English at The Meadows
At The Meadows, we believe that a robust understanding of the English curriculum will enable our children to become confident, successful members of society. From Reception class upwards, we strive to embed an ambitious, progressive curriculum that equips children with strategies which enable them to succeed. We aim for all learners to make excellent progress, no matter what their starting point, so that they leave at the end of Year Six prepared for the next step in their education. Skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening, spelling and presentation are utilised throughout the curriculum as well as in discrete subject lessons.
Reading & Early Reading
In EYFS and KS1, children learn to read through the systematic phonics programme from Little Wandle. This new, highly-structure approach enables children to develop strong phonological awareness for early reading. Children take part in a phonics lesson every day and use the accompanying fully-decodable phonics books to embed their reading skills. These books are then accessed at home by parents using the Collins Big Cat eReader website. Additionally, children are provided with “real books” which parents can share with them to encourage an enjoyment of reading together for pleasure. These books may not be fully-decodable but can be read by an adult to expose children to wider range of vocabulary and experiences.
Once children have completed the Little Wandle programme, they progress onto levelled reading books. To ensure good comprehension, children will be asked to read each book a minimum of three times at home with an adult before they are permitted to change it. This is so that they gain a thorough understanding of the text before moving on, rather than simply decoding the text. Reading Records are checked daily by Meadows staff to ensure children are reading regularly with an adult at home.
Children who have mastered the skills of reading required are then free to choose their own books, either from home, or from our array of texts in school and class libraries. These do not have to be read more than once, as children at this stage of reading have already established excellent comprehension skills.
The teaching of comprehension currently consists of the reading “VIPERS” approach, where children learn to answer questions from the different content domains, as well as an additional “RIC” session where children focus on the skills of retrieval, inference, and authorial choice through a wide range of stimuli, such as film clips, photographs, artwork, and objects.
Reading for pleasure is a high priority in our school. Consequently, we are continually seeking to invest in the latest texts for children to share and welcome the Scholastic Book Fayre twice yearly. Additionally, we are providing a “10-minute pledge” to read from a book from our reading spine each day just for the enjoyment of a good text. We also engage in virtual author visits throughout the year and celebrate World Book Day with gusto.
The result of our work at The Meadows means that children are able to:
- develop a positive attitude towards reading. Reading should be an enjoyable and meaningful experience for both study and pleasure
- become confident, fluent and accurate readers
- attain excellent phonic knowledge and skills
- develop an extensive and rich vocabulary
- engage with a wide variety of texts that develop an extensive knowledge of the wider world
Writing is a fundamental skill, which alongside reading, ensures that children can become successful communicators with the ability to share their voice with the world. Through teaching the skills outlined in the National Curriculum through a range of engaging texts, we ensure that children are able to express themselves clearly across the curriculum.
Currently, writing is taught using the “Read into Writing” scheme from Rising Stars. This resource builds units of work around challenging texts which are designed to promote children’s understanding and help them to develop fundamental skills for writing. As part of our ongoing whole-school development of Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction, we will be developing our approach to teaching writing over the next twelve months to ensure better progress for all groups of learners.
Accurate grammar and punctuation are vital to good writing; therefore these skills are taught in context during writing lessons. Where required, specific lessons are dedicated to learning the more challenging content from the curriculum so that children can apply the skills correctly during independent writing tasks. Teachers use the guidance in Appendix 2 of the National Curriculum to know what should be taught in their year group.
Following on from the Little Wandle phonics programme, children in Year 3 onwards learn to spell using The Spelling Book “Transforming the Teaching of Spelling” developed by renowned educationalist Jane Considine. This clear and systematic approach builds on the phonic skills learnt during KS1 and will help children to unlock the door to successful spelling, providing them with life-long strategies that can be applied to words of increasing complexity.
Lessons are organised over a two-week rolling programme. In Week One, children spend a 30-minute session investigating a spelling hypothesis to develop understanding of patterns, morphology and rules, and a 20-minute session called “Go Grapheme Grafters” where they analyse the phonic structure of 15 specific words which become a focus over the two-week period. During Week Two, each day features a 10-minute burst activity to learn about common patterns, errors, misconceptions and how to commit spellings to long-term memory.
It has long been recognised that the weekly testing of spellings and learning them by rote has very little impact on their use in the context of independent writing, and therefore we no longer send weekly spelling homework or test children on a Friday. Instead, the Go Grapheme Grafters sessions track how well children are progressing against 15 words over two weeks, and each child has a “Focus Five” spellings identified from their independent work that they focus on to improve their overall spelling.
The Meadows Primary School follows the Teach Handwriting programme to ensure all children learn to produce neat, joined handwriting that fulfils the requirements of the National Curriculum. Following the adoption of the Little Wandle phonics programme, further development will soon take place to ensure the best outcomes for children’s presentation in EYFS and KS1.