English is creative and essential; it is our way of communicating and connecting with others. It is at the heart of all learning and as such is given high priority at Old Town Primary School. We believe that to succeed in learning English, children need to be confident and resilient and we aim to encourage this through a nurturing, supportive environment. We endeavour to afford the children plentiful rich experiences where children can experiment and explore their learning, with the aim of deepening understanding.
Oral communication skills of speaking and listening, group-work and drama are embedded throughout our curriculum, but particularly in English.
We aim to inspire a love of reading through the introduction of high-quality, exciting texts from a range of genres encompassing stories, poetry and non-fiction texts. Reading is valued greatly and we ensure children are given time to enjoy books, independently and with others. Vocabulary is developed through exploration and discussion.
Teachers understand that, to learn to read, children need to master two key areas– decoding skills and comprehension skills. We aim to teach children the skills of decoding as quickly as possible so that they can concentrate more on comprehension skills. To do this we follow a systematic synthetic phonics programme based on the Phonics Play scheme of work. Teachers know how to draw on other effective resources such as the Jolly Phonics songs to supplement this programme. Children are given the opportunity to apply these skills regularly in reading and writing work to embed the skills learned. At Old Town Primary School, we believe that the most impactful way to develop decoding skills is through regular reading practice and so encourage this at home and school.
Comprehension skills are taught through a variety of means; whole class work and discussion, small group work and individual discussion and tasks. Active engagement with the texts is encouraged. Teachers think carefully about how to stimulate learning through effective questioning and carefully chosen texts. Group reading is utilised to encourage discussion and exploration of texts, includes Reciprocal Reading groups where children adopt different roles such as Predictor or Questioner to develop and explore different reading skills.
Much of our writing work is cross-curricular in line with our Creative Curriculum approach. This gives children the opportunity to write across a number of genres using one key text or topic as a basis. Where possible, we maximise opportunities to write with a real purpose and audience.
Embedded in the teaching and learning of writing is plan-do-edit writing process. Teachers carefully choose a stimulus for writing to inspire and engage the children. The children begin by considering what they are going to write, discussing it with peers, using planning formats where appropriate and sketching out ideas. Next, they prepare their first draft, using their planning ideas and support materials such as word banks. Finally, they are taught that a very important part of the process is the editing stage. Children are encouraged to carefully read through their work, checking for secretarial type errors (e.g. spelling or punctuation) but also learning to identify how they can make their better (through use of more adventurous vocabulary, for example, or by making their sentences more succinct). Teachers know how to support children through this process through demonstration, shared work and collaborative work as well as encouraging use of support resources, like dictionaries and working walls. Our ultimate aim is to reach a point where children can perform much of the writing process, particularly editing, independently. We feel that the one of the most effective ways of helping children on their learning journey is to help them spot and understand their misunderstandings.
The more technical aspects of writing (phonics/spelling, grammar, punctuation, handwriting) are taught discretely but also, where possible, through application to other writing work. The National Curriculum Appendix details the expectations of each year group and each class follows a programme of teaching in line with this. Spelling is taught using the Shakespeare and More Spelling Scheme (see Spelling Appendix below for more details). We endeavour to provide opportunities for the children to experiment and explore learning of these rules, to better embed learning. For example, children might be Grammar Detectives or play a game on Grammar and Spelling Bug to re-enforce a spelling rule. Our aim is to deepen knowledge and understanding of the rules so that children can spot their errors more readily and independently.
Finally, handwriting is an important aspect of communication and needs to be neat and legible to be understood. We start with encouraging a good pencil grip and correct letter formation. Teachers provide multi-sensory activities to promote learning. Practice continues throughout school as required for the individual child.
At Old Town Primary School, we want to inspire a love of learning and help children along their learning journeys to the best of our ability. Children are all different and each child has their own individual learning needs. Teachers strive to provide experiences and support to each child accordingly, praising and encouraging them and making them aware of what their next focus should be.
The documents below detail more information about our approach.