English forms the basis for our development, relationships and our understanding of the world around us. The study of English is key to our children’s personal growth and, through the development of effective written and spoken communication, it is the foundation for all their learning. The ability to communicate effectively, confidently and with clarity is crucial in school, but also in becoming an effective participant in our wider society with skills of communication being key to accessing the world of work and in navigating adult life. In a fast paced, global world the importance of fluent written and spoken English is crucial and therefore, we aim to develop these skills through our evolving English curriculum.
Our curriculum for English aims 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. We are committed to delivering the National Curriculum for English so that our children develop firm foundations in reading, writing and oracy and close the language development gap they join us with .
We aim to achieve this by ensuring that our youngest learners develop their oracy skills, through high quality speaking and listening opportunities. In addition, vocabulary development is a key part of all areas of learning across the Early Years Foundation Stage.
We believe that a love of books is crucial to a child’s development. It is for this reason that we have developed a reading ‘cannon’ for our youngest learners. In the EYFS, reading is taught systematically through synthetic phonics, using Read Write Inc., which ensures children have access to reading books they are able to independently decode.
Early comprehension is developed through twice daily story-time, role-play, story sacks and small world, a style of imaginative play which uses toys and props. We develop language comprehension by both reading aloud and thinking aloud, which encourages early metacognition (thinking about thinking). Our ‘Book of the Week’ enables our young learners to become fully immersed in high quality and diverse picture books, to which they respond through a multitude of activities.
When children leave the Early Years, it is our aim that they have begun to close the vocabulary deficit they join us with and have developed the confidence and skills required for early reading and writing.
In Key Stage One, English is taught during daily lessons of an hour. Initially, these follow the Read Write Inc. scheme of work before the children transition to separate reading and writing lessons. Additionally, story time is timetabled to foster a love of books and we continue reading aloud and thinking aloud to develop comprehension.
Once the majority of the children have ‘graduated’ from the Read Write Inc programme, sequences of daily reading lessons are planned which develop vocabulary, comprehension in the moment of reading, post-reading comprehension and fluency whilst covering objectives from the National Curriculum for reading. These lessons follow a book based approach to develop children’s access to and love of literature, ensuring a breadth of text types are covered.
Each week, we always dedicate at least one reading lesson to ‘close’ reading and metacognition. Children are introduced to and practise a range of in-reading thinking skills: making predictions, asking questioning, making visualisations, using background knowledge, making inferences by thinking like a detective, noticing and fixing meaning breakdown and spotting V.I.P. words.
At Yorkmead, we believe access to quality reading material is a right not a privilege. To ensure all of our children have access to quality books at home, whatever their background, each class have a weekly timetabled session in the recently refurbished school library where they are able to borrow two books to take home. Furthermore, to further support reading at home, from Year Two onwards, every classroom has an additional book borrowing system that children can access daily.
In the Foundation Stage, children are encouraged to attempt their own emergent writing and their efforts are valued and celebrated. As their phonetical knowledge increases, so does their ability to write independently. At the same time, their knowledge of key words is supported through reading and writing activities, including shared reading and writing. A wide variety of opportunities are provided for children to engage in writing activities and independently apply their knowledge of phonics through role play, creative activities and the outdoor area.
Once children have mastered their first set of phonemes, we teach writing through storybook lessons. Children read books closely matched to their phonetical ability and use their knowledge of these books to write simple sentences. By the end of Early Years, our aim is that all children have the confidence and ability to record their thoughts and ideas through early writing.
On entry to Key Stage One, children continue to learn to read and write through the daily delivery of the Read Write Inc. programme, building on the grapheme to phoneme correspondences learnt in the foundation stage. Composition of sentences is developed further throughout the Year One curriculum, particularly in the humanities.
From Year Two, we teach writing using the school’s own bespoke plans. These follow a book-based approach, through which teachers use a range of texts to develop children’s reading and writing skills. A progression of engaging books and texts are planned through Years Two to Six, which include a range of authors and genres, including varied cultural and historical settings. These are paired with a range of different purposes for writing that our children have the opportunity to plan, draft and edit over time. The children’s writing process is supported by immersion in the book being studied, identification of its features and oral retelling – including opportunities for drama.
As the development of our children’s competence in the use of English is a school priority, additional opportunities for non-fiction writing take place frequently throughout the wider curriculum.
Our children leave us as confident readers, with a love of books and an understanding that reading is the foundation to wider learning, and a secure understanding of the writing process, including genre, purpose, form and audience. But more than that, they will have developed a wider vocabulary and improved their ability to orate their thinking which will allow them to communicate effectively in the future, both in their continued education and more widely as an engaged member of our society.
Mr. A. Neale-Crane