In our school, English is at the core of our pupil’s learning and it is our aim that all children will reach their full potential in this subject. From Reception Class through to Year 6, children engage in English based learning on a daily basis. We aim to develop pupils’ abilities to communicate meaning, successfully through speaking and listening, reading and writing. As part of our Creative Curriculum, many aspects of the English Curriculum are taught within other subject areas.
Speaking and Listening
It is vital that our pupils learn and develop the skills to communicate effectively. We encourage our pupils to use talk to explore ideas and feelings, to listen and respond to others, including in pairs and in groups. Children are given opportunites to expereince talking within role-play and drama to explore texts, ideas and issues.
We place great emphasis on reading, as an essential skill and as a source of enjoyment. From Reception, children are encouraged to listen to stories and to enjoy looking at books. They will have experience of traditional, nursery and modern poems, rhymes and stories and simple non-fiction texts. They will be taught to recognise the names and sounds of the letters of the alphabet as well as to read a range of familiar and common words and simple sentences independently.
As children progress through the school, they are encouraged to read a wider range of genres and more challenging texts. Children are given the opportunities to develop their comprehension skills beyond the literal and to extend their own vocabulary.
We use Letters and Sounds as a basis of our phonics teaching and the school uses a range of reading schemes and real books that are banded:
KS1 Reading Schemes – We mainly use a range of books from the Oxford Reading Tree schemes for home/school reading. For guided reading, we use the Rigby Star Guided Reading Scheme.
Phonics – We follow Letters and Sounds (follow the order, high frequency words, using sound buttons to read) but use aspects of the Jolly Phonics scheme such as the actions and songs to teach it. We also use Phonics Play.
We place great emphasis on handwriting and presentation skills across the school and have high expectations of this in all subject areas. Children learn to join their letters from an early age using the cursive style of handwriting.
From Reception, children are encouraged to express their own ideas in a written form in order to communicate with others for different purposes. Children progress from making simple marks on paper to recognisable letter shapes. They learn the alphabet and letter sounds and begin to spell the first high frequency words.
During Key Stage 1, children will progress to writing phrases and sentences and spelling more complex words. They will begin to develop a sense of audience and improve the quality of their story writing. They will learn to spell more complex words.
By the end of Key Stage 2, children will have gained a wider vocabulary and will have a developing sense of the art of writing. They will have experienced writing in a range of genres and for a variety of purposes, using grammar and punctuation effectively. They will be able to write in paragraphs and increase the complexity of their sentences.
The Big Write
As part of our continued drive to enhance learning in Literacy at St Joseph’s, we introduced a new initiative across the school during 2012, ‘The Big Write’. It is based on Ros Wilson’s Big Writing scheme which follows the philosophy that if children can say it, they can write it. Big write involves children bringing home talk homework once a week or fortnightly to discuss at home in preparation for writing the next day. Through Big Write we hope that our pupils will become more confident and ambitious in their writing.
Big write sessions take place once a week in Years 4, 5, and 6, and fortnightly in Years 1, 2 and 3. In reception, children take part in The Big Talk. The sessions are an hour and half dedicated purely to writing (one hour in KS1). The Big Write session begins with developing four elements of writing –Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation, through engaging activities. This gives our pupils the necessary tools to write with confidence across a range of genres. The sessions include time for children to plan their writing and teachers create a special atmosphere for the writing session, such as background music, special books and pens.
In reception class, the children take part in ‘The Big Talk.’ It is vital that children develop their language skill through talking, enabling them to progress with their writing skills. Each fortnight, children are given a topic to talk about at home. The following day, pupils have the opportunity to talk about their ideas.
The ‘Big Write’ has proved to be very popular with the children:
“It’s fun because you get to use your imagination.”
“You get lights, candles and music to help get you thinking.”
“My favourite part is that I get to make up my own story.”
“It’s really good because you get to make things up. I get to improve my handwriting and check spellings. The teacher lets me know how I’ve done.”