“The joy of teaching English is that what you get is so much more than what you see. Great books enable us to see through “a glass darkly”. They do not provide a photographic representation of our own lives. They use language and invention to give us a glimpse of universal truths: a sense of who we are, and what we can become.”
Sarah Hubbard, Ofsted’s national subject lead for English, November 2018
At Grove Road Primary School, we base our English teaching around high-quality texts that will transport the children to magical realms, historic civilisations and even other planets. Using high-quality texts from the Foundation Stage onwards we embed a love of reading within our children from an early age.
The children learn English through a range of different activities which allow them to develop their skills in speaking and listening, reading and writing. In addition to this, the children further develop their language skills through a language rich curriculum in which the children will have opportunities to use topic specific vocabulary throughout all subjects.
Speaking and Listening
A great emphasis is placed upon developing the children’s spoken language, as this is crucial for learning to read, write and to be successful in all areas of learning. This begins in the Foundation Stage where our EYFS team expose our children to a wide range of language linked to their learning around the environment and with activities like Word Collector and Vocabulary Builder.
As the children progress through the school, they learn how to communicate successfully with others and to express their ideas. The children are given the opportunity to speak in a variety of situations, for various purposes and for a range of audiences. This is achieved through presentations, debate, performances, etc. Vocabulary is at the heart of our curriculum and language used in Topic lessons will be referenced in spelling and writing lessons.
Our approach to reading at Grove Road Primary School is to develop fluency, comprehension and most importantly a love of reading. We feel that sharing stories with the children not only expands their vocabulary but also allows staff to model good story telling. We actively encourage all children to read for pleasure and enjoyment in a variety of contexts. Each week the children will read a levelled text which has been selected by a member of staff during a Book Talk or Read, Write Inc. session and a library book which the children select based upon their personal interests. In addition to this, the children have access to a range of texts within their class book area which have books linked to their current topic and as well as access to electronic books on Reading Eggs.
Teaching and learning in English focuses on enabling the children to read with confidence and understanding through a variety of genres including newspapers, magazines, poems and play scripts.
Each class visits the library each week and has regular opportunities to borrow a book to read for pleasure and to find information – perhaps for a topic they are learning about in class. The children can also visit the Library with their families after school to change books or to read quietly if they wish. The Library is supervised by staff, including our Librarian, as well as the Junior Librarians from Gold Class. Our Library and outdoor Reading Shack are stocked with books from a range of genres as well as several magazine subscriptions such as Okido and National Geographic Kids.
Each child has a reading record book (in Key Stage 2 this can be found in the children’s individual planners) which logs the books that they have read alongside comments about their reading. Children, parents and teaching staff will make comments in this book. Children are encouraged to share or read a book with their parents at home every day for at least 20 minutes and this is given a high priority – staff regularly check to see if the children’s Reading Records have been signed.
Competency in reading is the key to independent learning and therefore the teaching of reading is given a high priority by all our staff.
Approaches to Reading
The opportunities, organisation and provision for the teaching and learning of reading are as follows:
Shared reading: Across the school there is time everyday for children to be read to. This is protected time where the children are exposed to rich, high-quality texts which often link to their topic. This is also modelled by both the children and the staff during daily Read, Write Inc. sessions. During these sessions, the children will focus on a text for several sessions in order to improve fluency, understanding and expression.
Book Talk: All children take part in reading through Book Talk sessions. During these sessions the children examine a text through three different lenses. One lens is taken from each level of the Reading Rainbow: the FANTASTICs, the ANALYTICs and the STYLISTICs. The FANTASTICs, for example, focus upon the five senses and how the characters or the readers may be feeling or what they may be thinking. The ANALYTICs explore the deeper meaning of the text whilst the STYLISTICS help to deepen the understanding of what is being read. Whilst discussing each of these lenses, the children are encouraged to make direct references to the text to explain how they have come to their conclusions whilst using the text to support their answers. In addition to this the children are encouraged to use a High Utility Word (these are words which may not be used day to day in the normal vernacular however the children will come across them during their educational careers). In the EYFS, the children will take part in Picture Power each day. During this session the children will have the opportunity to look at photographs and images based upon their learning and discuss them using the FANTASTICs lenses as a focus point for discussion with the aim to improve and expand upon the children’s currently level of understanding as well as pre-teaching vocabulary linked to topic learning.
Following the same approach, the children take part in weekly ‘demonstration’ comprehension where they are taught the skills needed to answer written comprehension questions, which is then followed up in a written comprehension session later in the week.
Independent reading: All children have the opportunity to take home a book every night to read with their parents or carers. If a child needs to re-read this book, they may keep it at home for longer. If your child is ready to select another text, then they should bring it into school to be changed on that day. Children self-select their reading materials from the colour banded books which are appropriate to their age and stage of reading.
Phonics: Our chosen phonics scheme is Read, Write, Inc. Our children in Nursery begin by looking a sound within the environment, familiar sounds, beats, rhythms and rhymes as well as body percussion. The children in Reception and Key Stage One are streamed by ability into groups based upon their phonics knowledge. When in these groups the children take part in daily Read, Write Inc. sessions. These sessions help to develop the children’s fluency in reading, phonetic knowledge, comprehension, writing and handwriting skills. The sessions are comprehensively planned so that the children improve their accuracy and fluency through fun, energetic and engaging lessons.
During the year the school may organise book fairs when parents and children may purchase books from a selection. We also celebrate events such as “World Book Day” and have authors to visit and talk to the children to gain insights into how successful stories are created, where they get their ideas from and how characters are brought to life.
We encourage the children to write for a range of purposes and audiences. Staff carefully plan opportunities for children to use the writing which they have learnt in their English lesson into extended pieces of writing across the curriculum.
Our approaches to writing
The opportunities, organisation and provision for the teaching and learning of writing are as follows:
English lessons which encourage learning through a whole text approach. We follow The Write Stuff approach during these lessons. In The Write Stuff lesson children are taught the ideas for writing (FANTASTICS), the tools for writing (GRAMMARISTICS) and the techniques for writing (BOOMBASTICS). Ideas Books are used to collect good examples of sentences or vocabulary. Grammar is taught in context within these lessons and there is a constant focus on presentation and handwriting skills.
We feel that it is important to give children time to examine features of different text types allowing them to become familiar with their features. Through the examination of key text examples this act as a scaffold which the children use to support writing genres. This combined with a clear success criteria allows the children to develop their writing skills and provides opportunities for self-editing and peer assessment. In each classroom there are English Working Walls. These working walls follow the learning journey and the skills needed to complete an independent piece of writing. They also provide additional support to the children and celebrate learning by display model sentences and interesting vocabulary collected by the class.
We use varied resources as exciting stimuli for writing including film and animation in order to encourage the children to generate ideas and inspire their writing.
Our curriculum is written with a key text in mind which offers a variety of opportunities to write through fun and engaging topics or through science activities.