Our intention is that all children will develop independence in all aspects of the English curriculum.
We believe that all children should be able to confidently communicate their knowledge, ideas and emotions through their writing. We want children to acquire a wide vocabulary, a solid understanding of grammar and be able to spell new words by effectively applying the spelling patterns and rules they learn throughout their time in primary school.
We want them to write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences. We believe that all children should be encouraged to take pride in the presentation of their writing, by developing a clear, joined, handwriting style by the time they move to high school.
We believe that all good writers refine and edit their writing over time, so we want children to develop independence in being able to identify their own areas for improvement in all pieces of writing, editing their work effectively during and after the writing process.
We believe that all children should have the opportunity to be fluent, confident readers who are able to successfully comprehend and understand a wide range of texts. We want children to develop a love of reading, a good knowledge of a range of authors, and be able to understand more about the world in which they live through the knowledge they gain from texts. By the end of their time at primary school, all children should be able to read fluently, and with confidence.
We believe that children should be able to articulate ideas, understand and engage with others through spoken language and become effective speakers to understand themselves, each other and the wider world. Talk in the classroom should enhance and deepen children’s thinking skills. Through talk, children should develop skills to succeed in school and their life beyond.
The implementation of our English curriculum is not confined to English lessons but to every aspect of school life.
Our writing intentions are fulfilled through the principles of explaining, modelling, scaffolding and practice. We use the Jane Considine structure of linking learning day on day so that children can build a complete and cohesive text over time. Units of work are built on a sequence of experiences (through drama, texts or visual media) and sentence focused lessons. In following this approach, children learn to ‘sentence stack’ from excellent examples modelled and analysed to exemplify particular features. At the heart of our lessons is the development of effective vocabulary which conveys meaning to the reader. We focus on deepening and stretching children’s repertoires so that they can select the right word to enhance understanding of nuances.
Grammar and Punctuation
Grammar and punctuation knowledge and skills are taught, in context, through English lessons as much as possible. Teachers plan to teach the required skills through the genres of writing that they are teaching, linking it to the genre to make it more contextual with the intended writing outcome. Teachers sometimes focus on particular grammar and punctuation skills as discrete lessons, if they feel that the class need additional lessons to embed and develop their understanding or to consolidate skills.
We teach weekly spellings through Spelling Shed. Children are given spellings based on age-appropriate spelling patterns and rules which they learn in school and at home through a series of online and classroom activities. We use customized lists to address particular gaps and to support children who are working below age expectations for spelling. Children practise their spellings and explore meanings and exceptions to the focus pattern in spelling sessions throughout the week.
Letter-join is used to teach our children a continuous cursive handwriting by the time they leave primary school. Lessons are taught through animations of the letters and joins, and practice sheets to build on fluency and consistently and then pace and stamina. Children can access the program at home and use tablets to trace the letters, joins and words set by the class teacher. In EYFS and Year 1 the children are taught rhymes for correct formation of letters based on the Read Write Inc programme. The focus remains on forming lower case letters in the correct direction and in relative size to one another.
Reading at Elm Tree Primary Academy is taught in a range of ways. Throughout the school, all classes will be involved in a focused reading session at a set time each day. Throughout the week, every child will experience a range of activities.
Reception children begin to learn the first 43 phonic sounds from the ‘Read, Write, Inc’ phonics programme when they enter Reception Class. This is taught at a rapid pace: children are introduced to one phoneme per day throughout the year. The teaching of this is multi-sensory and active using the wider school environment such as the Early Years outdoor area to ensure purposeful learning is taking place.
Children will continue to follow the programme into Year 1. This will be a focused, daily session. In Year 1 the teaching and learning will focus on building on the skills learnt in the Early Years Foundation Stage and continual formative assessment will help target any gaps in phonic knowledge. Children will take a reading book home each week from the appropriate level. Children who are working beyond Read, Write Inc. will also be given reading books which challenge other areas of reading. In Year 2 the children have a daily ‘letters and sounds’ phonics session tailored to the needs of focus groups and formal comprehension style lessons are introduced.
The Key Stage 2 reading domains are taught through the use of VIPERS and by using high quality texts. Over the course of a week, teachers model skills which are then practised and applied independently. Children are given opportunities to demonstrate a greater depth of understanding through extended answers, targeted questioning requiring more reasoned answers and making greater links across and between texts.
Our English curriculum is centred around outstanding children’s literature. Fiction and non-fiction books are linked to topics if high quality texts are available and deemed challenging in both interest and ability level. It is important that all children have access to literature which is age-appropriate despite their reading ability and individual reading experiences. Genres and authors vary over the primary phase to ensure children can experience as diverse a range as possible. In teaching from a text, all aspects of literacy are contextualised. This is explained to the children as WAGOLL but simply put, we immerse children in quality literature so that the purpose of grammar, a writers’ techniques and text structure are easily demonstrated.
Reading for Pleasure
At Elm Tree, engaging children in Reading for Pleasure activities is developed through example, encouragement and reinforcement. All classrooms have reading displays and their own book areas which include fiction, non-fiction, poetry and picture books. Activities are designed to promote pleasure in reading, to encourage emergent readers to travel further into the world of books through new authors and genres and to promote empathy. Children discuss their book choices and views in regular library lessons; participate in class book recommendation sessions and listen to extracts and read book reviews to make informed choices about their own reading journey.
Throughout the school, children and teachers share an understanding of what ‘talk’ looks like and by setting out agreed guidelines for discussions and oracy activities. Opportunities for oracy are regular and purposeful and created through drama, debates, speeches and all curriculum subjects and aspects of school life. In Reception children are encouraged to explain their exploration of the world around them whilst Year 6 pupils are expected to articulate their opinions on controversial issues and abstract ideas such as conflict. And, every voice in between is valued and heard.
The impact of our English curriculum is seen, not only in the quality and breadth of the work in our children’s books, but in the confidence in which they read, share texts and articulate their learning. The English curriculum enriches children’s cultural capital and enables them to think and communicate effectively. Learning in English is sustained and transferrable.
All children will achieve in lessons and thus succeed and make progress from their starting points because work will be appropriately modelled and scaffolded. They will have a wide vocabulary that they use within their writing. Children will have a good knowledge of how to adapt their writing based on the context and audience using sentence structure and grammar and punctuation at or above age-related expectations. They will leave primary school being able to effectively apply spelling rules and patterns they have been taught.
Through the teaching of phonics and reading skills our children will develop confidence and fluency in decoding and comprehension. They will be exposed to quality texts which will enable them to experience a wider vocabulary, an understanding of the world around them and encourage empathy and compassion.
Our English curriculum is measured through regular moderation, unit reviews, informal and formal assessments, pupil progress meetings, pupil voice and parent surveys. Children who need additional support to close gaps in their skills and knowledge work in small groups to complete targeted interventions.