Why do we teach English?
"Literature should jolt the senses, making us feel alive. A book must be the axe, which smashes the frozen seas within us. Literature in the classroom should have that extra bite - to surprise, challenge, delight and create wonder!" - Pie Corbett
Literacy unites the life skills of reading, writing and oracy. The three elements work alongside each other to enable children to make sense of the world around them and understand the way language is used to communicate. At Westcliff we want every child to be confident and fluent in expressing themselves through a variety of different means and develop literacy skills for life. We strive to create a community of readers and writers who use their literacy skills confidently and competently. We hope to foster a love of language and text through our integrated approach to planning and teaching.
How do we teach children to read?
Children at Westcliff are taught to read through the use of Synthetic phonics. Synthetic phonics is a method of teaching English reading which first teaches the letter sounds and then builds up to blending these sounds together to achieve full pronunciation of whole words.
Phonics in the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 is based on ‘Letters and Sounds’. We take an interactive and multisensory approach to the teaching of phonics, where all pupils are actively involved in the learning of new sounds.
Children in Reception are taught letter sounds (grapheme-phoneme correspondences) and how to use them to read and spell. They are also introduced to words which are not phonically regular (‘tricky words’) and learn that they must be able to recognise these on sight. We link the teaching and practising of letter shapes and patterns with the development of the pupil’s ability to listen to, and discriminate between the sounds that make up a word.
In its initial stages, successful spelling depends on good phonological awareness: children must have finely tuned listening skills. Practice is provided in a range of contexts such as music, dance and story. Children are exposed to rhyme, rhythm and alliteration, attuning their ears to listen carefully to the parts of a word. This stage of phonics begins in Nursery and continues through Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, it is then revisited through spelling sessions or as interventions through Key Stage 2.
How do we teach children to read to learn?
In Key Stage 2 children have a separate reading lesson every morning. In Year 3 and 4 this is in the form of a carousel of reading activities, with the teacher facilitating a reciprocal reading session with a small group. Children have the opportunity to access ‘Reading Eggs’ which is a digital reading scheme that supports both phonics as well as comprehension skills. It is very engaging and the children love it!
At Westcliff reading is also taught through:
Adult modelling of reading aloud for meaning and expression.
How do we create a passion for reading?
Celebrating reading through book awards and prizes across the school.
Weekly reading assembly led by the Headteacher.
Teacher and pupil story recital.
Teacher’s reading aloud to children every day.
Creating attractive reading environments – book corners.
Welcoming and exciting school library with a class timetable.
Book week celebrations
Visits from authors and poets and a bi-annual book fair
Celebrating World Book Day
Our Reading Spine
The Westcliff Reading Spine is a core of books that create a living library inside a child’s mind. It is a store of classics and essential reads that help children engage at a deeper level and enter the world of the story. The best of children's literature operates on many different levels and can engage readers in a myriad of ways.
Each year group have a set of core books to build a common canon of stories that will enhance imagination and equip the children with a range of vocabulary. These fiction books are taken from Pie Corbett’s reading spine and are used in shared reading lessons.To supplement the reading spine every topic in each year group has a key texts box with a range of nonfiction and additional fiction books. We also have selected poetry texts for each year group to enjoy.
At Westcliff, we aim for children to be independent writers. We encourage them to write clearly and with confidence in any given genre. We teach them to use punctuation and grammar accurately, to be able to proofread their own work and make amendments and improvements.. We give children a wide range of opportunities in which to develop their writing skills and display work of which they are proud. Teachers encourage children to take pride in their work and make sure it is neatly presented. Through our English curriculum, we aim to nurture in the children a love of literature and language, and the confidence to continue reading and writing throughout their lives
How do we teach writing?
In Early Years children are encouraged to mark make and write using a variety of writing resources in a purposeful manner; for example writing a shopping list in a home corner role play setting or creating an invitation to a party that they can send to a friend.
In Key Stage One the focus is on developing phonics and using the grapheme correspondence to begin to write simple sentences. There is an English lesson every day and teachers use ‘talk for writing’ to support children to truly immerse themselves in the planning and writing process. Letter formation is a regular focus within lessons and children progress to cursive writing towards the end of this key stage.
In Key Stage Two children continue to meet different writing genres and again teachers use ‘talk for writing’ to support the planning, composition and writing stage. Children will be encouraged to write at length at regular intervals as well as become self editors checking for opportunities to uplevel their vocabulary, add in specific features of a particular genre as well as correcting spelling errors.
Talking is fundamental to learning. Pupils are encouraged to speak clearly, confidently and with expression in order to state their ideas and opinions. Just as important is the need to listen carefully to others and respond in appropriate ways. At Westcliff, pupils are given opportunities in all areas of the curriculum to develop their speaking and listening skills, in paired, group or whole class situations. Therefore, role play, small world and drama activities are intrinsic elements of speaking and listening across the school. Extra support is given to children with speaking, listening and communication difficulties. A vast range of staff across school had received Elkan training to support and develop the needs of children at Westcliff to succeed in life.