At Monkshouse Primary School we believe that English is a fundamental life skill that develops children’s ability to listen, speak, read and write for a wide range of purposes. Children are enabled to express themselves creatively and imaginatively as they become enthusiastic and critical readers of stories, poetry and drama, as well as of non-fiction and media texts. Children gain an understanding of how language works by looking at its patterns, structures and origins and can use their knowledge, skills and understanding in speaking and writing across a range of different situations.
At Monkshouse we aim to embed the learning of writing skills across the curriculum, using real life contexts and topic related subjects where possible. The key skills of composition, planning and drafting, editing, punctuation, spelling, handwriting, grammar and standards of English and language structure are therefore taught explicitly in the context of English lessons, but also indirectly through cross-curricular writing tasks in other subjects.
Children are given the opportunity to develop their understanding of a range of writing through the exploration of modelled texts, reading and the use of visual methods including pictures and films. Through careful guidance, children learn to understand what makes a good piece of writing and how to acquire the skills to create these for themselves. Much emphasis is placed on the use of talk for writing, encouraging children to discuss their ideas with both adults and peers; this enables the development of imagination and independent learning skills. Great importance is placed on the children developing an ability to become analytical and critical reviewers of their writing, enabling them to develop lifelong learning skills.
Children enjoy the opportunity of having a real-life purpose for writing. Wherever possible we aim to give true meaning to their writing through our curriculum topics. In addition to this, children are encouraged to write at home, through homework topics, and will enjoy working together with other family members on these. Class teachers will always be happy to provide information about what is being covered in writing each term and suggest opportunities where parents may wish to join in with their child’s writing at home.
We believe that having the opportunity to plan and complete an extended and largely unaided piece of writing is very important for the children’s development as writers. In view of this, children will take part in a Big Write session; this will be once each week in KS1 and once per fortnight in KS2. The Big Write incorporates the reinforcement of the use of basic sentence structure: vocabulary, conjunctions, openers and punctuation through games and fun activities before leading on to a sustained period of writing. This lasts for around 30 minutes in year one, increasing to 45 minutes by the end of year 2.
Handwriting is a central part of the 2014 literacy curriculum. Even in this technological, computer-literate age, good handwriting remains fundamental to our children's educational achievement. We have now introduced the Penpals handwriting scheme which ensures that appropriate early experiences of handwriting are offered before formal teaching begins. It then offers progression from 3-11 years to help teach and develop fast, fluent and legible handwriting.
Penpals is taught discretely twice a week throughout the school. Five stages from the basic organisational structure of Penpals:
- Physical preparation for handwriting: gross and fine motor skills leading to mark making, patterns and letter formation (Foundation 3-5 years).
- Securing correct letter formation (Key Stage 1, 5-6 years).
- Beginning to join along with a focus on relative size spacing (Key Stage 1, 6-7 years).
- Securing the joins along with a focus on break letters, legibility, consistency and quality (Lower ket Stage 2, 7-9 years).
- Practising speed, fluency and developing a personalised style for different purposes ( Upper Key Stage 2, 9-11 years).
During a Penpals session children take part in a 'gym' where they warm up their muscles and practice coordination. the class then complete skywriting linked to the letter, or joins, they are looking at. They will then look at models of good handwriting. Finally they practise the joins or letters in their handwriting book using loops, patterns, words and silly sentences.
At Monkshouse Primary School we follow the 'Letters and Sounds' programme in reception and Year 1. Once a child is secure at applying blending and segmenting skills and has good recognition of sounds up to Phase 5 they will then move on to the 'No Nonsense Spelling programme' which is a scheme of work which enables us to teach all of the requirements of the National Curriculum.
Children learn spellings through spelling session (4x25 minutes) where they are taught spelling patterns; given activities to reinforce these; learn strategies to spell new words or words they are 'stuck on'; apply rules and patterns within different contexts and learn about word origins.
Each year group follows a year group scheme based on progression of skills.
The spelling programme offers the opportunity for pupils to apply, practise and consolidate the spelling of their year group statutory words.
Each year group from Y1-6 has a particular set of spelling patterns and rules which they must be taught. Alongside these rules, KS1 have some exception words and KS2 have approximately a word list of 50-60 words to learn!
The children are given spelling homework to supplement/consolidate their learning in school.
We follow the Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check method to learn spellings because this has been proven to help children retain words they have learnt.
At Monkshouse School, we believe that reading is a vital skill in enabling children to access all curriculum areas. At this school we expect children to read at home five times per week; for developing readers this should be to an adult whereas confident and fluent readers may wish to read independently. However children choose to read at home, we ask that an adult signs their reading records to show this has been done. We encourage home reading through a reward system, allowing children who have read regularly at home during the term to choose an activity for one afternoon at the end of each term.
In school children read to their teacher as part of a guided reading group at least once each week. Those in need of further support in reading will receive this as part of intervention activities which may be led by either their teacher or a teaching assistant.
All children are heard read regularly at KS1 and are placed on an appropriate book-banded reading level according to their reading fluency, decoding skills and comprehension. Oxford Reading Tree and Big Cats are used to support reading in KS1. Individual reading to an adult also takes place at KS2 although this is progressively supplanted by personal unsupported reading, as the child progresses.
In Key Stage 2 children are introduced to the Accelerated Reading programme. This is a very exciting online programme that allows children to choose and read a book that is appropriate to their level and then take an online quiz. The results of these quizzes are monitored by their teacher, which enables very effective reading assessment. At the beginning of Key Stage 2 children take an online assessment which gives them a book level to read from. They may then choose books at this level as independent reading books. Accelerated Reading levels also correspond to the colour coded books that children are used to in Key Stage 1, thereby allowing an easy transition from one Key Stage to the other.
We believe that free access to books of all kinds is important in the development of the child’s interest in, and appreciation of, reading. To this end, all classrooms have reading areas, and also book displays and collections related to on-going topic work. In addition to this, children are encouraged to use the library, not just for research but also to choose books to read for pleasure.
We value the involvement of parents highly and most especially in hearing our children read. Whether this is done at home or with the help of parents working with children in school, we actively encourage parents and other family members to be involved in the child’s reading development. Each Tuesday morning parents are invited in, before registration, to hear their child read and enjoy a book together.
Useful websites for family reading
A Story For Bedtime www.astoryforbedtime.com
BBC Parenting website www.bbc.co.uk/parenting
The Child Literacy Centre www.childliteracy.com
DfES Parents Centre www.parentscentre.gov.uk
Help them read www.helpthemread.co.uk
Parent Link www.parentlink.co.uk
Read Together www.readtogether.co.uk
Silly Books www.sillybooks.net
Try some of these sites to complete some Literacy activities!
Finding and Choosing Recommended Books for your Child