At Ash Grove Academy, we put English at the centre of every child’s learning. We recognise the significance of language, communication, reading and writing in all aspects of life, from developing independent learning skills to successfully entering the world of work. We place high-quality texts at the heart of our curriculum and encourage children to develop their love of reading through our Reading for Pleasure initiatives. Experiential learning opportunities and a vocabulary-rich learning environment feed directly into children’s writing outcomes.
The overarching aims of our English curriculum are to:
- Develop strong oracy skills that allow children to express themselves, communicating confidently across a range of contexts.
- Enable children to read fluently, widely and often, understanding a wide range of texts appropriate for their age.
- Enable children to draft, edit and present writing that is both technically proficient and creative, tailored to the demands of purpose and audience.
- Enable children to have a solid understanding of grammar and be able to spell new words by effectively applying the spelling patterns and rules they learn throughout their time in primary school.
- Encourage confidence and enjoyment in speaking, listening, reading and writing.
Underpinning our English curriculum are some core principles:
- Consciously builds on children’s existing language and literacy experiences.
- Recognises the importance of all those involved in the learning experience – parents and carers, wider family members, teachers and children.
- Values diversity and is culturally inclusive.
- Has high expectations of all children.
- Values and promotes critical enquiry.
- Offers challenge but provides models, demonstrations, examples and scaffolds to help children tackle them successfully.
All aspects of our English curriculum are interrelated, and progress in one area is supported by development in each of the others. At Ash Grove Academy, we acknowledge the strong reciprocal relationship between speaking, listening, reading and writing.
In Early Years and Key Stage 1, early word reading is taught through a systematic synthetic phonics programme (Little Wandle) which has been carefully designed to best meet the needs of the children at Ash Grove. Children in Nursery are given a wide range of language rich experiences that develop their awareness of sounds, rhythm and rhyme. Building on this, the children in Reception will be taught through pacey and engaging, direct, daily teaching sessions and will begin to learn a defined group of grapheme-phoneme correspondences.
Alongside this, the children are taught how to read printed words by identifying and blending individual phonemes from left to right all through the word, as well as the skill of segmenting spoken words into their constituent phonemes for spelling. The children are also taught to decode and spell common exception words (‘tricky words’). As the children progress through Year 1 and 2, they move from simple to more complex phonic knowledge and skills.
The texts and books the children are asked to read are composed almost entirely of words made up of grapheme-phoneme correspondences that a child has learned up to that point, apart from a small number of common exception words.
As part of the programme, the children are taught how to form lower-case and capital letters correctly with clear start and finish points. To support this, we use mnemonic phrases to help the children build a mind picture of the letter formation. The children are then taught to write words made up of the learned grapheme-phoneme correspondences and then simple sentences composed from these words, as well as any common exception words learned.
Clear progression and assessment criteria enable teaching staff to monitor the children’s progress closely, and we use the Little Wandle structured interventions, alongside Precision Teaching tools to ensure any child in danger of falling behind is able to keep up and catch up. Children with specific learning or speech and language difficulties are supported by the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator but still participate in the Little Wandle teaching.
Alongside this, we develop children’s knowledge and understanding of ‘concepts about print’. Developing print awareness or concepts about print is understanding that print is organised in a particular way — for example, knowing that print is read from left to right and top to bottom. It is knowing that words consist of letters and that spaces appear between words.
In Key Stage 2, our reading lessons focus on supporting children to construct coherent mental models of the text so that they understand and enjoy them. Through productive discussions children are able to deepen their understanding. We provide a rich reading curriculum and environments that include reading high-quality texts to children, with children, and by children; for example, individual reading, small group and whole class guided reading, shared reading, reading aloud and reading clubs. Texts are carefully selected to support the teaching of reading.
‘Free reader’ children from Year 2 – 6 have a selection of books to choose from in class that are age-appropriate and suited to the range of attainment in each class. Staff assess fluency and misconceptions through 1:1 reading sessions. In Key Stage 2, children complete termly NFER reading test materials to further inform the ongoing teacher assessments.
Through a list of suggested texts for each year group, linked by themes, children are able to make connections to prior learning and build their language knowledge. They are able to compare texts within and across themes, as well as considering the broader messages. Each theme has suggested texts for Literary Heritage, Picture books, Fiction, Non-fiction, and Poetry to ensure a balance of genres.
Underpinning all of this is our Reading for Pleasure initiative. We want our children to become successful and enthusiastic readers who have a well-developed reading identity. Children will learn to read and then use their reading skills to learn about the world they live in, establish an appreciation of high-quality literature, and gain knowledge from across the wider curriculum subject areas.
In the Early Years, children start their writing journey through their play, mark making for a range of different purposes, for example writing shopping lists and making cards for loved ones, as well as learning to write their name. They begin to develop their small motor skills so that they can use mark making tools appropriately. As they move into Reception, they learn the individual letters and sounds and begin to develop their letter formation. They use these emerging skills to write phonetically plausible words, phrases and simple sentences in a range of contexts. Alongside this we focus strongly on language development and oracy skills – if they can’t say it, they can’t write it! We give the children memorable experiences and rich, high quality texts and ensure there is an audience and purpose for the writing process.
Throughout Key Stage 1 and 2, the link between reading and writing continues to be reinforced.
In Key Stage 1, the children’s oracy skills are developed further through a wide variety of opportunities to discuss, verbalise and refine their ideas, for example through Helicopter Stories, role play, paired talk, drama and hot seating. This prepares them for the writing process. Alongside this, the children learn about the structure and organisation of a variety of forms. Shared and modelled writing provides an opportunity for teachers to demonstrate the writing process. Children will then use their developing phonic knowledge within their writing before editing their work with support from their adults in class. Motivation is enhanced by encouraging children to write for a range of purposes and audiences, including opportunities to publish their writing. Children are taught to develop the foundations of a fast, accurate and efficient handwriting style.
As they move into Key Stage 2, discrete spelling lessons are taught throughout the week. Children are taught the age-related statutory spellings, spelling patterns, and spelling rules from the National Curriculum. The teaching sequence for each spelling focus is: revise, teach, practise, apply. Pupils are encouraged to practise sentence combining and other sentence construction techniques. A fluent writing style supports composition; therefore, handwriting is explicitly taught. This is focused on whole class learning but is accessible to all children.
Using the high-quality texts, children follow a structured approach to the writing process which begins with becoming engaged with the text. Key grammatical structures are identified and relevant skills are taught through shared and modelled writing. Children then apply their learning through the process of planning, drafting, editing and publishing. Children are given opportunities to write effectively for a range of purposes and audiences selecting language, appropriate grammatical structures and cohesive devices that show a good awareness of the reader. Children working at greater depth are encouraged to exercise conscious control over levels of formality including the manipulation of grammar and vocabulary in order to demonstrate the appropriate register.