English - The Oakmeadow Way
At Oakmeadow we are passionate about developing children’s literacy skills to help make them independent, lifelong learners. We believe that competence in speaking, listening, reading and writing is the key to independent learning and these have a direct effect on progress in all other areas of the curriculum.
We develop pupils’ abilities within an integrated programme of Speaking & Listening (including phonics), Reading & Writing. We give opportunities to develop their use, knowledge and understanding of spoken and written English within a broad and balanced curriculum, with opportunities to consolidate and reinforce taught literacy skills in other subjects.
Speaking and Listening
We believe that speaking and listening skills have a direct impact on every aspect of our lives and we recognise the strong link between spoken language and writing. To reflect this, we aim for this thread to run through all we do in a cross curricular and integrated way. As well as taught speaking and listening opportunities through activities such as drama, debate, discussion and performance, we provide informal opportunities through times such show and tell, story-sharing and book talk to further development in this area. We have skilled practitioners that provide intervention for those children that require additional support. We build in opportunities to learn about word etymology and how our language has developed, and in all subjects strive to create confident speakers with a wide range of vocabulary at their disposal.
Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught how to: recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes; identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make - such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’; and blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.
Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7. Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment. Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning to read difficult, for example those who have dyslexia.
At Oakmeadow we teach a daily phonics lesson in EYFS and KS1, moving into spelling focus following the security of phonic understanding. The children in each year group are assessed and grouped accordingly. Children are encouraged to apply their phonic knowledge and understanding whenever reading and writing. When reading children at Oakmeadow use their ‘reading hands’ to help them focus on segmenting and blending new words. When writing all children have access to the appropriate phoneme mat which they use along with the Oakmeadow ‘action rhyme’ to help them spell new words. In EYFS and KS1 all children also have a ‘Phonic Workstation’ in their classroom which they use independently to help deepen their understanding of the phonics that they have been taught.
‘Reading is the gateway into unfamiliar places, other people and alternative experiences. There are three aspects to reading in schools: the first is the teaching of reading, the second is reading in subjects beyond English and the third is reading for pleasure.’
Reading is prioritised throughout our curriculum; we believe in ensuring that the children have opportunities to read wherever possible, both within reading lessons and across the curriculum. Thus, as a school we have thought carefully about where we can integrate the teaching of reading into our wider curriculum.
We teach and promote reading skills in a variety of ways - through modelling, guided reading, independent reading, research, one to one reading, paired reading with other children and through other subjects. We aim to develop fluent, expressive readers that explore challenging texts with confidence and ever-growing understanding. We promote a love of reading and a desire to read for enjoyment through the range of texts we have on offer, the texts we choose to use in our lessons, through the offer of our school libraries and through competitions and whole school challenges. We invest heavily in a range of texts, including digital ones, which means our pupils can read widely and often at an age & phonically appropriate level. Each year group has a literature spine from which each class takes a book as a class reader. We were inspired by this quote and try to make this part of the children’s daily diet.
‘Let there be half an hour of story time at the end of every day in primary schools. Make this the half hour they all long for, that they don’t want to be over. Let the children go home dreaming of the story, reliving it, wondering.’
- Michael Morpurgo
Our sequential and consistent approach to reading means that our younger children obtain the phonics knowledge and language comprehension necessary to read and this sharp focus on reading skills is maintained through the following years – in fact, we have extended the book banding system to encompass all learners. By doing this, this ensures the children are accessing appropriate and challenging material until they leave Year 6. This avoids the ‘free reader’ system in which progress can be slowed due to children picking material that will not further progression in decoding, vocabulary and comprehension. We have skilled practitioners who support pupils who require extra support in this area and we respond promptly to those who are vulnerable, ensuring progress and attainment are in line with expectation.
Guided Reading is a key feature in our daily timetable – we see it as an opportunity to complete targeted specific learning in Word reading/decoding and comprehension skills. We believe the benefits that a consistent and regular delivery of this can have great impact on the attainment and progress of children. Consistency of delivery of guided reading across school has contributed to high levels of attainment and progress in Reading.
Research has proven that where school and homework together children’s reading skills develop at a faster rate and working with families is key to our approach. We do this through the use of reading records, through workshops, through our online sharing portal and through in class reading events.
‘If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.’
Martin Luther King
We believe Daily English lessons promote the opportunity to build on taught skills in a structured and progressive way. We have worked hard to ensure lessons across school have the same format and agreed teaching methods as it means children are ‘looking through the same learning lens’. Children will be exposed to a balance of text types each term as set out in school’s long term planning document. Coverage in each unit is thorough so a number of weeks may be spent on one genre. We follow a ‘writing journey’ approach where children complete a cold piece at the start of a unit that assesses their understanding of the text type entering the unit. They will then be guided through a process of understanding and skills development towards a hot piece at the end that assesses their new level of understanding and evidences progress. Through this writing journey approach, we develop an understanding of a range of writing genres and their characteristics and ensure that pupils are able to write in a variety of styles and forms appropriate to the text type and audience. Providing a balance of text types ensures children are exposed to a breadth of material and have experience in writing for different purposes.
We believe spelling skills should be taught regularly and progressively; to help us do this we follow the ‘No Nonsense’ spelling programme. Within this framework, teachers plan and deliver 3 spelling focus sessions a week. There is some variation within this for lower school where children are moving from taught phonics into the spelling programme. Children are given opportunities to embed their understanding of the rule and apply it in different circumstances. Pupils are given linked spellings as homework. We believe that children with needs in spelling should receive additional and appropriate phonics or strategy teaching and that this should be worked on both at home and in school. We ensure that children should be provided with ample opportunities to apply their spelling skills within English and other subjects. Assessment of skills development is key to ensuring progress and is completed regularly as part of our integrated GPS approach.
We value handwriting skills and believe that presentation and handwriting should be taught regularly and consistently. At Oakmeadow, we feel that good presentation indicates a pride in their work and a good learning attitude. We follow the Penpals handwriting scheme and present all writing within school and on worksheets where possible in this font. Staff model Penpals style when writing in books and on the board. We also run a ‘handwriting band’ system to encourage ownership of developing skills and aim to work with families to support this.
Mrs Samantha Hill
Deputy Head Teacher; English lead