English is essential for us all to be able to communicate effectively through the written and spoken word. At the Mead Academy Trust we strive to develop children who are articulate and imaginative communicators and are well-equipped with the basic skills they need to become motivated lifelong learners. We aim to instil in children a love for books, an appreciation of the creative arts, such as drama and poetry, and an ability to express themselves with confidence and clarity.
We teach children to talk and to learn through talk. Opportunities are provided for children to express and develop ideas, engage in discussion and exchange views sensitively, competently and coherently. Through exposure to a variety of activities and situations, children are encouraged to develop the skills to use speech appropriately, being able to adjust ways of speaking according to the occasion, and develop a growing ability to listen attentively.
Learning to Talk
When they leave us, children should be able to explain and justify their ideas, make generalisations, generate hypothesis and offer critical comments.
Language Structures (The Tower of Hamlets Progression document) is used to support planning for talk in a range of subjects and lessons across the curriculum. It identifies the language structures needed to acquire and manipulate learning and exemplifies progression through the year groups.
Planning for language structures extends speaking and listening beyond the use of key words and supports the expression of ideas within a task. Identifying appropriate language structures as well as key vocabulary at the planning stage leads to learning objectives being firmly embedded.
Learning through Talk
Oracy supports learning. Through debating, discussing and deliberating over ideas children are cognitively stretched and challenged to formulate their own opinions and come to shared decisions. Moreover, it is also fundamental to supporting the development of reading and writing skills.
We are working with Voice 21 to further develop our speaking and listening curriculum to enable children and teachers to understand what effective communication looks like and to put strategies in place to maintain a safe and respectful environment for talk, and to encourage the improvement of specific speaking and listening skills.
Phonics is taught in early Years and Key Stage 1 using Read Write Inc. Phonics. This structured programme of engaging daily activities supports the children learning to read. Using clear tracking and ability grouping every child learns rapidly at the right level.
In Reception all children…
- Read storybooks and non-fiction books closely matched to their developing phonic knowledge
- Take home decodable storybooks to share
- Begin to read with fluency and expression
- Learn to spell using known sounds
- Write confidently by practising what they want to write out loud first
- Work well with a partner
By the end of Year 1 children are…
- Accurate and speedy readers
A child in Key Stage 2 identified as requiring further support may be supported with a 1:1 Read Write Inc. Phonics programme at the appropriate level.
Reading is prioritised. Books are more than the stories inside. They are the key to unlocking learning and the potential in every child. We believe the ability to read is fundamental to pupils’ development as independent learners.
What are our aims for reading at The Mead?
- To encourage children to become enthusiastic and reflective readers through contact with challenging and enriching texts
- To read a wide variety of genres and text types
- To read with confidence, fluency and understanding, using a range of independent strategies to self-monitor and correct mistakes
- To develop confident and independent readers by inspiring a love of literature and an enjoyment of reading for pleasure
Good reading skills allow children to access all areas of the curriculum. In order to read across the curriculum with fluency, accuracy, understanding and enjoyment pupils need to use a range of strategies. Drawing on knowledge of context and grammatical knowledge, applying phonic knowledge and skills, applying alphabet knowledge and developing word recognition.
We start by teaching phonics to the children. This means that they learn how to ‘read’ the sounds in words and how those sounds can be written down. This is essential for reading, but it also helps children learn to spell well. Children learn ways of remembering these sounds and letters through a variety of different games and activities.
They also practise reading and spelling what we call ‘red/tricky words’, such as ‘said’, ‘have’, ‘once’, and ‘where’. (Common exception words- National Curriculum, English Appendix 1)
The children practise their reading with books that match with the phonics and the ‘red words’ they know, and very quickly they begin to see themselves as ‘readers’, this helps build their confidence.
Teachers regularly read to the children this helps them to become familiar with a variety of stories, poetry and information books, modelling intonation and expression as well as promoting a life-long love of reading. This exposure to high quality text helps the children to learn an increasing range of vocabulary, which also helps with their writing.
We use Pie Corbett’s Reading Spine as a reading entitlement for our children – an agreed selection of books for them to experience and come to know and love. The idea of the spine is to act literally as the backbone of our reading programme – to help every child build their inner kingdom of stories. Pie says: “Imagine a school where children enjoy, discuss and work with a core of around 80 books. These ‘essential reads’ would be a store of classics, creating a living library inside a child’s mind. This is the Reading Spine. Schools that have a reading spine build a common bank of stories that bind the community together. These are shared and deeply imagined common experiences.”
Text-Led Learning Journeys
Our spine books, or other high quality texts, are used as drivers for our wider curriculum. The text-led learning journey model is informed by research evidence and aims to ensure all pupils, particularly the most vulnerable, are engaged – with the book offering the route into authentic enquiries and wider curriculum studies.
We have developed a Poetry Spine to create a shared poetry curriculum for all Mead Academy Trust school learners to experience and enjoy – from Nursery to Year 6. The poems have been selected in order to reflect the work of a wide range of well-known and less familiar writers. The poems vary widely in terms of genre, length, structure, mood and historical period. Some are serious, some light-hearted and even frivolous! Some are children’s classics (though not necessarily written originally for children!).
Most of the poems included have been recommended by practising teachers on the basis of their first-hand experience of using them in the classroom. The poems have therefore been ‘tested’ in that they have given pleasure to children (and their teachers) and stimulated enough interest to justify repeated readings and a wide range of follow-up activities.
Whole Class Reading
“Reading floats on a sea of talk” (Britton, 1970, p. 164)
Daily whole class reading sessions allow children of all abilities to be immersed in the same high-quality literature and the discussion that these texts promote.
Whole class reading lessons focus on developing vocabulary and securing understanding. During a class reading session the teacher models good use of intonation, movement, volume and expression. The children gradually recognise good reading styles from the teachers’ performances and start to emulate the teacher in their own reading. The teacher can also demonstrate how to ‘unpick the text’ to secure understanding – and to answer comprehension questions focusing on the skills outlined in the National Curriculum.
- Teachers use targeted and open-ended questioning
- Teacher models and expects from children high quality responses (linked to Tower hamlets Language structure) with evidence and explanations provided for support
- Follow up tasks provide challenge for all children and support for those who need it (through repeated and supported reads of a text)
Reading independently and at home
All independent reading books are colour coded to ensure that children and parents are able to select books at an appropriate level.
For early readers we have a wide range of banded decodable Read Write Inc books so that children take home books closely matched to their growing phonic knowledge.
To ensure children have a rich reading diet we also have additional independent reading books – including books published by Oxford University Press such as Songbird phonics, Oxford Reading Tree (Biff, Chip and Kipper adventures), Fireflies, Snapdragons and Project X. Our Independent reading books include a variety of fiction genres and non-fiction books. Colour banded independent reading books range from the most simple key word recognition text (Pink – Reading age <5 years) to more complex lengthy text (White – Reading age 7.5 – 8 years).
Once children reach this level in their reading they are encouraged to select from a range of Lime banded longer chapter style books (>8years) before progressing to a monitored ‘free’ choice from the library or class book corners.
All children are expected to read with an adult at home; practising the skills they have been taught in school, demonstrating their ability to not only read confidently, but to discuss their books and to answer questions about what they are reading.
We have well stocked libraries which contain a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, which children have the opportunity to use during lessons and independently.
Writing is taught through an exciting, innovative curriculum; with each classroom providing a stimulating environment to support literacy learning.
We use a range of approaches to teach writing; Storymaking and Talk for Writing approaches are used regularly by all year groups. Through learning to tell stories, children develop speaking and listening skills and internalise story language and sentence structure to apply in their own writing. Children use symbols and pictures to support them to learn and retell stories for a range of audiences.
Talk for Writing, developed by Pie Corbett (with teachers at The Mead as some of the original teacher researchers shaping the framework!) is powerful tool for learning because it enables children to imitate the language they need for a particular topic orally, before reading and analysing it and then writing their own version.
We celebrate every child’s success either through feedback or by displaying their writing in school or in a class book.
The children have access to a range of writing equipment and resources to support and further develop their writing.
Talk for Writing builds on 3 key stages:
Stage 1: Imitation
Stage 2: Innovation
Stage 3: Independent application
Stage 1: Imitation
Once the teacher has established a creative context and an engaging start, a typical Talk-for-Writing unit would begin with some engaging activities warming up the tune of the text, as well as the topic focused on, to help children internalise the pattern of the language required. This is often followed by talking an exemplar text, supported visually by a text map and physical movements to help the children recall the story or non-fiction piece.
In this way the children hear the text, say it for themselves and enjoy it before seeing it written down. Once they have internalised the language of the text, they are then able to read the text and start to think about the key ingredients that help to make it work.
This stage could include a range of reading as-a-reader and as-a-writer activities. Understanding the structure of the text is easy if you use the boxing-up technique and then help the children to analyse the features that have helped to make the text work. In this way the class starts to co-construct a toolkit for this type of text so that they can talk about the ingredients themselves – a key stage in internalising the toolkit in their heads.
Stage 2: Innovation
Once the children have internalised the text, they are then ready to start innovating on the pattern of the text. This could begin with more advanced activities to warm up the key words and phrases of the type of text focused on so the children can magpie ideas. Younger children and less confident writers alter their text maps and orally rehearse what they want to say, creating their own version. The key activity in this stage is shared writing, helping the children to write their own by “doing one together” first. This could begin with using a boxed-up grid (innovating on the exemplar plan) to show how to plan the text and then turning the plan into writing. This allows the children to see how you can innovate on the exemplar text and select words and phrases that really work.
Demonstrating how to regularly read your work aloud to see if it works is important here. This process enables the children to write their own versions through developing their ability to generate good words and phrases and also, hopefully, develops the inner judge when they start to decide why one word or phrase is best. If, during this process a teaching assistant (or in KS2 an able child) flip-charts up words and phrases suggested, these can be put on the washing line alongside the shared writing so when the children come to write they have models and words and phrases to support them.
Throughout the shared writing, the children should be strengthening the toolkit so they start to understand the type of ingredients that may help. Once they have finished their own paragraph/s children should be encouraged to swap their work with a response partner. Then the whole class can also discuss some of the more successful work. Time now needs to be found to enable the children to give their own work a polish in the light of these discussions and perhaps to begin the dialogue about what works by writing their own comment on their work for the teacher to comment on.
Stage 3: Moving from innovation to independent application
The teacher now has the opportunity to assess the children’s work and to adapt their planning in the light of what the children can actually do. This stage could begin with some activities focused on helping the children understand aspects that they were having difficulty with and should include time for the children to have a go at altering their work in the light of what they have just learnt so that they start to make progress. This stage will continue to focus on the next steps needed to support progress so the children can become independent speakers and writers of this type of text. Perhaps some more examples of the text are compared followed by more shared writing on a related topic and then the children can have a go themselves on a related topic of their own choosing. Again this section will end with response partner and whole class discussion about what features really worked, followed by an opportunity to polish your work. This process also helps the children internalise the toolkit for such writing so that it becomes a practical flexible toolkit in the head rather than a list to be looked at and blindly followed. At the end of the unit, the children’s work should be published or displayed. The teacher will now have a good picture of what features to focus on in the next unit to move the children forward.
Learning to recognise the high frequency words on sight is crucial in developing fluency and accuracy in reading and then writing. Our schools are committed to supporting the children to learn to read and then spell these words.
Each class has daily spelling lessons that are active and engaging. In Key Stage 1 children learn how to encode (build) words to use in their writing. They also learn to spell ‘red/tricky words’, such as ‘said’, ‘have’, ‘once’, and ‘where’. (Common exception words- National Curriculum, English Appendix 1).
At Key Stage 2 spelling rules are taught and sent home to practice; the children are encouraged to apply these rules in their writing.
The children will also be expected to learn a number of statutory words from the National Curriculum and individual spellings (yellow words) that have been identified from their own work. Key words and spellings are usually tested weekly in school.
Across the schools of The Mead Academy Trust we have extremely high expectations of presentation. We teach the children to develop a fluent and legible style and enable an attitude of pride in the presentation of their work.
In early years and Year 1 children are taught correct letter shapes and formations through our Read Write Inc programme of study.
We teach children to join their writing in a cursive script using the Teach Handwriting programme – which offers a systematic, differentiated and progressive approach to support children of all ability levels.
Cursive letters all start from the same place and flow from left to right. Children are taught to form each letter with a ligature (lead-in) and each of the four different types of joins.
These skills are developed through regular handwriting lessons and practise as well as ongoing application in all of their writing. It is closely monitored and additional support is given to those that require it (fiddle box activities to help promote fine motor development)
As they develop through Key Stage Two, a ‘pen licence’ is awarded to children demonstrating consistency in their handwriting. This enables them to use handwriting pens and further develop fluency and their own style.
Role play and drama
We value drama techniques as a core part of English and the wider curriculum. Children engage in drama activities to provide purpose for reading and writing and to develop speaking and listening skills. Teachers and children work together to create engaging role play areas and opportunities are often provided for ‘small world’ for children to retell a text. Children use these areas to apply the English skills they have been taught. These role play areas are highly valued by staff and children and are an essential tool for enabling independence in all learners.
Our schools are very well-resourced to support children with all aspects of their English learning. We have an extensive collection of quality texts for children to read and enjoy and a wealth of other resources to make learning in English fun and engaging. Children use laptops regularly to explore digital texts and to write for purpose. We also have a range of other digital devices that we use to enhance the English curriculum such as video cameras, recordable microphones and audio devices.