“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.” Brian Herbert
English sits at the heart of the primary curriculum and at Downsview we value our children’s right to be literate and to enjoy literature. Children should be taught to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions to others and be able to listen and respond when others communicate with them. Reading in particular, helps children to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Reading not only enables pupils to acquire knowledge but develops knowledge, as it helps the children to build on what they already know. All the skills of language are essential to fully participate as a member of society and therefore we aim to equip our pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written word, as well as develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment.
Spelling, punctuation, grammar and handwriting:
A consistently high standard of joined up handwriting and neat presentation are promoted across the whole school, which all children and staff recognise, understand and follow. In Reception, letter formations are taught alongside phonics and once the children have learned their letter formation and sounds, joined up handwriting is encouraged. From Year 1 on wards, all classes are taught handwriting and given opportunities to practice.
We follow a structured spelling scheme. In Early Years, new phonemes are introduced for the first time, teachers will teach the letter name (s), the sound it usually makes, and the accompanying Jolly Phonics action. As children progress in their phonics learning each week will include specific teaching and modelling of the skill of blending and segmenting. FRED is a key component of this teaching, and this will be evident in weekly plans. Children will be given ample opportunities throughout the phonics lessons to use these skills.
Grammar and punctuation learning opportunities are weaved into the literacy lessons, but also taught discreetly at times.
Writing is taught through the ‘Talk for Writing’ (T4W) approach, which gives the children the opportunity to learn quality texts off by heart so that they can internalise and embed rich language, sentence structures, use broad range of vocabulary and build upon these skills every year. This approach also helps the children to learn key story plot patterns, which makes it easier for them to generate their own stories because they know where the story is going. As a result of this approach, the children can focus on their vocabulary choices, structuring their sentences, punctuation and making sure they include essential grammar elements so that their writing makes sense. A range of fiction and non-fiction genres are taught, as well as poetry, to ensure children are aware of the features of different text types. Once children have imitated and innovate a quality text, they move to the independent application - planning and producing their own writing. Alan Peat’s ‘exciting sentences’ are taught as a writing strategy in our aim to meet the expectations set out in the national curriculum. This approach equips the children with a bank of varied sentences, as well as punctuation used in context.
To develop their reading skills in Early Years, a structured phonics approach is embedded and every child receives 1:1 reading opportunities. In Year 1, daily guided reading sessions are held, with a focus on word reading and comprehension. From Year 2 upwards, reading is taught using a whole class teaching approach. In dedicated reading slots, the teachers use a range of strategies to aid comprehension and encourage reading with meaning. The sessions incorporate whole class modelling prior to the children applying these skills through partner and independent work. The children are frequently reminded that to be a good reader, they should read each day. Therefore, in addition to the dedicated teaching of reading, opportunities for ‘reading for pleasure’ are built into the timetable and children are always encouraged to read at home.