Subject Philosophy: English
We teach English with passion and outstanding subject knowledge. We create opportunities for our students to learn new skills by giving them a variety of contexts to practise and apply them to. We teach with the intent to fulfil the following:
Our English curriculum supports and supplements the delivery of the National Curriculum and provides:
Choosing a Writing Unit
Writing units can be inspired by a number of areas of the curriculum. As a school, we have worked on Humanities based writing but now it is time to make our writing units even more cross curricular. Our writing could still be inspired by Humanities as this offers a great opportunity to rehearse key knowledge however we should also consider our Science, PSHE, Art and RE topics when planning a writing unit.
We have invested heavily in new books linked to Science and PSHE in particular. These books may be used in Foundation subject lessons, as guided reading texts or as a class novel. These texts may inspire writing units. Furthermore, class novels may be books which are completely unrelated to any curriculum area (e.g. Spotlight Authors simply for Reading for Pleasure) and these books may inspire writing units too. Teachers are free to choose which genres to teach but a variety must be taught over the academic year.
In Early Years Foundation Stage, writing and communication is a daily experience for children, embedded through a variety of activities. In all classrooms, a writing area is available to encourage children to self-resource different types of writing utensil and materials to support their play. A variety of writing resources are also available in all other areas of the classroom and the outdoor area to allow children to develop their mark making skills and support their literacy skills across all areas of development. Reception children take part in weekly guided writing sessions with their teacher and are also given opportunities to write during daily phonics sessions.
Key Stage 1 and 2
Throughout Key Stage 1 and 2, our writing units are planned to show a clear progression of knowledge and skills both across the unit and across the school year. Teachers in Year 1 to 6 are encouraged to choose 3 or 4 assessment objectives from the progression maps per writing unit. This forms the ‘progress check’ grid which is stuck into books prior to the unit and discussed with students.
A typical writing journey:
Students should be taught the knowledge: what does the grammatical terminology mean and look like within writing. Children will be given the chance to apply the understanding to their own writing, developing skills further. They will then use all of their knowledge and skills (from English but also supported by teaching in guided reading and Foundation subjects) to create a piece of writing. The end of unit, published piece will be assessed based on the objectives identified at the start, by the teacher and the child. Year 2 to 6 have a green ‘Journey’ book for grammar, skills, planning and drafting and a pink ‘destination’ book to publish their final piece.
Handwriting is taught during phonics lessons in EYFS and KS1 as children are encouraged to recognise letter shapes and to form the letters consistently. Focus on letter formation continues through Year 1 and by Year 2, children are beginning to join. Cursive writing is taught in stand-alone lessons from Year 3 onwards, following the Nelson handwriting books.
Handwriting is taught explicitly in Year 3, 4 and 5 with children being fluent by Year 6. Year 6 may need to do top up sessions or interventions as it is an end of Key Stage expectation that writing is neat and consistently joined. Handwriting is using the Nelson Scheme.
As the National Curriculum states that writing must be consistently joined and legible, we encourage cursive handwriting in all books. In Years 5 and 6, children are free to choose whether they write in pen or pencil however the teacher can dictate this if children are presenting their work poorly. They should also request work is written again if the child is not trying to attempt cursive writing or is presenting their work in an untidy manner. Exceptions should be made for those with SEND.
In lower years, teachers should direct children towards the writing utensil they feel is best for individual children. Lots of praise should be given to those who are attempting cursive handwriting.
If children are consistently producing neat, joined writing in all of their books, they can be nominated for a special presentation award
Spelling is taught through phonics in EYFS and Key Stage 1 (Read Write Inc – see Phonics Page). Nursery use the Letters and Sounds Scheme to build the foundations of understanding phonics.
From Reception onwards, Read Write Inc is used to teach phonics as soon as possible when the children arrive and settle into their new environment. Children are taught the individual phonemes (sounds) which make up words. This scheme provides a systematic programme for children ensuring that they learn the basic phonetic skills of blending sounds for reading, and segmenting sounds for writing.
In Year 2 and upwards, specific spellings rules are taught, as defined by the requirements of the National Curriculum. Rules for Key Stage 2 have been split across year groups to ensure full coverage. Please check progression maps for more details on the rules required for your year group.
We have access to Spelling Shed to support our teaching of spelling. We want to encourage the use of Spelling Shed for spelling homework. Each week, spellings should be uploaded on a Friday and be available for practise until the following Thursday. If children cannot access Spelling Shed and are not able to attend a homework club, a spelling worksheet is available. Spellings should be tested weekly and this will most likely happen on a Friday.
The top spellers for the week on Spelling Shed (KS1, LKS2 and UKS2) will receive a trophy in Friday Celebration Assembly. Please note: Spelling Shed does not reset scores weekly but just counts scores from the previous 7 days. This means that scores are always increasing and decreasing. This sometimes confuses parents as they think their child’s scores have been deleted.
The ability to read is vital for future success and quality of life. Those who read for pleasure are likely to succeed in more ways that just academia. There are clear, well-researched links between reading for pleasure and wellbeing, positive relationships, improved empathy, self-confidence and sense of identity. Queen’s Park is a reading school. We value and celebrate the joy and pleasure which books provide alongside the way they can enhance our teaching of the curriculum. Our curriculum topics have been matched with high-quality texts and children experience books and reading every day.
All EYFS classes have a book area with a range of story and information books available to the children. Children also have access to storytelling puppets and soft toys/props to support communication and literacy skills. Every week, there is a focus on a text and this is read every day with additional activities throughout the week. This allows children to be engaged in predicting, sharing ideas and an in-depth exploration of the text. Children are encouraged to speak in full sentences and refer to the characters, the setting and story events. Creative storytelling and story acting, both through Vivian Gussin Paley's oral storytelling method as well as our modified take on Pie Corbett's story retelling is incorporated as part of our multi-day read aloud model. Another activity is Brown Bag Book Club where children pretend to be in a book club discussing the book and eating popcorn.
In all EYFS classes, when children come into the classroom, they will see a morning message on the board. This message may have a question or statement about what will be happening in the day or even be about prior learning. The children are encouraged to have a go at reading the message with the teacher. When children come into the classroom at the start of every morning, they also choose a book to read. This encourages reading for pleasure, a calm transition between home and school and a chance for children to share books with their friends.
In Reception, we ensure that each child reads with an adult in the guided reading session every day. This daily session is a systematic and responsive lesson that allows all children to succeed, and not only builds on their reading strategies but also promotes independence. In addition to focusing on decoding, children also learn important reading skills like predicting, retrieving and sequencing. In Nursery, they have class books which feature photos of and information about the children in the cohort and their work.
In all classrooms, there are meaningful reading opportunities available across most areas of learning, e.g., books about building materials and different types of structures plus graph paper and pens for planning construction activities or 'How To' books in the dough area, etc.
Key Stage 1
Guiding reading - small groups
Key Stage One will read in small groups, in carousel fashion, daily. This forms part of ongoing assessment and teaching of word reading, reading fluency, spoken language and comprehension skills. When children are not reading with an adult during the carousel, they could be doing a number of other activities:
- Year 1 will include reading for pleasure, phonics games/activities and comprehension tasks.
- Year 2 will include spelling practice, phonics games (for LA group where necessary), comprehension tasks and reading for pleasure.
Guiding reading - whole class
Key Stage One teachers read to their classes everyday and most of the literacy planning in KS1 is based around a text; whole class comprehension sessions will now be incorporated into planning once a week. To start with, teaching and activities will be largely focused on one skill i.e. predicting, summarising, simple inference, so that it can be taught whole class. One skill or strategy may be the focus for multiple weeks, particularly at the beginning of the year. Tasks will then be differentiated where appropriate so that all children can have a go.
Year 1 Specific (or Year 2 children who still require support)
To really consolidate phonics learning, children need to apply what they know with the RWInc decodable books. This should really be done in the Phonics lessons but due to time restraints, children will use decodable texts in their Guided Reading carousel at the beginning of Year 1.
As soon as children are ready and have consolidated their phonics learning, they will move onto more diverse reading books with varied language structure and spelling patterns. Children continue to participate in a Shared Guided Reading session with the teacher for this on-going learning.
Key Stage 2
In Key Stage 2, guided reading is taught via daily whole class teaching. Teachers are encouraged to choose texts to complement their teaching in writing and all Foundation subjects. Texts may be extracts from novels, full picture books or model texts written by the teacher and we encourage using a range of genres in reading lessons. Lessons should focus on skills and reading strategies linked to the VIPERS elements of reading: Vocabulary, Inference, Prediction, Explaining, Retrieving and Summarising. All students should begin the week understanding the vocabulary of the text (through explicit vocabulary instruction) before moving on to retrieval questions, inference questions and the other skills. One session per week should be dedicated to Reading for Pleasure and the teacher should take an active role within this session, modelling a positive reading role model.
The skills and strategies above are important but we must ensure that children are confident, fluent readers too. Guided reading lessons and phonics lessons should include opportunities for the children to read both the text aloud and their written answers to questions and tasks.
Further to this, each child should read aloud to an adult once per week. Children who are struggling with reading fluency should read more often with an adult. The books they read aloud should be comfortably within their accessible range (AR determined or Phonics Level).
For 2020, we have introduced mark books to allow teachers and support staff to record 1 to 1 reading. 1 to 1 reading can take place during intervention time, during free choice provision or during lessons if the rest of the class are on task. 1 to 1 reading should be short (10 minutes) so should not interfere with other areas of the curriculum. Children should be encouraged to decode as much as possible however teachers and support staff may wish to model tricky words or ways to add expression and intonation to reading.
Reading for Pleasure
At Queen’s Park Primary School, we aim to promote reading for pleasure. Classes are encouraged to have at least one reading lesson per week dedicated entirely to free choice. Students should be able to read anything of their choice and teachers should actively join in by either reading a book of their own whilst the children read or by reading to a group of children.
We also encourage that all classes have a novel which is read daily. This novel does not necessarily need to be the same one studied in guided reading and does not necessarily need to be linked to current curriculum topics however this is entirely the class teacher’s choice. To help teachers find quality texts, each year group has been assigned 6 Spotlight Authors to be celebrated in their class across the academic year. Spotlight Authors may be used as the class novel or they may simply be displayed in class and free for children to choose. Spotlight Authors have been carefully chosen as high-quality texts and for their diverse range of characters and stories.
In September 2019, we introduced book huts to our playgrounds to promote reading for pleasure during break times. This year, we are introducing larger reading areas. Children and families can still take books from these areas to read at home and children can still access them at break times (Covid-19 may affect the use of these areas initially). Grants from the National Literacy Trust have allowed us to purchase new books for these areas. We also have a newly completed ‘Narnia’ Zone filled with books and dressing up costumes. Teachers are free to use this breakout area during any part of the day.
In all Key Stages, reading should never be used as a punishment. Furthermore, if children are sent to the hub or are missing part of their break for poor behaviour, they should not be allowed to read as reading is a pleasure.
From Year 2 onwards, we use Accelerated Reader (AR) to monitor progress and reading habits. Year 1 children may be added to AR later on in the year if the class teacher feels like they are ready. AR allows students to take a termly test to determine their reading level (ZPD). After completing a book at home, they can then do a short quiz to test their understanding of the book. Teachers can use this information to monitor reading habits, determine who needs intervention and to measure progress made in reading (reading age and comparisons to national scores). The use of AR complements the use of home-school reading logs.
Whilst AR is a helpful tool to use in the classroom, it will not dictate reading habits. Children should be encouraged to read some books which are on AR but they should not be limited by this. Not all texts are AR ready and this should not stop children from reading them.
Speaking and Listening
At QPPS, speaking and listening reaches far wider than our English curriculum provision. Due to many of our children being EAL learners and/or requiring speech and language intervention, we have adopted a ‘Communication Friendly’ environment which supports children’s communication and language development from Nursery through Reception, KS1 and KS2.
In all classrooms, you will see Active Listening resources. Active Listening encourages children to use their bodies to ensure they are listening and engaged in the learning e.g. body calm, eyes looking. Teachers are encouraged to use consistent vocabulary to encourage children to demonstrate active listening.
We also encourage skilled speaking in all lessons. Children are encouraged to always speak in full sentences e.g. The answer is 100 because rather than 100 because… Sentence stems should be displayed clearly and their use encouraged and praised. As teachers, we should model this through our own communication with students, both written and spoken.
Three times per year, we hold exhibitions to share learning with parents. This gives the children the opportunity to talk to parents about what they have learnt. The structure of the exhibition is entirely the teacher’s choice however it should not be fully scripted. The class may wish to put on a short play or performance but there should also be opportunities for children to talk freely about their learning and to answer questions.
Speaking and Listening Teaching Strategies and Opportunities
Nursery rhymes and songs
Language Rich Environment
Use of full sentences
Story telling puppets
Role play areas and opportunities
Continuous provision and child led play
Active Listening and Skilled Speaking
Orally recalling and rehearsing texts and sentences
Talk for Writing – including actions
Performing songs and poems
Sentence stems on display and encouraged
Active Listening and Skilled Speaking
Free Choice Provision activities
Talk for Writing
Performing (including memorising) songs and poems
Sentence stems on display and ecouraged
Echo reading – teacher reads, children repeat mirroring tone and expression
Active Listening and Skilled Speaking
Free Choice Provision activities
We aim to engage parents in our English curriculum in a number of ways. We strongly believe that home support can contribute to high standards of attainment and progress. We engage parents in a number of ways:
Children at Queen’s Park regularly visit Queen’s Park library, taking part in workshops and activities there. They are also able to choose books to bring back to school for the half term. Teachers are also encouraged to use these visits to pick up extra topic books to support their teaching. The library also frequently visits school to share events and encourage participation. Many children also use the library in holiday time as a result and participate in their summer reading scheme.
We also enjoy visits from authors and local charities/organisations who encourage literacy development e.g. The Little Book Hut playground library. We have strong links with Paddington Central and this led us to working with the National Literacy Trust in 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 for The Young Readers Programme. This programme enabled us to purchase 3 books for each child in Year 3 and 4 and to plan 3 different events to promote reading for pleasure. During the Covid-19 Pandemic, the books purchased were placed in our book swap huts for children to access and were also sent home with our weekly foodbank.
Topics and learning journeys are planned to give our children an understanding of their local community and the wider world. Teachers plan units of work which raise awareness of local and global issues and children are encouraged to write for real purposes. Some examples of this so far are: