussion.
  2. Define It: The teacher displays a student-friendly definition of the word and identifies and corrects any misconceptions.
  3. Draw It: Two students volunteer to draw a physical representation of the word on the board, under timed conditions and then explain their reasoning to the rest of the class, receiving merit points for their efforts.
  4. Use It: The teacher displays a sentence, using the key word and then students verbalise their own sentences in pairs.
  5. Link It: Examples of synonyms (e.g. ‘transfer’ and ‘shift’) and antonyms (e.g. ‘transfer’ and ‘hold’) are displayed, whilst students discuss their own linked words.
  6. Deconstruct It: Students are presented with the etymology of the word, to deepen their understanding, as well as enable them to apply their knowledge of morphemes to new words (see example for ‘therm’ and ‘ambi’).
  7. Dig Deeper: Questions are displayed, which students discuss amongst themselves, before engaging in whole-class discussion.

Focusing on etymology (Deconstruct It) is a particularly important part of this 7-step process, as it provides students with strategies for understanding unfamiliar vocabulary independently, which is essential for success in an examination context.

Command words refer to the vocabulary of assessment, which inform students how to answer a question. Students may be asked to demonstrate a number of different skills, including: describe, analyse, explain, evaluate or comment. There are approximately 50 different command words, across assessment papers in all subjects, instructing students how to respond to a question, so it is essential that this vocabulary is explicitly taught.

A further challenge is that these words can differ in meaning from one subject to another, meaning that students are required to interpret these commands differently each time. To ‘describe’ in English is to use imagery to form a piece of creative writing, whilst to ‘describe’ in Science is to recall facts, events or processes. Therefore, we have collated a range of resources, which we are using to discuss with students the variations in meaning from one subject to another, focusing on one command word a week, to develop their confidence when faced with assessment questions and to ensure that they understand which skill to present to the examiner.

Students will be introduced to a wide selection of idioms (e.g. to offer an olive branch) and their origins, situated across a range of historic periods, which they will explore and discuss as a class. Students are likely to encounter these non-literal and often confusing phrases in many environments outside of school, but our main aim is to encourage curiosity surrounding the origins of words and phrases and explore the richness of language, through promoting word consciousness.

Each week students will be presented with a new extract, from either a fiction or non-fiction text. As the register is taken, students will read through a range of pre-reading questions, which will help them to engage with the extract. They will then discuss the extract and specified vocabulary within it, to enhance comprehension and broaden vocabulary, whilst exploring the interesting ideas and perspectives that arise from reading and discussing the extract. In opposition to ‘Vocabulary Enrichment’, ‘Read, Register and Respond’ has a greater focus on understanding complex vocabulary in context, as opposed to memorising vocabulary.

Accelerated Reader

Year 7-8:

In Year 7 and 8, students have a timetabled Accelerated Reader (AR) lesson once a week, in the school library, in which they read and take quizzes, using the AR programme, supported by library staff. Accelerated Reader is a computer programme which monitors the daily practice of reading and is increasingly being used in secondary and primary schools in the UK and internationally to assist and motivate reading.

The AR programme establishes students’ reading range, estimates reading age and assesses literacy skills, enabling library staff to match the students to a range of books at the appropriate level. Students are encouraged to read a range of fiction and non-fiction texts, during these lessons, and will engage in a combination of guided, paired and independent reading.

When a student quizzes on a book that they have read, they instantly receive a result, evaluating to what extent they have comprehended the text. There are systems in place to reward students for their AR quizzing results and motivate them in continuing with their reading. Additionally, these results enable library staff to determine whether or not students require additional support and motivation with their reading.

For more information about Year 7 and 8 AR, please visit the following link: https://www.teignmouthsecondary.co.uk/school-library/accelerated-reader/

Additionally, you can contact our library staff, on the following email addresses: tessa.masterman@teignmouthschool.co.uk and michelle.mckeeman@teignmouthschool.co.uk

Year 9:

In September 2018, we decided to extend Accelerated Reader to Year 9, to ensure that students continue to experience a broad range of fiction and non-fiction texts, maintaining the important focus on reading for pleasure.

During one lesson a week, students read one of the following, dependent upon timetabling: independent choice, non-fiction, a play, class novel, or a fiction text which falls within a specified genre. Structuring the timetable in this way results in students reading a variety of texts, which they may not have chosen if allowed the freedom of any text at all. As a result, they will be reading widely and often; key requirements for creating engaged and confident readers.

Additionally, this format means that students spend the majority of their time reading independently, by Year 9, as our aim is to foster independent reading; however, Autumn 1 begins with a class reader as it is important that we are able to model this process initially, within this new format.

To facilitate comprehension, and maximise reading time, lessons begin with a comprehension starter, which students complete in silence, whilst the register is taken. These activities enable students to recall information from the previous week, to ensure that they are experiencing continuity in their reading. These are available for fiction and non-fiction, progressing in difficulty each week, through to the highest stages of comprehension (evaluative thinking). As a result, whilst students are developing these skills through reading for pleasure, progress is being enhanced through brief comprehension starter activities.

If you have any questions about the Year 9 Accelerated Reader Programme, you can contact Claire Ross, on the following email address: claire.ross@teignmouthschool.co.uk

Year 7 and 8 Reading Intervention Sessions

To become confident and independent readers, we recognise that some students may require a little extra support, to ensure that they are making the progress that they deserve to make and are capable of making. To facilitate this progress, we provide a registration intervention session, twice a week, with Rachel Evans, who supports a small, carefully-selected group of KS3 students, who are determined to develop their reading.

During this time, each student has the opportunity to read aloud and be read to, in a small and supportive group setting, enabling Ms Evans to continually assess progress. At the end of each session, Ms Evans leads a group discussion, to determine comprehension and enable students to collectively engage with and explore the ideas in the text. The following session then begins with a recall task, to ascertain to what extent students are retaining and recalling this information, enabling us to provide further support if necessary.

Students read a wide range of texts, including those written by David Walliams, Roald Dahl, Chris DeLacey and even adaptations of classics, including Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol. After reading the blurbs together, students decide which text they would like to read, to maximise engagement and provide them with control and, consequently, independence over their reading.

Our Year 7’s last year, requested to continue their registration sessions with Ms Evans this year, and are making fantastic progress with their reading, but most importantly, they are choosing to read for enjoyment.

If you have any questions about these Intervention Sessions, you can contact Rachel Evans, on the following email address: rachel.evans@teignmouthschool.co.uk

Improving your Literacy

In addition to carefully selected vocabulary, punctuation is another important determiner for successfully creating meaning through writing. Proficiency in punctuation enables students to convey their ideas with clarity and accuracy, creating written responses which are cohesive and sophisticated. For this purpose, we have a range of resources designed to support students in developing this essential skill, with a particular focus on: apostrophes, semi-colons, commas and variation in sentence types. You can click on the following links to access these resources:

Contacts for Literacy

If you have any further questions about our literacy provision, you can contact Samantha Atkinson or Claire Ross on the following email addresses:



Teignmouth Secondary