“A high-quality education in English will teach pupils to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions to others and through their reading and listening, others can communicate with them.” Primary National Curriculum 2014
The English curriculum at St Robert Bellarmine Primary School strives to achieve this for all of our children and aims to ensure that they leave school fluent in the fundamentals of reading, writing, speaking and listening. We encourage all of our children to see that all strands of the English curriculum are an essential part of their everyday life now and in the future.
We recognise that for all of our children to become confident readers and writers it is essential that they have a secure understanding of the letter sounds and spelling system of the English language. We follow the Letters and Sounds document to ensure phonics is taught systematically and consistently throughout the school. Children from Nursery to Year 1 take part in small group sessions daily. These sessions are vertically streamed so that the needs of all children are addressed. In year 2 daily sessions concentrate on the spelling pathways programme, this ensures coverage of the year 2 curriculum for spelling. Any children who are not at the age related expectation at this point will receive intense small group targeted intervention to ensure progress is made for all.
“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 linguistic conventions” Primary National Curriculum 2014
We believe that it is essential for children to be given the opportunity to love reading so we firmly place it at the core of our English curriculum at Saint Robert Bellarmine Primary School. It is the cornerstone of our teaching, each half term carefully chosen focus books or authors are identified for all classes and consequently all reading and writing experiences stem from these books. We ensure that we use a variety of high quality fiction and non-fiction texts that allow children to be enthusiastic readers who immerse themselves in the text. The chosen books are used to identify the main theme of the unit and the associated objectives. We include opportunities for shared reading, exploration and response to the text, development of comprehension skills and identification of language/genre features. We also use the book to capture ideas for writing opportunities and explore grammar in context. We firmly believe that the right choice of text encourages children to become enthusiastic readers who enjoy reading for pleasure.
Significant investment has been made in this area including working closely with a consultant who has provided training for all members of staff. This ensured that we have the capacity to consistently deliver well-planned and focused guided reading sessions throughout the school. These sessions take place regularly from Nursery to year 6 for all children. We use attractive, high-quality, engaging texts in these sessions that allow time to further develop comprehension skills. Sessions allow staff to cover all content domains for reading and sharply focus questions covering these areas. They also give the opportunity to further address the speaking, listening, language and grammar content of the programmes of study.
We feel that a child’s 'reading journey' can be enhanced through regular reading at home. Reading to and with a child every evening for at least ten minutes can make a dramatic difference to a child's achievement within school. A report from the Oxford University Press highlighted the importance of parents reading with their children. 'Children who read outside of class are 13 times more likely to read above the expected level for their age'. We use a wide variety of texts to support reading development throughout the school including:-
Oxford Reading Tree - A wide variety of branches of this scheme including phonics, fiction, non fiction and poetry.
A wide variety of texts by significant authors
Children are also given a reading diary so that there is an opportunity for a conversation to take place between school and home regarding reading.
The national curriculum for English aims to ensure that all pupils:
A high quality text is always at the heart of our planning. This emphasis on a text allows us to engage children and provide the setting for them to articulate their ideas and structure them in their writing. We provide opportunities for children to study and produce a wide variety of short and long pieces in response to the text. These writing opportunities include shared writing, modelling, supported composition, guided writing and independent writing. Time is also allocated for children to draft, revise and edit their work when required. Each week children throughout the school write for an extended period of time. This allows children to practise a particular style or genre of writing that has been introduced in English sessions. The long-term plan for English ensures a wide variety of genres are covered throughout the school. We ensure that the knowledge and understanding of vocabulary, punctuation and grammar is addressed and children have the opportunity to practise these skills through writing.
Each year group works with the spellings specified in the National Curriculum statutory appendices. These spelling patterns and rules are taught in school and practised further at home. We use the lists produced by Assertive mentoring to group these spellings and ensure progression and coverage across the school. Spelling Pathway provides activities and approaches for spelling sessions. When possible spelling activities are given for homework to consolidate teaching.
Grammar and Punctuation
Vocabulary, punctuation and grammar are taught in a number of ways. Where possible the core book is used to address the objectives for each year group in context. These objectives are also addressed when teaching and practising reading and writing. Guided reading sessions also provide valuable opportunities to address vocabulary, grammar and punctuation objectives in context through the questions asked and the discussions that take place. The teaching of grammar and punctuation in context is best practice but when necessary we also teach discrete lessons.
Speaking and Listening
According to the National Curriculum 2014:
Pupils should be taught to:
listen and respond appropriately to adults and their peers
ask relevant questions to extend their understanding and knowledge
use relevant strategies to build their vocabulary
articulate and justify answers, arguments and opinions
give well-structured descriptions, explanations and narratives for different purposes, including for expressing feelings
maintain attention and participate actively in collaborative conversations, staying on topic and initiating and responding to comments
use spoken language to develop understanding through speculating, hypothesising, imagining and exploring ideas
speak audibly and fluently with an increasing command of Standard English
participate in discussions, presentations, performances, role play, improvisations and debates
gain, maintain and monitor the interest of the listener(s)
consider and evaluate different viewpoints, attending to and building on the contributions of others
select and use appropriate registers for effective communication.
Speaking and listening objectives are addressed in every area of the curriculum, not just English sessions. We strive to provide a wide variety of opportunities for every child that allow the skills stated above to be practised and improved. We work closely with Altru Drama and ensure each class throughout the school have the opportunity to work with them. They skilfully use a wide variety of drama techniques to teach the children a play in a day that they then perform for their peers. These sessions are tailored for our curriculum and the subject matter ranges from British values, anti-bullying, Liverpool history, plants, Macbeth, pirates to Romans. A number of opportunities are given for children to take part in assemblies and performances. These include Christmas productions for EYFS, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, assemblies in the round for friendship and multicultural week and class assemblies throughout the year.
We shouldn't teach a love of books; we should teach a love of reading.