At St. Michael’s C of E Primary School we believe that being able to read and write are the vital skills that enable us to understand and express ourselves more effectively.
These skills open the door to learning. We passionately believe in helping children to develop not only the technical skills of reading and writing, but also in engendering a love for literature and the different genres of writing.
The study of English develops children’s ability to listen, speak, read and write for a wide range of purposes, including the communication of their ideas, views and feelings. 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. Children develop procedural and semantic knowledge, providing a deeper, more sustainable understanding of the English curriculum content where children are able to make connections to other subjects and developing their cultural capital.
At St. Michael’s, we believe that learning is a change in long term memory. We believe children learn best by having opportunities to revisit previous learning. We teach English, including phonics, grammar, reading and grammar every day so that the children can fully immerse themselves and have opportunities to reflect and build on prior learning.
It is our intention when teaching the English curriculum that our pupils acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding to become lifelong learners and linguists. We strive to ensure that all our pupils receive a well-rounded learning experience when reading, writing, speaking and listening, which will equip them with the fundamental tools to achieve, throughout their learning journey at St. Michael’s Primary School. It is our intention to immerse pupils in the wonders of high-quality texts to instill a love for reading, a passion for discovery and a confidence to explore their imagination.
- Our aim is to ensure that every child becomes a reader, a writer and confident speaker by the time they leave St. Michael’s Primary School.
- To promote and instill a love for reading, writing and high-quality literature into pupils at all ages.
- To derive an English curriculum, which develops the acquisition of knowledge and skills in line with the National Curriculum expectations and provides opportunities for children to develop their cultural capital of the world.
Our English curriculum design is based on principles derived from evidence through cognitive science:
- Learning is most effective with spaced repetition.
- Retrieval of previously learnt content is frequent and regular, which increases both storage and retrieval strength.
In addition to the principles, we also understand that learning is invisible in the short term and that sustained mastery takes time.
Our English curriculum is derived around high quality content that aims to develop children’s’ cultural capital and curiosity of the world. We use books, texts and videos to create opportunities to develop reading fluency and comprehension with a focus on key reading strategies and skills; develop grammar and punctuation knowledge, and understanding to use and apply across the wider curriculum; explore the writing structure and features of different genres, identify the purpose and audience; plan and write an extended piece of writing with a clear context and purpose before evaluating the effectiveness of writing by editing and redrafting.
All of our teaching and support staff have been trained in the systematic- synthetic phonics programme ‘Sounds-Write’. Our teaching of reading and writing within the school is, therefore, based on the main principles of the Sounds-Write programme. This begins very early on when children join in EYFS and continues throughout the entire school until a child is a confident and competent reader and speller. Sounds-Write is used around the world and has been graded as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.
The knowledge of sounds and symbols is an important starting point for understanding and using written language and we believe that a strong and consistent approach to the teaching of phonics (through a fidelty to one system) is vital for our children to begin to access the rest of the curriculum.
How it Works
Sounds-Write is effective in teaching pupils to read, spell and write because it starts from what all children know from a very early age – the sounds of their own language. From there, it takes them in carefully sequenced, incremental steps and teaches them how each of the 44 or so sounds in the English language can be spelt.
The words used in the teaching process and the conceptual knowledge of how the alphabet code works are introduced from simple to complex, in accordance with the fundamental principles of psychological learning theory. For example, at the start, simple, mutually implied (one sound, one spelling) CVC words (consonant, vowel, consonant) only are introduced. Pupils quickly learn to read and spell words such as ‘mum’, ‘dog’, ‘jam’ and ‘sit’.
When all the single-letter sound-spelling correspondences have been introduced and established, Sounds-Write initiates the concept that the sounds ‘<f>’, ‘<l>’, ‘<s>’ and ‘<z>’ can be spelt with the two letter-spellings ‘<ff>’, ‘<ll>’, ‘<ss>’ and ‘<zz>’, respectively. As the programme progresses, the complexity of one-syllable words is carefully increased through a variety of VCC, CVCC, CCVC, CCVCC and CCCVC words, such as, for example, ‘elf’, ‘hand’, ‘swim’, ‘trust’ and ‘scrub’.
After this, pupils’ understanding of the concept ‘two letters – one sound’ is further developed through the introduction of the most common consonant two-letter spellings: ‘<sh>’, ‘<ch>’ and ‘<th>’, in words like ‘shop’, ‘chimp’ and ‘thin’, for example.
Finally, two, three and four letter spellings of the vowels are introduced and pupils are taught how to read and spell polysyllabic words, starting with simpler words (such as ‘bedbug’) and gradually moving to the more complex (such as ‘mathematical’).
All of this is taught within a well-structured, incremental and coherent framework based on the knowledge – both conceptual and factual (see below) – on which the alphabet principle and thus the writing system is based and the three key skills needed to enable learners to use the principle effectively.
There are two codes used in sounds-write. The initial code and the extended code.
Our approach teaches the conceptual understanding needed to become an effective reader:
- that letters are spellings of sounds: visual language is a representation of spoken language
- that a spelling can contain one, two, three, or four letters – examples are: s a t, f i sh, n igh t and w eigh t
- that there is more than one way of spelling most sounds: the sound ‘ae’, spelt as <a-e>
- in ‘name’, can be represented as <a> in ‘table’, <ai> in ‘rain’, <eigh> in ‘eight’, <ay> in play’, and so on
- that many spellings can represent more than one sound: <ea> can be the sound ‘e’ in ‘head’, ‘a-e’ in ‘break’, or ‘ee’ in ‘seat’
Within this conceptual framework, we teach the factual knowledge required to become an effective reader and speller: the approximately 176 spellings that represent the 44 or so sounds in English, starting with the simplest one-to-one correspondences.
The children are taught to decode and encode by understanding 4 clear concepts:
- letters are symbols that represent sounds that they say
- sounds can be spelt using 1,2,3 or 4 letters – f, oa, air, eigh
- the same sound can be spelt in different ways – bone, coat, toe, window, shoulder
- the same spelling can represent different sounds – bread, eat, great
Sounds-Write provides opportunities for practising these skills on an everyday basis until pupils achieve the automaticity required for fluent reading and spelling.
All adults in school use the same consistent, concise language about sounds and spelling when teaching. We say that the letters spell sounds, they do not say sounds. We use phrases such as:
- In this word…
- If this was…. this would be a…
- This can spell …. What else can it spell?
- Say the sounds and read the word.
Please see our separate Sounds-Write guide for parents of children in reception.
All children are taught Sounds-Write in basic skills lessons, five sessions per week. Each child in each year group are kept together and are taught the same sound and/or spelling, according to the unit sequence of the ‘Sounds-Write’ programme. Children in Key Stage Two – who have completed the extended code – recap the focus sounds and spellings of the extended code whilst developing the skills to read, write and spell more complex polysyllabic words. Also, all children are encouraged to apply their Sounds-Write knowledge to their creative topic writing. Basic skills lesson are also focused on grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and developing comprehension skills.
Here is the structure of phonics/basic skills lessons in each of our classes:
- EYFS – 30 minutes phonics
- Year 1 – 3o/40 minutes phonics
- Year 2 – 30 minutes polysyllabic words/ 15 minutes basic skills
- KS2 – 15 minutes polysyllabic words/ 30 minutes basic skills
Monitoring and Assessment
- Ongoing assessment daily (same day intervention to be given where necessary)
- Children who require further support are given a diagnostic test to assess their current knowledge and skills such as; segmenting, blending, sound deletion, alphabet code and non-word reading
- Their phonic knowledge is assessed 3 times a year.
- Y1 children complete the phonics screening test in the Summer Term.
- An action plan is put into place for children who have not achieved the required standard in the test.
- These children are re-tested the following summer.
- Class observations by Senior Leadership Team
- Spot check assessments.
If you have any queries or questions about the Sounds-Write programme please do not hesitate to contact a member of staff at the school.
Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling (GPS)
At St. Michael’s, we work explicitly on grammar, punctuation and spelling to ensure that these technical elements of writing develop as the children progress through the school, whilst always focusing on the quality and content of the children’s writing. We teach between 15-30 minutes Basic Skills lesson every day to teach, develop and deepen the children’s skills and concepts relating to GPS.
At St Michael’s, we recognise that developing word reading (decoding) and comprehension skills are essential to success and we support the acquisition of both sets of skills through various methods. We recognise that these areas are clearly linked to the other aspects of English learning: speaking and listening, writing, grammar and vocabulary. We also understand that reading is a developmental process and part of life-long learning and we encourage and praise children at every stage of it. High quality texts are at the heart of the curriculum. In every class, we have dedicated, timetabled daily sessions for story time. Have specific shard reading sessions where children have the opportunity to be exposed to more complex texts to help develop comprehension skills. We also have specific comprehension sessions to develop specific strands and areas of comprehension.
Our classrooms are full of visual stimulus to help children begin to read and write. Children take part in individual, small group and whole class sessions, led by an adult.
Comprehension is taught through a whole-class skills approach. Children are taught discrete skills over a period of time which allows them to answer a variety of questions i.e. inference, summary and word meaning. This is completed a minimum of twice per week during English and Basic Skills sessions. Additionally, in EYFS and KS1 all children are listened to reading twice a week, by an adult. There are timetabled, daily sessions in all classes where stories are shared with the children.
These sessions inevitably focus on the decoding of the words while children are learning to read and the children’s understanding of the texts they are reading. We aim to develop the skills of retrieval, inference and deduction, sequencing, vocabulary and prediction.
Higher level texts/books are also read to the whole class by the teacher on a daily basis to promote the love of reading whilst developing the vocabulary and rich language of the children. This enables the children to listen and really understand the meaning of the texts. It is also an important opportunity for children to share their thoughts and ideas and to learn from one another.
Our home reading books incorporate decodable books from the Sounds-Write and Dandelion Readers schemes. Children are given a book that is focused on the sound/ spelling they are learning in class. They are encouraged to read at home on a daily basis and to discuss what they are reading, ensuring that they have a very good understanding of the meaning as well as being able to decode the words. Parents are also encouraged to read ‘higher-level’ books to their children to develop their comprehension and provide experience to unfamiliar words to support future learning. Once a child becomes a confident decoder they are given a ‘free reader’ appropriate to their reading age. For those children who have gaps in learning, they are given a second book to help plug the gap whilst enocouraging a ‘mastery for all’ approach to reading.
We also encourage our families to make the most of the many ‘real’ reading opportunities in the home and to understand that reading a recipe or the back of a cereal packet is as much of an opportunity to develop reading skills as reading the book provided by school.
Reading is also developed and encouraged through using texts in other curriculum areas. Our cross-curricular creative approach to learning means that the children will be required to read and use what they have learnt in curriculum areas such as science, history and geography.
Using tests and Teacher Assessments we track all children’s progress in reading. Children not on-track to achieve the ‘expected’ level for their age are quickly identified. These children may begin to read every day for a short time with an adult in school or they may be placed on our ‘Better Reading Partnership’ intervention.
If you are looking for books to buy for your children here are some ideas.
We aim to develop children’s ability to produce well-structured, detailed writing. The purpose and audience of the writing is shared with the children and they are provided with sufficient time to plan, write and improve their work. Particular attention is paid throughout the school to the formal structures of English: grammatical detail, punctuation and spelling. Every two weeks, the children will produce at least one extended piece of writing.
We strive to ensure that our children’s attainment is in line, or exceeds, their potential when we consider the varied starting points of all our children. We measure this using a range of materials, whilst always considering the age-related expectations for each year group. Children will make at least good progress in Reading, Writing and Speaking and Listening from their last point of statutory assessment, or from their starting point in Nursery. We intend the impact of our English curriculum will ensure our pupils are academically prepared for life beyond primary school and throughout their educational journey.