We believe that literacy and communication are key life skills and need to be at the heart of all children’s learning. The National Curriculum (2014) clearly states that teaching the English language is an essential, if not the most essential role of a primary school.
Our English lessons develop pupils’ spoken language, drama, reading, phonics, spelling, grammar, writing and vocabulary. English is taught in a cross-curricular way, using topic to engage and enthuse pupils. Children are taught to communicate with others effectively, for a variety of purposes, and to examine their own and others’ experiences, feelings and ideas. Children are supported in developing effective communication skills in readiness for later life. We have strong links when teaching in SMSC and of our Christian Values. Their vocabulary is continually developed and built in each year group.
National Curriculum English Programmes of Study:
At St Paul’s we use the Essentials Letters and Sounds systematic, synthetic phonics programme. It teaches children to read by identifying the phonemes (smallest unit of sound) and graphemes (written version of the sound) within words and using these to read words. Children experience the joy of books and language whilst rapidly acquiring the skills they need to become fluent, independent and confident readers and writers. We use a simple, consistent approach to teaching phonics which follows the same classroom routines within each lesson which reduces cognitive load and maximises the chances of success. All children are supported within the lesson to use their new phonic knowledge independently alongside applying this knowledge to reading.
Phonics teaching happens daily from the beginning of Reception. The children are taught as a class and interventions are introduce to make sure children ‘Keep up not catch up’. We start by teaching a new daily phoneme. When pronouncing the phoneme it is vital, the children only use pure sounds when decoding words (no ‘uh’ after the sound). Phoneme cards and rhymes are used to support the teaching. This is alongside word recognition, which starts with oral blending and moves onto decoding the graphemes of the word. New vocabulary is also given and explained in every lesson alongside opportunities for writing the new grapheme and moving onto words and sentences. As well as the daily discrete lessons, phonics is embedded within the whole day with times to revisit and secure.
Each lesson is taught in four stages: review, teach, practise and apply. It gives the children lots of opportunities for repetition and the teacher uses the ‘Give, give, give’ approach.
· Give the new phoneme or spelling being taught.
· Give the word put into context with and an explanation or picture.
· Give the meaning to ensure the children can use the vocabulary.
As the children complete the Essentials Letters and Sounds programme they move onto developing their spelling and grammar knowledge further through Spelling and Grammar sessions (SpaG).
Reading is an important part of the English curriculum in our school. Children’s reading is developed through guided, shared and independent reading sessions. Reading is given a high priority throughout the curriculum and children understand we can read for pleasure and knowledge.
In Reception and Year 1, the children are only reading from books that are entirely decodable and match their phonic knowledge. We want them to practise reading their book 4 times across the week working on these skills: decoding, fluency and expression. We want our children to create a strong orthographic map in order to read fluently. This means that they learn sounds spelt by the letters or groups of letters in each word. To consistently recognise that the <ea> in bread spells /e/ we need to read it at least 4 times. This means we need to read the word many times to build fluency for reading with ease and precision. By reading texts several times children have the greatest opportunity to achieve this fluency.
Our reading scheme consists of books produced by Oxford Reading Tree: Wordsparks, Traditional tales, Hero academy and Floppy’s phonics. This is supplemented using books by: Collins Big Cat, Rigby star, Rising stars and Songbirds. All books are organised linked to the phonemes that are being taught in the order of Essentials Letters and sounds. We also use inFact books that are not fully decodeable but are used to support topic teaching and vocabulary at the end of each phase.
As the children become more fluent, they will receive books that will not be fully decodable as they move through our book banded system. Following that, children will become 'free readers' when they move beyond the reading schemes and explore a wider range of genres and longer texts. These reading choices will be monitored and guided by the class teachers.
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Teachers value the importance of writing in all curriculum area, including making valuable use of Computing sessions and technology, and use cross-curricular links wherever possible to provide interest and meaning to children’s learning. Children are given the opportunity to write in a variety of genres and for different purposes and audiences. Shared and modelled writing allows the teacher to demonstrate good writing practice to the children while using their ideas. It can be used to model high expectations and cover the success criteria they would expect to see in the children’s writing or show a piece of writing that needs improving and editing to encourage children to be critical thinkers. Children are supported by a ‘Working wall’ and resources to aid independence. A learning page is used to give children the opportunity to develop ideas, spellings and edit their work away from their actual piece of writing. We feel feedback is crucial to support learners to progress. This is offered both verbally and written. Children edit and improve their work on their own, or with a partner using peer support.
Handwriting is taught using the ‘Letter join’ scheme where joins are taught progressively from Year 1. In EYFS, diagraphs, trigraphs and quadgraphs are modelled with a join so the children see them as one unit of sound.
Have you read any of the recommended reads for your class?