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English

English at The Radstone

 

At The Radstone, our English curriculum aims to ensure that all pupils develop the required core skills and knowledge to prepare them for the next stage in their learning. The core English curriculum is divided into the following strands:

Phonics 

English is a very tricky language! Despite having 26 letters in the alphabet, within the spoken language there are around 44 phonemes (sounds) and these can be represented in the written language by over 200 graphemes (ways of writing the sound). This is our highly complex alphabetic code.

In Early Years and Key Stage 1, children are systematically taught the phonemes that enable us to read and then spell words using the Letters and Sounds phonics programme. During phonics sessions, children are taught to identify all the grapheme-phoneme correspondences in a particular order beginning with s,a,t,p,i,n. They are taught to blend, where they say the sounds that make up a word and merge them together until they can hear what the word is – this is a vital skill of early reading. Children are also taught to segment, which is the opposite of blending, by saying the word and breaking it up into the correct phonemes – this skill is a key aspect for early spelling.

Reading

Reading is fundamental to every child’s educational development and we ensure that it is at the forefront of our curriculum and celebrated from Early Years through to Year 6. High quality texts that cover a range of themes, topics and cultures are part of our daily routine throughout the school. Our experience has proven that a multi-layered approach is the most effective means of achieving high standards in reading. Therefore we use a combination of shared, guided, whole-class and independent reading and aim for all children to leave The Radstone as confident and competent readers, reading for pleasure at an age-appropriate level.

In Early Years, children are exposed to a word-rich environment, daily stories and picture books to encourage them to ‘read’ pictures, infer, and predict from the very start of their time with us. As a child’s phonic knowledge develops, they become more and more vocal in shared reading and will take great pride and pleasure in joining in with these sessions.  Children are issued with the first 100 high frequency words to learn at their own pace. Another 200 are given the start of Year 1 to learn by the end of Key Stage 1. Guided reading sessions also begin in Reception. This is where children read with an adult in small groups of similar ability to decode texts by using their phonic knowledge and inference skills; these sessions continue throughout Key Stage 1 and into Lower Key Stage 2. We use The Oxford Reading Tree scheme, as this enables the children to receive a progressive and structured approach to reading that both works alongside, and further develops their phonic knowledge. Interventions are a vital aspect of our reading provision and we endeavour to enable all children to keep up with their peers through additional 1:1, small group and inference training sessions. 

The Book Talk approach is a key principal to our teaching of reading. This system encourages the children to look at reading through a wide variety of ‘lenses’ to help understand different aspects of texts, their purpose and the impact on the reader. Some of the basic lenses are introduced in Early Years and Key Stage 1 during shared reading sessions to develop the children’s familiarity with them. In Key Stage 2, the lenses form the structure of our guided reading sessions; here the children develop their independence and their collaborative skills to find specific evidence from texts and share this with their group and the class. Every class have a library slot every week where they can choose their own book and share one together as a class.

Whole-class reading and sharing a story is a vital part of our daily routines at The Radstone. The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education states:  ‘Reading aloud is probably the most important thing that teachers can do and needs to be a frequent and regular part of each school day.’ We firmly believe that this is a fundamental aspect in developing children’s passion for reading and the daily ‘class read’ is one of the highlights of the school day for our children; this ensures that all pupils experience high-quality literature on a daily basis.  

Spelling

We use the Read, Write, Inc. scheme for delivering our spelling curriculum. This is introduced in Year 2 once the children have the required knowledge in order for them to understand the alphabetic code. For those children who are not yet ready, then continued focus on phonics is essential to give them the skills needed to progress in their learning. RWI spelling is designed for all children to access throughout Key Stage 2 and systematically builds upon good phonic knowledge in order to spell words and patterns of growing complexity. The short, daily sessions engage and inspire children through a variety of fast-paced activities, which embed understanding of key spelling patterns to long-term memory through regular and repeated revision. Children do not receive weekly spelling lists to learn from this for homework, but will have access to the common exception word lists as exemplified in: National Curriculum – English Appendix 1: Spelling.

Writing

At The Radstone, we aim to ensure that all children leave us with the ability to confidently write at length across a range of genres, with a solid understanding of the grammatical skills required, in order to be clear and coherent in what they want to say.

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We have adopted the Kinetic Letters scheme for handwriting in Early Years and Key Stage 1 to provide a consistent and systematic approach to the fundamental skills needed for children to become confident writers. This scheme enables children to develop their automaticity in formation, orientation and placement of letters, which frees up space in their working memory. Children who are able to write legibly, with fluency and at pace, can focus on the content of what is written and are more likely to develop into creative, imaginative writers.

Our children will write across a wide range of genres throughout their time at The Radstone. High quality stimuli are integral to engage and inspire children to write for a variety of purposes and audiences. Extracts from modern and classic novels, poems and non-fiction texts along with video clips constitute a large part of these, however where possible we encourage the use of drama, music and first-hand experiences from trips and visitors to give writing a clear purpose for our children. As part of our curriculum offer, we ensure that our children are exposed to a diverse range of writing from many different cultures that broaden their understanding of the world that is both around them, and that lies ahead.

Key grammar skills are explicitly taught and understanding is embedded throughout our writing curriculum. In Key Stage 1, children are taught the basic skills to construct clear and accurate sentences to ensure they enter Key Stage 2 being able to access the rich curriculum before them. Throughout Key Stage 2, grammar skills are systematically taught and subsequently revisited to enable children to become confident in their use and manipulation.

Speaking and Listening

All subjects across our curriculum play a significant role in developing key English skills, particularly speaking and listening. Other subjects are planned with an emphasis on building vocabulary progressively, and understanding its meaning and application in context. We draw on the themes of our curriculum intent to provide pupils with opportunities to engage directly with our local and wider communities. For example, presenting at community events; planning and leading local initiatives in addition to interacting and interviewing a wide range of visitors to our school.

Enrichment

Each year the English curriculum enrichment includes visiting authors, attendance at the film festival, theatre visits, topic specific trips, house writing and poetry competitions, children’s participation in choir productions – all of which present creative opportunities to build the character and confidence within our pupils.

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