Literacy: A Culture that promotes literacy through talk.

Literacy is not just about spelling, punctuation and grammar. Literacy is about the way we communicate at every level. To be able to speak well is the first step to being about to write well. And, here at Toot Hill School, we aim to embed a culture of talking which allows students to articulate their ideas verbally before crafting this into writing.

Literacy in the curriculum is typically organised into three key components: oracy, reading, and vocabulary acquisition. Here's an overview of how these elements are integrated into our curriculum.


Oracy refers to the development of spoken language skills, including effective communication, listening, and public speaking. We aim to cultivate educational environments that encourage students to engage in discussions, debates, and presentations, which help them express their thoughts, ideas, and opinions effectively. This fosters the development of critical thinking and the ability to articulate one's viewpoints clearly.

Developing oracy can improve academic success, build confidence, develop language acquisition, encourage agency, and equalise the gap between social contexts and academic achievement.

How to support your child’s oracy skills outside of the classroom:

  • Ask your child about their day and ask probing questions (questions that do not have ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers).
  • Ask your child to explain their reasons for something and teach them that it is good to disagree and to change your mind.
  • Open discussions about news, current events, and family experiences.
  • Initiate some discussions and debates – dinner time is a great time to do this as a family. For example: Is it better to be smart or kind? Is chocolate better than sweets?
  • Discuss new words and support them to broaden their vocabulary.
  • Ask your child to articulate their views is different ways. For example, if you were discussing science, ask them to deliver their opinion like a scientist.
  • Talk about books and life experiences.
  • Try to go on family experiences that enable them to learn more about the world.
  • Take your child to places where they might see good speaking in real life. This could be something as simple as attending a local event like a fate or political debate, a theatre show or even encouraging your child to attend a club or hobby where they speak to others people more. An activity like Scouts can be a great way to hear good public speaking but also earn rewards for doing this too.

Read more about approaches to oracy here:


Reading is a fundamental element of the literacy curriculum, as it is essential for academic success and personal growth. Those who read regularly as teenagers are on average happier, better off and have more friends by the time they are 30. Reading also gives students power as they have the language they need to express themselves and to communicate their ideas and feelings. Children who read for an average of 20 minutes a day are exposed to 1.8 million words a year compared to just 8,000 words a year for a child who reads for an average of one minute a day. The student reading 20 minutes a day is much more likely to be in the top 10% of academic achievement, whilst the student reading only one minute a day is much more likely to be in the bottom 10%. In addition, it has been proven that reading for just 15 minutes a day will exponentially improve a person’s vocabulary; you will be able to learn 5.7 million more words than if you read for 5 minutes a day. We know from international research that regular reading is the single most important thing students can do to ensure their success at school and later in life. Reading - and particularly reading fiction - provides children with experiences beyond their own lives; it forces them to confront the lives of those who are not like them; and it can change the way they think about themselves and their place in the world.

At Toot Hill School, reading is integrated into every subject we teach, and incorporated into tutor time also. This exposes students to a variety of texts, fostering a deeper understanding of subject matters. We also encourage students to view literature as something that either allows them to see themselves within it or learn something new about other people, places and times.

We encourage students to use the Learning Lounge at Toot Hill School and here they can find a large range of both fiction and non-fiction literature. We have two expert librarians who support students in variety of ways: developing a love of books, supporting taste making, giving book advice, supporting students in entering reading competitions, and running clubs during lunch time and after school.

In addition, we try to adopt a love for reading through our Reading for Pleasure lessons in English and our tutor read activities. We participate in the Carnegie Shadowing Scheme which provides students with the opportunity for young readers to shadow the judging process for two of the UK's most prestigious children's book awards Schools.

How to support your child’s reading skills outside of the classroom:

  • Read regularly: if you are a regular reader then your child is more likely to see the value in it! It doesn’t matter what it is – pick up a newspaper or magazine, take a look at a cookery book, read a computer manual, enjoy some poetry or dive into a romance or detective novel. And get your children to join in – if you’re cooking, could they read the recipe?
  • Visit book shops, use suggestions in the school planner and speak to teachers if you need support with selecting books.
  • Create a quiet, well-lit space in your home to encourage reading.
  • Talk to them about what they are reading and read with them and to them.
  • Ask your child lots of questions. All reading matters. Shared reading is about ‘reading with’, not just ‘reading to’ (even for older children). So, ask lots of questions, such as Who? What? When? Where? Why? Try them when talking about books: for example, ‘What do you think Harry is feeling?’
  • Encourage children to carry a book at all times. That way, they’ll never be bored (this is something you can do, too!)
  • Encourage your child to read by finding reading material about their interests. Any reading that your child does is a good thing.
  • Ensure that they are a member of their local library.
  • Use audio-books and e-books such as kindles.
  • Use the Learning Lounge at school.
  • Establish at least 15 to 20 minutes of dedicated reading time each day.
  • Ensure your child leaves phones and other electronic devices away from the bedroom at night and encourage your child to end the day with reading as a way to relax.
  • Ask your child to make predication about what they have read.
  • Ask your child to summarise what they have read.
  • Maintain motivation to read: Talk about the joy of reading whenever you can.

Read more about approaches to reading here:

Vocabulary Acquisition:

Building a rich vocabulary is essential for effective communication and comprehension. Developing vocabulary knowledge is so much more than word lists and student-friendly definitions. At Toot Hill School we aim to help students acquire new vocabulary and help students use them confidently. To do this, we use a multi-disciplinary approach: in the classroom, teachers might show students the etymology of language, how words work in different contexts, discuss words in context, encourage vocabulary building through oracy, provide spelling lists were necessary, show students synonyms and antonyms, and use examples/analogies to explain the meaning of words.

During Covid-19, THS was committed to developing a better understanding of what vocabulary we teach students and what methods of teaching help to embed vocabulary. All departments decided which tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary was important to teach for each unit of study. These words are explored throughout the curriculum and are carefully introduced and revised where appropriate.

How to support your child’s vocabulary acquisition outside of the classroom:

  • Explain the new word, going beyond just giving definition. Use pictures and demonstrations to explain the word. Make connections between the new word and words the child knows already.
  • Encourage your child to explain the word back to you or to other children (verbally and/or in writing).
  • Encourage reading and researching words that they don’t understand. Use the words in other contexts when unsure to show how this word fits into a wider context than the one your child has encountered it in.
  • Give your child real life examples to show what words mean. When trying to teach the word monochrome, use a camera filter to show what monochrome looks like. Break the word down by exploring ‘mono’ and see if they can apply this to other words, such as monologue, monopoly, monotone, monosyllabic, etc.
  • Ask your child to create a representation of the word by drawing a picture of it or creating a word map. Or perhaps you can make this drawing together.
  • Engage in activities to deepen their knowledge of the new word (compare words, words that mean the opposite, examples and non-examples of the word).
  • Encourage your child to discuss the new word with other children or adults.
  • Play word games to review new vocabulary. For example, create your own game where the new words are in a pot, your child pulls out a word and must explain it without saying the word, or guess the word when you explain it.

Read more about our approaches to vocabulary acquisition here:

Reading Links:

School Reading List: Website providing information on age- and stage-related reading recommendations for students in KS3-KS5.

Cool Reads! Book reviews written by teenagers.

Book Trust: Website providing information on how to support students with reading at home, with resources, activities and book recommendations for students of all ages.

Education Endowment Foundation: Website providing information and tips to support students with reading.


Download literacy support resources in PDF format:

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