At Cliftonville Primary School, English lies at the heart of all learning as across the curriculum, we provide engaging and enjoyable opportunities for learners to develop and practise their literacy skills to enable them to become skilled communicators.
We believe that every child has the right to learn to read and our aim is for them to also develop a love of reading too. We promote enjoyment through the creative use of high quality texts and a range of engaging activities. We also provide regular age appropriate book recommendations to children that encompass older, classic literature and key authors alongside introducing children to more recently published high quality children’s books. We believe it is important that children are encouraged to read poetry and non-fiction as well as fiction and that they are able to access a diverse range of characters and stories that provide “windows” to the lives and experiences of others and “mirrors” that reflect their own (Emily Style, 1988).
Teachers aim to be reading role models in the way that they discuss and promote books as well as modelling reading for pleasure. They make careful selections both in the texts that they choose to use in the teaching of English and in those that they read aloud to pupils. Children are read aloud to daily for fifteen minutes as well as during an assembly once a week. This not only allows them to encounter more demanding texts in a safe environment but also aids their vocabulary growth. To further aid this, all children receive daily explicit instruction of challenging vocabulary (with a focus on academic “Tier 2 words”) in exciting ways that actively involve pupils. Alongside this, pupils are taught strategies to independently deduce the meaning of new words they encounter such as through considering context cues and exploring the morphology of words which allows for direct links to be made with spelling and grammar. Children also learn about the etymology of words and their relationships with other languages: this helps to promote curious learners, a respect for other cultures and consolidates long term learning.
In the early stages of reading, children’s phonic knowledge is systematically developed in a fun, multi-sensory approach through discrete daily phonics sessions that follow the “Letters and Sounds” programme. Children are taught to decode the written word whilst building an understanding of comprehension alongside this, including in dedicated guided reading sessions. They have access to a wide range of books from a number of publishers and phonics schemes as we believe children become excellent, motivated readers through being exposed to a rich range of authors and illustrators. Children are allocated a phonetically decodable book at their current level of reading development which focuses on the group of sounds that they have just been taught in school. Books are changed twice are week so that there are opportunities for multiple readings at school and at home to aid the development of fluency. Children also have access to books online which are again matched to their phonics level and closely motioned by teachers.
We employ the Accelerated Reader programme for our Key Stage 2 pupils which ensures that each child is adequately supported and challenged at their appropriate level and allows them access to a wide range of genres and themes of books exposing them to various authors and writing styles reflecting our drive to broaden their horizons, experiences and aspirations. Children are encouraged and – where necessary – supported, to become independent in their book choices and use of the school library. The AR system enables staff to easily track and celebrate the children’s progress and success.
All pupils have opportunities for differentiated shared reading and independent reading throughout the school day alongside working together in guided groups or as a whole class on detailed explorations of whole books and shorter texts.
We strive for every pupil to leave us with the necessary skills to access the reading and vocabulary demands of the secondary curriculum and for them to be successful communicators throughout their lives. We believe that no child should be left behind or become a disenchanted reader so targeted interventions – both group and individual – are deployed appropriately, including using resources from PiXL and the Boosting Reading Potential scheme. Older children who need additional support with their phonic knowledge and understanding are taught using the “Sounds Write” programme.
We aim for all of our children to be able to write independently in a variety of genres and for a range of purposes with fluency, accuracy and enjoyment. We believe children should understand from an early age that their writing needs to be accurate, legible and set out in an appropriate way. It is our hope for them that they will learn to enjoy writing, see the value of it and for them to leave us as confident, accomplished writers. We acknowledge the role that discussion and oral rehearsal plays in our understanding of the written word as well as the importance of teacher modelling of the writing process. Both of these aspects form an integral part of our teaching of writing through the “Talk for Writing” model which is implemented across the whole school. In this approach, children listen to and retell a variety of genres; learning some off by heart using actions. This helps them to internalise language patterns and learn new vocabulary giving them the confidence and tools to write themselves. Children first imitate, then innovate and finally invent their own version of a text.
From early on in their learning journey, children explore a range of genres, see adults writing and experiment themselves through mark marking, symbols and conventional script. Though oral rehearsal, children learn to communicate meaning in narrative and non-fiction texts and spell and punctuate correctly.
As they move through the school, children develop an understanding that writing is essential to thinking and learning but also enjoyable in its own right. They learn the main rules and conventions of written English and start to explore how the English language can be used to express meaning in different ways. Powerful teaching techniques such as shared and guided writing mean children are exposed to high quality demonstration, exploration and discussion of the choices writers make. Children use the planning, drafting and editing process to improve their work and alongside effective feedback marking, are encouraged to become reflective, resilient learners.
We strongly believe in giving children first hand experiences to draw on information and emotions to enhance their learning and consequently make use of our local community regularly. Trips to local places of interest and visits from local figures are essential to provide an engaging starting point to enable the children to achieve high quality writing. We also feel that, wherever possible, children should write for a purpose and take pride in their learning; therefore we provide many opportunities for children to share their writing with the intended audience and to exhibit their work with the rest of our school community via prominent school displays.
We believe children require a secure understanding of spelling, punctuation and grammar to develop a true understanding of English and to be successful, so these concepts are taught discretely within English lessons in engaging ways. Through careful planning, teachers introduce new concepts in relation to the genre that the children are currently studying.
We also feel that children should be able to write with ease, speed and legibility so we follow a consistent approach across the school to the teaching of handwriting.
Speaking and listening
Opportunities to develop and hone children’s oracy skills are embedded not only in the English curriculum but across the wider curriculum at Cliftonville Primay School. Teachers are resourceful in their planning of topics and look to include learning end points involving speaking and listening wherever possible such as through discussions, debates, performances and presentations. Children practise speaking for a variety of purposes and audiences, adapting their language appropriately as well as their intonation, tone, volume and actions, and are able to work individually or in small or larger groups with peers or older or younger children.