"There can be no more important subject than English in the school curriculum. English is a pre-eminent world language; it is at the heart of our culture and it is the language medium in which most of our pupils think and communicate. Literacy skills are also crucial to pupils’ learning in other subjects across the curriculum."
(Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Ofsted, March 2012)
English at St Dominic Savio
English has a key place in the education of pupils here at St Dominic Savio. It is both an important subject in its own right and the medium for accessing the whole curriculum. At St Dominic Savio, we follow the demands of the 2014 National Curriculum and integrate opportunities to write across our knowledge based curriculum.
Reading and writing lie at the heart of the curriculum at St Dominic Savio. We are dedicated to enabling our pupils to become lifelong readers, and we understand high standards of literacy are key to academic success. We have high standards for all pupils. By the end of their primary education, we intend for our children to have developed a love of writing and to be able to express their thoughts and ideas articulately and creatively through the written word. This begins in Reception, where children learn to read and write through a Read, Write, Inc. based approach with supplementary writing lessons.
We also intend to create writers who can re-read, edit and improve their own writing, and enable pupils to be able to confidently use the essential skills of grammar, punctuation and spelling. At St Dominic Savio, we set high expectations for all our children to take pride in their work and have a fluent, legible handwriting style and neat presentation.
Reading and writing is at the heart of everything we do. By the time children leave St Dominic Savio, they will be competent readers with a wide vocabulary and a strong command of the written word. Most importantly, they will be well-equipped for the rest of their education and later life.
The teaching of reading is paramount on entry to school. It begins with a love of books through shared reading and storytelling and utilises the skills learnt through phonics. We continue to seek innovative ways to promote a life-long love of reading and a positive relationship with literature. The school also has a well-used and extensive library. Every child will have at least one reading book at any time. Reading is based upon two interlinked elements – word reading and comprehension. The word-reading element of the curriculum is based on phonics.
Progression in comprehension is provided primarily through the increasing challenge of the texts that children read. In addition to the difficulty of the text, the level of challenge also comes from the complexity of the questioning, the tasks set, and the quality of the answers that the children provide. Comprehension skills develop through pupils’ experience of high-quality discussion with the teacher, as well as from reading and discussing a range of stories, poems and non-fiction.
Discrete comprehension lessons are taught at least once a week in every class so that children can learn the skills of retrieval, inference and deduction. It is imperative within the St Dominic Savio curriculum that the children are exposed to an extensive range of authors and genre reflecting the classics right through to the popular culture of modern-day authors.
Each classroom has a good stock of appropriate literature from a variety of respected authors. Children are actively encouraged to read books from this carefully chosen selection. Monitoring of reading records ensures that children sample a broad and balanced variety of genre. Staff include a wide variety of genre by new and established authors within their teaching. It is our aim for all children who have attended St Dominic Savio to be fully literate and have a love of books and reading. Developing a love of reading inspires children to explore, learn and grow, integrating ideas for themselves.
At St Dominic Savio, the 2014 National Curriculum is largely used and children are given the opportunity to write every day. The programmes of study for writing consist of two components: transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech and writing). Writing down ideas fluently depends on effective transcription. Effective composition involves forming, articulating and communicating ideas, and then organising them coherently for a reader. The skills of writing are taught within English writing lessons, however there is a firm expectation that these skills are carried into every subject.
The teaching of grammar is taught both within English writing lessons and, where appropriate, in isolation so as to reinforce understanding. The high standards of writing in English must be maintained in other subjects, for example RE, history and geography. To help raise standards in writing, the children take part in extended writing sessions in weekly and fortnightly blocks. It is based on a rolling programme of planning, drafting, editing and publishing their written work. Children develop their writing voice through teachers’ expert modelling based on sentence structure, vocabulary, and cohesion. Children are always made aware of the audience and purpose of their writing, and features of each text type they study are analysed during the planning and drafting stages.
Oracy and Vocabulary
At St Dominic Savio, pupils are taught to speak clearly and convey ideas confidently using Standard English. They are encouraged to justify their ideas with reason; ask questions to check understanding; develop vocabulary and build knowledge; negotiate; evaluate and build on ideas of others. Teachers model how to clarify thinking and help all the children to organise their ideas for expressing spoken language. Spoken Language is central to learning and cognition and frequent opportunities are provided to expand the use of talk and discussion across all subjects.
Children’s acquisition and command of vocabulary are key to their learning and progress across the whole curriculum. Teachers develop vocabulary actively, building systematically on pupils’ current knowledge and make links between known and new vocabulary and discuss the shades of meaning in similar words. Understanding through comprehension of the meaning of words is encouraged and modelled across all subjects and language which defines subjects in their own right is a feature of all lessons.
At St Dominic Savio, we believe that it is important to support our pupils’ development of vocabulary by providing them with a range of vocabulary learning strategies that they can use to confidently explore any unfamiliar words they encounter. We promote academic vocabulary by ensuring subject specific vocabulary is taught explicitly. Pupils are introduced to key subject specific vocabulary at the start of each curriculum unit, ensuring that pupils are exposed to academic and subject specific vocabulary multiple times, interweaving the vocabulary throughout the term and year.
From reading and writing, chances arise naturally to learn more vocabulary. At St Dominic Savio, we demonstrate to pupils how to understand the relationships between words and meaning. It is important that pupils know how to work out and clarify meanings of unknown words, and words with more than one meaning. Standard English is always encouraged, and pupils are taught to control their speaking and writing consciously for different audiences and purposes.
These are the assessment frameworks that our teachers use in each year group. The children need to achieve all of the objectives in 'working towards' and 'expected' to reach the expected standard. The children then progress onto 'greater depth' objectives.
Children in Reception and Year 1 will learn to spell by following the Read Write Inc. phonics scheme. The spellings have been designed so that all children in Year 2 upwards will share the same focus sound for the week.
The teaching of spelling takes place in school throughout the week and is explicitly taught using a phonics-based approach by the child's class teacher. This approach to learning spelling is less reliant on short-term memory.
Whilst our new system focuses on in-class teaching, parents are encouraged to support their child with learning the sound of the week at home which will help the child's progress in spelling. The document above provides the word lists assigned to each year group. Our scheme also means that siblings can focus on learning the same sounds at home. Children will be introduced to the sound at the start of the week, and will be tested on a Friday.
As a school, we whole-heartedly promote daily reading as the catalyst for supporting the mastery of spelling. Frequent and regular exposure and revisitation of words is key to remembering how to spell. Our spelling scheme is an additional measure which supports this, yet reading remains at the forefront of our English curriculum and is the biggest determinant in enabling our children to become competently literate.
"Young people who enjoy reading very much are nearly five times as likely to read above the expected level for their age compared with young people who do not enjoy reading at all."
National Literacy Trust (2012)
Please find below a selection of books you may like to encourage your child to read. The list is by no means exhaustive but provides examples of a good selection of fiction books and authors for your child to enjoy.