Every day, the children at East Claydon C of E School are exposed to a rich and exciting learning environment which fully supports they journey to become confident readers and writers. From the moment they start school, we encourage all of our children to build a passion for writing, spending a lot of time with our youngest pupils on developing the ability to simply write, about anything, for as long as they would like to. While learning the practicalities of word writing through progressive phonics lessons, the children are exposed to a variety of fun and engaging texts, which helps them to understand what it is to be a writer. This helps to build confidence and avoid any early barriers they may come across during the writing process.
Alongside this, we also encourage the use of “talk before writing”, providing the children with lots of discussion opportunities before they physically begin. This includes taking part in practical activities, the use of drama and the arts and also linking school trips or visitors, which provides the children with exciting and engaging personal experiences to draw from. In KS1, this continues into more specific practical tools to develop their imaginations such as hot seating characters to interview them with grilling questions or creating freeze frames to represent key events in a story. This style of learning allows the children to truly enjoy the process of planning their own writing and visualise it before they have to sit down and record their amazing ideas.
When our children are able to confidently prepare for independent writing, they become excited to develop their own texts and we encourage them to fly. While maintaining an understanding of what is expected from our children according to the National Curriculum, we expand our lessons to include a wide selection of text types including narrative, letters, instructions, recounts, poetry, songs and much more. These often stem from our Expedition topics, which are developed from the children’s feedback and discussion of what they would like to learn, and this approach helps motivate and involve all of our pupils’ interests and passions.
The final step in their English journey is often the most difficult; the ability to review, edit and improve their work. Through our school ethos and practice of ‘growth mindset’, our children are continuously learning how to become better learners and we encourage this whole-heartedly throughout our English lessons. We provide the children with the techniques they need to become reflective, reviewing their own work and supporting peers in this process, encouraging them to identify what has made their work fantastic or require improvement. We teach them that it is ok to make mistakes and go off track, allowing them to become resilient writers who are excited to edit and improve their work every time.
Underpinning our English lessons are daily phonics lessons that help children build a repertoire of skills that they can draw on confidently when reading and writing. In order to plan the most effective phonics lessons, we use a combination of ‘Letters and Sounds’ (guidelines provided by the Department for Education) alongside the ‘Jolly Phonics’ programme. From Reception to Year 2, the children are taught in 20-minute sessions each day, and are in small, streamed groups to meet individual learning needs. We plan multi-sensory lessons, combining visual, auditory and kinaesthetic activities to advance core learning and enable every child to accelerate and reach their full potential. We also aim to consistently give children the opportunity to reinforce and apply their phonic knowledge and skills across the curriculum during English, guided reading, handwriting and Expedition lessons.
Around the school, we ensure there is a consistent focus on English within the environment, surrounding the children with encouraging displays and resources that will continually develop their skills and understanding. Our use of working walls in each classroom allow the children to review their weekly learning in core subjects and help build their own bank of useful tools, which will support them throughout their learning journey. Displaying children’s writing around the school is also a fantastic opportunity to praise, encourage and motivate them and has a substantial effect on their motivation and self-confidence, as well as allowing visitors and staff to see how well our children are developing.
Stage not age
Our understanding of how unique each and every one of our children is has driven us to teach English and Phonics lessons using a “stage not age” approach, where the children are split into learning settings appropriate to their individual needs. This allows the staff to commit to varied and suitable learning styles and accurate levels of support and challenge for every child, enabling them to reach their full potential. We pride ourselves on our ability to be flexible and reflect on a weekly basis on where the children are within these groups, allowing us to constantly remain fluid and alter our approach as necessary.
Learning at home
There are so many ways to support your child at home to help them develop key English skills:
- Get your child to share their personal targets (from their Love to Learn books), allowing them to take ownership over their next steps and feel that you are a supportive, key part of that journey.
- Make reading a key part of your daily routine. This doesn’t always have to be your child reading their school book! Encourage them to share the newspaper with you, read their all-time favourite stories before bed, look out for road signs in the car or labels to read when collecting items in the supermarket. If reading isn’t a chore, it will become a habit.
- Provide a fantastic role model: by reading to them; sharing books and other texts you are reading; make mistakes so that they can correct you; highlight when you write and how you edit and improve your writing; play word games in the car; describe what you are seeing and draw their attention to the outside world eg a beautiful sunset, delicate flower or frenetic street. If your child sees your love for reading and writing, theirs is sure to follow.
- Encourage them to keep a diary or write about something they love, for fun! Until later on in KS1, the formalities of writing are often what pauses creativity and it is important that the focus remains on the process, not the details…and of course, practice makes perfect!
- Play with sound flashcards or use the games on phonicsplay.co.uk to encourage your child to practice their sounds. There is not a child in the world who does not enjoy playing the Obb & Bob game!
- Encourage your child to use letterjoin.co.uk to help them develop their cursive handwriting. We teach a continuous cursive style across the school and Letterjoin provides an app and activities to help with fine motor control and letter formation. Please see Sally Ganderton for more information and login details.
If you want to develop any of these activities further or just need some direction in how to work with and encourage your child at home, the class teachers are always more than happy to support you and talk through some more ideas or suggestions.