English

Our vision at St Michael’s Infant School is to ensure our children are equipped with the building blocks needed to communicate effectively in the wider world, whilst developing a joy for literacy, in its many forms, that will stay with them for life.

It is our commitment that all children are taught the tools to become competent, confident and fluent readers who can not only articulate their thinking about what they read, but can extend this to the wider curriculum and beyond. From the earliest opportunity, we expose our children to a rich array of stories, songs and rhymes so that, throughout their time in our school, the curriculum is language rich and reading is a pleasurable and rewarding experience for all.

It is our belief that, through engaging children in rich, purposeful discussions and oral rehearsal, we build the foundations for children to develop a strong command of the spoken and written language. We value the contributions of our children and regularly seek opportunities to show them they have their own voice with which they can form their own opinions and express them through discussions, demonstrations, presentations and debates.

The National Curriculum for English underpins all that we do. In all years, we share high-quality texts as part of whole class shared reading, alongside guided reading and opportunities for children to develop their fluency. Literacy is taught every day in Key Stage 1 and in the Early Years. Units of work are planned around exciting and engaging texts and topics, with opportunities identified along the learning journey for written outcomes as well as skills development and application. As well as daily phonics and spelling, the children are taught fine motor and handwriting skills every day.

We recognise that reading regularly, and from an early age, is an important indicator of academic achievement in later life. We encourage parents to support children in developing this important skill by reading daily at home and communicate this via home reading diaries. There are incentives to encourage our families to engage in this, through the form of certificates and reading award assemblies. To further support parents, we offer opportunities for them to engage in reading with their children through workshops such as ‘Sparkling Stories.’ 

Some children start school needing support with speaking, and we have a variety of interventions, such as Talk Boost and Speechlink, which are proven to help children's speech and language. We also provide lots of opportunities for children to practise and develop their speaking skills through play, both with other children and with adult intervention. Children's speech and language skills are assessed both formally and informally so that we can ensure they are making the required progress. 

Daily phonics teaching supports our teaching of reading and of spelling.  Although we don't use a phonics 'scheme' as such, the phases of phonics teaching are based on 'Letters and Sounds' (see below)

Phase

Phonic knowledge and skills

Phase One (Nursery/Reception)

Activities are divided into seven aspects, including environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, body sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and finally oral blending and segmenting.

Phase Two (Reception) up to 6 weeks

Learning 19 letters of the alphabet and one sound for each. Blending sounds together to make words. Segmenting words into their separate sounds. Beginning to read simple captions.

Phase Three (Reception) up to 12 weeks

The remaining 7 letters of the alphabet, one sound for each. Graphemes such as ch, oo, th representing the remaining phonemes not covered by single letters. Reading captions, sentences and questions. On completion of this phase, children will have learnt the "simple code", i.e. one grapheme for each phoneme in the English language.

Phase Four (Reception/Year One)

No new grapheme-phoneme correspondences are taught in this phase. Children learn to blend and segment longer words with adjacent consonants, e.g. swim, clap, jump.

Phase Five (Throughout Year 1)

Now we move on to the "complex code". Children learn more graphemes for the phonemes which they already know, plus different ways of pronouncing the graphemes they already know.

Phase Six (Throughout Year 2 and beyond)

Working on spelling, including prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters etc.

 

Teachers use 'Cued Articulation' in YR to help children link the ways letter sounds are formed with the sounds themselves. To ensure your child is pronouncing the letter sounds correctly we suggest you look at the You Tube video of Jane Passy showing how Cued Articulation is taught. 'Phonics Play', a website which provides interactive games for children, is also used to make phonics teaching more exciting across the school. As well as phonics we teach children how to read and spell 'tricky words' which are often the words we use most frequently and aren't spelt as we would expect, for example the word 'said'.

Although our core reading books are Oxford Reading Tree, we have many other books, both from a variety of reading schemes and 'real' books for children to read in school and at home.  As well as 1:1 reading with an adult, children read in small groups with each child reading the same book.  In this way school staff can teach a specific skill most effectively. We value the 1:1 time that parents can spend reading with their children, and we expect children to read a minimum of three times a week at home and ideally every day. Starting after October half term every year children are given rewards for the number of days of home reading that they have done. Every four weeks parents are invited into a 'reading awards' assembly to see their children being given certificates for home reading.

We also use whole class guided reading as a way of increasing children's vocabulary and their understanding of texts. This not only supports their reading, but also their speaking and the content of their writing. In Year R children are read texts which they would otherwise be unable to access. Their responses to these texts, including their thoughts and feelings are recorded. Specific vocabulary is introduced and a variety of methods of ensuring that children remember and understand this vocabulary are used throughout the week and beyond. Parents are also asked to help by using this vocabulary at home. In Year 1 we expand on this, by having more group and individual activities, and in Year 2 we encourage children to debate their differing opinions with others, giving reasons for their thinking. 

Most children learn how to write in cursive script from YR and are taught to join their handwriting in Y2. Many children aren't ready to write with a pencil when they start school so we encourage them to practise their letter shapes by writing in the air or in sand which helps to develop their arm muscles as well as helping them to learn letter shapes. Some children find writing cursive letter shapes hard, so we encourage them to write their letters without the cursive lead-ins and flicks. There is an example of our cursive script in the 'Starting School' pack given to all parents.

Regular practising of handwriting throughout years one and two helps children to master the skill of letter formation. Spellings are often practised at the same time as handwriting.

The national curriculum has a focus on the correct use of grammar, and on children knowing the correct terminology for grammatical terms. We teach grammar by using ‘grammar games’ and also during the teaching of reading. 

In Summer 2019 the percentage of Y2 children attaining expected standards or above in both reading and writing exceeded the national average, and the percentage achieving greater depth standard in reading and writing also exceeded the national average.

 

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