English is at the heart of our learning and teaching and essential to every area of the curriculum. It is through English that concepts are formed and we are able to make sense of the world and our place in it. Children are taught to read in a variety of ways.
In the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1, children read individually and in groups; they are also given regular opportunities to share a book with others. Teachers read a variety of written material regularly with the children: fiction and non-fiction, stories, reports, diaries, poems etc. We place a strong emphasis on phonics (letter sounds) in the early years of learning to read because we believe this lays the foundations for successful reading. We use ‘Bug Club’ reading scheme for KS1 guided reading and home-school reading system which requests that parents read with their children each day. Children need parents/carers to be reading role models, so we would strongly encourage daily reading at home beyond Key Stage 1.
In Key Stage 2, children are explicitly taught the skills of reading through the use of VIPERS. During a typical session, the teacher will share the reading skill that the children will be focusing on for that session. Each session begins by looking at key vocabulary words they want the children to learn that week. These will be taught, over learnt and embedded throughout the rest of the week during VIPER sessions and across the wider school day to allow for children to use these words in different contexts. During these sessions, teachers cover fiction, non-fiction, poetry, songs, picture books and short films, to ensure children get access to a wide range of texts. Children read during these sessions in a variety of different ways: they may hear the teacher model fluent reading and then have time to reread the same extract themselves, they may read individually and feedback, work in groups, take turns in pairs or read aloud to the their peers. You may see a number of these different strategies during one session. In addition to these daily VIPER sessions, each Key Stage 2 class has a class text that they listen to and read for 15 minutes each day.
To develop writing at St Joseph’s, we use a topic approach. This is an immersive approach to teaching English, allowing for connections to be made to other areas of the curriculum. Each year group uses topic related books that not only act as class novels, but are also used by the class teacher to underpin the teaching of English.
At St Joseph’s we follow Letters and Sounds as our prime means of teaching children in the early stages of reading and writing. The strategy combines songs and actions as a way for children learning all 44 phonemes (smallest unit of sound). Phonemes can be made of 1/2/3 letters. For example: a, ay, igh. High frequency words are also taught by sight and cannot be sounded out.
The teaching of phonics begins in Nursery, where environmental sounds are introduced, then in Reception sounds are introduced at a rate of one a day throughout the autumn and spring term. Sounds are consolidated in the summer term. This knowledge is built upon in Year 1; more complex sounds are introduced and reinforced throughout Year 2.
During the summer term in Year 1, children nationwide are tested on their phonic knowledge. This test helps us to identify children who have gaps in their phonic knowledge and may need support in Year 2 to develop reading and writing skills. Parents are informed as to whether their child has achieved the national expectation within the child’s end-of-year report. Additional tuition in phonics will be given to those children who did not achieve a pass during Year 2 and they will be tested again in the summer term.
We follow the ‘Penpals for Handwriting’ scheme at St Joseph’s. We aim for our pupils to develop a neat, legible, speedy handwriting style using continuous cursive letters that leads to producing letters and words automatically in independent writing. We encourage fine motor skill activities in EYFS to develop muscles used for writing.
By the end of Year 6, pupils will understand the importance of neat presentation and the need for different letterforms (cursive, printed or capital letters) to help communicate meaning clearly.
Phonics is primarily used as the building blocks in EYFS and year 1, whilst using high frequency words to support writing. In years 2-6 the school follow the ‘No Nonsense Spelling’ scheme. No Nonsense spelling provides pathways for the teaching of spelling from Yr2 to Yr6.