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.
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
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.
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, with most children progressing to joining by the end of the year. 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 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.
Our Approach to Reading
Daily Reading Out Loud
Every teacher reads daily out loud to their class, using 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 last year each child enjoyed receiving a gift of a specially chosen pre-loved book from their class teacher.
Each month we send out a children’s book recommendation list, with suggestions of new books to buy and share at home for each year group. Our English Coordinator also has many of these books, which can be lent out to those who wish to try them.
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 the past two years. Part of our success has been the early identification of those who need extra support, using the proven Dancing Bears 1:1 phonics sessions for those who need to gain confidence and make catch up progress.
We use Read Write Inc as our phonics approach, adjusting it where needed to meet the needs of our classes. This provides the children with valuable additional daily reading practice, whilst helping them to secure the decoding skills they need at an early stage.
We have subscriptions to Teach Your Monster to Read and Spelling Shed to give the children additional practice with their phonics and spelling.
Reading Progression Through the School
In Key Stage One we use the book band system to match the children’s reading level to appropriate books, making sure that these are phonically decodable in the early reading stages. Our book band books include both reading scheme books and quality picturebooks, so we can ensure children have quality discussions around what they read.
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.