English has a pre-eminent place in education and in society; it is an essential life skill. Success in English will enable pupils to write and speak fluently so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions to others, at school and beyond, and so that, through their reading and listening, others can communicate with them. English literature, in particular, is rich, creatively diverse and influential. Through such literature, pupils have a chance to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. First, we learn to read and then we read to learn so pupils can acquire knowledge, build on what they already know and be challenged in their own world view. All the skills of language are essential to participating fully as a member of society and underpin learning in every area of the curriculum. Pupils, therefore, who do not learn to speak, read and write with fluency and confidence are effectively disenfranchised.
The focus of our English curriculum is to model and promote high standards of literacy by inspiring reading for pleasure and instilling a love of literature, through exposure to high-quality texts, so that St. John’s School is one where reading flourishes. It also aims to equip pupils with a strong command of the written and spoken word, enabling them to become lifelong learners. In our school we aim to ensure that all pupils:
By teaching phonics, we mean to equip all pupils with a secure grasp of the phonetic code by the end of Year One, enabling them to blend and segment for the fundamental skills of reading and writing. We therefore begin a robust programme of high-quality, fast-paced daily phonics teaching for all children on entry to our Reception class, where learning to read is the main focus. Children in danger of falling behind receive extra support, as appropriate. We use ‘Letters and Sounds’, an age and stage-appropriate, systematic and synthetic programme. It progresses from early speaking and listening skills through learning sounds incrementally to blending and segmenting CVC words and then more complex words employing alternative graphemes and phonemes. In the early phases, we take a multi-sensory approach to phonics teaching, by integrating visual and kinaesthetic resources, for example ‘Jolly Phonics’.
As children move through the early stages of acquiring phonics, they practise by reading texts which are entirely decodable from schemes such as Rigby Star Phonics, Dandelion, Oxford Reading Tree Songbirds and Bug Club.
Once children have a secure grasp of grapheme/phoneme correspondences, and can blend words confidently, decode unfamiliar words using their phonic knowledge and read some high-frequency words on sight, they access our Book-Banded reading scheme, comprising books from various published schemes, and which is designed to enthuse young readers and expose them to a variety of reading genres. There are fiction and non-fiction books within each level for children to practise reading at home. When children are reading fluently, and with a good understanding, they self-select richer texts. Evidence, firmly rooted in research, indicates that parents are key to a child’s reading progress. Accordingly,
there is an expectation that parents will share our reading aspirations and will listen to their children read at home between four times a week and daily according to year group and, to this end, phonics and reading workshops are offered to parents.
Expert reading goes beyond being able to decode with fluency. Comprehension skills and the reader’s enthusiasm, enjoyment and stamina also play their part and these aspects of reading are taught explicitly and encouraged throughout a pupil’s time at St. John’s. Our curriculum is book-led and cross-curricular in style. Classes engage in a combination of choral, shared, guided and independent reading from books, class teaching boards and digital sources, using a variety of text types, genres and styles. In this way, teachers encourage reading for purpose and pleasure whilst modelling how to give consideration to punctuation for reading prosody and methods of tackling new vocabulary using phonic, syntactic and semantic strategies. Guided reading sessions each week.
The school has a well-stocked library and our Reception and KS1 classes have their own attractive, well-used book areas, accessible throughout the day. Pupils are encouraged to borrow books and daily opportunities are planned for pupils and teachers to read independently from a book of their own choice and to participate in informal, child-led book-talk. They are invited to share these books at home to encourage a culture of valuing books and loving reading. Teachers enjoy reading and read aloud to their classes as frequently as possible. The school has a good relationship with the local town library, welcoming pupils with their classes and many also participate in the annual Summer Reading Challenge. St. John’s engages with a wealth of other book related events too, including World Book Day, National Storytelling Week, Non-Fiction November, National Poetry Day, International Children’s Book Day, author and sponsored reading events.
Writing is an art, a sequential process that demands a complex combination of physical and mental skills developed across many areas, not solely writing. We aim to develop the children’s talent for crafting engaging, well-structured texts, covering the transcription and composition requirements of the National Curriculum, by building on what they know already to weave purposeful writing into all areas of the curriculum and make links between subjects.
Writing in our classes is primarily book-led, although a variety of teaching and learning methods, including real life WOW experiences, artefacts and visitors enrich the learning process and help children to develop a rich vocabulary with which to enhance their writing. The curriculum incorporates speaking and listening, comprehension, writing and composition through well-planned and structured teaching sequences. Teachers model the process of writing, demonstrating both the basic skills necessary and the high expectations of all. This enables pupils to develop their knowledge and understanding and plan, draft and edit their own piece of work, incorporating the features and skills practised in legible and fluent handwriting. Children learn to adapt their written language and style in order to confidently write creatively for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences, including real purposes and through the use of ICT.
Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar:
Pupils are encouraged to apply their knowledge of the phonic code and to investigate and recognise spelling patterns when spelling new words and are taught to use dictionaries and other aids to support vocabulary selection and spelling. All pupils in Years 1 to 6 take home a list of words to learn each week.
Punctuation and grammar is taught, in the context of writing, daily across Years 2 to 6 and weekly in Year 1. The high-quality class texts provide models of effective writing and are used to teach specific language features and to address misconceptions identified in children’s written work. Clear opportunities are provided for pupils to practise the aspect of grammar or punctuation being taught.