At Cutnall Green C of E Primary School, English sits at the heart of our curriculum – it is through language, story and text that children learn to form concepts, connect ideas and express themselves. Through literacy, in all its forms, we intend for children to learn to make sense of the world and shape their place within it.
Across both writing and reading, we place a heavy emphasis on developing a child’s vocabulary. By the time children leave Cutnall Green C of E Primary School, the word-hoard they arrived with in Reception will have expanded enormously, giving them the language they need to understand sophisticated texts and express themselves in a wide range of contexts. Our children are challenged and encouraged to take risks and see failure as an opportunity to learn more. Being able to reflect on their achievements and next steps in writing is crucial to further development and to support their achievements.
In all year groups, the implementation of writing curriculum is through high-quality texts – ranging from picture books to Shakespeare, immersive real-life experiences, such as school trips, or a combination of both.
Over their time at the school, children will write a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts, including recounts, news reports, explanation texts, poems, plays and stories of all kinds. We use drama, role-play, storytelling and discussion to engage the imagination, before moving on to vocabulary exploration, sentence craft and creative writing.
Throughout the Early Years and Key Stage 1 children are taught the key principles of writing in order to lay a solid foundation for developing their skills later on. An emphasis is placed on developing clear handwriting with ‘finger spaces’ between in each word. Children are taught to apply their knowledge of phonics to help them spell accurately, and to structure their work, whether it be fiction writing or a set of instructions. Our curriculum teaches the children to add variation and description to their work by developing their vocabulary, including the use of purposeful adjectives and adverbs and developing sentence structure using conjunctions and sentence openers. By the end of Key Stage 1, children have been taught the fundamentals of punctuation and grammar. This structural and technical knowledge is fostered alongside developing a love for writing as a lifelong means for communication and expressing oneself.
First and foremost, we intend for all children at Cutnall Green C of E Primary School to develop a lifelong love of reading. As a result, we approach the teaching of reading from all angles, so as to miss no opportunity to spark a child’s interest.
Daily Guided Reading lessons focus on developing comprehension skills, then moving on to unlocking the meaning of whole texts and critical appreciation.
Teachers read a huge variety of written material regularly with the children: fiction and non-fiction, stories, reports, diaries and poems. Each teacher will read a range of class texts to their classes, exposing children to language and classic stories which they may find too challenging to read independently.
In Reception and Key Stage 1, children follow Read, Write Inc, giving them a thorough grounding in the fundamentals. When children are ready, they will be supported by the Accelerated Reader Programme. Children will complete a half-termly diagnostic assessment which will assign the children with a reading level. Children will then read a book which is closely matched to their reading ability and complete an online, quiz once they have finished the book, which will give them immediate feedback. This quiz will further reinforce whether the child is working within their Zone of Proximal Development.
For more information on Accelerate Reader, please watch this video:
Alongside this, we have regular author visits, books fairs and World Book Day – one of the highlights of the year!
Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write by developing their phonemic awareness—the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate different sounds used in the English language. Children learn the correspondence between these sounds and the spelling patterns (graphemes) that represent them. At Cutnall Green C of E Primary School, we place a strong emphasis on the teaching of phonics in the early years of reading and writing in order to give all children a solid foundation for learning. Because not all words in the English language comply to the rules of phonics we also teach so-called ‘sight words’ by repetition and retrieval.
The Teaching of Phonics
Phonics lessons at Cutnall Green C of E Primary School are taught daily from Nursery up to Year 2. The sessions are short, engaging and memorable with an emphasis placed on learning through a practical approach.
The teaching of phonics follows the the Read, Write Inc. scheme. In Pre-school, listening skills are taught, as well as the differentiation between sounds, rhyme and alliteration, and oral blending and segmenting. In Reception, sounds are introduced at a rate of one a day throughout phase 2 and phase 3 during the Autumn and Spring term. Children consolidate these sounds in the Summer term whilst learning to blend the sounds together to read and write words. In Years 1 and 2, the children continue to follow Read, Write Inc scheme, learning alternative spellings of the previously learned sounds and refining their knowledge to become more fluid readers and more accurate spellers.
The Phonics Screening Check
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 further support in Year 2. The test is low-key and we endeavour to make it stress-free for the children. Essentially, the children are asked to read 40 words from a list, using their phonics to ‘sound out’ the word and then blend it if they need to. Parents are informed as to whether their child has achieved the national expectation within the child’s end-of-year report.
Practising Phonics at Home
The best phonics resources are ordinary reading books. Alongside the books your child brings home, seek out books that you and your child enjoy reading. Discuss words that present a challenge, breaking them down into their component sounds in order to read them if necessary. Make sure you set aside quiet time for reading and enjoying books together.
In addition to books, your child will bring home packs of words that can be decoded using their phonics knowledge. Practise reading and spelling these words. Play fun games with them such as thinking of words that rhyme. Finally, your child will receive a word fan displaying ‘high-frequency words’ – common words that appear very often in written texts. They are a mixture of decodable words (words that can be sounded out) and sight words/exception words (words in which the English spelling code works in an unusual or uncommon way, which means the words have to be learned and recognised by sight). The expectation is that by the end of Reception, children should be able to read most of these words, and by the end of Year 1 they should be able to spell most of them. Try to practise one word with your child from the list per day.
Handwriting, Spelling and Grammar
At Cutnall Green C of E Primary school, the programme Letter Join is used to support the teaching of cursive handwriting. Handwriting is taught discreety as well as being woven into our curriculum from Reception to Year 6, beginning with mark making and patterns in Early Years all the way up to legible, joined handwriting in Year 6. When a child is deemed to have legible, joined writing they are awarded a pen licence.
Spelling is taught from Year 2–6 every week. Children follow a progressive programme and are introduced to a new rule each week as well as two new words from the National Curriculum's commonly misspelled words list. Spellings are sent home on Seesaw as part of homework and children are tested each week.
Grammar is interwoven in English lessons as well as having a dedicated lesson in each learning journey. As children progress towards Year 6, they are taught to write for a range of purposes – to entertain, inform, explain, persuade and discuss – using explicit sentence models and ambitious vocabulary. They then learn to shape these sentences into coherent paragraphs before planning and creating their own original works of fiction and non-fiction. Children also apply their writing skills across the curriculum: writing up experiments in Science, recounting events in History and describing processes in Geography, for example.
When children leave Cutnall Green C of E Primary School, they consider themselves to be skilled writers, confident in their ability to express themselves through language and this has a direct impact on preparing them not only for the next stage of their education, but also their future life opportunities.