Purpose of Study
English has a pre-eminent place in education and in society. 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. Through reading in particular, pupils have a chance to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Literature, especially, plays a key role in such development. Reading also enables pupils both to acquire knowledge and to build on what they already know. All the skills of language are essential to participating fully as a member of society; pupils who do not learn to speak, read and write fluently and confidently are effectively disenfranchised.
The overarching aim for English in the national curriculum is to promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written language, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment. The national curriculum for English aims to ensure that all pupils:
The national curriculum for English reflects the importance of spoken language in pupils’ development across the whole curriculum – cognitively, socially and linguistically. Spoken language underpins the development of reading and writing. The quality and variety of language that pupils hear and speak are vital for developing their vocabulary and grammar and their understanding for reading and writing. Teachers should therefore ensure the continual development of pupils’ confidence and competence in spoken language and listening skills. Pupils should develop a capacity to explain their understanding of books and other reading, and to prepare their ideas before they write. They must be assisted in making their thinking clear to themselves as well as to others, and teachers should ensure that pupils build secure foundations by using discussion to probe and remedy their misconceptions. Pupils should also be taught to understand and use the conventions for discussion and debate.
All pupils should be enabled to participate in and gain knowledge, skills and understanding associated with the artistic practice of drama. Pupils should be able to adopt, create and sustain a range of roles, responding appropriately to others in role. They should have opportunities to improvise, devise and script drama for one another and a range of audiences, as well as to rehearse, refine, share and respond thoughtfully to drama and theatre performances.
Statutory requirements which underpin all aspects of spoken language across the 6 years of primary education form part of the national curriculum. These are reflected and contextualised within the reading and writing domains which follow.
The programmes of study for reading at key stages 1 and 2 consist of 2 dimensions:
It is essential that teaching focuses on developing pupils’ competence in both dimensions; different kinds of teaching are needed for each.
Skilled word reading involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words. Underpinning both is the understanding that the letters on the page represent the sounds in spoken words. This is why phonics should be emphasised in the early teaching of reading to beginners (ie unskilled readers) when they start school.
Good comprehension draws from linguistic knowledge (in particular of vocabulary and grammar) and on knowledge of the world. Comprehension skills develop through pupils’ experience of high-quality discussion with the teacher, as well as from reading and discussing a range of stories, poems and non-fiction. All pupils must be encouraged to read widely across both fiction and non-fiction to develop their knowledge of themselves and the world they live in, to establish an appreciation and love of reading, and to gain knowledge across the curriculum. Reading widely and often increases pupils’ vocabulary because they encounter words they would rarely hear or use in everyday speech. Reading also feeds pupils’ imagination and opens up a treasure house of wonder and joy for curious young minds.
It is essential that, by the end of their primary education, all pupils are able to read fluently, and with confidence, in any subject in their forthcoming secondary education.
The programmes of study for writing at key stages 1 and 2 are constructed similarly to those for reading:
It is essential that teaching develops pupils’ competence in these 2 dimensions. In addition, pupils should be taught how to plan, revise and evaluate their writing. These aspects of writing have been incorporated into the programmes of study for composition.
Writing down ideas fluently depends on effective transcription: that is, on spelling quickly and accurately through knowing the relationship between sounds and letters (phonics) and understanding the morphology (word structure) and orthography (spelling structure) of words. Effective composition involves articulating and communicating ideas, and then organising them coherently for a reader. This requires clarity, awareness of the audience, purpose and context, and an increasingly wide knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. Writing also depends on fluent, legible and, eventually, speedy handwriting.
Our English Curriculum at Middleton Primary School
At Middleton, we have recognised that text selection is vital to children's competency in writing. We have developed our text selection by using the 5 Plagues of Reading:
These are texts that are over 50 or 100 years old. The vocabulary, language and context are vastly different and typically more complex than modern texts. Children will need to explore cultural references from the past in order to gain an understanding of the book.
These are texts that have an inconsistent chronology. Time may move in fits and starts or double back on itself to create richer imagery. These text may need to be re-read to be mastered.
Narratively complex texts
These are texts with an unreliable narrator, have multiple narrators or non-human narrators.
These are texts that have a character, place or event which is used to deliver a broader message about real-world issues.
These are texts that written to deliberately resist having a clear meaning for the reader. Inference is needed when reading these texts to fully comprehend the nuances that the author has used.
Talk for Writing
We teach writing using Talk 4 Writing, developed by Pie Corbett. It has been developed to enable children to orally retell stories, embed language and be able to apply these skills to their own writing. Talk 4 Writing has 3 main stages: Imitate, Innovate and Invent.
Introducing a new text would begin with a 'hook' to get the children excited and immersed in a story. This could be a satellite crash, a letter from a fairy or footprints appearing on the floor mysteriously depending on the text. Children learn a model text through the use of pictures and actions and will repeat the story map regularly to embed the language. Once the children are confident with the text, we then discuss the features, vocabulary and comprehension to fully grasp the genre and skills.
The next stage of T4W is to innovate a text, where you would change an element of the story to make it your own. This uses the framework and sentence structure of the original text to gain contextual understanding of how to apply skills. Children may change a character, a setting or write from a different character's perspective. Once they have innovated their text, children will rehearse and imitate to further internalise the language and structure.
The invention stage involves applying all the learnt skills from the imitation and innovation stages to their own writing independently.
This year, we are introducing Book Club to promote reading for pleasure. Each week, classes will have a book read to them, giving the children the opportunity to get lost in a story. This is a separate book to English lessons and is purely for reading enjoyment.
In Spring term, we will be launching Accelerated Reader across the school. This is an online system that assesses children's attainment and progress in reading. Children read a text at their own pace and complete a short comprehension quiz at the end to assess their understanding. Accelerated Reader then provides personalised targets to support children's next steps in reading.
Phonics is taught in Foundation, Year 1 and Year 2, following the Letters and Sounds progression. We also use Jolly Phonics songs (available on Youtube) to support phonics teaching. In Year 1, children sit a statutory phonics screening check, consisting of 40 real and nonsense words that they must segment and blend accurately.
Below are some useful links you can access to support phonics teaching at home.
In EYFS and Key Stage 1, we use Nelson Handwriting alongside the Read Write Inc letter formation phrases to support print letter formation.