Our Approach to Teaching English at St Nics
At St Nics we focus our daily whole class English lessons around a range of quality books, putting reading at the very centre of our English curriculum. We have carefully developed a writing book spine, which ensures that the books are wide ranging and high quality. In addition, we believe that it is important for children to develop their own writing voice, encouraging them to apply their writing skills and knowledge within pieces that speak about their own lives and experiences. Through the year, children have opportunities to apply their knowledge of writing genres to areas that matter to them.
Children learn to write applying their phonics skills, segmenting to spell and applying their knowledge of common exception words. These are taught within our daily phonics sessions. Further information on the phonics scheme is given below.
We recognize the importance of developing a joy of reading and writing, whilst ensuring children have strong technical skills in both areas, in order that children can become successful and interested readers and writers. Our aim is for our children to love reading and writing, developing strong technical writing skills to help them express themselves well.
Our Writing Approach
Writing and Writing Lessons
Each term we have clear writing focusses and aims, with children writing for a clear purpose for a known audience, in order to bring meaning and purpose to their writing. Children are taught how to write in different genres and for different purposes, exploring texts, experimenting and benefiting from strong modelling from teachers. They may, for example, write a diary entry written in role as Hermelin from the wonderful picturebook of the same name, in order to entertain the existing readers of this popular story, or write a persuasive piece to win over prospective residents of our local area about a specific issue. Within phonics sessions and writing lessons, the children use phonics to segment to spell words, in line with our Read Write Inc phonics scheme, using RWI Fred Fingers to segment words carefully (cat, c- a- t). Children are trained to independently access RWI phonics sounds mats to help them in their writing, alongside the use of common exception word mats, which support children in their writing of tricky words. These words are taught to children in their phonics and English lesson, with the tricky parts identified, to help them learn to read and write them effectively. See the Read Write Inc Phonics Training video for more information and advice on how you can support your children at home.
Throughout Key Stage One and Lower Key Stage Two, the children undertake daily handwriting practice to help them to take pride in their presentation, gaining the knowledge of how to present their work well. In Reception, the children learn the basic letter formation, then add the cursive lead ins in Year 1, as they show they are secure with their letter formation. Most children progress to beginning to join by the end of the year, when they have shown they are ready. Most children are joining most letters by the time they leave Year 2. Children who need more support in this, benefit from personalized learning sessions to give them some additional help.
Spelling and Grammar
Both as part of our English lessons and through discreet technical skills lessons we focus on the technical aspects of writing the children need. In addition to the word lists within the National Curriculum, as a school, we have a range of MUST words for each group, in order to ensure children have secured the spelling of a range of common words. They use these word list when editing their own work.
Once children have shown they are secure in Phase 5 phonics, they move onto daily spelling and grammar lessons.
Our Approach to Reading
Daily Reading Out Loud
Every teacher reads daily out loud to their class, using a book spine of longer books and picturebooks right through the school from nursery to Year 6. The books we choose help the children to see themselves and also looking into lives and experiences of others. We use a diverse range of inclusive books that interest and challenge the children.
Reading for Pleasure
We consider reading for pleasure as a central core of our reading approach, helping children to see the joy in exploring and sharing quality books. Alongside daily reading and sharing of books in the classroom, we also have regular events such as the Bears and Books at Bedtime, where children return to school in their pajamas and with cuddly toys, to enjoy listening to bedtime stories. In our Reading Café event last year, children shared and explored our wonderful new book purchases, and for the last two years each child has enjoyed receiving a gift of a specially chosen pre-loved book from their class teacher as a Christmas present.
Alongside this, we have a reading for pleasure school book spine, which are a specially curated list of diverse and inclusive books for classroom book corners. We have bought a significant number of these books already, but would welcome St Nics family members donating a book, if they so wish, from our wish list https://amzn.eu/eCJ6pSi
The full Reading for Pleasure book spine can be seen at the bottom of the page. Alongside their individual reading books, children are encouraged to choose an additional book of their choice to share at home. Fortnightly class visits to our own school library ensures that children have a wide range of fiction, non fiction, comics and poetry to choose from.
In order to support families further, each month we send out a Reading for Pleasure magazine, with suggestions of new diverse and interesting books for each year group to borrow or buy and share at home, alongside author spotlight interviews on diverse and interesting authors and illustrators. We have many of these books, which can be lent out to those at St Nics who wish to try them.
Click on the link below to view more about how we foster reading for pleasure at St Nics and to view the monthly St Nic's Reading for Pleasure magazine.
Supporting Children's Reading At Home
Learning to read is a partnership between school and home and it is vitally important that children read out loud every day at home, as well as sharing books and a wide range of reading material in order to develop a love of reading through sharing books and being read to. Here at St Nic's we believe all children can become strong, confident and engaged readers and we aim to share the pleasure of reading with children both in school and at home. The parents' reading guide at the bottom of the page gives you information on our reading approach and how you can support your child with reading at home.
In the early years, children have a combination of whole class reading and group reading, so they can develop vital comprehension skills, whilst securing their ability to decode and understand the words on the page. As children progress through the school, we focus more on whole class reading, with children exploring and deepening their understanding of the books we read together. We have carefully developed a reading spine of high quality books and poems that ensure children are reading and exploring a wide range of texts of different genres and from different time periods.
We teach comprehension skills explicitly through our reading lessons, using the Reading for Meaning Grid throughout the school, so there is consistency of approach and children become familiar with the terms.
Through an early focus on reading, we have achieved very strong phonics check results, gaining 100% pass rate in 2017, 2018 and 2019 (COVID has disrupted the phonics check since this date). Part of our success has been the early identification of those who need extra support, using daily, focussed short burst 1:1 phonics interventions for those who need to gain confidence and make catch up progress.
We use Read Write Inc as our systematic phonics programme to teach reading fluency and the early stages of writing. In addition to teaching them the phonic code in a systematic manner, this provides the children with valuable additional daily reading practice of fully decodable texts at their level, whilst helping them to secure the decoding skills they need at an early stage. A parents' guide to RWI phonics can be found at the end of this section, together with our phonics policy.
Reading Progression Through the School
In Key Stage One we use the book band system to match the children’s reading level to individual reading books, making sure that these are phonically decodable and matched to the sounds children have learned until the full phonic code is taught. Alongside this, children take home an additional book of their choice to enjoy sharing at home. This might be a picture book, non fiction book, or even a joke book or comic. In addition, children in Key Stage One also have weekly opportunities to do a group read, which allows time for more discussion around the texts.
When children enter Key Stage Two, they move to the Accelerated Reader programme, which allows us to accurately matching their reading ability with a range of appropriate book choices. This programme gives children a reading range and ensures children are able to read a wide range of quality books. This is not a reading scheme as such, as AR gives a huge variety of children’s books a specific level, based on the complexity and length of words and sentences, so the children are able to enjoy the authors they love whilst reading books within their range. Below is a parents' Powerpoint giving more information about the AR reading system.
Reading for Meaning Grid and Bookmarks
As part of our approach to Reading for Meaning and to support the use of the Reading for Meaning Grid within our reading lessons, we have created Reading for Meaning Bookmarks, which support children's reading through prompt questions under the Reading for Meaning skill headings. These are designed to be used by all adults who hear children read, helping to ensure a consistency of approach and support development of the individual reading skills. Below is a powerpoint, which gives more information about the Reading for Meaning approach and the new bookmarks.