English is a core subject at Vale School. It is broken into three areas: Reading, writing and speaking & listening.
English is taught in mixed ability classes using curriculum themes or core texts as a stimulus for the curriculum. We aim to improve all children’s knowledge of vocabulary, enabling them to become word-rich. Therefore, we have a strong focus on identifying, teaching and assessing children’s acquisition of new vocabulary.
We use the Read Write Inc. resource to teach phonics and spelling. Alongside this, we use a structured reading scheme that allows the children to take the time they need to practise their key sounds and words.
To encourage pupils to read a wide range of genres and authors, we provide them and their parents with suggested reading lists: 50 books for Early Years, 100 books for KS1, Lower KS2 and Upper KS2. This ensures pupils do not get stuck reading one author. It also ensures they are challenged to read classics and other genres they would not normally choose.
Class texts are selected to further extend children’s reading skills, comprehension and vocabulary acquisition. Teaching reading as a whole class activity also ensures all pupils (whatever starting point) access good quality texts.
Reading is a very important life skill and we want all children at Vale School to enjoy books and reading.
Children are encouraged from the very beginning of Early Years to take a book home to look at and share with an adult, even before they are able to read for themselves. Alongside this sharing of stories, we teach a synthetic phonics program developed by Ruth Miskin called Read Write Inc.
The children begin to learn the initial sounds in Early Years, and as soon as they have mastered them, blend these sounds to make words. They continue through Year 1 and sometimes Year 2, coming off the programme as soon as they are ready. The children are taught as a class by the teacher and teaching assistants and are assessed every 6 weeks to ensure they are making progress in their reading.
When a child has completed the Read Write Inc phonics programme and has moved away from the structured reading scheme, they can read ‘chapter books’ of their choice with guidance from parents, teachers and teaching assistants.
Alongside phonics in Year 1 and throughout the rest of the school, our main tool for teaching reading is as a whole class. We use class texts that are challenging (often linked to the theme being studied) to introduce children to new vocabulary and a wide range of authors. We also recommend specific books for children to read to ensure they read a wide range of genres. We recommend 50 books for Early Years, 100 books for KS1, 100 books for Lower KS2 (Years 3 & 4) and a further 100 books for Upper KS2 (Years 5 & 6). These recommendations are a range of texts that children can enjoy whatever their reading ability.
We want all children to have access to high quality reading experiences both in school and at home. This can be reading with an adult, in a small group, or as a whole class. Reading aloud, either to a parent or to the class, is an extremely valuable activity and helps develop understanding of the text and characters as well as different forms of writing. By hearing the use of expression and intonation, pupils can link this to the writing learning of how to use punctuation effectively. As a school, we value the discussions around texts as well, which help to develop the skills of prediction and empathy.
Classroom adult volunteers
We are very grateful to the parents, grandparents and local residents who give their time to listen to children read at school. If you are able to give some time to help, please speak to your child’s class teacher.
Home school reading diaries
All pupils will be given a home/school reading diary so that parents and later, children can record what they have read at home. In school, teachers, teaching assistants and parent helpers will record in the diary as well.
To make good progress in this most important skill, children need to be reading regularly. Every day is best, but we do ask that every child reads with a parent at home at least 5 times a week and that this is recorded in their diary. This can be sharing a book with a child alongside hearing them read aloud.
How to help your child
Follow this link to find more information about how you can help your child become a confident reader
Our aim is to capture the children’s interest, enthrall them with the power of the written word and to inspire them to become creative, imaginative writers. We do this by making clear links between reading and writing, introducing vocabulary-rich texts and modelling how to write in different styles. By emulating different styles and experimenting with differing genres, by the end of Key Stage 2, we encourage the children to develop their own style and voice.
Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling
Full coverage of the National Curriculum is woven into our curriculum. We introduce the children to grammatical terms from a young age and have developed consistent terminology which teachers use in lessons throughout the school. We would encourage parents to reinforce this at home.
Noun - a person, place or thing
Verb - is doing, being or having
|Adjective - describes a noun||Adverb - describes a verb|
|Pronoun - replaces a noun||Conjunction - joins words|
|Proper Noun - name of the noun|
To enable children to use the correct grammar and punctuation in their writing, we teach it discretely as well as embed it into the flow of lessons to encourage the children to use it in their own writing.
Writing for a purpose
Writing is taught across all the subjects of the curriculum. Many of the foundation subjects are taught through one of our themes, and each theme has a strong emphasis on English.
All our writing fits into one of the 4 purposes for writing, taken from Michael Tidd’s work.
In Early Years, the focus is on reading words and spelling high frequency words. Some words are phonetically decodable (e.g. splash) whilst other are not (e.g. was). These non-phonetic words are called Red Words at school to help children recognise that they have to learn these ones in a different way.
When children begin to write we do celebrate phonetically plausible attempts to spell a word. Over time the children are encouraged to learn which pattern they should use for each word. In KS1, children follow our spelling programme, learning groups of spellings each week. In KS2 children are taught using the Oxford Owl Spelling program which builds on the work from our phonics programme.
For more information about how you can help your child become a proficient speller, follow this link
The skill of handwriting needs to be taught and a consistent approach to the teaching of handwriting needs to be established.
- To have a consistent cursive approach across the school to ensure high levels of presentation.
- To adopt a common approach towards handwriting by all adults when writing in books, on the whiteboard, on displays and resources.
- To enable children to achieve a neat, legible style with correctly formed letters in cursive handwriting.
- To enable children to develop fluency and speed whilst writing
The continuous cursive script
As recommended by the British Dyslexia Association, we adopt a continuous cursive style of writing. Its most important feature is that each letter is formed without taking the pencil off the paper. Consequently, each word is formed in one flowing movement.
The key advantages of this script:
- By making each letter in one movement, children’s hands develop a ‘physical memory’ of it, making it easier to produce the correct shape
- The starting and finishing points for all Continuous Cursive letters are easier to remember (they all start on the line and, other than a few exceptions, all finish on the line)
- As letters and words flow from left to right, children are less likely to reverse letters which are typically difficult (ie b/d, p/q)
- There is a clear distinction between capital letters and lower case
- The transition to joined writing is simple and occurs sooner, allowing children to concentrate on the composition of the writing, rather than thinking how to form the letters
- Words written in one set of movements, without the pen being taken off the paper, helps the motor memory store spellings
- The continuous flow of writing ultimately improves speed and spelling
Effective teaching of handwriting can only be achieved through modelling. Teachers must demonstrate letter formation and joins regularly and children must practice by carefully copying and repeating. During discrete handwriting, it is important to observe children writing to ensure they are forming letters correctly.
Our agreed continuous cursive script
Patter to assist letter formation
We use the patter from our phonics scheme, Read Write Inc, with the additional lead out strokes.
Maisie Mountain mountain out
Down the laces to the heel, round the toe and out
Round the apple down the leaf out
Round the flower, down the stem, loop out and across the leaves
Slither down the snake out
Cut off the top, scoop out the egg and out
Down the tower out and across
Down the long leg and out
Round his bottom, up his tall neck, down to his feet and out
Down the head to the hooves over his back and out
Down the body, out and dot the head
Down his back, over his arm and out
Down Nobby, over his net and out
Down his body, loop out and dot his head
Down the plait, up and around the pirate's face and out
Down a wing, up a wing and out
Round her face, down her hair and loop out
Down a horn, up a horn, under his head and loop out
All around the orange out
Down up down up and out
Curl around the caterpillar
Zig zag zig and out
Down the kangaroo's body, round his tail, down his leg and out
Down the arm and leg, off, up the leg to the arm and out
Down and under, up to the top, down and out
Round her head, up to the top, down her hair and out
Teacher Letters in Groups
When teaching handwriting discretely i.e. in class handwriting sessions, we teach letters which are formed with a similar movement together e.g.
As well as the remaining letters - v,w,x, z
Continuous cursive script
We will teach children the dynamic tripod grasp detailed in the picture below.
This should be reinforced at the start of every formal writing session in EYFS and KS1 and handwriting lessons in KS2. In KS1 other grips should be corrected. A close eye needs to be kept on children developing an awkward grip and a plan put into place. Although the basic tripod grasp is often considered to be the only ‘correct’ way to hold the writing instrument, there are a number of alternative grips which also work well. If a child has established a grip that he or she finds reasonably comfortable for long periods, it often causes more problems than it solves to insist that he/she change it.
Delivering National Curriculum expectations
EYFS: Good handwriting relies on hand eye coordination and secure motor control. Therefore during the Foundation Stage, we will provide lots of opportunities for the children to develop physical control through large scale movements, manipulative skills and fine motor control.
Year 1: Pupils should be taught to:
- Sit correctly at a table, holding a pencil comfortably and correctly
- Begin to form lower case letters in the correct position, starting and finishing in the right place
- Form capital letters
- Form digits 0-9
Year 2: Pupils should be taught to:
- Form lower case letters of the correct size relative to one another
- Start using some of the diagonal and horizontal strokes needed to join letters and understand which letters, when adjacent to one another, are best left unjoined
- Write capital letters and digits of the correct size, orientation and relationship to one another and to lower case letters
- Use spacing between words that reflects the size of the letters
Year 3 and 4: Pupils should be taught to:
- Use the diagonal and horizontal strokes that are needed to join letters and understand which letters, when adjacent to one another, are best left unjoined
- Increase the legibility, consistency and quality of their handwriting
Years 5 and 6: Pupils should be taught to:
Write legibly, fluently and with increasing speed
In the Autumn term, letter formation is taught as part of Read Write Inc and in the order prescribed by the programme. As soon as Sound Set One has been taught, additional handwriting sessions are then introduced. Children will focus on the pre-cursive script.
KS1 (Years 1 and 2)
Year 1: Handwriting is taught discretely up to 4 times a week for 20 minutes.
Year 2: Handwriting is taught discretely, 3 times a week for 15-20 minutes.
Our aim is to make the transition into continuous cursive during years 1 and 2 depending on the ability of the children.
Lower KS2 (Years 3 and 4)
Year 3: Handwriting is taught discretely at least once a week for 30-40 minutes. Letters are taught in their isolated groups first, then prefix and suffix patterns from RWI Spelling become the focus.
Year 4: Handwriting is taught discretely once a week.
Upper KS2 (Years 5 and 6)
Year 5: Handwriting is taught discretely once a week.
Year 6: We emphasise the importance of neat, joined handwriting and presentation, but do not teach it discretely to the whole class. Individuals have handwriting intervention in small groups.
All children will write with a pen.
Posture, paper and position
Posture should be taught explicitly and children reminded at the start of every formal writing session until it becomes habitual. Children should sit with the upper body reasonably upright and squarely facing the writing surface, with feet on the floor and the non-writing hand supporting the work. Right-handers should rotate the surface slightly to the left. Avoid allowing pupils to rotate the paper further and further until the lines are virtually vertical, as this can become a habit difficult to break. Left-handers should either sit next to each other or on the left of a right hander so that elbows do not clash. Left-handers should rotate the writing surface slightly to the right.
Induction for new staff and pupils
New teachers and teaching assistants should be given a copy of the handwriting policy and some training if necessary. The year leader will be responsible for monitoring that new staff are following the policy. The senior leadership team will monitor new staff during the monitoring process of lesson observations and work scrutinies. New children in EYFS, KS1 and Year 3 will be taught to use the continuous cursive style. In Years 4, 5 and 6 new children may use a different but equally acceptable style of cursive handwriting and that is fine. Those whose handwriting is not functional when they arrive will be taught using our continuous cursive style.
Support for learning
Children experiencing difficulties with their handwriting will be brought to the attention of the year leaders and a programme of intervention will be set up as appropriate.
Parents are provided with a list of ideas to support children at different stages of handwriting e.g. pre-writing activities, a copy of the letter formation and patter.
We will provide our main pre-school feeder providers with a copy of our handwriting script and patter, however children should not be pressurised to write when they are not ready to do so.
Assessment, monitoring and moderation
Children in EYFS are assessed on an ongoing basis through observation and handwriting forms part of this. Within Key Stage One and Key Stage Two, handwriting is monitored during work scrutinies and is assessed as part of the children’s writing assessments.
Speaking and listening
When we speak in a public setting (in front of the class, in assembly, to parents) we remember SHAPE:
S = Speak in full sentences
H = Use your Hands well to express yourself
A = Articulate
P = Project your voice
E = Give Eye contact to your audience
Some children do have difficulties with their speech. We work closely with parents/carers and Speech and Language Therapists to provide specific programms to help children master this important skill.