Wychwood Primary School - English Vision Statement
At Wychwood, our aim is for pupils to develop not only their confidence and skill as readers and writers but also their enjoyment, leading, we hope, to a lifelong love of language and literature. We believe that providing children with a rich vocabulary is the key to academic success and so it is at the heart of both our reading and writing curriculum. Reading and writing are excellent tools for learning more about ourselves and also about the lives of others. To that end, we have developed a core reading spine which aims to provide our pupils with a window on modern Britain and the wider world as well as celebrating a diverse range of authors both past and present.
Our English curriculum is sequenced so that children’s reading and writing skills build over time. We have selected texts and designed our units of teaching carefully so that our curriculum includes diverse narratives and voices, celebrating classic novels, poems and picture books alongside more contemporary texts, both fiction and non-fiction.
We follow the Read, Write, Inc. phonics and spelling programmes which systematically build pupils’ knowledge of phonics and, later, spelling rules and patterns, allowing pupils to become accurate and fluent readers and increasingly confident writers. Alongside these programmes, we provide pupils with rich, whole class reading sessions where they have the opportunity to encounter texts that may be beyond their ability to access independently. Through these sessions, the children develop their comprehension skills, build their vocabulary and begin to understand the choices writers make so that they can apply this thinking to their own writing.
We use a whole class reading approach because:
• the modelling, explanation, practice and feedback cycle can happen more often for every child;
• we can have the same high expectations for all pupils;
• a child’s independent reading level may lag behind their comprehension;
• the teacher is able to model and make explicit the skills that a good reader has;
• our school reading spine creates a shared experience of texts which allows for purposeful and deliberate schema building by referring to and making links to prior knowledge;
• it enables a sharp focus on vocabulary acquisition which can then be revisited often enough as a class to embed the new words in the children’s long-term memory.
During the whole class reading sessions, the children will read a whole novel (normally one a term) alongside some related non-fiction texts. We carefully select the texts to ensure they are high quality, offer sufficient challenge for even our most confident readers and are in line with our broader curriculum intent. We have also tried to make sure that each year the children have an opportunity to read books that fit the ‘five plagues’ as outlined in Reading Reconsidered (Doug Lemov et al):
• Archaic text
• Non-linear time sequence
• Complexity of narrator
• Complexity of story (plot and symbolism)
• Resistant text
Over the course of a unit, we will cover the following skills with the first two being taught every session:
• Explain/understand vocabulary
• Retrieve (literal information from a text)
• Identify structure
• Identify effect (read as a writer – look at authorial intent)
• Compare, make links (to prior knowledge, to other texts or within the text)
Vocabulary is central to both our reading and writing curriculum and children are expected to learn, retain and use the language taught throughout each unit. Key words are chosen so that they are encountered in model texts for writing as well as the texts they are reading and each word is revisited often to ensure it is embedded in the pupils’ long-term memory.
Our writing lessons are planned and delivered following a Talk for Writing approach. This means that children have the opportunity to read and internalise excellent writing models, have plenty of opportunities to practise using different written structures and develop toolkits for writing for a range of audiences and purposes.
Each unit begins with a ‘cold write’ which forms a baseline assessment for that text type and writing focus and informs the planning for that unit of teaching. Children then spend several days reading, learning and examining closely the model text. They spend time reading it as a reader and also as a writer and use the model to build a writer’s toolkit, develop a generic structure which can be used again and also practise different features and structures that are pertinent to that text type and focus. After that, the children move on to the ‘innovation’ stage when they use the same generic structure and the co-created writer’s toolkit to write their own version of the text. This stage involves daily shared and modelled writing alongside feedback to the whole class and to individuals which supports their progress. The final stage of the process is the ‘hot write’ which is where the children independently apply the skills they have been practising over the past weeks to write their own text.
The teaching of punctuation and grammar is embedded in our writing units so that each feature is encountered within a real and purposeful context. This enables pupils to rehearse using each feature in a meaningful way and deepen their understanding of its purpose within a piece of writing.
The Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum is where we hope to lay the foundations on which every pupil’s love of language and literature is built. Here, as in the rest of our school, language acquisition is at the heart of our curriculum and opportunities for children to encounter, learn, retain and use new vocabulary (Wizard Words) are built in, not only to our more formal writing and reading sessions, but also into the provision more broadly. Children delight in using their newly acquired vocabulary as often as they can.
As detailed above, pupils have daily phonics and reading sessions which follow the Read, Write, Inc. programme. In addition to these lessons, pupils enjoy rich, whole class reading sessions where they enjoy a range of high-quality texts that may be beyond their current ability to decode. We follow a Talk for Writing approach in our writing lessons along with the rest of the school. Regular modelled and shared writing sessions are used to develop the pupils’ growing writing skills and pupils learn nursery rhymes and stories by heart. Opportunities to retell and write these rhymes and stories are built into provision using the text maps, puppets, props and stage area.
In the first three weeks in our EYFS classes, we identify those children who require additional support in English. We then provide targeted interventions in phonics, reading, writing and also in speech and language. For the latter we use a programme called Wellcomm and following a screening process to identify specific areas for development, children are then supported with speech and language activities that are specific to their needs.
Planning and books evidence a consistent approach to the teaching and learning of both reading and writing. Models and texts offer challenge that progresses throughout the school and recent lesson observations demonstrated a high level of skill in the live modelling of writing by teaching staff. Learning walks confirmed that vocabulary was being prioritised and taught well and books demonstrate the children’s increasing use of the vocabulary taught. Learning walks, pupil interviews and book looks show that children are engaged in their English lessons and that they are beginning to see themselves as readers and writers. Staff assess reading and writing formally three times a year and the data is used to identify any children in need of additional support. Targeted intervention is then provided to those who need it.