English at St Matthew’s
Our Literacy curriculum aims to promote high standards in language and literacy, both spoken and written so that children develop a love of reading and writing. The literacy skills developed provide access to the broad curriculum and form an essential foundation to learning.
Phonics (reading and spelling)
At St Matthew’s, we believe that all our children can become fluent readers and writers. This is why we teach reading through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. We start teaching phonics in Reception and follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised progression, which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through school.
As a result, our children can tackle unfamiliar words as they read. At St Matthew’s, we also model the application of the alphabetic code through phonics in shared reading and writing, both inside and outside of the phonics lesson and across the curriculum. We have a strong focus on language development for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.
At St Matthew’s, we value reading as a key life skill. By the time children leave us, we aim for them to read confidently for meaning and regularly enjoy reading for pleasure. We ensure that our readers are equipped with the tools to tackle unfamiliar vocabulary. We encourage our children to see themselves as readers for both pleasure and purpose.
Daily phonics lessons in Reception and Year 1
- We teach phonics for 30 minutes a day. In Reception, we build from 10-minute lessons, with additional daily oral blending games, to the full-length lesson as quickly as possible. Each Friday, we review the week’s teaching to help children become fluent readers.
- Children make a strong start in Reception: teaching begins in Week 2 of the Autumn term.
- We follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised expectations of progress:
- Children in Reception are taught to read and spell words using Phase 2 and 3 GPCs (See glossary), and words with adjacent consonants (Phase 4) with fluency and accuracy.
- Children in Year 1 review Phase 3 and 4 and are taught to read and spell words using Phase 5 GPCs with fluency and accuracy.
Daily Keep-up lessons ensure every child learns to read
- Any child who needs additional practice has daily Keep-up support, taught by a fully trained adult. Keep-up lessons match the structure of class teaching, and use the same procedures, resources and mantras, but in smaller steps with more repetition, so that every child secures their learning.
- We timetable daily phonics lessons for any child in Year 2 who is not fully fluent at reading or has not passed the Phonics Screening Check. We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments to identify the gaps in their phonic knowledge and teach to these using the Keep-up resources – at pace.
Teaching reading: Reading practice sessions three times a week
- We teach children to read through reading practice sessions three times a week. These:
- are taught by a fully trained adult to small groups of approximately six children
- use books matched to the children’s secure phonic knowledge using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments and book matching grids on pages 11–20 of ‘Application of phonics to reading’
- are monitored by the class teacher, who rotates and works with each group on a regular basis.
- Each reading practice session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do not overload the children’s working memory. The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills:
- prosody: teaching children to read with understanding and expression
- comprehension: teaching children to understand the text.
- In Reception these sessions start in Week 4. Children who are not yet decoding have daily additional blending practice in small groups, so that they quickly learn to blend and can begin to read books.
- The decodable reading practice book is taken home to ensure success is shared with the family.
- Reading for pleasure books also go home for parents to share and read to children.
- We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised parents’ resources to engage our families and share information about phonics, the benefits of sharing books, how children learn to blend and other aspects of our provision, both online and through workshops.
Additional reading support for vulnerable children
- Children in Reception and Year 1 who are receiving additional phonics Keep-up sessions read their decodable practice book to an adult daily.
Ensuring consistency and pace of progress
- Every teacher in our school has been trained to teach reading, so we have the same expectations of progress. We all use the same language, routines and resources to teach children to read so that we lower children’s cognitive load.
- Weekly content grids map each element of new learning to each day, week and term for the duration of the programme.
- Lesson templates, Prompt cards and training ensure teachers all have a consistent approach and structure for each lesson.
- The Reading Leader and SLT use the Audit and Prompt cards to regularly monitor and observe teaching; they use the summative data to identify children who need additional support and gaps in learning.
Ensuring reading for pleasure
‘Reading for pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child’s success.’ (OECD 2002)
‘The will influences the skill and vice versa.’ (OECD 2010)
We value reading for pleasure highly and work hard as a school to grow our Reading for Pleasure pedagogy.
- We read to children every day. We choose these books carefully as we want children to experience a wide range of books, including books that reflect the children at St Matthew’s and our local community as well as books that open windows into other worlds and cultures.
- Every classroom has an inviting book corner that encourages a love for reading. We curate these books and talk about them to entice children to read a wide range of books.
- In Reception, children have access to the reading corner every day in their free flow time.
- Children from Reception onwards have a home reading record. The parent/carer records comments to share with the adults in school and the adults will write in this on a regular basis to ensure communication between home and school.
- As the children progress through the school, they contribute their comments to a class list of the books/authors that they have read together in school.
- The school library is made available for classes to use at protected times. Children across the school have regular opportunities to engage with a wide range of Reading for Pleasure events (book fairs, author visits and workshops, national events etc).
- Our writing curriculum is taught through quality texts, putting children’s literature at the centre – aiming to build children’s skills as critical readers, and to develop an authorial style as they experience a wide-range of significant authors and a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts.
Assessment is used to monitor progress and to identify any child needing additional support as soon as they need it.
Assessment for Learning is used:
- daily within class to identify children needing Keep-up support
- weekly in the Review lesson to assess gaps, address these immediately and secure fluency of GPCs, words and spellings.
- Summative Assessment is used:
- every six weeks to assess progress, to identify gaps in learning that need to be addressed, to identify any children needing additional support and to plan the Keep-up support that they need.
- by SLT and scrutinised through the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessment tracker, to narrow attainment gaps between different groups of children and so that any additional support for teachers can be put into place.
- Children in Year 1 sit the Phonics Screening Check. Any child not passing the check re-sits it in Year 2.
Ongoing assessment for catch-up
- Children in Year 2 are assessed through their teacher’s ongoing formative assessment as well as through the half-termly Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised summative assessments.
Reading in Year Two
Fluent readers who have passed the Year One Phonics Screening Check continue to build their reading and comprehension skills through daily guided reading sessions in a carousel model. This model ensures that pupils carry out a pre-read, read with the teacher, and post read activity. They also enjoy books through free-reading and comprehension activities. Reading for pleasure continues to be a big focus.
Our intent is that reading for pleasure and reading fluency are at the heart of our curriculum, as research shows that this has the biggest impact on early learners’ achievement now and in the future. Our research led us to the Literary Curriculum as it provides a high-quality book-based approach which immerses children immediately into an engaging and exciting literary world.
Building skills through literature aims to develop children as critical readers, as they encounter a wide range of authors, as well as a variety of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
We aim to develop pupils as lifelong writers, developing the necessary knowledge and skills through the following aims:
- Build fluent, independent, and confident writers
- Provide meaningful contexts and purposes for writing
- Immerse pupils in a range of writing genres
- Develop ability to write critically, reflectively, and imaginatively
- Develop planning, and editing skills
- Develop secure use of punctuation and grammar
- Use phonic knowledge and spelling rules to become confident spellers
- Use rich and ambitious vocabulary
- Use writing skills across the curriculum
We aim for children to write daily, in meaningful and engaging contexts whilst following the sequence of National Curriculum expectations from EYFS to the end of Key Stage One – whilst providing opportunities for depth in writing.
The Literary Curriculum uses quality texts and well-planned sequences based on a progression of skills, teaching through the text and providing purposeful learning.
Imaginative hooks are used with a thematic approach. Texts are engaging and the curriculum has innovative ideas that leads to daily writing while also supporting the development of vocabulary and reading skills. The curriculum creates strong levels of engagement, providing meaningful contexts for learning. Children speak with enthusiasm about the books and are excited about, and engaged in, their writing tasks.
The Literary curriculum provides exciting opportunities for pupils to be challenged and to deepen their knowledge and skills as writers through meaningful writing tasks.
We aim for pupils to develop a neat, cursive script by the end of Key Stage One, through progressive teaching from the beginning of EYFS, where pupils learn to write alongside their phonics instruction.
We aim for pupils to develop ability as confident, accurate spellers, applying phonic knowledge and learning which words follow rules and which do not. Spellings in EYFS and Year One are taught as part of the Little Wandle Phonics Programme and pupils move onto Spelling Seeds to meet the extra challenges of the Year Two specific spelling knowledge.
Through our broad curriculum and use of literature, children are immersed in a language-rich environment that aims to develop a wide vocabulary and grammar for speaking and listening as well as reading and writing. They are taught to explain their thoughts and ideas to others, to listen when others are speaking and to ask questions. They are given every-day opportunities to communicate with and present to others, including discussion with a talk-partner, group or whole class, as well as taking part in school assemblies and learning to speak with confidence to larger audiences.
In EYFS and Year One, children are taught handwriting explicitly using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised Programme, which follows the National Curriculum – handwriting being taught progressively alongside phonics sessions. Pre-writing sessions continue throughout with further practice where pupils struggle with letter formation. Throughout Key Stage One, pupils progressively build their handwriting skills through discrete handwriting lessons. Formation phrases are used when teaching letter formation, with consistency across year groups.
In EYFS and Year One, spellings are taught methodically as part of the Little Wandle Phonics Programmes, explicitly teaching pupils how to spell common tricky words and to spell words using their phonic knowledge. Pupils are taught to apply their knowledge of spelling across the curriculum when writing in any subject (See Little Wandle Progression overview).
In year 2, discrete spelling lessons are taught for 20 minutes every day as well as embedding spelling in each subject across the curriculum. Each week, children will be taught a spelling rule and there will be a spelling test at the end of each week (See Spelling Seeds overview).
The Literary Curriculum forms the backbone of our daily writing lessons with pupils being taught the programmes of study in the National Curriculum for each year group through inspiration provided by the quality fiction and non-fiction texts studied together in lessons (see Literary Curriculum overview). Writing is taught explicitly to develop pupils’ competencies in transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech and writing). Through focus on the explicit teaching of transcription, pupils learn to focus on effective and meaningful composition, learning to form, articulate and communicate ideas in an organised way for an audience. Through the Literary Curriculum topics, pupils are led through daily writing opportunities with purpose and context, as they learn to plan, revise, and edit their writing as they write for a variety of purposes and audiences. The texts used in the Literary Curriculum provide opportunity for enhancing pupils’ understanding and use of a varied vocabulary to enrich their writing.
Progress and impact of our Little Wandle Phonics Programme is assessed half-termly so that interventions are put in place that enable pupils to catch up and meet end of year expectations.
Impact of our Phonics Programme is measured through the high number of pupils achieving Working At in the Year One Phonics Screening Check in the Summer term.
Impact of our English curriculum is measured both formally and informally through assessment and monitoring progress made by pupils throughout each year, and progress towards end of year and end of key stage expectations – with the majority achieving very well, reaching at least expected by the end of Key Stage One; and a good number of pupils working at greater depth in reading and writing.
We monitor and note pupils’ enjoyment of and engagement in Phonics, reading and writing through learning walks, pupil discussions and questionnaires as well as observing their level of confidence, resilience and growth mindset when doing English tasks.
We can see positive impact of our English curriculum where our pupils are engaged and motivated in their learning of reading and writing, demonstrating a love of books, and reading for pleasure. Positive impact is also where pupils can talk with enthusiasm and confidence about their understanding of texts read and where they can demonstrate a varied vocabulary that has been developed through their reading and broad curriculum.
Positive impact is seen where pupils are aware of how reading and writing can be applied practically in everyday life and can also be aimed at different audiences; and where they can use their reading and writing skills across the curriculum with increasing skill and confidence.