English sits at the heart of our curriculum – it is through language, story and text that children learn to form concepts, connect ideas and express themselves. Through literacy, in all its forms, children learn to both make sense of the world and shape their place within it.
At St Patrick’s, we believe that language and literacy is fundamental to the overall development of children and endeavour to deliver an exciting and innovative curriculum, empowering their written and oral communication and creativity. By experiencing rich and challenging texts we aim to give pupils a love of reading that continues long after they have left us. The experiences they encounter are fun and thought-provoking leaving them with great memories and confidence. We strive to allow our pupils to be independent learners who are responsible for shaping their own learning.
In all year groups, we teach writing through high-quality texts – ranging from picture books to Shakespeare, artefacts, film clips and immersive real-life experiences. Over their time at the school, children will write a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts, including recounts, news reports, explanation texts, poems, plays and stories of all kinds. We use drama, role-play, storytelling, debate and discussion to engage the imagination, before moving on to vocabulary exploration, sentence craft and creative writing.
Throughout the Early Years and Key Stage 1, children are taught the key principles of writing in order to lay a solid foundation for developing their skills later on. An emphasis is placed on developing clear handwriting with ‘finger spaces’ between in each word. Children are taught to apply their knowledge of phonics to help them spell accurately, and to structure their work, whether it be fiction writing or a set of instructions. Our curriculum teaches the children to add variation and description to their work by developing their vocabulary, including the use of interesting adjectives and adverbs and developing sentence structure using conjunctions and sentence openers. By the end of Key Stage 1 children have been taught the fundamentals of punctuation and grammar. This structural and technical knowledge is fostered alongside developing a love for writing as a lifelong means for communication and expressing oneself.
First and foremost, we want all children at St Patrick’s to develop a life-long love of reading. As a result, we approach the teaching of reading from all angles, so as to miss no opportunity to spark a child’s interest.
Held daily from Year 2 upwards, Guided Reading lessons focus on the skills of comprehension, first through unpicking vocabulary, then moving on to unlocking the meaning of whole texts and critical appreciation.
Teachers read a huge variety of written material regularly with the children, fiction and non-fiction, stories, reports, diaries and poems. Each year group has access to a ‘Class Book Library’ containing challenging and interesting novels for teachers to read to their classes, exposing children to language and classic stories which they may find too challenging to read independently.
We have a home-school reading system (up to Year 6), which requests that children read a book at the appropriate level for them, for at least ten minutes each day. In Reception and Key Stage 1, children follow a banded reading scheme, giving them a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of blending words, building fluency and recognising common exception words. Moving up into Key Stage 2, children follow ‘book bandings’ ensuring they are making progress.
We have a fantastic library, ‘Pat’s Parnassus’, where children go once a week to take out books to share at home and with one another. The library is also open once a week on a lunch time and ran b our junior librarians who have been trained to organise the library, recommend books and read to younger children.
Each term we launch our Reading Passports. They encourage children to read a range of texts in return for a certificate at the end of term. The texts on the passports challenge the children to read ambitious books they might not normally read. These texts are chosen from recommended book lists. Alongside this, we have author visits, books fayres and World Book Day – one of the highlights of the year!
Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write by developing their phonemic awareness—the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate different sounds used in the English language. Children learn the correspondence between these sounds and the spelling patterns (graphemes) that represent them. At St Patrick’s, we place a strong emphasis on the teaching of phonics in the early years of reading and writing in order to give all children a solid foundation for learning. Because not all words in the English language comply with the rules of phonics we also teach common exception words by repetition and retrieval.
The Teaching of Phonics
Phonics lessons at St Patrick’s are taught daily from Nursery up to the end of Year 1. The sessions are short, engaging and memorable with an emphasis placed on revising a previously learned letter-sound correspondence, learning a new one, practicing this, applying it to sentence level work and building fluency through paired reading of phonetically matched books.
The teaching of phonics begins in Nursery and Reception using the ‘Read, Write Inc.’ scheme. Sounds in nursery are introduced at the rate of one per week. There are opportunities for pupils to practise these through continuous provision. In Reception, sounds are introduced at a rate of one a day throughout the term with the expectation that all pupils will recognise sounds from phases 2-4 and use them to segment and blend to read and write words. In Year 1, children consolidate their learning of phase 5 and move on to phase 5, learning alternative spellings of the previously learned sounds and refining their knowledge to become more fluid readers and more accurate spellers.
The Phonics Screening Check
During the summer term in Year 1, children nationwide are tested on their phonic knowledge. This test helps us to identify children who have gaps in their phonic knowledge and may need further support in Year 2. The test is kept very low-key and we endeavour to make it completely pressure-free for the children. Essentially, the children are asked to read 40 words from a list, using their phonics to ‘sound out’ the word and then blend it if they need to. Parents are informed as to whether their child has achieved the national expectation within the child’s end-of-year report.
Practicing Phonics at Home
The best phonics resources are ordinary reading books. Alongside the books your child brings home seek out books that you and your child enjoy reading. Discuss words that present a challenge, breaking them down into their component sounds in order to read them if necessary. Make sure you set aside quiet time for reading and enjoying books together.
In addition to books, your child will bring home packs of words that can be decoded using their phonics knowledge. Practice reading and spelling these words. Play fun games with them such as thinking of words that rhyme, writing them on post-its or in sand. Common exception words will be sent alongside phonetically decodable words each week for spellings. Try to practise these on-sight. Point them out in the environment, see if your child can spot them in their reading books.
Join us on our Reading Coffee Mornings. These are a great way to meet other parents, have a look at some age-appropriate books for your child, share ideas for encouraging your child to read and listen to our Reading Lead talk about how reading is taught within school. Check our termly Reading Newsletter for information on local book events and ideas for reading at home.
Handwriting, Spelling and Grammar
Handwriting is taught daily from Reception to Year 6, beginning with mark making and patterns in Early Years all the way up to legible, joined handwriting in Year 6. When a child is deemed to have legible, joined writing they are awarded a pen license.
Spellings are taught from summer term in Reception, right through to Year 6, following the National Curriculum’s statutory word lists. Spellings are sent home as part of homework and children are tested each week.
From Year 1, Grammar becomes an explicit focus and is taught each week within English. Our English Skills Progression Document shows how skills are consolidated and built upon each year.
This process continues into Key Stage 2, by which time children have mastered simple sentence structure enabling them to develop their writing style.
As they progress towards Year 6, children are taught to write for a range of purposes – to entertain, inform, explain, persuade and discuss – using explicit sentence models and ambitious vocabulary. They learn to shape these sentences into coherent paragraphs before planning and creating their own original works of fiction and non-fiction.
Children are given the opportunity to apply their writing skills across the curriculum: writing up experiments in Science, recounting events in History and describing processes in Geography, for example.
The impact on our children is clear: progress, sustained learning, transferrable skills and above all, enjoyment.
With the implementation of the writing journey being well established and taught thoroughly in both Key Stages, children are becoming more confident writers and as they reach Key Stage 2, most genres of writing are familiar to them and the teaching can focus on creativity, writer’s craft, sustained writing and manipulation of grammar and punctuation skills.
As all aspects of English are an integral part of the curriculum, cross curricular writing standards have also improved and skills taught in the English lesson are transferred into other subjects; this shows consolidation of skills and a deeper understanding of how and when to use specific grammar and punctuation.
Through the teaching of systematic phonics, we have achieved consistently high Phonics Screening results and our younger pupils are becoming more confident, fluent readers, giving them the best possible start to their journey through our school.
However, we firmly believe that reading is the key to all learning and so the impact of our reading curriculum goes beyond the results of the statutory assessments. We give all children the opportunity to enter the magical worlds that books open up to them. We promote reading for pleasure as part of our reading curriculum. Children are encouraged to develop their own love of genres and authors and to review their books objectively. This enhances a deep love of literature across a range of genres, cultures and styles.
When children leave St Patrick’s, they consider themselves to be skilled readers and writers, confident in their ability to express themselves through language.
English Curriculum Overview
English skills progression – All Years
Reading newsletter Autumn 2019