The teaching of English is fundamental to everything we do at Charsfield Primary School.
English lessons typically take place daily in every class in the school and opportunities are frequently provided for children to develop their oracy, reading and writing across the scope of the curriculum. Our goal is for children to develop into confident speakers, thoughtful and reflective listeners, enthusiastic readers and engaging writers.
Children need to be able to read and write in order to communicate and access information and ideas. It could be argued that first they learn to read and write and then they read and write to learn!
Writing is also an art form. As the essential skills are being mastered they can be applied to create interesting, engaging and powerful texts that communicate information, ideas, imagery and emotions to the reader. The teaching of literacy therefore, extends beyond the teaching of reading and writing skills into the creative application of these skills in writing for a range of purposes and audiences. And in reading, it is about engaging and immersing the reader in a wide range of high quality texts to be informed, entertained, make sense of themselves and the world around them and appreciate the writer’s craft.
When teaching English at Charsfield, we aim to combine the teaching of reading and writing skills within a context that is meaningful, purposeful and creative. The primary curriculum is packed with content that provides the context for a multitude of writing outcomes so we often capitalise on links with other subjects.
Our approach to teaching reading at Charsfield is based on developing the full range of skills involved in this complex process. Children are encouraged to develop a love of books and are given many opportunities to listen to stories, to share books with each other and to choose fiction and non-fiction. Creating a positive reading culture is potentially one of the most powerful ways of improving academic standards in school. We believe that reading should be a joy not a chore.
Reading involves two main elements – word recognition and language comprehension. Children have to be taught how to decode, retrieve information and ideas and make inferences from clues in the text. They need to be taught how to identify and comment upon the ways in which authors organise their writing and the language that they use.
On starting school, children are encouraged to take books home to read and talk about with their parents and a dialogue is started between school and home in the form of their reading record. This includes both fully decodable scheme texts and books chosen for shared enjoyment. Research has shown that a structured and systematic phonics programme is the most effective way to teach young children to decode. At Charsfield, we use the DfE approved Pearson Bug Club phonics scheme, which has the benefit of being online which means that it can also be accessed by the children at home. Bug Club has books that can be set online by the teacher and this helps us to reinforce the phonic learning at home. Find out more about Bug club here.
Phonics is the term used to describe the letters of the alphabet and the sounds each letter, and combinations of letters make. Children are taught to:
- blend these sounds together to say and read words
- segment the sounds to spell words for writing
The teaching of phonics is organised into six phases, each building upon the previous phase by introducing new sounds and alternative spellings of sounds until Phase 6 where knowledge is consolidated and children start to learn independent spelling strategies. Phonics sessions are structured to build on previous learning and introduce new phonics skills and subject knowledge. Sessions often follow the model of revisit/review, teach, practise and apply. It is structured and tailored to the needs of each individual.
Each June, all children in Year 1 undertake a National Phonics Screening Check. This check consists of 40 words (20 real words and pseudo words) which children will be asked to read. The focus of this check is to see if pupils can decode a range of words which they have not seen before. We use engaging multimedia and interactive resources to enhance our teaching in this area.
Creating A Positive Reading Culture
At Charsfield we endeavour to create a positive reading culture in all of our classrooms. To this end, we have The Charsfield Reading Challenge, where pupils are encouraged to read for pleasure. After so many "reads" the children earn themselves certificates and House Points. In a ‘Reading Classroom’ we would hope to find the following:
- reading for pleasure is the main driving force;
- the teachers are committed to extending their knowledge of children’s books;
- the teachers are excited about books, authors and reading;
- the children are involved in a range of reading activities such as our weekly Collective Worship: Share a Story, Share a Biscuit;
- the classroom book collection contains a wide range of genres and formats which are updated as often as possible;
- the children feel good about themselves as readers;
It is our view that reading aloud to children is one of the most powerful and pleasurable ways to develop a love of reading. It enriches their language, develops their comprehension and provides a model for their own writing. We believe that through this we will:
- create enthusiastic readers;
- increase children’s vocabulary;
- enhance and accelerate language development and comprehension;
- give the children virtual experiences of situations and events that they have not experienced for themselves;
- introduce them to many different characters and settings;
- familiarise them with the flow, rhythm and patterns of the English language;
- develop their sense of the world and their place within it;
- offer an opportunity to share texts with children that they would not normally access or be able to interpret on their own.
- help them to populate and structure their own narratives.
Children are able to choose from a wide range of reading books in school. They begin by working their way through a banded scheme (Pearson Bug Club) and eventually progress to ‘free readers’. Children record their reading in their own reading journals and each class has a weekly visit to the school library.
- This usually takes the form of an adult reading a text with a group of about six children, who are ideally reading at about the same level. The teacher selects a book or text that the children are able to read without too much difficulty (95% accuracy). However, it is worth noting that some children are able to comprehend at a level well beyond their decoding ability and so will benefit from guided groups where most of the text is read to them.
- There is a balance of adult and child talk – with the teacher taking over as necessary to maintain the flow of the narrative.
- Reading activities during the guided session often include:
- reading for enjoyment;
- understanding the text;
- use and apply phonics;
- retrieval of facts and ideas;
- empathising with characters and determining their motives;
- interpreting what the author is communicating;
- identifying the author’s style;
- commenting on the author’s use of language;
- reflecting on the narrative view point;
- analysing the structure and organisation of the text;
- building cultural capital through exploring different times and places;
- considering how the author’s techniques can inform the children’s writing.
- responding – personal responses, art, drama, journal work; writing in role.
- It is sometimes helpful when teaching reading compression to refer to mnemonic devices. Two commonly used examples include DIAL and VIPERS (see below).
Charsfield pupils are actively encouraged to develop as confident, engaging and creative writers. We follow the principles of "The Write Stuff" by Jane Considine. We believe it is important that children see their work as having purpose and that they regard themselves as authors. Through the use of high quality fiction and non-fiction texts, opportunities are provided for pupils to develop the skills required for writing for a wide range of different purposes and audiences.
In writing, during our sentence stacking lessons, children are taught how to select words and apply grammar, punctuation and spelling skills in ways which are interesting and to create different effects for the different purposes and audiences.
The journey to a written outcome often includes a lot of work on reading and grammar in addition to composition. The sentence stacking lesson sequence, split into three learning chunks, typically follows the pattern below.
This involves lots of class discussion and may include some drama to gather ideas for writing. In this section we develop:
- the key features of the text type – language and structure;
- gathering content – information, notes, ideas about the subject of the writing;
- vocabulary – descriptive, figurative and technical;
- grammar and punctuation
This is arguably the most powerful and influential aspect of the teaching of writing. This tends to be whole class activity in which the teacher adopts the role of the writer, thinking aloud and making decisions as to what to write and how to write it. The teacher is saying, ‘Watch me, then you have a go’.
This is where pupils "have a go" at writing, using the techniques and vocabulary generated in the initiate chunk and in the modelling chunk demonstrated by the teacher.
Each sentence stacking lesson focuses on a plot point of a section of a book. By breaking the writing down into smaller bite-sized chunks, pupils are able to gain an understanding of the "whole piece" they are writing, as well as strengthen cohesion between sentences and paragraphs. Following on from a series of sentence stacking lessons, which are guided by the teacher, pupils are then given the opportunity to write independently. This in an opportunity for the teacher to observe the child as a writer and enables them to use and apply their knowledge and skills.
The key features are as follows:
- children are aware of the learning intentions and agreed success criteria
- there is a supportive environment in which children are confident and willing to take risks;
- quiet, dedicated time and space for writing;
- children check if their writing sounds right and makes sense, perhaps reading aloud part of their work to themselves or others;
- appropriate resources and materials are made available e.g. spelling words (walls/ mats / dictionaries), recording buttons, clicker 6, word banks (e.g. adjectives, conjunctions), writing frameworks or templates, story plan or genre specific structure, 1:1 support;
- teachers may stop periodically and carry out mini-plenaries which could involve sharing writing from children’s work, addressing misconceptions and improving or editing a sentence.
The Working Wall
The purpose of the working wall is to support children’s independent writing. They evolve as a unit of work unfolds, and are not intended to be a polished display of finished work.
At Charsfield School we use SpellingFrame to support pupils with their spellings. The programme teaches the rules and conventions of the spelling system and also spelling strategies to support independent writing, by modelling the use of the word in a sentence. Weekly online tests are given and if a pupil gets a spelling incorrect, the programme re-teaches the spelling before testing the pupil again. Independent learning sessions are set aside for pupils who need further help with their spellings. Pupils in KS 2 are actively encouraged to use dictionaries and thesauruses in their writing lessons. All pupils have access to word banks in their classrooms. Proofreading is also taught during writing sessions and links are made to the teaching of handwriting.
Speaking and listening are essential life skills. At Charsfield, these are explicitly taught and applied both socially and across the curriculum. We believe that giving children opportunities to talk and respond to each other is hugely important. These opportunities need to be planned and integrated into lessons so that they make a significant contribution to learning. The National Curriculum explicitly states that pupils should be taught to:
- listen and respond appropriately to adults and their peers
- ask relevant questions to extend their understanding and knowledge
- use relevant strategies to build their vocabulary
- articulate and justify answers, arguments and opinions
- give well-structured descriptions, explanations and narratives for different purposes, including for expressing feelings
- maintain attention and participate actively in collaborative conversations, staying on topic and initiating and responding to comments
- use spoken language to develop understanding through speculating, hypothesising, imagining and exploring ideas
- speak audibly and fluently with an increasing command of Standard English
- participate in discussions, presentations, performances, role play/improvisations and debates
- gain, maintain and monitor the interest of the listener(s)
- consider and evaluate different viewpoints, attending to and building on the contributions of others
- select and use appropriate registers for effective communication
At Charsfield, we endeavour to provide children with opportunities to:
- Talk to others
- Talk with others
- Talk within role play and drama
- Talk about talk
Talk within English lessons is fundamental to:
- Book Talk - understanding and responding to what children read or have read to them;
- Eliciting and extending responses and encouraging critique;
- Vocabulary development – acquiring new words, ideas and knowledge of the world is directly linked to reading comprehension. (If you understand something that you hear you will also understand it when it is written down)
- Storytelling – retelling well-known and familiar stories to assimilate the rhythms and patterns of story language;
- Story making - creating 'new' stories orally and/or as a preparation and rehearsal for writing;
- Rehearsing what is to be written – exploring ideas and gathering the content for writing - what to write about. Creating characters and settings, exploring characters’ feelings, sequencing and role-playing the order of events – knowing your story or organising information before writing it down; composing sentences orally and refining them until they are effective and reflect the purpose of the text.
Using drama in the classroom is one of the most effective ways of ensuring that learning is lively and interactive. Most drama activities take just a few minutes but can have a significant impact upon the children’s learning. Drama can be used to:
- explore characters and situations to develop interpretation, response and comprehension in reading;
- foster empathy
- role-play stories to develop sequencing and story language;
- engage children through teacher-in-role – teacher acting as a character or special visitor who can give the children information and answer their questions;
- explore issues and dilemmas from multiple perspectives
- role-play events and then write about the event in role;
- re-enact events in history;
- develop vocabulary.