At Lowtown we believe that a quality English curriculum should develop children’s love of reading, writing and oracy. One of our key priorities is teaching children to read enabling them to both read for pleasure but also learn, understand and make sense of the world around them through comprehension. We recognise the importance of nurturing a culture where children are engaged and take pride in their writing, can write clearly and accurately and adapt their language and style to a range of contexts. We want to inspire our children to be confident speakers who can use discussion to communicate effectively and further their learning.
We believe that children need to develop a secure knowledge base in English which follows a clear pathway of progression as they advance through the primary curriculum and beyond. We believe that this secure base is crucial to a high quality education and will give our children the tools they need to participate fully as a member of society.
These aims are embedded across our English lessons and the wider curriculum. We have a rigorous and well organised English curriculum and framework, that provides many purposeful opportunities for reading, writing and oracy. We use a wide variety of quality texts from a range of classic and contemporary authors to motivate and inspire our children. Teachers also ensure that cross curriculur links with concurrent topics are woven into the programme of study.
The National Curriculum for English aims to ensure that all pupils:
- read easily, fluently and with good understanding
- develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information
- acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language
- appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage
- write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences
- use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding of ideas
- are competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.
At Pudsey Lowtown, we have developed a new approach to the teaching of early reading which matches independent reading books to the Letters and Sounds phonics phases. Our reading scheme is fully decodable and the books children read will be in line with the phonic phase they are learning. Once children are fluent they will become “Free Readers” which enables them to access books from our class and central library. Each class has a “Recommended Reading List” which ensures that in addition to reading for pleasure, children are reading age appropriate books ensuring that they have a varied “diet” of texts and authors. “Free readers” are required to read at least two books from the class list each half term. In addition to independent reading, children in Key Stage 1 and EYFS and have three opportunities a week to read as a group focusing on decoding, prosody and comprehension of texts. This approach has been shared with parents who are encouraged to use the “3 Read” technique at home in order to develop fluency.
Comprehension is also taught across school weekly as a whole class with a focus on developing reading skills in line with the National Curriculum content domains. Teachers use a variety of texts and reading opportunities including the half termly narrative focus within these sessions.
Independent reading opportunities are given high priority throughout school. Each class also has a dedicated reading for pleasure session each day where books are chosen and read by the class teacher.
Our writing curriculum enables children to write for a real purpose drawing from quality texts and other curriculum areas. It is designed to engage and excite children giving them the opportunity to showcase their skills through a range of genres. Each half term every class has a focus narrative text which enables them to partake in both short-burst and extended writing activities. In line with our framework for writing, lessons are designed to teach the basics of grammar, punctuation and spelling but then allow children to use and apply the concepts they have been taught through a variety of writing opportunities. Each unit begins with a piece of independent writing (the cold task) which demonstrates the starting point and informs planning. The final piece of writing (the hot task) is completed after a carefully planned sequence of lessons. In addition, teachers use other curriculum areas as stimuli for non-fiction writing giving children a real reason to write and enabling them to draw upon their knowledge and understanding of a variety of contexts.
At Lowtown, oracy is interwoven across the entire curriculum with a real emphasis on effective discussion. Our progressive “talk rules” have been introduced to develop speaking across school. Each week a talk homework is sent home which draws upon current issues which affect our children and the world around them. Children are encouraged to speak at home about the issue before taking part in a “Noisy Classroom” debate at school where the talk rules are expected to be used. Teachers plan regular opportunities across the curriculum to engage the children in discussion with a real focus on clear and effective “talk”.
The impact on our children is clear: progress, sustained learning and transferrable skills. With the implementation of the writing journey being well-established and taught thoroughly in both key stages, children are becoming more confident writers and by the time they are in upper key stage 2, most genres of writing are familiar to them and the teaching can then focus on sustained writing, the manipulation of grammar and a real emphasis on writer’s craft.
Assessment for writing is based upon a piece of fiction and non-fiction writing each half term using the schools assessment framework. End of year judgments are made across a range of pieces over time which evidence all the age related standards necessary.
In relation to reading, children have regular opportunities to access age related reading comprehensions which in addition to assessing understanding demonstrates the ability to read texts fluently.
Our key stage 2 statutory data demonstrates that by the time children leave Lowtown, a high percentage (above national levels) are achieving at least age related expectations in English writing, reading and grammar with many working within the greater depth standard.
As all aspects of English are an integral part of the curriculum - cross-curricular writing standards have also improved as skills taught in English lessons are transferred into other subjects. This demonstrates consolidation in practise with pupils gaining a deeper understanding of how to use their reading and writing skills effectively across the entire curriculum.
English Core Text long term plan
Each narrative unit of writing is planned using the sequence below. There is a strong emphasis upon grammar and sentence construction daily which is then applied through short burst writing activities linked to the text.
For non-fiction the sequence is slightly different but still has a key focus on building up writing "skills" and providing opportunities to use and apply those skills regularly. Often children use their learning from other subject areas as a stimulus for non-fiction writing as this allows them the opportunity to revisit and apply their subject knowledge.
English Year Group Writing Progression
At Lowtown, we believe that reading should be a fundamental part of childhood and a skill which should be developed to support lifelong learning. Our aim is to develop and embed a strong, sustainable reading culture within the school community. Confident and competent readers will foster a love of reading through a rich and varied experience of texts, in which they are empowered to exercise freedoms of choice and independence. Inspiring children to read is imperative as it underpins all learning and secures a good trajectory for personal development and understanding the world in which they live.
Early Reading and phonics at Lowtown
Please read our booklet on the teaching of early reading at Lowtown which sets out the rationale behind our new approach and how we intend to implement it.
Information on the phonics programme used at Lowtown is below. The document also details how the phonics curriculum is implemented through whole class daily sessions as well as catch up interventions.
The following presentation was delivered to parents as part of our development of phonics and early reading.
Once a child has completed the reading scheme in school they will become a "free reader" which enables them to choose their own books from a wide range of genres and authors. In order to ensure that children are reading books at the right level, they must read two books from their class Recommended Reading list each half term. After reading a recommended read, children must complete a reading review for their reading journal. They can then select books of their own choice from the class/school library or from home.
As part of our ongoing focus on oracy in school, we hold weekly "Noisy Classroom" debates where children are encouraged to discuss a variety of topical issues. We have introduced "Talk Rules" across school to give children the skills which will enable them to become effective communicators. Talk homework has also been introduced to allow children to discuss the issues at home with parents/carers before the noisy classroom debate takes place in school.