At St Francis Church of England Primary School and Nursery, we believe that children should develop skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing. It enables them to express themselves creatively and imaginatively and to communicate with others effectively. The aim for our English curriculum is to promote high standards of literacy by equipping children with a strong command of the written and spoken word, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment. Our curriculum aims to ensure that all pupils:
● 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 of reading, writing and spoken language;
● appreciate our rich and varied literacy heritage;
● write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting 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.
Speaking and Listening
We believe that the quality and variety of language that the children hear and speak are vital for developing their vocabulary, grammar and their understanding of reading and writing. We ensure the children’s continual development of their confidence and competence in spoken language. All children are screened on entrance to our school using the Wellcomm toolkit. This identifies any early needs which allows interventions to be put into place immediately. At St Francis, we are very aware of the importance of oracy as a limited vocabulary has been shown to impact educational attainment. In contrast, a wide vocabulary impacts positively on reading comprehension and the ability to make inferences. It enables pupils to make sense of what they are reading. Teaching oracy skills helps children who may be struggling to work or play well with others.
As a school, we have adopted “The Write Stuff” by Jane Considine to bring clarity to the mechanics of writing. ‘The Write Stuff’ follows a method called ‘Sentence Stacking’ which refers to the fact that sentences are stacked together and organised to engage children with short, intensive moments of learning that they can then immediately apply to their own writing. This approach makes sure that all of our children are exposed to high quality texts that stimulate quality responses to reading, high quality writing and purposeful speaking and listening opportunities. Our curriculum ensures that all children have plenty of opportunities to write for different purposes. We encourage writing through all curriculum areas and use quality reading texts to model examples of good writing. Writing is taught through a number of different strategies. We believe that children need lots of rich speaking and drama activities (which are incorporated into ‘Experience Days’) to give them the imagination and the experiences that will equip them to become good writers.
An individual lesson is based on a sentence model, broken in to three chunks:
The Write Stuff is based on two guiding principles; teaching sequences that slide between experience days and sentence stacking lessons. With modelling at the heart of them, the sentence stacking lessons are broken into bite-sized chunks and taught under the structural framework of The Writing Rainbow. Teachers prepare children for writing by modelling the ideas, grammar or techniques of writing.
● Initiate section – a stimulus to capture the children’s imagination and set up a sentence.
● Model section – the teacher close models a sentence that outlines clear writing features and techniques.
● Enable section – the children write their own sentence, following the model.
Children are challenged to ‘Deepen the Moment’ which requires them to independently draw upon previously learnt skills and apply them to their writing during that chunk.
“The Write Stuff” also reinforces grammar through the use of:
● IDEAS - The FANTASTICs uses a child friendly acronym to represent the nine idea lenses through which children can craft their ideas
● TOOLS - The GRAMMARISTICs. The grammar rules of our language system and an accessible way to target weaknesses in pupils' grammatical and linguistic structures.
● TECHNIQUES - The BOOMTASTICs which helps children capture ten ways of adding drama and poetic devices to writing in a vivid visual.
During both key stages, pupils’ interest and pleasure in writing is developed as they learn to write confidently and independently. This involves two dimensions:
● Transcription (spelling and handwriting)
Nelson Handwriting is used throughout school and is taught during a dedicated weekly lesson throughout Key Stage One and Two. In EYFS, the children are taught letter rhymes that help them recall how to correctly form each letter. These are taught in line with our phonics scheme, ELS, and begin during their first weeks in school.
At St Francis, we use the Spelling Shed programme to support children as they build their use of vocabulary. Children need to learn spelling patterns and rules, statutory words, common exceptions and personal spellings and the Spelling Shed programme allows us to do this in a little but often structure, allowing the children to revisit and review their learning, as well as learning new strategies to apply in their writing.
What is Spelling Shed?
Spelling Shed is a simple, fun web-game that is playable through any internet browser: on phones, tablets or computers. Each week, pupils will be assigned a spelling rule that they have been focussing on in class. Pupils can also select ‘More Lists’ if they would like to revisit past assignments.
To ensure your child is given a level of challenge appropriate to them, they can choose from four levels of difficulty. The game is also designed to be dyslexic-friendly.
• Easy – The word is shown, an audio clip is played and only the included letters are shown.
• Medium – An audio clip is played and only the included letters are shown.
• Hard – An audio clip is played and the included letters, plus some random letters are shown.
• Extreme – An audio clip is played and a full qwerty keyboard is shown. Letters must be correctly accented and capitalised.
All users have an avatar that can be personalised by using honeypots. Honeypots are earned by spelling words correctly. Pupils can also keep track of how St Francis Primary School’s score ranks against other schools in the country, as well as how their total lines up with other pupils in our school.
How do I access Spelling Shed?
Your child will have their own log in. This should be written in their Home-School Reading Record.
Supporting Reading at Home
- Children will only read books that are entirely decodable, this means that they should be able to read these books as they already know the code contained within the book.
- We only use pure sounds when decoding words (no ‘uh’ after the sound)
- We want children to practise reading their book 4 times across the week working on these skills:
- Decode – sounding out and blending to read the word.
- Fluency – reading words with less obvious decoding.
- Expression – using intonation and expression to bring the text to life!
We must use pure sounds when we are pronouncing the sounds and supporting children in reading words. If we mispronounce these sounds, we will make reading harder for our children. Please watch the videos below for how to accurately pronounce these sounds.
At the beginning of each academic year, we will hold an information session for parents and carers to find out more about what we do for Phonics, Reading and English at our school. Please do join us.
Reading after phonics and in KS2
Once children are fluent in their phonic knowledge and are able to decode a wider variety of texts, they will be assessed and placed on the corresponding coloured book band. Children are expected to practise their reading both at school and at home and once they are showing the necessary fluency, they will be moved up to the next coloured book band. We always encourage children to also enjoy a ‘choice’ book. This may be from home, the public or school library and should be enjoyed with the adults at home (until it can be accessed independently).
The coloured book bands continue throughout school and help your child to choose and access books that are appropriate to their reading level. The banded scheme ensures children are given the opportunity to choose books of different text types as well as from a range of authors. These should be accessed alongside the children’s own ‘free reader’ choice book.
We are developing our approach to teaching guided reading by using evidence-based research from Christopher Such. Our timetables for guided reading include fluency practice, extended reading and close reading. Guided reading lessons are taught on a whole-class basis, using quality, age-appropriate texts from a variety of authors.
Every class across school teaches phonics/reading on a daily basis and enjoys a dedicated slot to read for pleasure.