English at Comberton
The overarching aim for English as outlined in the ‘National curriculum in England: English programmes of study’ (2014) is to promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written word, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment. The national curriculum for English aims to ensure that all pupils:
At Comberton Primary, pupils will be given opportunities to develop their use, knowledge and understanding of spoken and written English within a broad and balanced curriculum, with opportunities to consolidate and reinforce taught literacy skills.
EYFS: Pupils in the early years are taught through cross-curricular leading themes and key texts linked to the seasons, celebrations and children’s interests. A text is introduced at the start of each week. Following this, each lesson has a whole-class input linked to the text and a specific literacy skill. Pupils then access activities linked to the text that have been planned based on their needs and ongoing formative assessment. In addition, the Read Write Inc programme is used as a basis for phonics teaching in the EYFS, with 30 minute sessions four times per week.
Years 1-6: Units of work for years 1 to 6 are planned from a mixture of starting points including: leading texts; specific genres of writing; Oxford University Press ‘Literacy and Language’ units or links with cross-curricular areas. To ensure a broad and balanced coverage of skills and genres, teachers complete yearly overviews outlining lead texts/genres, writing outcomes and key skills to be taught. Using these yearly overviews, teachers plan individual units of work which outline writing outcomes and key skills to be covered. Individual lessons are planned based on the requirements of the writing outcome; i.e. ‘What do pupils need to be able to do to complete the writing outcome?’ Reading into writing tasks, skills-based activities and shorter writing tasks are then planned to build up towards the end writing point.
In the early years and key stage one, emphasis is placed on development of pupils’ quick sounding and blending of unfamiliar words using a good knowledge of grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) and recognition of common exception words, as outlined in the National Curriculum. The Read Write Inc. programme (delivered to all children in the EYFS and year 1), along with carefully matched individual reading books that are consistent with pupils’ developing phonic knowledge, ensures children have opportunities to learn and practise these skills.
Alongside teaching that develops fluency and decoding skills when word reading, the teaching of reading across all year groups at Comberton facilitates development of pupils’ comprehension skills. Teachers model thought processes when reading and teach pupils to use what they know about a text when forming responses. In the EYFS and key stage 1, this comes in the form of ‘thinking out loud’ when discussing texts as a class, and careful questioning during one to one and guided reading activities. As pupils develop this skill through years 1 and 2, more formal, written responses to questions are introduced as a way of demonstrating comprehension in preparation for the reading SATs test at the end of year 2. In key stage 2, reading is taught through a mixture of guided reading activities using ‘stand-alone’ texts and comprehension papers, and reading activities that are linked to whole-class lead texts in order to make a clear link between reading and writing.
Each pupil at Comberton receives an individual reading book. We encourage pupils to read a mixture of Oxford Reading Tree or Treetops scheme texts, or a text from the school or classroom libraries. The teacher or teaching assistant ensures that children access books that are appropriate for their level of ability, and of a suitable range of author and genre.
To further encourage a love of reading, every pupil at Comberton has access to an electronic school library system, allowing them to take home additional books for their own enjoyment. Family members are also encouraged to borrow books, thus promoting reading outside of school. Whole school events and incentives are planned to further highlight and maintain the reading ethos across the school, and pupils attend a weekly reading assembly where reading behaviours, events and texts are shared.
Practising reading regularly with your child at home is extremely valuable to their progress. In addition to this please, where possible, read to your child at bedtime or other times of the day as this helps to encourage a love of reading and also develops the children’s vocabulary.
Guided reading sessions give children an opportunity to develop key reading skills through carefully planned and taught activities. Texts used in these sessions may link directly with the text or genre being taught within literacy units. In these sessions children will have the opportunity to read with an adult in a small group for skills to be modelled and taught, and to also embed and apply reading skills through independent activities.
Read Write Inc
Our children in Early Years and Key Stage One are benefiting from a curriculum supported by Read Write Inc. This is a literacy programme where children learn to read rapidly. It is systematic and structured and provides children with the skills that they need to read well so they can progress to reading to learn for the rest of their lives.
Fred the Frog
Fred the frog helps the children to read and spell. Fred cannot read words he can only read sounds so when children are faced with new words you can ask them to ‘Fred talk’ the word, for example, c-a-t. It is important when children sound out that they use pure sounds so please refer to the videos that we have added links to for guidance on this. Fred can also help with spelling and the children will be used to the term ‘Fred fingers’. The children can say the word out loud and then press the sounds onto their fingers.
Children will be taught the speed sounds. Please take the time to have a look at both the simple and the complex speed sounds chart. If you would like one of these from school please let your class teacher know. The sounds are split into three sets and children will work their way through these systematically. Children will move on to new sounds once they have a firm knowledge of the sound they have learnt. Continual reviewing of previous sounds is built into the programme. Children will learn these sounds and have them embedded fully before they are expected to read them in a book. There is a clear message in Read Write Inc. that we ‘set the children up to succeed’.
The teaching of writing at Comberton aims to develop pupils’ competence in the two dimensions of transcription and composition.
Pupils are encouraged to use the GPCs taught to make phonetically plausible attempts at unknown words when writing through EYFS and KS1. In addition, pupils are taught key words or ‘common exception words’. These are often set out as ‘zero tolerance’ words in each unit of work, and teachers will use strategies to ensure as many of these words as possible are known to aid accuracy in overall spelling. In key stage 2, these are the statutory word lists as set out in English appendix 1 in the National Curriculum.
Through key stage 1, pupils are also taught to apply rules for adding various prefixes and suffixes as laid out in English appendix 1 of the curriculum document. Where appropriate, teachers plan for these to be taught within the context of a unit of work, so that words that can be applied directly to writing are explored. From years 2 to 6, both the Oxford University press ‘Read, Write, Inc Spelling’ and Babcock ‘No Nonsense Spelling’ programmes are used to support the teaching of spelling. Wherever possible, spelling work is investigative, with pupils having the opportunity to develop strategies for spelling as well as learning rules.
Handwriting (refer to our handwriting policy):
In the EYFS the ‘Funky Fingers’ programme is used to develop pupils’ fine motor skills and children are taught to use the correct pencil grip for writing. Throughout EYFS and KS1, pupils are taught to form letters by starting and finishing in the correct place, know which letters belong to the same ‘family’ for handwriting, and write with letters that are an appropriate size in relation to one another and are sitting on the line. When teachers deem pupils ready, diagonal and horizontal strokes are taught in readiness for joining.
By year 6, handwriting teaching will have allowed pupils to be able to write with increasing speed using a style that is fluent and legible.
Vocabulary, grammar and punctuation:
At Comberton, vocabulary, grammar and punctuation are predominantly taught within the context of English units of work, so that pupils can easily transfer skills taught to their own writing. At Comberton we believe that making clear links to embed vocabulary, grammar and punctuation understanding is key, so grammar is regularly referred to at other teaching opportunities, such as during reading, or in shared and modelled writing activities.
At Comberton, pupils are taught to draw upon vocabulary, grammar and punctuation skills taught to compose sentences to form a whole text. Teachers make use of a number of methods when doing this. Modelled, shared and guided writing allows teachers to ‘think out loud’ to model thought processes for writing. WAGOLLs (‘what a good one looks like’) are used to evaluate and exemplify the different skills taught.
Pupils are also taught to make use of resources at the point of writing to independently select skills and use them effectively in their work. Each classroom has a working wall which is adapted for each unit of work, exemplifying selected spelling, vocabulary, punctuation and grammar skills taught and serving as a visual reminder of the writing process. Table top resources such as word lists and ALF checklists are also used at teachers’ discretion. These are differentiated for groups or individuals to alow pupils to select the skills most pertinent to them.
Drafting, editing and proof reading are also taught as key skills in pupils’ composition of writing. This begins as children develop their word and sentence writing in the EYFS and are taught to ‘hold a sentence’. The Read, Write Inc technique of self-marking each letter/grapheme after spelling a word, and self-marking basic punctuation when writing a sentence, lays the foundation for proof reading. Throughout KS1 children are taught to read sentences back when writing at length to check for ALF skills such as key spellings and basic punctuation, and to make use of resources around them to ensure accuracy. ALF checklists also encourage children to apply grammar skills they have been taught. As pupils move through key stage 2, editing and corrections are made with blue pen. Pupils are also encouraged to make revisions to their work to improve it for the reader, as well as check for accuracy of spelling, punctuation and grammar.