At Monkshouse Primary School we believe that English is a fundamental life skill that develops children’s ability to listen, speak, read and write for a wide range of purposes. Children are enabled to express themselves creatively and imaginatively as they become enthusiastic and critical readers of stories, poetry and drama, as well as of non-fiction and media texts. Children gain an understanding of how language works by looking at its patterns, structures and origins and can use their knowledge, skills and understanding in speaking and writing across a range of different situations.
At Monkshouse, early English in EYFS and KS1 is learnt through developing work on spoken language, role play, early reading, daily guided reading, home reading books linked to the phonics phase and phonics teaching.
We use systematic and high quality phonics learning that takes place daily at Foundation Stage & KS1 via the Letters and Sounds programme. We believe that this programme of learning will equip our children with a range of decoding skills by the time they leave KS1, in addition to giving them a good grounding in spelling. This is built upon with statutory spelling guidance from Appendix 1 of the National Curriculum 2014. All children are heard read regularly in Reception and KS1 and are placed on an appropriate book-banded reading level according to their reading fluency, decoding skills and comprehension. Individual reading to an adult also takes place at KS2 although this may be reduced as the child progresses.
At Monkshouse, we use the Oxford Reading Tree scheme to provide the children with fully decodable books that are aimed at each child’s specific level. The children are assessed regularly to ensure that they are making progress. We value the involvement of parents in their children’s reading development.
A ‘Reading Record’ book is maintained throughout the whole school. This is a home/school record where any adults hearing the child read, will record the progress made. Comments may be made by parents or staff to communicate how the child is getting on and ideas as to how to develop reading skills further. To encourage regular reading at home the children are given incentives in the form of a choice of activity at the end of term; this may be a film, art or PE activity or something chosen by the children in agreement with their teacher. To achieve this reward the children must show that they have read for the required number of times over the course of a term.
We believe that free access to books of all kinds is important in the development of the child’s interest in, and appreciation of, reading. To this end, all classrooms have reading areas, and also book displays and collections related to on-going topic work. In addition to this, children are encouraged to use the library, not just for research but also to choose books to read for pleasure.
For children in EYFS and KS1 who struggle with language acquisition or who are new to English, we offer the Welcomm package, which aims to develop basic spoken language skills at a quicker rate. It offers support with various barriers to vocabulary development and the understanding of the spoken word.
We also offer a range of planned and specific interventions including ‘Language for Thinking’, colourful semantics, Tales Toolkit and Message Centres.
At Monkshouse we aim to embed the learning of writing skills across the curriculum, using real life contexts and topic related subjects where possible. The key skills of composition, planning and drafting, editing, punctuation, spelling, handwriting, grammar and standards of English and language structure are therefore taught explicitly in the context of English lessons, but also indirectly through cross-curricular writing tasks in other subjects.
Children are given the opportunity to develop their understanding of a range of writing through the exploration of modelled texts, reading and the use of visual methods including pictures and films. Through careful guidance, children learn to understand what makes a good piece of writing and how to acquire the skills to create these for themselves. Much emphasis is placed on the use of talk for writing, encouraging children to discuss their ideas with both adults and peers; this enables the development of imagination and independent learning skills. Great importance is placed on the children developing an ability to become analytical and critical reviewers of their writing, enabling them to develop lifelong learning skills.
Children enjoy the opportunity of having a real-life purpose for writing. Wherever possible we aim to give true meaning to their writing through our curriculum topics. In addition to this, children are encouraged to write at home, through homework topics, and will enjoy working together with other family members on these. Class teachers will always be happy to provide information about what is being covered in writing each term and suggest opportunities where parents may wish to join in with their child’s writing at home.
We believe that having the opportunity to plan and complete an extended and largely unaided piece of writing is very important for the children’s development as writers. In view of this, teachers take the time to model high quality writing and make specific vocabulary and sentence structures explicit to the children. From this, the children will take part in regular iWrite sessions. The iWrite incorporates the reinforcement of the use of basic sentence structure: vocabulary, conjunctions, openers and punctuation through games and fun activities before leading on to a sustained period of writing. This lasts for around 30 minutes in year one, increasing to 45 minutes by the end of year 2. This time is extended as the children move in to and through KS2.
Handwriting is a central part of the 2014 literacy curriculum. Even in this technological, computer-literate age, good handwriting remains fundamental to our children's educational achievement. We have now introduced the Penpals handwriting scheme, which ensures that appropriate early experiences of handwriting are offered before formal teaching begins. It then offers progression from 3-11 years to help teach and develop fast, fluent and legible handwriting.
Penpals is taught discretely twice a week throughout the school. Five stages from the basic organisational structure of Penpals:
- Physical preparation for handwriting: gross and fine motor skills leading to mark making, patterns and letter formation (Foundation 3-5 years).
- Securing correct letter formation (Key Stage 1, 5-6 years).
- Beginning to join along with a focus on relative size spacing (Key Stage 1, 6-7 years).
- Securing the joins along with a focus on break letters, legibility, consistency and quality (Lower ket Stage 2, 7-9 years).
- Practising speed, fluency and developing a personalised style for different purposes (Upper Key Stage 2, 9-11 years).
During a Penpals session, children take part in a 'gym' where they warm up their muscles and practice coordination. The class then complete skywriting linked to the letter, or joins, they are looking at. They will then look at models of good handwriting. Finally, they practise the joins or letters in their handwriting book using loops, patterns, words and silly sentences.
At Monkshouse Primary School, we follow the 'Letters and Sounds' programme in Nursery, Reception and Year 1. Once a child is secure at applying blending and segmenting skills and has good recognition of sounds up to Phase 5 they will then move on to the 'No Nonsense Spelling’ programme. This is a scheme of work which enables us to teach all of the requirements of the National Curriculum.
Specific spelling sessions are timetabled where children are taught spelling patterns; given activities to reinforce these; learn strategies to spell new words or words they are 'stuck on'; apply rules and patterns within different contexts and learn about word origins.
The spelling programme offers the opportunity for pupils to apply, practise and consolidate the spelling of their year group statutory words.
Each year group from Year 1-6 has a particular set of spelling patterns and rules, which they must be taught. Alongside these rules, KS1 have some exception words and KS2 have approximately a word list of 50-60 words to learn!
The children are given spelling homework to supplement/consolidate their learning in school. In order to complete this they follow the ‘Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check’ method to learn spellings because this has been proven to help children retain words they have learnt.
Cross Curricular Opportunities
We believe that children learn best in a creative, cross-curricular and integrated context. We therefore seek to make cross-curricular links with the learning taking place in English, with that in other areas, both at the planning stage as well as in response to assessments made.
We will aim to provide extra-curricular opportunities to enhance English skills, knowledge and understanding, such as drama workshops, visiting authors, educational visits and special book days.