Richard Cloudesley School



At Richard Cloudesley, we follow the 'Balanced Literacy' approach to teaching reading and writing, also known as the 'Four Blocks' approach. This involves all pupils having the opportunity to be read to, read with others and to read by themselves; to have others write for them, to write with others and to write by themselves. A balance of models, shared models and independent opportunities helps to support pupils to develop their skills in reading and writing.  


Within this approach, we classify and group learners according to: 

  • how well they know their sounds,  
  • how well they engage during reading activities,  
  • how established their communication strategies are, and  
  • how well they understand that writing involves letters and sounds.  


This information helps us to think about pupils as either Emergent, Transitional or Conventional learners. This then structures the balance they receive in their instruction.  


The majority of learners within our school are classified as emergent learners. This means that their reading and writing learning is focused on shared reading and shared writing activities, independent reading and independent writing activities, and work on the alphabet and their phonological awareness.  


In the context of phonetic learning, this equates to Phase 1 within the Letters and Sounds framework. This involves exploration of the letters in the alphabet, relating this back to our own worlds (names and important words), thinking about initial sounds and alliteration, rhythm and rhyme, playing with voice sounds and working on sound discrimination- environmental as well as phonological. Even at this point in their learning, pupils are exposed to all of the letter sounds and names in the alphabet. This environmental learning builds their understanding that letters are used to make up words, and that words carry meaning. 


For our transitional learners- those who have some awareness of letters and the sounds they make, learners will build on their prior knowledge to begin to manipulate letters and sounds to make words. This learning equates to Phase Two in Letters and Sounds. 


Within the school, there is a small group of students who are classified as conventional learners. They know most of their letters most of the time. These pupils are learning to decode for reading, and to blend for writing in a conventional way. A systematic phonics approach is appropriate for these pupils, to structure their learning, but we will often need to make adjustments to ensure learning resources are age appropriate. We use the Letters and Sounds Framework to structure learning for these pupils. Many resources will be made in a bespoke way, so as to ensure resources are motivating and engaging for pupils and their varied interests. We also use resources produced by Boardmaker Online from their Reading Avenue section.  


For the small group of students that are literate and have mastered the fundamentals of reading and writing, Literacy learning is focused on refining skills, developing fluency and expanding vocabulary. 


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To find out more about the Four Blocks approach, visit 
The CLDS website
Check out Jane Farrall’s blog, a leading consultant on the approach
Or read about the successes one school in Australia is enjoying since introducing the system.