English Curriculum

At Mount Pleasant Primary School, we recognise that every child has the right to an education (Article 28 UNICEF Rights of the Child) and within that education, we understand the crucial importance of studying the English language. The English language is the basic language of communication within our society and is the foundation for almost all the learning which takes place in our school. We believe that a mastery of language can empower the learner and allow children to express their thoughts and ideas more fluently, accurately and, ultimately, to their greater satisfaction. Improved performance at reading, writing and spoken language is essential for independent learning and allows children to deal more successfully with other curriculum subjects, while enriching their lives beyond school.

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Statement of Intent

 

We aim to provide a creative, exciting, enjoyable and purposeful English curriculum which engages the wide range of learners within our school community. We want to share with the children a wide range of high quality, stimulating texts that have a rich vocabulary and will help them develop a love for reading which will continue throughout their learning journey and adult lives.  We aim to ensure that ALL the children within our school are equipped with the necessary literacy skills to enable them to achieve their aspirations and have the confidence to use and apply them in all aspects of everyday life.

 

Implementation – Transforming vision into reality

In order to support our developing readers, we have created a reading curriculum which allows all classes access to high-quality texts across a range of genres. These texts have been carefully selected across all year groups to provide a progressive curriculum which allows children to build constantly upon their current knowledge and become the best readers they can be.  

In EYFS and KS1, we use the phonics scheme Big Cat Phonics in line with Letters and Sounds which is a programme of systematic synthetic phonics and development of word recognition strategies in order to create a strong foundation. In Reception and Key Stage One, all children are given a decodable reading book which is matched to the phonics level they are working at. The books vary in several ways, including layout, size, vocabulary and length, to give the children a rich diet of literature. We feel it is hugely important for our children to receive home reading books matched directly to their phonics knowledge so that they become confident and fluent readers, before moving on to a greater difficulty. We also believe that parents are an important resource and reading books allow them to share in this process of learning.  Children will continue to receive a home reading book linked directly to their reading level which is assessed regularly throughout the terms to ensure an appropriate level of challenge and skill to continue to improve their reading skills. Once the children become ‘free readers’ they can begin to choose their own reading books, either from the class book corner, the school library or a book from home.

At Mount Pleasant we also understand that not everybody learns at the same pace and we strive to ensure all children are given the tools they need to be fluent and independent readers. We provide targeted support through a range of interventions for children who have not yet met expectations appropriate for their age and year group which are regularly monitored by the class teacher, SENDCo and SLT and where necessary are referred to outside agencies.

Impact – What is the impact of our curriculum on our children?

 

Through the implementation of our writing curriculum, we have created a community of confident and independent writers who enjoy writing for a range of purposes and audiences. Children display a conscientious attitude to their presentation and writing standards in every piece of work that they do. They are willing to take risks with ambitious vocabulary and can draft and re-draft their work using skills and knowledge acquired and retained throughout their time in school. Children consistently produce high-quality writing and can discuss what they need to do to improve their work and can articulate the reasons for certain language styles and choices they have made.

 

The impact of our curriculum is also monitored through a combination of assessments which allows us to closely monitor the progress of our children and identify any areas for support quickly and effectively. Examples of this include: quality marking and feedback, verbal feedback, whole class discussions, small group discussions with an adult, diagnostic grammatical or spelling tasks, independent grammar and/or punctuation tasks, specific assignments for individual pupils and any formal statutory assessments (Y2/6 GPS SATS etc.).

Cultural Capital

 

In order to enrich our reading curriculum, we provide our children with a wide range of opportunities to explore their literary heritage, including:

  • visits to our local community library

  • celebrations of World Book Day

  • celebrations of famous authors day, e.g. Roald Dahl

  • reading challenges launched in school

  • regular reading awards

  • visits from local authors, such as Adam Bushnell

  • access to texts across all curriculum subjects

 

We intend to encourage all pupils to read widely across both fiction and non-fiction texts to develop their knowledge of themselves and the world in which they live, to establish an appreciation and love of reading, to gain knowledge across the curriculum and develop their comprehension skills.  It is our intention to ensure that, by the end of their primary education, all pupils are able to read fluently, and with confidence, in any subject in their forthcoming secondary education and to develop further reading skills to support them throughout life.  At Mount Pleasant, we do this by ensuring:

  • A range of engaging and challenging texts from a range of genres are accessed by our children which promote a love of reading and act as excellent models for language, embrace a wide range of cultures and time periods.

  • Children become fluent and age appropriate readers across Early Years and Key Stage 1 through a fully embedded and progressive phonic scheme as well as exposure to appropriate texts to build on further reading skills.

  • Children, with only a few exceptions, reach the expected standard in Year 1 phonics with word reading fluency being the most important focus on the curriculum.  This will then allow our children to build on their understanding of what they have read, exposure to an increasing range of vocabulary and developed comprehension skills ready for Key Stage Two.

  • All children in Key Stage Two will access class novels and weekly extracts with coverage of fiction, not-fiction and poetry.   All children access their own reading books as underpinned by ‘levels’ through Accelerated Reader but also read for pleasure from the class library.

Phonics at Mount Pleasant 

At Mount Pleasant, we strive to ensure that almost all children learn the phonetic code, therefore, we expect our children to learn to read through a progressive and clear phonics scheme. Phonics begins for our children within their first few weeks of starting school.  We have a ‘no time is wasted ethos’ which ensures that our children start their education immediately with the first of the phonics phases.

We use Letters and Sounds as the method of learning letter sounds and blending them together to read and write words, this is completed hand in hand using Big Cat Phonics resources such as banded phonic reading books by phase.

As part of our phonics teaching, children have daily phonics sessions in small groups where they participate in speaking, listening and spelling activities that are matched to their developing needs. The teachers draw upon observations, work produced and continuous assessment to ensure children are stretched and challenged and to identify children who may need additional support. Children work through the different phases, learning and developing their phonics sounds and knowledge.  It aims to build children's speaking and listening skills in their own right as well as to prepare children for learning to read by developing their phonic knowledge and skills. It sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills for children starting by the age of five, with the aim of them becoming fluent readers by age seven. Through the teaching of systematic phonics, our aim is for children to become fluent readers by the end of Key Stage One. This way, children can focus on developing their fluency and comprehension as they move through the school.   

Reading

Approach to teaching phonics 

  • Children across EYFS and KS1 receive at least one phonics session a day

  • Phonic lessons take place as differentiate groups.  Even though we strive for all children to move through the sounds together, we understand that the development children’s speech and language can affect phonics therefore phonics sessions can have children split into different teaching groups.  Children who need extra support to catch up are also focused upon and receive additional sessions so that gaps do not widen between them and their peers

  • The responsibility of phonics planning and teaching lies with the teacher.  Sessions are delivered by the teacher along with highly skilled teaching assistants

  • Phonic knowledge is continually tracked using an in-house system where children’s strengths are tracked along with areas to consolidate.  As a result of this tracking, home reading books are phonically appropriate

  • Phonics teaching includes ‘common exception words’ which are routinely practised so that the children can read these words on sight

  • Appropriate displays are found across EYFS and KS1 – displays include the sound currently being taught as well as common exceptions words learnt so far

  • Creative teaching and a simulating learning environment are non-negotiables which are also phonics rich

  • Children are exposed to the correct technical language of phonics, e.g. phoneme, grapheme.

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EYFS and Key Stage One

 

Our children have discrete guided reading lessons in school and have a story book shared and read to them every day. Children in EYFS and Key Stage One experience the explicit teaching of reading primarily through daily thirty minute guided reading sessions, which explore texts in detail and develop specific reading skills (as outlined in the Trust’s Reading Standards), and additional intervention reading sessions to further support, challenge and consolidate where required.  Each half term, the children also have a specific story that is the focus which they will know and be able to tell off by heart.

In guided reading, the children have the opportunity to read books with the class teacher, which are appropriate for the level that they are working at. They also complete independent reading activities such as: comprehension, character driven work, writing a blurb, sequencing and language based questions.  The children have individual targets and particular children also take place in reading interventions to ensure further progress.


We expect children to read at least three times per week at home, which is recorded in their individual reading records. Children are provided with two books each week, one being matched to their phonic teaching and the second the children’s own choice to ensure reading for pleasure. Children who do not read at home or who are identified as at risk of not making their expected progress will be provided with additional reading opportunities with an adult in school.  

Key Stage Two

 

In Key Stage Two, we teach reading through two different approaches: whole class reading and through access of a daily novel.  The daily novel is read for at least fifteen minutes to the class by the teacher in order to model good reading through fluency and expression and to expose the children to different language and to develop of love of reading, to enjoy a whole book without analysing the word choices or chapters.  Some examples of our class novels are: Viking Boy, Cogheart, Skellig or Who Let the Gods Out.

Whole class reading takes place each day for at least thirty minutes based on either the class novel (Monday’s and Friday’s) or three linked texts (Tuesday – Thursday.) Each lesson focuses on one of the key reading domains with a greater focus on retrieval and inference (the two largest weighted areas in KS2 assessments).

Throughout the year staff also plan for, and include each half term, a ‘plague text,’ one of the more complex examples of literature to teach in their reading sessions.  In his book ‘Reading Reconsidered’, Doug Lemov points out that there are five types of texts that children should have access to in order to successfully navigate reading with confidence. These are complex beyond a lexical level and demand more from the reader than other types of books. These are split into five categories:

  • Archaic texts – with old fashioned language such as the works of Beatrix Potter.  The vocabulary, usage, syntax and context for cultural reference of texts over 50 or 100 years old are vastly different and typically more complex than texts written today.

  • Non-linear time sequences – parallel plots, flashbacks, flash forwards. 

  • Complexity of narrator - books which are sometimes narrated by an unreliable narrator- Scout, for example, who doesn’t understand and misperceives some of what happened to her.

  • Figurative/Symbolic texts – often through figurative poetry.

  • Resistant texts - texts written to deliberately resist easy meaning-making by readers. You have to assemble meaning around nuances, hints, uncertainties and clues.

 

In addition to whole class reading, children have access to two reading books of their own choosing.  One is a class or library based book selected by the child, the second is underpinned by Accelerated Reader which is ran across Key Stage Two.  Children are tested on Accelerated Reader the start of each term and are given a baseline level.  Once the children have read the book and taken the quiz, they must score 80% or higher three times before progressing to the next level.  This ensures that the children are reading a book of the correct ability for them, but given the choice of which book on this level to choose from.  Accelerated Reader books are regularly bought and updated, stamped and maintained by the school librarians.

EPIC Reading

 

We have purchased a subscription for EPIC Reading for all of our children to access for free at home. Epic Reading is a leading online children's book service which offers immediate and

on-demand access to over 35,000 high quality illustrated books and chapter books for children aged 12 and under many of which have won many awards.  Epic's expanding library includes thousands of Read-to-Me books, Audiobooks, Accelerated Reader books, educational videos, comics and fun quizzes.  Each child has a code for their class to access this service - all they need to do is go to the website, enter their code and they are good to access all that EPIC has to offer.

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Writing

Our English curriculum is derived around a ‘mastery approach to writing.’  We use a key text or visual stimulus to create opportunities to develop imagination skills, develop a deep understanding of the genre being taught; explore the writing structure and features of different genres; plan and write an initial piece of writing with a clear context and purpose before evaluating the effectiveness of writing by editing and redrafting.  Our children are immersed into the genres through a variety of texts, film clips, posters and books - and above all, we encourage daily writing.  Each child publishes their work in their Writing Books, giving them a sense of pride in their presentation.  They are encouraged to write independently for a sustained length of time using prompt mats, word mats and the working wall to help them.

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Spelling

Spellings are sent home each week for your child to learn.  These are based on phonic knowledge lower down the school and set spelling rulers further up the school linked to the New National Curriculum 2014.  The children are taught the spelling rule throughout the week and are expected to learn their spellings ready for a test towards the end of the week.

How can I support my child’s writing?

1. Reading with your child

No matter their age, reading regularly to your child, often books that they can’t yet read independently, is a great way of supporting their writing. Listening to books being read aloud introduces them to different ideas that they can borrow and adapt for their own writing, as well as hearing different ways of using language that are often from the types of sentences that we use when we speak.

Try to make sure your child gets to hear a range of different types of books, including fiction and non-fiction. This is useful for their writing, as it allows them to encounter a wide variety of different types of language and different purposes for writing.

2. Giving your child opportunities to write

Writing for a real-life purpose can be a great way of practising writing. Writing cards, shopping lists, or letters and emails to relatives can all be motivating real life reasons for writing. Children might also keep a diary or be encouraged to write short stories based on books they have read or toys they enjoy playing with. Older children could produce their own version of a book for a younger child – The Rhino Who Came to Tea or The Very Hungry Angler Fish, for example. Books with a distinctive format such as The Day the Crayons Quit or The Last Polar Bears are perfect for this. Another idea is for children to write the book of the film (or TV programme). If children have watched something they’ve really enjoyed, they could try and tell the same story in writing. While writing using a pen and pencil is useful practice, writing on the computer counts too. You might want to turn the spelling and grammar check off to help children to learn to use their own knowledge. The grammar check can be wrong too, so this can be confusing for children.

3. Helping your child with spelling

While there’s obviously much more to good writing than correct spelling, if children are worrying about spelling a particular word or having to stop frequently to think about spelling it can prevent them from concentrating on the other aspects of writing, including communicating their ideas.

4. Helping your child with grammar and punctuation

The curriculum in England puts a lot of emphasis on children learning to use grammar and punctuation. For ideas and support with grammar and punctuation, there are lots of interactive games online!

5. Helping your child with handwriting

Different children develop control over their handwriting at different points, and there is certainly a lot more to be a good writer than having neat handwriting. That said, learning to form letters correctly at the start of school can very useful for later on as it is much harder to unlearn habits once they have been formed. Fluent, neat handwriting is useful to ensure that a reader can understand what a child is trying to communicate in their writing, as well as helping a child to feel confident about their writing.