Our English Curriculum in the Early Years and Key Stage 1 is consistent and repetitive. The familiar structure to the daily lessons supports our children’s learning needs and allows them to focus on the content of the teaching rather than coping with changes to structure and organisation.
Read, Write Inc Phonics and RWI Comprehension in particular continually recap prior learning and then build on it in small incremental steps enabling the children to embed their skills with confidence. The reading materials we share with home are also based on the structured RWI scheme and support parents in helping to develop their children’s reading and writing skills at home.
RWI also offers many opportunities for affirmation and praise, which supports our children’s confidence, self-esteem and resilience.
In Key Stage 2, the curriculum widens somewhat, but structure remains, especially in our approach to reading which is taught using a familiar model using the Reading Explorers materials which are introduced during Year 3 (depending on the needs of each cohort) in discussion and agreement with the English Leader. Reading Explorers follows the same structured weekly timetable in all year groups. The scheme introduces the children to a wide range of texts, including extracts from the classics, thus providing exposure to high quality cultural reading experiences and it includes a strong focus on vocabulary.
Through the “Talk through Stories” approach in Key Stage 1 and class novels in Key Stage 2, we give our children the opportunity to immerse themselves in high quality texts. Some of these books may be pitched above the children’s individual fluency levels, but this approach supports their comprehension skills and introduces new vocabulary.
Children are also able to choose from an extensive range of scheme and “real” books to borrow and read at home. This is also the rationale behind our reading rewards scheme where children are able to choose a new book from the school “bookshop” each time they accumulate “50 reads” at home. They can also purchase books for the nominal cost of £2.00.
The RWI Phonics and Comprehension programmes provide the direct, explicit teaching of writing skills throughout Reception, Key Stage 1 and into Year 3. While the wider curriculum also provides opportunities for them to apply these skills, we believe the overriding priority for our younger children is to ensure that they have the tools they need to write securely and accurately in a range if contexts in Key Stage 2. Throughout the school, a “Writer’s Toolkit”, which includes details about organisational and grammatical features, supports and structures the children ‘s writing which frees them up to focus on the content and their own creativity.
Both RWI and the wider Cornerstones Curriculum offer many opportunities for purposeful speaking and listening through “Hold a sentence” work, retelling stories, answering questions, debates, performances and presentations of work. Opportunities also spring from maths lessons when children reason and explain their thinking.
We teach new vocabulary explicitly and in a structured way. We aim to teach them to use the vocabulary they need to access the curriculum, to widen their thinking skills and to express their thoughts, ideas and feelings. They won’t be able to think deeply about something unless they have the language to express those thoughts.
Through our focus on Speaking and Listening and vocabulary acquisition we aim to ensure that our children have the skills they need to become reflective, empathetic and purposeful member of their communities and to have the skills, self esteem and confidence to be able to succeed in the wider world.
Our Implementation of the English Curriculum
At Gamesley School, we promote high standards of literacy by ensuring our pupils have a strong command of the spoken and written word and a love of literature.
We achieve this by teaching the basic skills in discrete, daily lessons which are then applied through the wider curriculum, reading, writing and talking about topics that they find engaging. The resources we use for English teaching include Cornerstone Maestro Curriculum 22 Projects, Read, Write Inc Phonics and Spelling, Nelson Handwriting,
The teaching of basic skills is in line with the statutory requirements of the National Curriculum. Key objectives are organised into a curriculum for each year group. Children are taught about these concepts in depth and practise new skills until they are embedded and secure. We do not accelerate our more able children through the curriculum; we give them different and exciting contexts in which they can apply these skills in greater depth.
Our aims in the teaching of English: To ensure that all children are able to:
· 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, adapt 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.
Teaching and Learning Phonics in EYFS and KS1
Children are taught in small homogenous groups within their year group, using the Read Write Inc. phonics programme. This short lesson takes place every day and provides children with the skills they need to decode sounds at the earliest stages of reading.
Progress is continuously tracked and movement between groups is fluid. Any children making slower than expected progress will receive an intervention until they have caught up. Any children reaching Year 3 with gaps in their phonics knowledge will continue to receive small group or one to one intervention until they are secure.
Reading in the Early Years
Texts are the stimulus for topic work in the afternoon with children being read to by the teacher from a wide range of books, both fiction and non-fiction. Questioning and discussion supports children in developing an understanding of themselves and the world in which they live and a comprehension of the texts shared. Each day ends with a class story time.
Reading in KS1
Reading is taught through daily guided reading groups on a 5-day rolling programme. The children read books at the same level as in their phonics groups and as the reading books being sent home to share with parents. Teachers and TAs work with a different group each day. Children also share a class text each day. This is used to teach comprehension skills, as a stimulus for speaking and listening activities including drama and role play and as a starting point for some writing activities.
Comprehension skills are taught in daily half-hour guided reading lessons. Texts are selected so that children in each year group are exposed to a wide range of high quality texts, including poetry, play scripts and classic novels. Children read as a class, on their own, with a partner or with an adult, developing good linguistic knowledge, and knowledge of the world, from which good comprehension springs.
In addition to these discrete reading lessons, children are encouraged to read widely across fiction and non-fiction to develop their knowledge of themselves and the world in which they live, to establish an appreciation and love of reading, and to gain knowledge across the curriculum.
Writing in the Early Years
In EYFS the teaching of writing is linked to the teaching of phonics. Once children are able to orally blend sounds, they begin writing words, then simple sentences. The stimulus for the writing comes from the wider curriculum.
Writing in KS1
The teaching of spelling, punctuation and grammar is taught in discrete sessions within each class based on the statutory requirements for each year group. Children who need to catch up are supported in small group teaching and intervention groups. Basic skills are then practised and embedded through daily writing opportunities linked to the wider curriculum.
Writing in KS2
As in KS1, the teaching of spelling, punctuation and grammar is taught in discrete sessions within each class each day. Interventions are in place for children with gaps in their knowledge and skills. Basic skills are then practised and embedded through daily writing opportunities linked to the wider curriculum.
Letter formation is taught discretely within basic skills lessons and at other times in the day in EYFS and Year 1, with children being taught a cursive style from Year 2. Handwriting is then practised through other areas of the curriculum. All children’s written work on display in school demonstrates the children’s best handwriting.
Spoken language underpins the development of reading and writing and from the moment children join our school, we ensure that they develop good oral vocabulary and grammatical structures. We help them to be able to discuss what they are learning, ask questions and grow confident in using spoken language in a greater variety of situations. This is achieved in many ways, through role play, discussion of texts, designing and conducting enquiries and through debate and discussion linked to weekly philosophy sessions in every class. New vocabulary linked to topic is introduced and taught in a structured way.