“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” - George R.R. Martin
Subject Leader: Amy Brown & Joanne Honeybone
Link Governor: Robert Shrimpton
At Christ Church New Malden, we want every child to be able to read, write, speak and listen well. To be masters of each of these elements of language ensures that children have the ability to listen to what is being said; to read facts, stories and opinions as well as understand them; and then have the words and confidence to think and respond to them.
We want to develop readers and writers who enjoy the process: immersing themselves in other worlds through a love of reading; playing with words through poetry; chewing over what makes a good piece of writing as they analyse and then write their own texts; and using drama or debate to talk about and get inside characters or events presented through different texts before going on to create their own. More importantly, on the path to becoming readers, writers, listeners and orators, we want to give all children the skills to try everything: even if they do not feel confident in their own abilities.
To ensure this happens, we have created an English Curriculum that is creative and thought-provoking through making cross-curricular links wherever possible. We present children with choices in how they would like to develop their independent writing; yet we also take a flexible approach to allow for changes that suit each particular cohort or events affecting the lives of the children in our care.
What Children Learn
Communication and language is central to all we do within the early years. Our learning is based around high quality texts including non-fiction books, fiction books and poems. The books we use become central to our overarching topic meaning the children hear these texts a number of times fully embedding the learning of linked concepts and key vocabulary. We have recently introduced ‘The Poetry Basket’ into the early years phase which has proved hugely popular. ‘The Poetry Basket’ encourages children to learn one short poem every fortnight. The children explore the story behind the poems and practise reciting it daily. Once the children’s confidence reciting the poem has grown we put on a very exciting performance for the rest of the infant school.
In Nursery, the children’s phonics journey begins. The children will explore and manipulate sounds through free-play and focused activities. In Nursery, the children first begin exploring rhyme, alliteration and repeated refrains which all help their phonological awareness ready for beginning to learn through our phonics scheme, Floppy's Phonics, in Reception.
Phonics, Learning and Spelling
Before children learn how to read and write, children need to understand the sounds that make up the words we use every day. This is done by following the Systematic Synthetics Phonics (SSP) programme called Floppy’s Phonics.
Floppy’s Phonics is a structured programme that introduces the 44 sounds of the English alphabet, including the letter or letters that are used to make them. Children and teachers use interactive resources and books to help teach sound identification within Nursery and both reading and writing in Reception and Year 1. You can see some examples in this helpful video (How to produce pure sounds) produced by Oxford Owl.
Not only does Floppy’s Phonics teach children the basic blocks of reading, it also teaches them how to spell.
Once children have completed Floppy’s Phonics, most are then able to move on to our spelling programme, No Nonsense Spelling, that starts in Year 2 and runs through to Year 6. This programme aims to teach children new spelling patterns, revise those already learnt and then practise and apply the spelling patterns in creative ways. In addition to spelling patterns, it also teaches the statutory spellings as set down in the 2014 NC and any personal spelling words they are able to identify.
At any point in their phonics and spelling journeys, children who struggle and risk falling behind will be offered additional support which is offered by their teachers, TAs, other additional support staff or specialist teachers where possible. This may involve individual or small group intervention sessions.
Throughout history, mankind has striven to record information. Just as soon as we could communicate, we strove to leave our mark; cave paintings and tribal markings both served a purpose: to share information. While the method is now wildly different, the purpose is the same: we write to share information - sometimes for ourselves and sometimes for others.
Essentially, there are four main purposes to writing:
- Description - not much writing is purely descriptive, but is essential in good narrative writing.
- Exposition - to explain or inform
Just as throughout history, these are still very important today, used in all walks of life and are needed for many jobs.
Each of these elements are present in our curriculum which has been designed to cover all of the writing, grammar and spelling aspects of the 2014 National Curriculum. For a more information about what is taught within each year group, please use the links below:
Grammar, Punctuation, Speaking and Listening
Grammatical conventions are taught both explicitly and holistically alongside appropriate text types so that they can be taught and practised within a meaningful context. Over time, children learn the correct grammatical terms, how they are applied and an ever expanding range of punctuation.
Our Writing Skills Progression grid shows the progression in skills in the following areas:
- Text Structure
- Sentence Construction
- Word Structure/ Language
Speaking and listening is encouraged throughout the curriculum as well as within English itself. Listening is a skill that even some adults struggle with. At Christ Church New Malden, teachers model their own thought processes, they praise and encourage active listening and scaffold conversations to aid the development of constructive talk. We recognise that through talking about our ideas and work, we gain a better understanding of what we are thinking as well as feel how words or ideas sound out loud.
We learn about the different styles of talk required for different circumstances. This might be practised within English but then applied within Science or RE. We want to give children the freedom of their voice and the skills to use it eloquently.
Reading is a skill that underpins everything we do. We learn words and information; we learn how to be good writers; we learn how to speak to others, we discover our likes and dislikes; we are transported to different worlds; we learn about other people and their lives; we sometimes see ourselves reflected back from the page; and sometimes we learn more about ourselves and who we are.
We read every day: text messages, road signs, emails, information on packaging, books and so much more. While the technology has changed, the method is still the same. The many different purposes and methods of reading are reflected within our curriculum.
Children learn the mechanics of reading through their phonics programme, but alongside and after this, they learn how to become fluent, expressive readers as well learn how to draw out information and meaning from the words they are presented with.
They will learn what good reading looks and sounds like through the models provided by their teachers. All the while, they will learn what messages the book has to give: both the literal and hidden. They will also learn why authors choose the words they do and they will learn how different writing styles or the use of punctuation in just the right place can enhance narrative.
Perhaps more importantly, we encourage children to love reading. We know that people who read for pleasure have a wider range of vocabulary, often have more general knowledge and as a result, often score better in their exams.