‘When I read great literature, great drama, speeches, or sermons, I feel that the human mind has not achieved anything greater than the ability to share feelings and thought through language.’ James Earl Jones
We believe that children deserve the very best teaching and learning opportunities in English. Our high expectations of all children, as well as our creative and exciting learning opportunities, provide a rich and engaging English curriculum, which immerses the children in a range of quality texts. We want our children to be ‘readers’ not just children who can read. They are enthused by a variety of books and use their skills of reading to independently learn across the curriculum. We strive to develop children who are articulate and expressive communicators, and who have gained the basic skills they need in order to grow into aspirational, young authors. English teaching is well planned to meet the needs of all learners allowing our children to attain the best they can. Positive relationships with families are fostered to embrace every learning opportunity from class sharing, drama performances through to regular home reading and spelling tasks
The various elements of English are taught throughout the week. An English lesson is taught daily using carefully selected ‘Quality First Texts’. This approach exposes the children to a wide range of stimulating, language-rich books on which they base their own writing for both fiction and non-fiction purposes. Each English unit involves a three phase process which aims to fully engage the children with opportunities throughout to develop themselves as writers. Early and developing readers are given lots of opportunities for individual reading where they can progress at their own rate. Guided Reading sessions allow children to experience a range of text types, furthering their reading and comprehension skills. Focused phonic or spelling sessions take place each week where children explore, rehearse and develop knowledge and understanding of spelling patterns and rules. Speaking and listening skills are enhanced in all subject areas through activities such as group work, oral presentations, and evaluating other peoples work.
As stated in the National Curriculum, the overarching aim for English in primary schools is to promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written word, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment. It aims to ensure that all pupils:
- read easily, fluently and with good understanding
- develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information
- acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language
- appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage
- write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences
- use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas
- are competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.
English – Writing, Spelling and Grammar
Spelling and Phonics -Reception and KS1
We teach phonics from Reception using the government recommended Letters and Sounds programme. From Year 1 we group the children according to their need and work our way through the phases throughout key stage 1. In Years 3 and 4 a similar approach is taken allowing teachers to provide the children with the teaching and learning they need. There is a move towards to teaching spelling and usage of key strategies. These are developed further in Year 5 and 6.
The children in Year 1 take the Phonics Assessment Check in June. In 2018/19 (June 2019) 93% of our children reached the expected threshold. We use a variety of resources including many websites. These are provided to parents on the letter which can be found on the class pages.
Children take part in daily differentiated phonics sessions in which they are taught the age appropriate objectives using Letters and Sounds. In Year 1, this works towards the phonics screening test and in Year 2 this is based around the No Nonsense Spelling scheme. Spellings are sent home and tested on a regular basis.
Spelling – KS2
For Years 3, 4 and 5 the teaching of spelling and phonics follows the same format of that in KS1 for three days a week following the NNS scheme through regular application. Spellings are sent home to be practised on a regular basis. We also prepare the Year 6 children for the national end of key stage Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar test (SPaG).
In Reception, through the use of play-do, tweezers, mark making, threading and hand held tools, children are able to develop the necessary strength and dexterity to begin their writing journey. As children’s phonic knowledge develops, their independent, emergent writing is encouraged and valued. Cursive handwriting is then taught when appropriate as the children progress.
Text composition is taught as a writing process, allowing the children to use the skills of planning, writing, editing and redrafting their work in many contexts. This takes place in the English lesson as well as through other curriculum areas. Children are supported in the application of their skills through the use of modelled, guided and shared writing. Age-appropriate grammar objectives are also included within these sessions to teach the specific skills relevant to different text types. These are mapped out in termly overviews that link to the quality texts for each key phase.
English – Reading
High quality texts are central to the teaching of reading at St Francis CE Primary School. We believe that laying the foundations for a life-long love of reading is core to the happiness of our children and we therefore promote this across all curriculum areas. Daily Guided Reading sessions take place throughout the school. These include text preparation, independent follow-up tasks and vocabulary-focused activities alongside teacher-led sessions. A reading scheme is used across the school for children to access at their own level. These books are available for children to take home, forming part of their weekly homework tasks.
Developing Early Reading
Throughout Reception and Year 1 children are given decodable books to support and extend their phonological knowledge. We send home two types of books: phonics and sharing. The aim of this is to ensure that all children are exposed to books they can access at their reading level, including those without text at the start of Reception, to allow them to explore and extend their vocabulary and understanding of story structure. Our experience tells us that this will foster a love of reading at the earliest stage possible.
Choosing our quality texts
Staff regularly review the shortlist of texts used in each year group. This ensures children are reading and appreciating new, relevant, high quality literature. In addition to this, children in each key phase are exposed to a wide range of traditional and classic texts (both fiction and poetry) through guided reading, our quality texts for writing and whole class reading books. This selection process allows children to have access to stories involving a diverse range of characters, settings and cultures. High quality non-fiction texts are also selected and linked to topics studied in class as well as the wider interests of the children.
Using our quality texts
High quality texts are used to underpin learning across the curriculum. We have used these to create a whole-school progression of texts which guarantees that children experience a range of inspiring and well written texts within each key phase. Each quality text is introduced through an engaging opening experience which creates a real excitement about the class book each term. Additionally, teachers read specially chosen books to the children at the end of the day at least twice a week. Furthermore, every class has an engaging reading space where children can choose to read and enjoy a wide range of age appropriate books.
We are fortunate to have a fully functioning library at the heart of our school. Supported open library sessions are held during lunch times, three times a week and after school twice a week, where children are provided with a calm and inviting environment in which to browse, enjoy and read books, as well as choose a book to take home. Audio collections are also available to provide children with an alternative means to enjoy stories.
The school library provides each class with a variety of topic books to use alongside other resources. Classes are given the opportunity to visit the library and use the resources available for research.
Promoting a love of reading
On top of the above, we have many other ways of promoting a love of reading across the school:
- Annual Book Week and Book Fair
- World Book Day
- Workshops for parents
- Termly reading challenges and rewards
- Reading buddies
- Outdoor reading areas
- Dressing up as book characters
- Engaging reading environments
Speaking and Listening
Speaking and listening is central to the St Francis CE Primary curriculum and is developed from EYFS throughout our school, across the curriculum. We nurture children’s speaking and listening skills through a variety of approaches: exploratory play, story time, hot-seating, PSHE and through collaborative learning in our Block teaching of subjects. We develop these skills so that our children are capable of expressing their own ideas clearly and confidently, in a safe and supportive environment, in all aspects and areas of their school life and into their future.
All staff in school model the use of higher level vocabulary within their speech and expanding children’s vocabulary is a key focus from EYFS. Subject specific vocabulary is embedded across the curriculum, through teacher modelling, in context. Contextual learning helps children to understand new words and supports them in including them in their work where children are regularly given the chance to orally rehearse ideas before writing.
Drama is used across all subjects to explore and engage children in their learning giving children opportunities to embed and use vocabulary repetitively in shared activities.
PSHE and circle time promotes an open forum for honest dialogue, where our children are encouraged to exchange ideas and opinions. They then are given a stimulus and time to reflect on this. In their groups they create a question for discussion, which can be applied to the wider world. Children are encouraged to ‘build’ on each other’s ideas, discuss different points of view and communicate their ideas.
We use ‘floor books’ to record children’s contributions across the curriculum. This ensures work is more collaborative and children are given the time to share and discuss their ideas, before recording.
Speaking and listening give us the basic skills we need to communicate with the world around us. Children are given a range of other opportunities to develop these skills, including opportunities in each year group to take part in an annual performance to parents, show and tell homework sessions, introducing and leading assemblies, formal presentations across the curriculum, the Year 5 inter-school debating competition. The wide range of speaking and listening activities – which are weaved throughout our curriculum – help to develop ideas, vocabulary and confidence.
We strive to ensure that the impact of our English curriculum provides children with the appropriate age-related knowledge and skills allowing them to progress with confidence through the various stages of their English education. The next steps for each individual’s learning are informed through the use of a range of materials and strategies, enabling us to carefully measure children’s attainment and progress. These include statutory assessments, NFER assessments, phonics screening, assessment for learning, Benchmarking, writing moderation and peer and self-assessment opportunities. At the end of each term, assessment data is gathered and progress is checked by the senior leadership team. Children are expected to make good or better progress in all subjects and this individual progress is tracked and reported to parents and carers at parents evening and on the end of year report. Our aim is that children’s attainment in English is in line with or exceeds age related expectations when we have taken into account the varied starting points and specific needs of individual children.