“Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write” Annie Proulx
“Writing floats on a sea of talk” James Britton
At Courtwood Primary we believe that a quality English curriculum should develop children’s love of reading, writing and discussion. We believe that a secure basis in English is crucial to ensure a high-quality education and will give our children the tools they need to participate fully in society.
We are passionate about books and the teaching of Reading. English lesson are organised so that reading and writing lessons are intertwined. This means that children have the opportunity to practise their reading skills whilst also being exposed to a range of high-quality texts, which can then be used as models for their own writing. English sequences are all focused around one key text and book organisers are introduced to the children at the start of the unit of work to support their understanding of the chosen text.
At Courtwood we believe that a child’s vocabulary is a huge indicator of a child’s future life successes, so we ensure that our children are challenged to use and understand ambitious vocabulary. Vocabulary teaching is planned and taught discretely to secure our children’s understanding and to widen their vocabulary bank. We have high expectations of vocabulary and children are encouraged to maintain high standards of written and spoken English at all times.
We believe that deliberately building vocabulary is important for several reasons. Firstly, to close the gap between those pupils who come from language-rich backgrounds and those who do not, secondly to deepen and extend knowledge and thirdly to ensure all children are able to experience the joy that using words well brings. In order to widen and develop our children’s vocabulary both effectively and quickly all children are taught and regularly reminded of key prefixes in each year group. Prefixes are particularly useful to teach because there are relatively few of them. Some 20 prefixes comprise around 97% of prefixed words. Through the direct teaching of key prefixes children’s knowledge of individual words grows exponentially as children develop knowledge of word families, prefixes and suffixes. Words can change meanings by adding prefixes and thereby expand vocabularies.
English teaching at Courtwood focuses on fiction, non-fiction or poetry, in line with the 2014 National Curriculum, and comprehension, grammar and writing are embedded in lessons. The children also learn and practise spellings using an online platform called Spelling Shed and EYFS and KS1 classes have daily phonics sessions (see Phonics page).
Lesson sequences themselves build progressively towards an extended piece of writing and include a number of opportunities for oral rehearsal and skill development. Both writing and reading outcomes are recorded in literacy books to promote a high level of pride and presentation and to act as a working book, which children refer back to throughout their sequence of learning. Handwriting is also taught within literacy lessons.
Rigorous and regular assessment and review ensures that we are able to quickly identify children requiring extra support and ensure they receive targeted intervention. Interventions are personalised to the needs of the individual classes so support varies from class to class. However, Precision Teach and Pre-Teaching interventions are used across the school to support the children in achieving and exceeding age related expectations within English.
When planning literacy lessons, teachers make links to other areas of the curriculum to ensure that cross-curricular links provide further context for learning and to support children in developing their cultural capital and vocabulary understanding. Making meaningful and purposeful links across the curriculum not only fully immerses the children in their learning but also provides them with opportunity to enhance their writing using their knowledge and understanding of the topic. Vocabulary is promoted across the curriculum, in all subject areas and children are encouraged to demonstrate their understanding of new words by including them correctly within written outcomes.
The Courtwood ‘5 before 5’ Reading Challenge encourages children to read widely across the curriculum. The challenge encourages them to read a certain number of books each year, depending on their age. These texts have been selected as high-quality books which are linked to the topics they will be studying in the next academic year. This ensures the children have some prior knowledge to build upon and make links to, when introduced to new topics, developing retrieval skills and securing learning in long-term memory.
Courtwood places great importance on developing basic literacy skills, especially teaching children to read. In EYFS and KS1 phonic sessions support children with early reading and phonic interventions continue into KS2 for any children who require any additional support. Children’s comprehension and understanding of books is developed and supported during reading lessons and individual reading sessions, group reading, reading fluency interventions and our ‘Bark and Read’ reading therapy dogs all support children with the decoding aspect of reading and support children in becoming confident, accurate and fluent readers.
We are keen to inspire our children to develop a life-long love of books. All classrooms have dedicated reading spaces and regular reading events are held throughout the year. During these events families are encouraged to join their children reading and events held have previously included campfire, Santa and bedtime stories, as well as the annual book fair. Book clubs and theatre trips are also used to enhance the children’s experiences within English.
Parents are supported in learning how to best support their children with their reading at home. Termly reading newsletters offer book recommendations and information on local book-related events. Teachers also host workshops to support families in helping their children at home.
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Book organisers are used by the children at the start of each new book studied in English. They act as a useful introduction/reminder of the characters, plot and setting and also contain information about the author and any other contextual or historical knowledge the children need, to fully understand the book. They are also used to show the children which reading and writing skills they will be taught throughout their unit of work so they know where their English journey is heading by the end of the unit and what their written outcomes will be. The book organisers direct children to supplementary texts and information which may further enhance their understanding and also include important key vocabulary. Book organisers are regularly referred back to throughout the sequence of lessons for retrieval practice, to annotate with ideas and to also support the children in following and understanding the text.