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ENGLISH AT DOWNSHALL KEY STAGE 1 AND 2

The resources and teaching strategies used have been selected because they are aligned with the National Curriculum, are evidence-based and meet the needs of our school community.

Reading

At Downshall, we value reading as a key life skill and are committed to ensuring our children become lifelong readers. To support that aims, we are now part of the East London Reading for Pleasure Initative.

Reading is planned to align with the KS1 and KS2 National Curriculum. In order to deliver the curriculum effectively, the school uses the following core resources:

  • Read, Write Inc. (RWI) Phonics
  • Power of Reading

Teaching phonics effectively so that our pupils learn to read quickly is central to our KS1 curriculum. It is a strength of the school.

Once efficient decoding skills have been established, reading is taught through whole class quality texts in English and across the curriculum.

By the time our children leave they will:

  • Read with confidence, fluency and understanding, using a range of independent strategies to self-monitor and correct;
  • Have developed a love of reading and a desire to read for enjoyment;
  • Have a wide vocabulary so they can express themselves with clarity;
  • Use a range of strategies to use support their comprehension of a variety of texts;
  • Be ready to read in any subject during the next stage of their education.

Phonics

At Downshall, we use the systematic, synthetic phonics programme 'Read Write Inc.'. The programme is used from Nursery onwards, and throughout Key Stage One. Pupils in Year 2, may complete the programme and begin the study of longer texts by well-regarded authors. Some pupils in Year 3 and 4 will continue to be taught phonics through RWI. The scheme is also used when necessary, to support the initial phase of learning to read for children who are new to English in Upper Key Stage Two. Parents can access the RWI books free of charge through Oxford Owl. Ask Ms O’Connor (Year 1) for further information.

Through daily RWI lessons the pupils learn to:

  • Decode letter-sound correspondences effortlessly
  • Read common exception words on sight
  • Write the sounds they hear
  • Understand what they read 
  • Read aloud with fluency and expression

Children who have completed the programme will be able to decode texts effortlessly and will then be able to focus their efforts on comprehension. In short, the focus moves from 'learning to read' to 'reading to learn'.

During the time pupils are being taught to read through the phonics' programme, they will have a wide range of stories read to them and also have access to a good selection of books in their class book corner to read independently.

Further information can be found at: www.ruthmiskin.com/en/ 

Non-Fiction Core Texts

A quality non-fiction text has been chosen for each half-termly project in Key Stages 1 and 2. The foundation curriculum (history, geography, science, art and DT) is taught through these projects throughout the school. These texts are key in developing pupils' subject knowledge as well as improving their reading skills. Each class will have a box of topic-related books on loan from Redbridge Library Service delivered termly.

Reading for pleasure

Reading for pleasure is a vital part of every child's educational entitlement. Developing a love of reading has significant benefits for children as it contributes to their educational achievement accross the curriculum, as well as providing a lifetime of enjoyment. Throughout the school, pupils are read to regularly by their teachers. We ensure that, over time, our pupils are exposed to a wide range of writers from diverse background. Each class will have a box of fiction books on loan from Redbridge Library Services each term to ensure its book corner is well-stocked with quality and appealing texts for pupils to read independently. The school has recently acquired a mobile library bus which is now full of carefully chosen books which reflect our pupil’s interests.

Power of Reading (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education)

In Key Stage Two, Power of Reading ‘core texts’ are used to teach reading for meaning. This approach uses high quality texts with depth and interest in story character, illustration, vocabulary, structure and subject matter. There are frequent opportunities for reading aloud and re-reading to build fluency. A book is studied in depth over the course of a half term and will, typically, provide the stimulus for meaningful writing tasks.

The texts are selected with care to ensure we help build the pupil’s cultural capital and give them the opportunity to read books written by a diverse range of authors. Where possible, books are chosen that link to and enhance the wider curriculum. (The current selection of texts is listed on the website)

Further information can be found at: clpe.org.uk/books/power-of0reading/about

Comprehension strategies

In Key Stage Two, comprehension is taught explicitly through regular comprehension lessons. The key skills are explicitly taught modelled so that pupils are able to approach reading for both instructional purposes and pleasure is a skilled and confident way.

Strategies are:

  • Intentional mental actions during reading that improve comprehension
  • Deliberate efforts by a reader to better understand and remember what is being read

Strategies taught include:

  • Skimming and scanning
  • Visualising
  • Re-reading to clarify meaning
  • Systematically using context and morphology to work out the meanings of unfamiliar words and phrases
  • Summarising predicting
  • Moving beyond the literal: inference
  • Using background knowledge actively and mindfully

The above strategies are taught through teacher modelling and practised regularly in English and project lessons.

Vocabulary

Teaching high value words effectively improves comprehension, as does the teaching of morphology (the meanings of the roots and combining forms, suffixes, and prefixes). As pupils’ build up knowledge of word meanings, they will also improve their ability to express their ideas and opinions with precision and clarity.

We teach vocabulary explicitly and frequently to help the pupils build and constantly extend their personal lexicons. Typically, in KS2, teachers will carefully select 5-10 high utility and value words to teach explicitly throughout the week. These are then revised periodically. Dictionary skills are taught as part of vocabulary provision.

Speaking and listening

The development of excellent speaking and listening skills is fundamental to the achievement of our pupils All aspects of the English curriculum provide frequent opportunities to hone these skills. Teachers ensure there are plentiful opportunities for purposeful paired talk and class discussion, for example, and act as role models through the way in which they use language. English plans highlighted activities which are rick in opportunities for enhancing these fundamental skills.

Grammar and Punctuation

Grammar and punctuation are taught through reading and writing activities and also during discrete sessions, usually twice a week. Key content by year group is listed on the website.

Spelling

Spelling is taught initially as part of the RWI phonics’ programme. Once this is completed, pupils are taught systematically through the related ‘Get Spelling’ programme. This interactive programme reflects the complexity of our sound-based spelling system and also supports the acquisition of a wide vocabulary.

Further information can be found at: www.ruthmiskin.com/en/programmes/spelling/

Handwriting

During Early Years, our pupils acquire the pre-requisite skills to enable them to develop fluent, joined handwriting. In year 2, pupils learn to write using continuous cursive style; see below. Prior to this, letter formation is taught alongside phonics as part of the RWI programme. Regular practise continues until Year 6 when most pupils have developed a speedy and efficient handwriting style.  

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Writing

Writing effectively is a complex task and pupils are guided through the process in carefully planned steps so that by time they leave the school they can write confidently and independently for a range of purposes. For example, stories, letters, poems and factual accounts. There are frequent opportunities throughout the school day and across the curriculum for pupils to apply and develop their writing skills. As pupils mature they will be increasingly expected to draft, redraft and refine their writing until it is ready to be ‘published’ in best.

The writing process

Following a series of immersion activities which might include teacher modelling, role play and text analysis, the following steps will typically be followed:

  • Bare Bones (the basic structure) are introduced-these are generated with or by the teacher depending on the age of the pupils;
  • Pupils add further detail to the ‘bare bones’ (fleshing out the writing) which is the draft written piece;
  • Pupils are given opportunities to correct writing for grammar, punctuation, quality of language, spelling, etc;
  • The piece is written up in the pupil’s best handwriting.
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