Subject Leader: Mr Bell
Subject Support Coach: Mrs Schonau
Link governor: Jill Bennett
It is with great determination that we strive to engender a lifelong love of reading and language through the immersion of stories and texts that interest, inspire and excite our children. We strive for children to read a variety of genres and use these as models for their own writing. The staff at Hillside are committed to providing a positive reading culture and supporting children in developing good reading habits that will support them throughout their education, in their personal life and beyond. It is our vision that these exciting materials and opportunities will inspire our children to write. We encourage our children to emulate the writing styles of famous authors, in turn inspiring a generation of children to use word choice and style to engage the reader, and eventually lead to them being innovators of their own masterpieces, producing writing that they feel proud to read aloud; knowing that others will enjoy.
The Subject Leader:
I would like to introduce myself as Mr Bell, English subject leader here at Hillside Primary school. I believe I have the ability to enthuse and motivate the children and teachers here at Hillside due to my passion, deep knowledge and love of literature. Rich texts are at the heart of our curriculum and the children are presented with many opportunities to read for knowledge across the curriculum through a variety of genres in both fiction and non-fiction. In every aspect of the curriculum, English can be found. Our children need to be confident speakers, listeners, readers and writers and need opportunities to use and practise these skills in every subject. The English curriculum and the teaching of it has never been more prominent and I am dedicated to ensuring that our children leave Hillside having the knowledge and skills to be literate citizens in our fast paced, ever changing world.
The main priority for me, as the English lead, is that our intent of delivering an English curriculum that is about a love of language is well embedded. I want my subject to be a medium to transport our pupils to places and contexts outside their realm of knowledge and empower them to question and challenge the world around them.
Reading for pleasure is at the heart of all that we do here at Hillside and we have pupils that have developed the habit and passion for reading regularly and widely. The vast array of opportunities supports the children in becoming skilled in reading, but most importantly, our children love nothing more than getting lost in the pages of a book. Early reading is high on our agenda and we recognise that the early years of a child’s life are crucial. The experiences that we offer the children in the EYFS and year 1 are fundamental in laying the foundations for future reading success. Reading interest is sparked in our children from day one and children have picture books to read from nursery, leading to phonic based books and on to more complex novels as they reach KS2. Class libraries, mystery readers, daily reading, initiatives to encourage regular reading and celebrations of authors are just some of the many experiences we provide for our children.
As the subject lead of English, I believe that our children will achieve well when given exciting stimuli, effective teaching and relevant support. The CPD that is planned for staff in school not only focuses on the content of English but understanding the way that learners learn best and giving staff the tools to make the greatest impact on teaching and learning. Research on metacognition forms the basis of our teaching cycle and staff are aware of the cognition, metacognition and motivation of learning that needs to be taught, promoted and celebrated within class. This understanding underpins the support that is given in lesson and the use of effective modelling and support to ensure children retain what they have learned.
Jill Bennett, the link governor for English, meets regularly with me, as the subject leader, and shares a passion for English, having been a high school teacher for many years. We have a shared vision for the subject and her challenge and support has provided further strategic direction in the teaching and learning of English across the school. Jill has the knowledge and desire to hold me, as the leader, to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils and her role of ‘critical friend’ has supported me in driving standards in this area.
Our English Curriculum has been carefully designed, planned and organised to ensure breadth, balance and depth for every learner at Hillside, irrelevant of their age or ability. When planning our curriculum all teaching staff were involved and after analysing our children’s learning needs we tailored an English curriculum around high quality texts that have been carefully selected to ensure that they engage all pupils. The texts chosen have a direct link to the foundation subject(s) or science. Using these texts ensures our children are fully immersed in their topic and this in turn moves children towards a deep level of understanding where they use and apply skills and knowledge in different areas. Reading at Hillside is primarily linked to our topic work. We are determined to prepare our children for their future education and beyond and promote the acquisition of new vocabulary and reading skills as the primary focus. Again, our reading lessons prioritise the barriers our children have in their learning. By using the teach, repeat and practise model through the topic being taught not only provides essential reading skills but encourages the retainment of facts and knowledge such as historical periods, scientific explanations and religious events to name a few.
English Speaking and Listening
Pupils at Hillside are taught to speak clearly and convey ideas confidently using standard English. We encourage children to justify their ideas with reasons; ask questions to check understanding; develop vocabulary; negotiate; evaluate and build on the ideas of others and select the appropriate register for effective communication. It is evident to anyone who visits Hillside that there is an ethos where children feel safe and valued, thus encouraging them to interact in a respectful and expressive manner. The classroom environments are stimulating and creative and there is a rich diet of vocabulary in and around the school, which enhances the speaking and listening skills taught. In every classroom at Hillside, you will observe the use of many cooperative learning strategies (Kagan structures) to enhance speaking and listening, such as talk partners; children as teachers; talking tokens, quiz, quiz trade, think, pounce, bounce and other structures. We encourage children to show respect and respond to the views of other children and adults in an appropriate way and this is done at every point of the school day, not just in focused English lessons.
Our reading curriculum is designed to produce productive, creative and well-educated children. The challenging and ambitious expectations of the National Curriculum are reflected in our aims and beliefs of how reading should be taught at Hillside. Our children are taught to read fluently and encouraged to read for pleasure. Our reading scheme is primarily Oxford Reading Tree; however, it is peppered with other schemes such as Collins and Usborne to ensure children are exposed to varied authors and book styles. As children progress through the reading scheme, there are opportunities to read modern and classic fictional novels. The range of texts in school offer support for those who need it. There are texts that offer phonics support within contexts that older children can enjoy reading and similarly, there are texts that offer challenge and sophisticated structures written in a context that is not too mature for the age of primary school children. At Hillside, we cater for the varying needs of our children, ensuring that we promote a love of reading irrelevant of the children’s ability or age. Our curriculum is broad; bringing all pupils into contact with a range of areas of learning and experiences, and at the same time allows the balance of the adequate development of each area. In order to acquire knowledge and understanding, our children are taught to comprehend, interpret and apply reading skills to science, history, geography and technology content. We teach children, through whole class reading sessions, the skills of inference, inquiry and interpretation and encourage them to apply this to a range of ‘real life’ texts.
To further promote reading at Hillside we use a variety of strategies and resources including:
- A wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books to ensure children read a variety of genres and text types.
- Decodable books for children learning to read.
- Daily synthetic phonics sessions take place daily from nursery to year 2 and in cases where children still require the teaching of phonics in KS2 it is done through specialised phonics interventions and the use of a phonics reading scheme that is based on a context aimed at their age range.
- Children have high quality whole class reading sessions daily. These lessons are focused on word reading and discussion, incorporating comprehension, exploration of vocabulary and dictionary skills and comprehension, in particular inference and deduction.
- Excellent use of the library area where children are encouraged to read in their own free time.
- ‘Author of the Term’ initiative used in all classes to develop the children’s love of reading.
- Reading promoted in the form of visits from authors, book weeks, book fairs, drama workshops and theatre visits etc.
- Children have ‘Reading for Pleasure’ texts boxes in their classroom that encourage them to read widely. The books are suggested titles for their age range and the children use book reviews to identify the effective features, favourite characters, similarities and differences and encourage children to recommend authors and genres to other readers.
- A reading bus is utilised to provide an additional learning space for interventions or lunchtime
- High quality texts used in school across all subjects.
- Children are challenged to read five times per week to ensure they develop the habit of reading widely and often and to acquire a wide vocabulary to support them in their use of grammar and linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language.
Whole Class Reading Sessions
Whole class teaching of reading allows teachers to plan activities that allow children to practise using the relevant reading skills: vocabulary, retrieval, summary, inference, prediction, compare and contrast and author choice. It also allows the teacher to work with the children that need it the most at that time. We do not believe that children with SEND should be removed from whole class reading sessions. Immersing them in the language, rich environment where they are supported by their peers, is the perfect environment for effective learning to take place. Differentiation is achieved in many ways: the difficulty of the text the children are working on; the questions the teacher is asking or the level of support they are receiving. Teaching the whole class the same objective removes the problem of independent groups, it allows our teachers to focus on one objective in depth and better prepare children for the expectation of written responses at the end of each key stage. A two week reading cycle is utilised that incorporates a forty minute introductory session of a chosen text and further daily twenty minute sessions that include in-depth analysis of vocabulary, group comprehension questions, marking and feedback sessions and the cycle ends with an independent assessment task. The assessment is used to provide teachers with evidence that the children are making progress in reading.
Daily discreet phonics lessons are taught in differentiated groups that are suitable for the child’s phase of learning. A synthetic scheme, Twinkl Phonics, is used in school. The approach used is a fun and interactive way to support children in learning how to read and write. To promote high quality phonic teaching at Hillside we ensure:
- Quality daily phonics lessons that last between 20-25 minutes.
- Whole class phonic sessions, which are built upon the ethos of ‘no child life behind.’ The staff at Hillside are skilled in addressing the needs of all children based on ongoing formative assessment and teacher judgement.
- Swift intervention takes place when the children’s daily learning objective is not met on either a whole class, group or individual basis.
- In some instances, a small number of children require the teaching of phonics to be at a slower pace and whole class phonics is not suitable for them. Other staff members have received high quality CPD and will deliver sessions for these children to ensure they are learning at their own pace and level.
- Well planned interactive lessons, delivered at a brisk pace, that keep children engaged and focused.
- Opportunities to reinforce and apply acquired phonic knowledge and skills across the curriculum.
- Additional decodable reading books for children to apply their phonic knowledge in phases 2-5 continuing in to the reading scheme in KS2 to ensure children have grasped the basis of reading.
Children are expected to sit a phonics screening assessment in year 1 that tests their knowledge of phonics sounds. The children that do not pass the phonics screening check are given appropriate support and materials to ensure they catch up. To support these children we ensure they continue to receive daily phonics at the relevant phase and daily reading in either shared reading, one to one reading or guided groups. These children also become a focus within lessons and they are encouraged to read a range of books that are tailored to support their learning of phonics sounds whilst being written in a context that is suitable for their age. This continues in to KS2 if the children are still not secure in their phonics sounds.
At Hillside, we aim to inspire children and encourage the development and application of imagination. We develop the children’s ability to produce well-structured, detailed writing in which the meaning is made clear and which engages the interest of the reader. Attention is paid throughout the school to the formal structures of English, grammatical detail, punctuation and spelling. The Hillside writing approach enables children to write independently for a variety of audiences and purposes within different subjects. A key feature is that children internalise the language structures needed to write through ‘talking the text’ as well as close reading. The approach moves from dependence towards independence with our sliding scale of innovation. We recognise that the children need a more guided approach to writing initially before being given the freedom of writing creatively. Teachers model and incorporate the use of phonics and spelling strategies during shared writing sessions and they are given frequent opportunities in school to write in different contexts and for a variety of purposes and audiences, using quality texts as a model. Extended, independent writing takes place on at least three occasions over a term and there will also be additional opportunities in subjects such as history, science, RE and geography, demonstrating that our children are able to apply their skills across the curriculum. During the writing process, children are encouraged to use a ‘slow write’ technique that involves writing a piece of work over a number of days. At the end of each day, the children are given feedback to encourage them to improve or extend their writing. They act upon this feedback before they begin writing on the next day. These pieces of writing help to provide a clear assessment of the children’s current writing stage and their areas of development within writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation. At Hillside, we have a clear programme of study for the introduction and acquisition of knowledge about grammar and punctuation. Our English sessions are well suited to the practical development of this knowledge through the word, sentence and text level work provided in class. Teachers turn every available minute of teaching into valuable learning time.
Accurate spelling is an important part of the process of learning to write at primary school. At Hillside, we put great emphasis on learning spelling rules and ensure that children are confident with this skill enabling them to become confident writers. If they are constantly stopping to think about how words are spelled while they write, it can interrupt their thinking about important parts of writing like word choice and sentence construction. If they’re confident spellers, they’re also much more likely to make adventurous vocabulary choices.
Spelling is incorporated into the children’s learning from the moment they are introduced to level 2 phonics. When learning a new sound, the children are encouraged to break the words up into individual sounds and then to match those sounds to the letters of the alphabet. Once the children are in KS2, the children have spelling patterns to learn over a two-week cycle. Our teaching of spelling is built upon research of memory and how children retain new learning. The children revisit the words they have been taught every day over a two-week cycle and this supports the children in transferring their spellings to their long-term memory. In lessons, the words taught are provided from the
National Curriculum, and our four-part spelling lesson at the start of the cycle ensures children are able to recap on previous year groups patterns where needed. Our parents are fully supportive our system and the homework set ensures the children are given additional practice time in a fun and engaging way. We use Spelling Shed to support the children’s learning at home. This online programme provides a fun and engaging platform to practise spelling rules.
The presentation of written work reflects the awareness of the writer to the needs of his or her audience. Our ultimate goal is for pupils to achieve a fast, flowing, joined, legible style of writing. In order to achieve this, we are aware of the need for a consistent approach to the teaching of handwriting across the key stages. Our aim is for all children to write fluently, legibly and with increasing speed and to understand the different forms of handwriting used for different purposes by the end of KS2. In EYFS and KS1 our children are taught to print their letters and the focus is on accurate letter formation; however, as they move into Year 2 we begin to introduce pre cursive writing and encourage the children to join their letters once they are ready. We aim to make handwriting an automatic process that does not interfere with creative and mental thinking. Handwriting is a cross-curricular task and will be taken into consideration during all lessons. Formal teaching of handwriting is carried out for 30 - 45 minutes per week to ensure children become fluent and legible writers.
Communication, Language and Literacy in the EYFS
Speaking and listening runs throughout the whole of the EYFS. There are stories, rhymes and role-play every day where the children have the opportunity to talk, listen and join in. We encourage the children to take their first steps in early reading and writing through role-play, free choice activities and focussed teaching sessions. Nursery and reception have a library session each week, where the children are invited to choose a library book to take home. They also bring home early reading books, letters, sounds and words to practise and learn. Physical development is particularly important in the EYFS as children develop the use of their gross and fine motor skills through initiatives such as dough disco and play with malleable materials. This eventually leads to children being able to handle writing equipment effectively –an essential step in learning to write.
Teaching English Across the Curriculum
At Hillside, we recognise that children’s spoken language, reading, writing and vocabulary are integral aspect of the teaching of every subject. English is a subject in its own right but a medium for teaching and by gaining a first class English education, our children will be able to access the whole curriculum. Fluency in the English language is an essential foundation for success in all subjects. Rich texts are at the heart of all that we do at Hillside and the children are presented with many opportunities to read for knowledge across the curriculum through a variety of genres in both fiction and non-fiction. In every aspect of the curriculum, English is apparent and we recognise the importance of making links and revisiting concepts on a number of occasions in different contexts to allow the children to master the skills taught in English lessons. Extended writing, using history, geography, science and RE, are planned carefully and there is an expectation that the children will use their topic learning to complete extended writing outside of their normal English lessons. This demonstrates our high regard of writing and the need to make writing purposeful.
Assessment of English
Assessment is used to inform planning and teaching. Teachers use assessment against year group statements to update our online assessment tool. In writing, teachers are constantly assessing and independent writing tasks in any subject can be used to provide evidence that a child has achieved the objectives they are working towards. These assessments inform future planning for reading and writing sessions. Summative assessments in reading, SPaG and phonics take place at the end of each term for all children from years 1- 6. These assessments are used to provide information about how well children have retained knowledge and understanding in a given area over time. These assessments provide teachers with information about each pupil and help to identify areas of strength and areas, which need development or support. In Early Years, children’s reading skills are monitored and assessed through 1:1 reading sessions, phonics tracking and the ability to read high frequency and common exception words on sight. The phonics tracking document is also used in Years 1 and 2 to monitor progress and beyond if necessary. The class teacher assesses the level of the children’s individual reading books termly during whole class reading or 1:1 sessions, to ensure the level is appropriately challenging.
Assessment for Learning – Self and peer assessment
All children from Nursery to Year 6 are asked to make judgements about how they can improve their own work, through a range of self-assessment techniques (e.g. marking codes, thumbs up – thumbs down etc). Children are also given the opportunity to take part in peer-to-peer assessment where they support their peers in looking at how to improve their work. At the end of every lesson, each child uses the code A, B or C to demonstrate the effort they have shown within the lesson and 1,2 or 3 to demonstrate their understanding of the learning objective. In response to this, after the teacher has marked the child’s work, they also use a marking code to show how much the child has understood. Discrepancies between child and teacher assessments are then addressed if necessary.
In addition to these in-school assessments there are statutory assessment that take place. In Year 1, children take part in the Phonics Screening Check in the summer term. Children who did not pass the test in Y1 retake the test a year later (when they are in Y2). In Year 2 and Year 6 the children take a formal reading and SPaG assessment as part of SATs.
Children have opportunities to visit the school Library on a fortnightly basis. Children are encouraged to read for pleasure at home and at school and the books stocked in the library are chosen and organised by the children themselves. Furthermore, Hillside collaborates with the local library and invites them in to speak to both children and parents. The sessions begin as early as nursery where reading for enjoyment is promoted through the use of the library and the many events that it runs. An initiative that is welcomed by children from the EYFS is the ‘Little Library Van’ that pays the children an annual visit to encourage positive reading habits; and again parents are invited to share this experience also.
Reading for Pleasure Initiative
As Hillside, we have selected twenty-five books per year group that we believe could be shared or read before the children leave. These are a mix of classics, modern fiction and award/prize winning books. We want to expose our children to many different authors and books in lessons and as additional texts that they can read and enjoy at school and at home.
These twenty-five texts are recorded in a Reading for Pleasure booklet. The children highlight or colour each box once they have read the text. If children succeed in reading the twenty-five books suggested during each year group, they could potentially read two hundred texts by the time they leave year 6.
The Reading Rocket
We encourage children to read at least five times per week through the Reading Rocket challenge. The children are asked to read fives time per week to develop the habit of reading widely and often and to acquire a wide vocabulary to support them in their use of grammar and when writing. Regular assemblies are held to promote this and the children are rewarded with letters home, extra play time, a small individual prize and they are all entered into a draw to win a prize that has been voted by the children themselves. This can be anything from a Kindle to a shopping voucher to a ticket for a day out.
Author of the Term
The Author of the Term initiative encourages children to read texts by the same author. The children research the chosen author and understand their achievements and inspiration for writing children’s stories. Author of the term displays are evident in each classroom from nursery to Year 6. These are changed either half-termly or termly depending on the length of the texts and amount of texts the author has written. This initiative promotes a love of reading as children are exposed to up to thirty-five high quality authors in their school lifetime. The children learn about their life, inspirations and get lost in their stories. Parents are welcome to buy further texts by the authors promoted in class for home reading and we endeavour to stock as many of the Author of the Term texts in our library and book corners to encourage children to become familiar with similar genres and styles before moving on to the next author.
At Hillside, we aim to foster a ‘can do’ attitude towards all subject areas. We encourage the children to think positively about their learning and believe in their ability to succeed in their learning. The children have been taught to believe that they can ‘do English.’ Therefore, instead of saying ‘I can’t do it!’ they children follow the sentence with YET! This growth mind-set approach towards English helps us all to achieve more than we believe we can.
Our children have a love and enthusiasm for English at Hillside and this is demonstrated in their values and attitudes. The following quotes demonstrate some of the comments made when our children were asked about English at Hillside:
‘My teacher teaches SPaG lessons through the book that we are reading; we do it in a lot of detail and use the text we read as an example.’ Year 4 Pupil
‘My favourite English lessons are when we have the time to read as a whole class and those lessons when we can pinch golden lines from famous authors.’ Year 6 Pupil
‘In topic we wrote a diary entry on WW2. I enjoyed showing the emotions of the character. I like how our teachers link our subjects together.’ Year 6 Pupil.
‘We don’t always know that we are doing English but we are. English is part of all our lessons at school, whether it is science, RE, geography or history.’ Year 3 Pupil.
‘My favourite thing about phonics lessons are the games that we play. We have so much fun!’ Year 1 Pupil
‘I like reading with the parents and helpers that come into school. I am getting better at my reading because of them.’ Year 2 Pupil
‘Our working wall is changed with every English topic and I find the words that dangle from the ceiling really useful too.’ Year 5 Pupil