English

Speaking and Listening

Throughout our curriculum there is a strong emphasis on enabling children to use language to work together effectively. Adults model language so that children may then learn new vocabulary and listen to how words need to be spoken. Through using language and hearing how others use it, children become able to describe the world and make sense of life’s experiences. They learn to use language as a tool for thinking; collectively and alone. Modelling both speech and language to a child is important as they are absorbing everything that they are experiencing which then becomes part of them.

Language skills are closely linked to improved life chances and social mobility. Spoken vocabulary at the age of five is said to be one of the key indications of how many GCSEs a child will get at the age of sixteen. Children come to school with different vocabulary size and depth and so we assess children on entry to gauge their individual language skills using Speech Link and Language Link. Extra support can then be given to any child who needs it so that their progress is optimal and they become more confident speakers.

Phonics and Reading

Reading opens children’s worlds to grapple with some of the big issues in life. It opens up possibilities for their personal, social, spiritual and emotional development.

In EYFS and key stage 1 we use ‘Letters and Sounds’ as a basis for our phonics teaching. Our reading books are based around a variety of different schemes which complement phonics based books for learning of individual sounds. Children then work through different texts that work on coloured book bands to ensure that the right level of challenge is being given to the child to ensure maximum progress for decoding and comprehension. When a teacher feels that the child is ready to move to the next level, they will ‘benchmark’ the child, also using their own knowledge of the child to make the decision to move up to the next level. When the child has worked through the book bands, the child will become a ‘free’ reader.

Independence is important in reading; one of the best ways to nurture this interest from an early age is to make sure that the books children read on their own are suitable for their ability. Helping a child to find the right book can be simple using the ‘five finger rule’; it is a quick and easy way to check if a book is suitable for them to read on their own: before they start, ask them to turn to a page at random and read it. For every word they don’t know, they should hold up a finger. Your child can use the following guidelines according to how many fingers they hold up:

  • 0-1 Most probably too easy for your child
  • 2 A good choice that will give your child a reasonable challenge and allow them to learn new words
  • 3 Your child might need some help, but still a good choice for a challenge
  • 4 May be too difficult for your child to read on their own-if you are on hand to give them help or read along with them it can be suitable, but if they are reading on their own, choose a different book
  • 5 Most probably too advanced, try a different book

The ‘five finger rule’ should only be taught as a guideline for helping your child to find ‘just right’ books. It is worthwhile remembering that if they have their heart set on a book that seems too hard, it is alright to let them have a go. Be nearby to help them if they get stuck on a tricky word, and don’t forget to praise them for making an effort. Alternatively, if you know they will struggle to enjoy the story or will likely feel despondent, tell them that they can read it later in the year and suggest a different book instead. At the end of the day, allowing your child to read the books they’re interested in (whether they are too easy or too difficult) is an important part of nurturing and maintaining their love of books and reading.

Reading aloud allows children to access high level texts, enables them to hear how unfamiliar language and sentence structures should sound and is proven to aid comprehension of a text; teachers will regularly read aloud to the children in a range of contexts. Hearing books read aloud give children a model for their own independent reading. Children also benefit from opportunities to read aloud to an adult at school.

‘Book talk’ will be used in class by teachers and other adults in school to model a reader’s thoughts and encourages children to do the same. Reading journals are used for this within school and children are given challenges when appropriate to complete in their own time. If children have given independent responses to questions, a discussion will provide them with the opportunity to add to or edit their answers. This will also lead to the teacher giving model answers to questions, either verbally or written.

Questioning used effectively has an important role to play in reading, not only as part of whole class or group discussions, but on a one-to-one basis. If a child asks a question, a skilful adult will ask a question in return and refer the child back to the text, rather than instantly providing a model answer.

Focus on vocabulary is the gateway to understanding – if we don’t understand the words we read, we can’t understand a text. We provide children with opportunities to hone skills such as morphemic and contextual analysis. Making predictions and checking word meanings is encouraged when children are reading at home.

Home

It is an expectation of parents and carers to ensure that their child reads at home daily and engages in conversation with their child around their reading. The reading journal is a fantastic home-school link and parents/carers are encouraged to comment linked to the focus given. This will be catered for in different ways, depending on the age/ability of the child. Here are some ideas of how parents and carers can engage in this process:

  • When reading daily, use a wide variety of books, not just the ‘reading book’ from school.
  • Show interest in the book.
  • Before reading the book, discuss the front cover and if there are illustrations allow discussion.
  • Encourage prediction of what the story might be about and introduce key words and characters whilst doing this.
  • In EYFS and year one, depending on the child’s development, read the book to them before they read it to you, modelling.
  • At appropriate times, discuss the plot of the book with your child, allowing them to predict what might  happen next.
  • If your child is stuck on a word or reads it wrong, ask if it sounds right, makes sense or looks right and allow them to use the illustrations and context as clues.
  • Praise your child for their effort, not attainment.
  • After reading, ask your child to tell you about the book, for example: what was your favourite part of the book? Which characters did you like  best? Why? Was it sad/happy/funny? What did you learn from the book?

The important thing to check is that your child makes sense of what they are reading and are understanding the text as a whole.

Our local library in Barnstaple is fantastic; we encourage our parents and carers to take their children there to enrich their reading experience – please see below for a link to the library website.

Writing

At our school we aim to:

  • Nurture the children’s sense of themselves as writers
  • Encourage children to become enthusiastic, confident and reflective writers
  • Provide purposeful writing opportunities where children write for a variety of audiences
  • Enable children to independently produce high quality writing across all curriculum areas
  • Encourage children to play with language and write for pleasure
  • Ensure children can write using a legible, joined script

EYFS

In EYFS, children will start to learn how to form letters correctly. They will be encouraged to use their knowledge of phonics to write words in ways which match their spoken sounds. By the end of the year, they will be expected to write simple sentences which can be read by themselves and others.

Developing Writing through Key Stages 1 and 2

Key Stage 1

At key stage 1 pupils become increasingly competent as writers. They write a range of text types (narrative and non-fiction) but their degree of control over these forms varies according to the complexity of the task. Purposes, audiences and appropriate forms are identified and, through shared and guided writing, the pupils have opportunities to plan, develop and review their writing. They write stories of different types based on known texts, focusing on particular elements, e.g. building character profiles, ascribing appropriate dialogue to particular characters, creating recognisable settings. Poetry, rhyme and language play provide models for the pupils’ own writing through adaptation, mimicry or substitution. Some of the organisational and linguistic features of non-fiction texts are evident in the pupils’ own writing of recounts, reports, instructions and explanations.

Key Stage 2

At key stage 2 pupils experience writing in different forms for a variety of audiences. They write for different purposes: to imagine and explore feelings and ideas, to inform and explain, to persuade and to review and comment. They also see how writing is concerned with process as well as product, being an aid to thinking, organisation and learning. They are taught to plan, draft, revise, proof read and present their writing  and to discuss and evaluate their own writing and that of others. There is an emphasis on using real models for writing, e.g. newspaper reports, advertisements, websites. The links between reading and writing in fiction and non-fiction continue to be made explicit. Pupils use their knowledge of texts they have studied to construct their own writing and have greater control over organisation, language features, vocabulary and spelling.

Handwriting

We use the cursive style of handwriting where every letter starts from the line which helps the children join from an early age. This style of handwriting has been researched to be the most effective style for dyslexic children and also looks beautiful when mastered – the children really do take pride in their writing. If you would like to support your child with handwriting or learn more about how and why it is taught in this way, please visit the ‘Teach Handwriting’ website or ask your child’s class teacher.