A Guide for Classroom – Stage 4
Oxford Reading Tree is the most popular reading programme in the UK, and used in approximately
14,000 primary schools. Its balanced approach, which provides a range of skills and strategies for
reading, has proved highly successful at teaching children to read.
Oxford Reading Tree is divided into stages. Stage 1 teaches children important pre-reading skills;
Stages 2-5 introduce specific reading skills which are developed as children progress through Stages
6-11. When Stage 11 is reached, children should be fluent and confident at reading stories, information
texts, and poetry. For those children that would still benefit from structured readers, TreeTops extends
Most children take a year to complete Stages 1-5. Reading at these early stages is taught through a wide range of
resources, including storybooks, language activities and games, software, extended stories, workbooks, phonic
material, big books, and a flopover book. These components have been specifically devised to develop:
Reading for meaning
Oxford Reading Tree recognizes that young children can understand and remember a simple story before they are
able to interpret the individual words and letters used to make up the story. It builds on this ability by using a story-
based approach to reading, tackling reading skills in the order meaning sentences words/letters.
Every Oxford Reading Tree storybook tells a complete story in natural-sounding language. The teacher
prepares the children for reading each storybook by reading a more detailed version of the story (Extended
Story), asking the children questions about it, and encouraging their response to the story.
The stories focus on child-centred situations and experiences which are instantly recognizable, e.g. a wobbly
tooth, losing a favourite toy. This makes children eager to talk about similar experiences of their own. Talking
about the stories is essential for developing oral language skills and enriching vocabulary.
Vocabulary and sentence structure are carefully control ed. ‘Key’ words are repeated throughout the storybooks and
are introduced at each stage to build up a bank of sight vocabulary. ‘Context’ words, such as ‘tomato sauce’ and
‘cornflakes’ are used when needed for the storyline, ensuring that the language remains as natural as possible.
Trialling in schools
Schools throughout the UK are involved in the trialling of all new material before it is published to ensure it achieves its
Oxford Reading Tree is an ideal reading programme for involving parents - and one that parents enjoy as much as the children.
At Stage 4, children progress to slightly longer stories with more words. Teachers are recommended to introduce
Stage 4 More Stories featuring Wilf and Wilma first. The other six Stage 4 Storybooks are numbered to indicate the
order in which they should be read, with Book 6 leading to the Magic Key adventures at Stage 5.
Storybooks 1-6 have a narrative link, and are also graded in difficulty. The number of sentences and pages
increases: Storybooks 1-3 have 22 sentences and 16 pages; Storybooks 4-6 have 40 sentences and 24 pages.
All the Storybooks are accompanied by Extended Stories. Each Storybook should be introduced in the same way
as Stage 2 and 3, with the emphasis on talking and questioning. Big Books may be used as part of the
preparation for reading, to encourage a group of children to talk about the stories.
The stories tell of Biff, Chip, and their family moving house, and their discovery of a secret room, a dol s’ house, and a
Magic Key. Page 27 of the Flopover Book is an excellent focus for discussion, showing an aerial view of the
neighbour-hood with the children’s new house, their previous house, and the settings for their adventures in earlier
Sparrows and More Sparrows
Further reading practice for children who are not quite ready to progress to Stage 5 is provided by four Sparrows
Storybooks and six More Sparrows Storybooks. More Sparrows feature two Muslim children, Adam and Yasmin.
Six playscripts based on Stage 4 stories encourage children to follow the text closely, read with expression,
become more involved with the characters’ and co-operate in a group. They also provide an ideal opportunity for
children to present their reading to the rest of the class.
Many of the activities and word games used at earlier stages can be adapted for Stage 4. ‘Story bingo’, which
reinforces sight vocabulary and sentence structure, is explained in the Teacher’s Guide.
Context Cards at Stage 4 no longer underline the key word. Teachers should continue to use the cards for reinforcing
The sections in Workbooks 4a and 4b relate to Storybooks 1-6, and should be worked through in order. The
activities concentrate on word recognition by using words, especially key words, in context. Each section ends with
a cloze exercise to encourage the children to write in the word themselves.
Rhyme and Analogy and Acorns Poetry continue to develop these important skills. Use as for Stage 3.
Using Woodpeckers Introductory Workbooks C and D
Stage 4 continues to work on initial consonants, with more involved activities and progression, to final consonants.
Workbook D introduces related phonics, using the key words and letter sounds already familiar to children for
creating new words and to increase their phonological awareness. (See word lists in the Teacher’s Guide) e.g. it
pit, sit, hit Work on final consonants is continued, with particular emphasis on g, c, d, k, f, s, x.
Sequencing Cards Photocopy Masters, as the Storybooks, have more sentences at Stage 4 for children to read.
The National Literacy Strategy Framework at Stage 4.
Year 1 term 2 teaching objectives are broadly met by the stories, playscripts, and activities at Stage 4. In particular
increase the range of words they recognise on sight
increase their personal vocabulary
read aloud with pace and expression
reinforce knowledge of the term sentence’
use a variety of clues to read unfamiliar words
read with concentration and attention
retell stories, giving the main points in sequence
become aware of character and dialogue (through playscripts)
Phonological skills continue to be developed through the Woodpeckers workbooks, Rhyme and Analogy resources
and Acorns poetry. Non-fiction texts are introduced through the Fact Finders Topic Starters and Fact Finders Units A.
Reading success with Oxford Reading Tree
By the end of Year 1, children using the varied resources of the Oxford Reading Tree will have acquired the broad
range of skills and knowledge essential to becoming confident and fluent readers. The children share many of the
experiences of the characters in the stories and this guarantees involvement right from the beginning. The introduction
of the magic key at Stage 5 enables the stories to broaden their range and include fantasy worlds.
The requirements for the National Literacy Strategy Framework for Year R and Year 1 are met by the stories and
by activities described in Teacher’s Guides 1 and 2. Phonological awareness is extended by the Woodpeckers
workbooks, Rhyme and Analogy stories and resources, and the Acorns and Catkins poetry anthologies. Non-
fiction skills are developed by the Fact Finders Topic starters and Units A-C.
Branching out from the Storybooks
Many of the Storybooks make an excellent start for cross-curricular activities. Ideas for further activities are
provided for each stage in the Teacher’s Guide. Other ideas include science topics about water from The water
fight and By the stream; technology projects centred around Biff’s aeroplane; mapping skil s using the aerial
picture on page 27 of the Flopover Book, and weighing and measuring from The toy’s party.
Resources for emergent and fluent readers
Children continue their reading with Owls and More Owls at Stages 6 and 7 and Magpies at Stages 8 and
9. The Robins and Jackdaws branches provide stories and anthologies for competent readers who need to
progress at a faster rate. Teachers should continue to use the relevant Woodpeckers anthologies and Workbooks
to develop phonological skills, alongside the other Oxford Reading Tree Storybooks at Stages 5-11.
Oxford Reading Tree Treetops, a series of structured fiction, has been specially written for 7-11 year olds who need
the support of carefully controlled language and built-in progression. The Treetops take children from Stage 10 to 14
with stories that reflect the interests and humour of older readers. Playscripts at Stages 5, 6 and 7 and Oxford
Reading Tree Poetry for Stages 3-11 develop speaking and listening skills, and phonological awareness, while
providing further opportunities for reading. Oxford Reading Tree Fact Finders develop non-fiction and referencing
skills, providing a firm foundation for work at Key Stage 2.
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