English at the Skylark Federation
Following the updated Ofsted inspection framework (Ofsted, May 2019), schools were instructed to place Curriculum ‘Intent, Implementation and Impact’ at the heart of their curriculum design (within the new, reformed ‘Quality of Education’ measure).
At the Skylark Federation, we have constructed ‘a curriculum that is ambitious and designed to give all learners...the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life [while ensuring] teaching is designed to help learners to remember in the long term the content they have been taught and to integrate new knowledge into larger concepts’ (Ofsted, May 2019, pg. 9 and 10).
To achieve this, we have modelled our curriculum on Jonathan Lear’s Discover, Explore and Create curriculum model, which sees all learners at the Skylark Federation critically analysing in History, Geography, DT and the Arts across the academic year. These Discover (History), Explore (Geography) and Create (the Arts) projects form the backbone of our projects across the year, and all subjects – including English – are informed by these projects.
Our ‘Intent’ – in designing our bespoke, South Downs curriculum – is for English (and all other subjects) to be relevant and have a strong local resonance with pupils. In doing so, our intention is that all learners reach their full potential through an English curriculum that is tangible and real for pupils of the South Downs. That is not to say our curriculum is narrow-sighted: we use children’s local understanding to project their minds across the globe. We are an outward-looking Federation of village schools.
Every term, all pupils – irrespective of their year group – study our whole-school Discover, Explore and Create projects. This approach provides a whole-school ‘buzz’ and connectedness to our projects.
Power of Reading Scheme
The schools support the Power of Reading scheme and staff have access to their website and schemes of work. Power of Reading encourages the use of high-quality literature in English lessons and focuses on raising children’s comprehension skills, writing for different genres and a love of reading. Within each academic year, it is suggested that staff will use at least 3 PoR texts in the classroom.
Talk for Writing Scheme
To be used alongside The Power of Reading Scheme books for fiction and non-fiction writing, primarily in KS1. The Talk for Writing scheme enables children to learn new vocabulary and grammatical skills by immersing them in a high-quality text, often from the Power of Reading scheme. Together the class learn the story and begin using the rich vocabulary to re-tell the story. The children then move onto ‘innovating’ the story, e.g. making additions to it, re-writing it from a character’s point of view, changing the genre of it, etc. Finally, children should use the skills they have learned and picked up from the text to write their own story.
Rich texts, especially those recommended by the Power of Reading scheme, are used to support this scheme and are linked to learning journeys where possible.
During Key Stage 1, the teaching of phonics, spelling and handwriting are to be used systematically to support writing and to build up accuracy and speed. Through Key Stage 2, there will be a progressive emphasis on the skills of spelling, planning, drafting, editing, revising, proof-reading and the presentation of writing and the grammatical aspects of writing. The range of reading and writing will increase and, with it, the need for pupils to understand a wider variety of texts, their organisation and purposes.
It is expected that, for a portion of each term, teachers will use the approach popularised by Jane Considine in order to deliver their English lessons. Teachers should develop children’s vocabulary, understanding of sentence structure and their use of grammar by closely modelling through Considinian ‘lenses’. In addition to the Power of Reading and Talk for Writing approaches outlined above, a Jane Considine-inspired unit of work should comprise a portion of each term. For instance, teachers might begin a given half-term by delivering English project work through Jane Considine, before then using the closely modelled techniques outlined in this unit more freely using Power of Reading and Talk for Writing in subsequent weeks: this is a hybrid model and both scaffolds children and allows them to exercise autonomy.
Modelling is to be seen in all writing lessons to show children what the writing process looks like and to model high level writing.
Writing moderation meetings to happen termly using the NC objectives and interim assessment documents (year 2 & 6) and looking at an independent piece of writing alongside children’s workbooks (different genre-focus each time). This will ensure consistency across the schools and a deep understanding of what a greater depth writer looks like in each year group.
The children will have access to ICT for developing and extending the writing process, either through the use of class computers or during weekly laptop sessions.
At the Skylark Federation, we use the Rocket Phonics SSP programme.
Rocket Phonics is a systematic synthetic phonics programme that has been written by phonics experts. It includes a combination of digital and printed resources, and two fully matched series of decodable reading books. The reading books we use have been carefully designed to appeal to the tastes and interests of children who are starting out on their reading journey. They include a variety of fiction and non-fiction, and have been carefully devised to provide practice and application of phonics knowledge and skills in full alignment with the classroom lessons.
What is Phonics?
Words are made up from small units of sound called phonemes. Phonics teaches children to be able to listen carefully and identify the phonemes that make up each word. This helps children to learn to read words and to spell words.
In phonics lessons children are taught three main things:
• Phonemes: Each letter in the alphabet has a ‘name’ (a = ay, b = bee, c = see, etc), but spoken English uses about 44 sounds (phonemes). These phonemes are represented by letters (graphemes). In other words, a sound can be represented by a letter (e.g. ‘s’ or ‘h’) or a group of letters (e.g. ‘th’ or ‘ear’). These sounds are taught in a particular order. The first sounds to be taught are s, a, t, p.
• Blending: Children are taught to be able to blend. This is when children say the sounds that make up a word and are able to merge the sounds together until they can hear what the word is. This skill is vital in learning to read.
• Segmenting: Children are also taught to segment. This is the opposite of blending. Children are able to say a word and then break it up into the phonemes that make it up. This skill is vital in being able to spell words.
What makes phonics tricky?
In some languages learning phonics is easy because each phoneme has just one grapheme to represent it. The English language is a bit more complicated than this. Obviously we only have 26 letters in the alphabet so some graphemes are made up from more than one letter, such as ch th oo ay. These are all digraphs (graphemes with two letters), but there are other graphemes that are trigraphs (made up of 3 letters, e.g. igh) and even a few made from 4 letters (e.g. ough).
Another slightly sticky problem is that some graphemes can represent more than one phoneme. For example ch makes very different sounds in these three words: chip, school, chef!
When learning to read the children are encouraged to pronounce letters in a slightly different way. This is called ‘precise pronunciation’ or ‘pure sounds’.
Some family members may find they are not sure about this new pronunciation as they were not taught this way when they learned to read.
It is really important for children that we all learn this new way as it will help them with their reading.
Throughout the school, the children will take part in shared and guided reading sessions and will be encouraged to enjoy texts and apply their phonics knowledge to read fluently. Children will also be encouraged to use a range of strategies in order to comprehend texts.
Reading strategies are to be taught alongside writing in English lessons with a clear reading focus at least once a week. Discrete reading sessions will also take place on a daily basis for half an hour and these will show progression across the school:
EYFS – 1:1 readers or small group reading with a focus on blending.
Year 1/2 – Guided reading carousel with teacher led groups reading aloud. Focus on fluency and comprehension (in relation to NC).
Year 3/4 – A move to whole class shared reading with a focus on comprehension skills required in the NC. Small group guided reading sessions on some days for those children who require it.
Year 5/6 – A whole class shared reading session where a text is shared and discussed to improve comprehension and enjoyment of reading. Children who still need to improve fluency will read 1:1 during intervention times.
See Data below.
(Ofsted, May 2019) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/801429/Education_inspection_framework.pdf