Teaching of English at St Nics
At St Nics we focus our daily whole class English lessons around a range of quality books, putting reading at the very centre of our English curriculum. We have carefully developed a writing book spine, which ensures that the books are wide ranging, inclusive, diverse and high quality. In addition, we believe that it is important for children to develop their own writing voice, encouraging them to apply their writing skills and knowledge within pieces that speak about their own lives and experiences. Through the year, children have opportunities to apply their knowledge of writing genres to areas that matter to them.
We recognise the importance of developing a joy of reading and writing, whilst ensuring children have strong technical skills in both areas, in order that children can become successful and interested readers and writers. Our aim is for our children to love reading and writing, developing strong technical writing skills to help them express themselves well.
Children learn to read and write through a strong focus on phonics, learning sounds, blending to read and segmenting to spell These are taught within our daily Rocket Phonics sessions in Reception and Key Stage 1.
We place high importance on speaking and listening, taking opportunities to discuss issues, give children opportunities to express themselves in different context, think through problems and broaden their vocabulary.
Through our daily, discrete Rocket Phonics sessions in Reception and Key Stage One, we systematically teach the phonics code children need to learn to read and write. In addition to teaching them the phonic code in a systematic manner, this provides the children with valuable additional reading practice of fully decodable and wonderfully diverse and interesting texts at their level, whilst helping them to secure the decoding skills they need at an early stage. Rocket Phonics values a whole class, rather than a group approach, keeping children together, with early identification of those who are at risk of falling behind who receive additional phonics input. It also places a strong focus on building segmenting skills for spelling alongside learning the sounds, which helps ensure children gain real confidence when starting to write. A guide to how Rocket Phonics works can be found at the end of this section, together with our Phonics policy and additional phonics information.
Through a real focus on reading, we have achieved very strong phonics check results, gaining 100% pass rate in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021 and 93% post COVID in June 2022. Part of our success has been placing learning to read at the very heart of our approach, making an early identification of those who might need extra support, using daily, focussed short burst 1:1 phonics interventions for those who need to gain confidence and make catch up progress, alongside focussing on the joy of reading and sharing books.
Writing and Writing Lessons
Each term we have clear writing focusses and aims, with children writing for a clear purpose for a known audience, in order to bring meaning and purpose to their writing. Children are taught how to write in different genres and for different purposes, exploring texts, experimenting and benefiting from strong modelling from teachers. They may, for example, write a diary entry written in role as Hermelin from the wonderful picturebook of the same name, in order to entertain the existing readers of this popular story, or write a persuasive piece to win over prospective residents of our local area about a specific issue. We look for meaningful purposes to write, with the aim of helping children to see the powerful effects of the written word, drawing meaningful links from across the curriculum.
Within phonics sessions and writing lessons, the children use phonics to segment to spell words, in line with synthetic phonics, segmenting words carefully to spell them accurately (cat, c- a- t). Children are trained to independently access Rocket Phonics sounds mats to help them in their writing, alongside the use of common exception word mats, which support children in their writing of tricky words. These words are taught to children in their phonics and English lesson, with the tricky parts identified, to help them learn to read and write them effectively. Once they have completed their learning of the phonics code, they continue to work on their spelling and grammar through a focus on spelling patterns and other conventions.
Our writing progression document can be found at the end of this section.
Throughout Key Stage One and Lower Key Stage Two, the children undertake regular handwriting practice to help them to take pride in their presentation, gaining the knowledge of how to present their work well. In Reception and continuing into Year 1, the children learn the basic letter formation. Most children progress to beginning to join within the first two terms of Year 2, when they have shown they are ready. Most children are joining most letters by the time they leave Year 2. Children who need more support in this, benefit from personalized learning sessions to give them some additional help. Our handwriting policy (found at the end of this section) is inclusive
Spelling and Grammar
Both as part of our English lessons and through discreet technical skills lessons we focus on the technical aspects of writing the children need. In addition to the word lists within the National Curriculum, as a school, we have a range of MUST words for each group, in order to ensure children have secured the spelling of a range of common words. They use these word list when editing their own work.
Once children have shown they are secure in Phase 5 phonics, they move onto daily spelling and grammar lessons. In Year 2 they follow the Rocket Phonics Phonics and spelling programme, before moving onto the Vale Academy Trust spelling programme in Key Stage 2.
Supporting Children's Reading At Home
Learning to read is a partnership between school and home and it is vitally important that children read out loud every day at home, as well as sharing books and a wide range of reading material in order to develop a love of reading through sharing books and being read to. Here at St Nic's we believe all children can become strong, confident and engaged readers and we aim to share the pleasure of reading with children both in school and at home. The parents' reading guide at the bottom of the page gives you information on our reading approach and how you can support your child with reading at home.
In the early years, children have a combination of whole class reading and group reading, so they can develop vital comprehension skills, whilst securing their ability to decode and understand the words on the page. As children progress through the school, we focus more on whole class reading, with children exploring and deepening their understanding of the books we read together. We have carefully developed a reading spine of high quality books and poems that ensure children are reading and exploring a wide range of texts of different genres and from different time periods.
We teach comprehension skills explicitly through our reading lessons, using the Reading for Meaning Grid throughout the school, so there is consistency of approach and children become familiar with the terms.
Reading Progression Through the School
In Key Stage One we use the book band system to match the children’s reading level to individual reading books, making sure that these are phonically decodable and matched to the sounds children have learned until the full phonic code is taught. Alongside this, children take home an additional book of their choice to enjoy sharing at home. This might be a picture book, non fiction book, or even a joke book or comic. In addition, children in Key Stage One also have weekly opportunities to do a group read, which allows time for more discussion around the texts.
When children enter Key Stage Two, they move to the Accelerated Reader programme, which allows us to accurately matching their reading ability with a range of appropriate book choices. This programme gives children a reading range and ensures children are able to read a wide range of quality books. This is not a reading scheme as such, as AR gives a huge variety of children’s books a specific level, based on the complexity and length of words and sentences, so the children are able to enjoy the authors they love whilst reading books within their range. Below is a parents' Powerpoint giving more information about the AR reading system.
Speaking and Listening
We believe that speaking and listening skills are fundamental to children's progress in all areas of the curriculum and within their life journey, and the need for effective and respectful oral communication is vital to help us understand each other and develop and enhance life skills.
St Nic’s values and seeks to develop children's speaking and listening skills as an integral part of the school curriculum and prepare children to establish positive relationships inside and outside the school with the ability to actively listen carefully and respectfully to others, considering different points of view, and become confident speakers who understand that what they have to say and how they express ideas is important. We seek to ensure that children talk about what they learn and also have opportunities to speak confidently on subjects that matter to them. Our intent is to:
- To develop children's speaking and listening skills through a wide range of opportunities.
- To value everyone’s contributions during discussions.
- To encourage all children to listen carefully, respectfully and actively to others, valuing and responding to other’s viewpoints and opinions, developing their empathy skills.
- To enable children to speak audibly, clearly and confidently in 1 to 1, group and whole class situations in a variety of contexts.
- To support those who find speaking and listening more of a challenge through an inclusive and respectful approach, taking account of differing needs on a one to one basis.
- To help children understand how to adapt their use of language, varying use in relation to purpose and audience and to discuss issues with others in a respectful manner, showing respect of differing viewpoints.
- To encourage children to develop proficiency in Standards English as well as promote a respect for other languages and dialects.
- To raise children's writing through their ability to initially express themselves effectively orally in order to produce writing of a higher quality.
- To raise children’s language comprehension through a focus on vocabulary and discussion within the classroom, through books and key vocabulary shared and discussed across the curriculum.
Our Speaking and Listening Progression document gives further information on our intent, implementation and impact for speaking and listening.