From an early age, the children at SMSP are immersed in a wide range of activities that foster a love of language and literature and enable them to express themselves articulately and creatively. We aim to develop children who are confident in the use of English in the areas of speaking and listening, reading and writing.
Great emphasis is placed on developing children’s spoken language, as this is crucial for learning to read, write, to be numerate and successful in all areas of learning.
The quality of language that children hear and speak is vital in the development of their vocabulary. In Reception and KS1, staff develop children’s communication and language through singing songs, nursery rhymes, storytelling and playing games.
Throughout the school, children are given the opportunity to participate in a range of activities – including role play, drama, performance poetry, presentational tasks and organised debates – which allow them to progressively develop their communication skills. These activities promote the children’s ability to listen attentively; to learn how to take turns in conversation; to respect and consider the views of others; and to put forward their own considered viewpoints.
For each unit of work studied, the children learn subject-specific vocabulary and they are encouraged to use words and phrases from texts in their own work. We recognise the importance of storytelling in building children’s confidence and ability to imitate the language they need for writing.
All children at SMSP are supported and encouraged to develop their ability to express themselves with confidence and fluency in a variety of situations and contexts.
We believe that reading is the key to academic success. Children who enjoy reading and can read well have the door opened to a world of opportunity, new discoveries and wider interests; to knowledge, creativity, curiosity and confidence.
Reading is the vital link for children to become engaged and confident writers. The programmes of study for reading at key stages 1 and 2 consist of two dimensions: word reading and comprehension, when both listening and reading. Children are taught to read using a combination of phonic and whole word approaches, using shared and guided strategies. Skilled word reading involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words. Underpinning both is the understanding that the letters on the page represent the sounds in spoken words. This is why at SMSP phonics is emphasised in the early teaching of reading to beginners when they start school. [See Phonics]
Learning to read is about listening and understanding, as well as working out what is printed on the page. Through hearing stories, children are exposed to a wide range of words. This helps them build their own vocabulary and improve their understanding which is vital as they start to read. Throughout the school, staff develop a love of reading through reading aloud and telling stories, sharing poems and rhymes. Staff present themselves as readers and share their love of books with the children; making recommendations and discussing new titles regularly.
At SMSP we actively encourage all children to read widely across a range of genres and authors from an early age through shared reading in class of carefully chosen, high-quality texts, which include stories, poems and non-fiction; individual reading and group reading. As they progress through the school, the children are gradually introduced to a range of comprehension skills which allow them to interpret meaning from a text beyond its literal sense. We explicitly teach reading skills such as predicting, comparing, retrieving, inferring, summarising, skimming and scanning and provide opportunities for children to practise these skills across the curriculum.
Shared reading is an integral part of learning and enables our pupils to develop deeper comprehension skills, increase their linguistic knowledge and gain a better understanding of grammar. The children are also encouraged to consider why an author would use a range of literary devices to create certain effects. Through participating in these reading activities, our children acquire an appreciation and understanding of how writing techniques can be used by an author to engage the reader. With guidance, they work towards incorporating the ideas and strategies they have learnt through their reading into their own writing. The reading skills practised allow all pupils to read fluently and with confidence in all subjects.
For those children who need additional support, we have various targeted interventions including booster groups, Book Club, volunteer readers and a program of peer reading.
We place great importance on home reading and have a home-school reading system from Reception to Year 6. Children read books at the appropriate level for them and are encouraged to read each day at home. Children in the Foundation Stage, KS1 and lower KS2 have a reading diary for them to complete with their parents. Children in KS2 compile book reviews each half term and present them to the class, summarising and analysing the book. We encourage all parents to engage in the daily reading routine with their children and to talk about the books they read.
Our school library is an invaluable resource in supporting our English teaching and learning across the school. We are lucky to have lots of books to enrich our English curriculum. Children visit the library at least once a fortnight with their class. Weekly informal lunchtime library sessions are also available for each class in KS2. The Scholastic Book Fair visits the school biannually and children are invited to take part in the annual summer reading challenge hosted by the local library.
We place a strong emphasis on teaching phonics in the early years because we believe this lays the foundations for successful reading and writing. Developing phonemic awareness, the ability to hear, identify and manipulate different sounds is a crucial skill and enables children to read with increasing fluency and speed.
We have invested in ‘Essential Letters and Sounds’, a DfE validated scheme and teach discrete phonics lessons daily and, for those children who need additional support, we have daily targeted interventions.
We allocate decodable books to support early reading development and these books are closely matched to each child’s current phonic knowledge so that they can practise decoding, whilst building comprehension and fluency, ensuring confidence and experiencing success in their reading. We use books from Oxford University Press including: Word Sparks, Hero Academy, Alien Adventures, Traditional Tales and the Little Blending Books.
We encourage children to develop a love of writing and we teach the skills needed in order for them to become confident and independent writers. We provide children with engaging, purposeful opportunities for writing through immersion in high quality texts chosen as whole class readers and those which are closely linked to our cross-curricular topics. We also use trips as stimuli for writing. We know that purpose and audience are central to effective writing and with this in mind, teachers plan and deliver lessons which not only motivate children to write but that teach the key writing skills explicitly, systematically and within a context so that they can successfully communicate their ideas in writing.
We believe that all children’s writing should be valued and in the Early Years there is an emphasis on children ‘having a go’ alongside the planned program of phonics, spelling and sentence level work. Writing corners and role play areas with exciting opportunities to mark make and write all foster an early interest and enthusiasm for writing.
We place great emphasis on the development of communication and language skills throughout the school in order to support writing and use a wide range of approaches including shared reading, storytelling and drama, and explicitly extend children’s vocabulary.
Children are taught the specific skills required before completing a final piece which teachers use to assess their learning.
Children are taught to plan, draft, share, evaluate, revise, edit and publish their work. We use checklists for children to self and peer assess their work when appropriate. Each classroom has a display to reinforce the key elements of writing and this is referred to regularly so that children are clear about how to apply the skills they are learning in order to produce well-structured, purposeful and creative outcomes.
We teach children how to spell quickly and accurately, to use correct grammar and punctuation and to develop a fluent and legible handwriting style. These basic skills then allow pupils to be confident at articulating and communicating ideas, to develop clarity, awareness of the audience, purpose and context.
Learning vocabulary is key to learning and making progress across the curriculum, since it allows children access to a wider range of words when writing and for them to understand and comprehend texts efficiently. Research has highlighted that vocabulary size at the age of 5 is the most important factor in helping children escape poverty. At SMSP we ensure the teaching of vocabulary is systematic and subject specific and, in order to widen children’s vocabulary at SMSP, we do the following.
- Share and display word of the week;
- Use knowledge organisers;
- Model the correct use of vocabulary;
- Discuss new vocabulary in shared text;
- Use dictionaries and thesauri;
- Send home spelling investigations linked to Spelling Frame;
- Look at patterns in language and make links from known words;
- Develop understanding of shades of meaning;
- Provide spelling and dictation tasks;
- Target one to one or small group support, where appropriate.