At St John’s CE Primary School, we believe that a quality English curriculum should develop children’s love of reading, writing and develop their spoken language by supporting our children to be confident in the arts of speaking and listening. We strive to create a culture where children take pride in their writing, can write clearly and accurately and adapt their language and style for a range of audiences and purposes. We believe that a thorough grasp of literacy skills is crucial to a high-quality education and will give our children the tools they need to develop as confident adults. We give all children the opportunity to become immersed in their topic work through carefully selected texts. We promote reading for pleasure as part of our reading curriculum and school culture. Children are encouraged to develop their own love of genres and authors; we value pupil voice by allowing children to select home texts independently once they have completed our phonics programme. This independence enhances a deep love of literature across a range of genres, cultures and styles which is embedded within our wider whole school curriculum.
Word reading is taught through fidelity to our phonics reading programme Read Write Inc.
The 2014 National Curriculum for KS1 and 2 states that:
‘English has a pre-eminent place in education and in society. A high-quality education in English will teach pupils to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions to others and through their reading and listening, others can communicate with them. Through reading in particular, pupils have a chance to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Literature, especially, plays a key role in such development. Reading also enables pupils both to acquire knowledge and to build on what they already know.’
These aims are embedded across our English lessons and the wider curriculum. We have a well organised English curriculum that provides many purposeful opportunities for reading, writing and discussion. We use a wide variety of quality texts that motivate and inspire our children. Phonics is at the heart of our reading curriculum in EYFS, KS1 and into KS2 where needed. It is taught daily and systematically. Children enjoy phonics lessons and as a result progress is rapid. In KS2 each week, children take part in Whole Class Reading lessons whereby the teacher selects rich texts to enable discussion, excitement and development of language, which in turn, inspires our children to incorporate language from these texts in their own writing. Home reading is tracked carefully by class teachers and quality discussions between class teachers and pupils regularly take place.
We also provide a wide range of enrichment opportunities, from celebrating World Book Day, holding Competitions, Reading Challenges, cinema and annual theatre trips. All teachers plan stimulating English lessons which both teach stand-alone skills building upon the knowledge and skills already in place and encourage collaborative learning. As a result, our children are excited and enthused in their lessons, leading to a strong motivation to write.
It is through our feedback policy that we can give children ‘live’ feedback about their learning in the lesson; which enables children to adjust their learning based on the instant feedback provided by teachers and teaching assistants. At St John’s we believe it is highly important to give children feedback that is rich and meaningful so that they are aware of their triumphs and those areas that they need to be focussing on, as well as providing a platform for teacher and child discussion where children feel confident to address misconceptions and raise any thoughts and feelings about their learning.
English is one of the seven aspects to the Early Years Framework, known as Literacy and is fundamental to enable a child’s successful development of Reading and Writing as they progress throughout the rest of the school. In Early Years, we promote early Reading and Writing. In Nursery, and Reception, we carefully plan for Literacy throughout our continuous provision, enabling mark making and early sound recognition throughout their independent time. Within classrooms and outdoors areas we provide opportunities for children to mark make. Throughout Early Years, we provide fun and exciting reading activities for children including access to texts that allow children to practise their developing phonic based reading skills. In Nursery, children begin to explore Phase One Phonics and will learn to discriminate between environmental, instrumental and body sounds as well as beginning to develop an awareness of rhyme, alliteration and oral sound blending. In Reception, we begin to teach individual phonemes, using the RWI scheme of work. During daily Phonics sessions we can teach children to discriminate between different phonemes as well as teaching them to segment and blend sounds in words to read them. In addition to this, we share a love for reading with various stories that can be shared with the children encouraging them to sequence, re-tell and use role play to develop their own ideas of storytelling.
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As a result of our high quality English curriculum, we have a school of enthusiastic readers and writers. They are confident to take risks in their reading and writing, and love to discuss and share their ideas.
How do we know this?
Work in children’s books is linked to long term planning aims.
Discussion with pupils tells us that they are able to recall grammatical knowledge from previous years and build on these skills.
Data from reading quizzes tells us that pupils enjoy reading a range of texts and access them independently.
Listening to readers helps us ensure that children are making rapid progress in phonics and that reading books are closely matched to their ability to decode. As children move through school it helps us to clarify new language and support the understanding of carefully matched texts.
The English subject leader, phonics leaders and senior leaders highlight next steps for development and where to seek help with this through careful monitoring and triangulation of a range of robust evidence.
This statement is written and regularly reviewed by L. Mills.
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We promote love of reading by involving our children in the purchase of new texts for our library collection. Year 4 recently visited Walsall Waterstones to buy 20 new books by their favourite authors!
Skills Based Approach to Writing
The teaching of writing at St John’s is a ‘skills based’ approach. As children move through school they learn the new skills specific to their year group whilst being provided with the opportunity to consolidating the skills they have been taught in previous years. We use a range of good quality texts and real life experiences linked to our Cornerstones topics to provide children with the stimulus to write in a range of genres including poetry, fiction and non-fiction.
Below are the key skills that are built upon as children move through St John’s.
- Early mark-making is not the same as writing. It is a sensory and physical experience, which they do not yet connect to forming symbols which can communicate meaning.
- Distinguishes between the different marks they make
- Gives meaning to marks as they draw and paint.
- Ascribes meanings to marks that they see in different places.
- Gives meaning to marks they make as they draw, write and paint.
- Begins to break the flow of speech into words.
- Continues a rhyming string.
- Hears and says the initial sound in words.
- Can segment the sounds in simple words and blend them together.
- Links sounds to letters, naming and sounding the letters of the alphabet.
- Uses some clearly identifiable letters to communicate meaning, representing some sounds correctly and in sequence.
- Writes own name and other things such as labels, captions.
- Attempts to write short sentences in meaningful contexts. Children use their phonic knowledge to write words in ways which match their spoken sounds.
- They also write some irregular common words.
- They write simple sentences which can be read by themselves and others.
- Some words are spelt correctly and others are phonetically plausible.
- Children can spell phonically regular words of more than 1 syllable as well as many irregular but high frequency words. They use key features of narrative in their own writing.
Assessment of writing across school uses the secure fit model that ensures children have no gaps in their learning and helps teachers to identify where children may need additional intervention or support. Interventions may also be required to include activities to support reading, language development or physical development depending on the needs of the individual.
Homework linked to writing is ‘Chat at Home’. When appropriate, children are asked to talk with someone at home about what they will be writing about. The idea of this to help children to form ideas orally or collect vocabulary to use in their writing.
Parents can play an important role in support their child’s progress in writing. Writing that has a purpose is especially important and has a value. From a young age children can help by writing shopping lists, birthday cards and party invitations. As children get older they can write notes for others, write emails and blogs or even keep in touch with a pen pal.
Reading is an important way of supporting writing development. Our experience tells us that children who are confident and able readers are confident and able writers. Reading can help children to gain ideas and a wide vocabulary as well as understand how to structure sentences and whole pieces of writing.
Reading and Phonics
Our primary approach to teaching children to read is through systematic synthetic phonics. We use Read Write Inc as our main phonics scheme. It is a complete literacy programme, for 3 to 7 year-olds learning to read and write and for 7 and 8 year-olds needing to catch up quickly. Although reading is taught using synthetic phonics, the programme is so much more than that. It covers all of the new National Curriculum requirements for language and literacy.
In Nursery, children learn the first 30 sounds in short daily sessions.
In Reception all children:
- Read storybooks and non-fiction books closely matched to their developing phonic knowledge
- Take home Phonics storybooks to share
- Read with fluency and expression
- Learn to spell using known sounds
- Write confidently by practising what they want to write out loud first
- Work well with a partner.
You can find more information about Read Write Inc. at https://www.ruthmiskin.com/en/find-out-more/parents/
Children start reading books at home using the RWI Take Home books and other carefully matched texts as soon as they can decode in Reception.
Many of our children move onto ‘free readers’ by Year 2 where they can select books for themselves from a range at their level.
By the end of Year 1 all children are accurate and speedy readers and almost all of our children go on to reach the required level for the Phonics Screening at the end of Year 1. 89.4% of our children reached the standard in the summer term of 2019. Those children who not reach the standard have the opportunity to be re-screened in Year 2.
Our home reading books in Key Stage Two are carefully levelled by both level of interest and level of difficulty. During Year 3 children move onto our Accelerated Reader Programme, each child is assessed termly and is then assigned a reading range according to the outcome of their STAR test, they then progress through this range until the next assessment period. We encourage independence in our children by allowing them access to computers to take a short quiz which assesses comprehension of each book they complete before changing for a new one or moving to a new level. Children who still require a scheme book into Key Stage 2 use Project X scheme.
Each class has the opportunity to visit the school library to select an additional book to read at home. This can be fiction or non-fiction, it can be at their instructional level or a higher level of difficulty that they decide to read alongside a friend or another adult, including adults at home.
Guided reading at St John’s takes place in classes or small groups. Reading lessons are an exciting, fun way to develop a love of reading, our knowledge of significant authors and also develop our analytical skills through the principles of Reciprocal Reading. Each
text is briefly introduced or recapped at the start of the session. Children are then taught to predict what they are going to read in the next session, clarify the meaning of new language, question aspects of the text which may not have been fully understood and answer questions based upon what they have read. Finally, pupils summarise the main ideas of the text.
Drama and Theatre
Each year everyone from Reception to Year 6 visits Lichfield Garrick Theatre to experience the thrills of panto! In addition to this every child across school takes part in their own production in front of a live audience:
Nursery – Christmas
Reception – Christmas
Year 1 & 2 – Christmas in church
Year 3 & 4 – Easter in church
Year 5 – Harvest in church
Year 5 & 6 – end of year production
Drama begins in Early Years with role play and educational visits to the Play Village. Specific drama skills are taught in English lessons through Key Stage 1 and 2 and opportunities to act out new learning such as schools in the past, Great Fire of London, Coming to England on HMS Windrush and Shackelton’s Journey are incorporated in all other areas of the curriculum.
Children get opportunities to take part in drama and role play through educational visits such as the school house at Black Country Museum in KS1, Coming to England visiting theatre group in Year 3 &4 and a workshop at Warner Brothers Studios in Years 5 & 6. We value and nurture the drama skills of our pupils and advocate careers in this field. Many of our pupils have gone on to star in a range of both amateur and professional productions!