The overarching aim for English in the national curriculum is to promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written word, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment. At Downsview, we bring these aims to life by putting literacy skills at the heart of our curriculum. We want our children to become fluent speakers, avid readers and confident writers. Our children are empowered by a high-quality English curriculum that teaches our children to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions to others and through their reading and listening, others can communicate with them.
How do we teach reading?
Once the pupils have secured their phonic skills and have learned to read independently, they progress onto our Text-Based Reading curriculum. From Year 2 to Year 6, each class has carefully chosen extracts from high quality texts. This selection includes a range of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books. Our text-based approach focuses on further developing the pupils’ competencies and confidence in word reading and comprehension. Building on their early reading learning, we continue to teach our children to decode unfamiliar words and increase the number of words they can read on sight. We focus on comprehension and teach our children skills such as summarising, posing questions about what they have read and making inferences.
Having engaging and challenging core texts is one of the ways we encourage our pupils to develop a love of literature and to read for enjoyment. Evidence from research shows that ensuring our children develop all the skills of language is essential to unlocking access to the rest of the curriculum. Therefore, opportunities to read and write are embedded across the curriculum. This approach also expands our children’s knowledge of the world in which we live. When children encounter words in their reading that they would rarely hear or use in everyday speech, we can systematically teach our children new vocabulary. Therefore, rich and lively vocabulary instruction is an essential component of all our reading lessons using strategies contained in Bringing Words to Life by Beck et al. We know that by explicitly teaching vocabulary, we will encourage students to become interested and enthusiastic about words, keen to explore relationships among words and use them in a way that they come to ‘own’ the words.
Our Reading Spine
Our Downsview Reading Spine comprises a carefully-selected collection of set texts which we commit to reading aloud to children in each year group. We believe that all children have an entitlement to hearing adults read engaging and challenging texts – often beyond the reach of independent reading for children in that year group. Each half term, our classes enjoy books that belong to one of the following categories: classic fiction, contemporary fiction, poetry, picture books and biographies. Woven through these texts are works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry so that children develop a love of hearing writing that goes beyond narratives.
Our selection of classic texts exposes children to some well-loved texts that belong to a respected canon of literature. A knowledge and appreciation of some of these key works provides our children with valuable cultural capital and important reference points for their enjoyment of other works of art. Our selection of contemporary fiction is, necessarily, regularly reviewed to ensure our offer reflects the very best of current children’s literature. Our aim here is to show our children the rich range of texts on offer to them in shops and libraries that may reflect current interests and issues and feel relevant and meaningful to them. Both classic and contemporary picture books are selected to meet these aims whilst also exposing the children to rich illustrations which enhance meaning.
The poems we have selected are ones we share with our children many times with the goal of challenging children to learn them by heart. Repeated revisiting of the same poems supports retention and allows opportunities to explore patterns and language as well as internalising the rhythm and metre of the poems. We aim for these to be poems they carry with them in the long term.
In each year, our classes hear a biography or autobiography of a key figure read aloud to them. Our selection of individuals is based on achievements and values which cohere with our school Commitments such as ‘reaching high’ and ‘respecting each other’. Through these texts, we seek to provide our children with a diverse range of role models from past and present.
In all parts of our reading spine, we have selected texts that are representative and diverse in both their characters and their author backgrounds so that the books can act as both a mirror in which the children see themselves reflected and a window to the wider world.
Our writing curriculum helps develop children’s competencies in two key areas- transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech and writing). Carefully planned, regular writing opportunities are planned for using class texts or cross-curricular learning as an engaging stimulus. Each week our children write at length for a range of real purposes and audiences. The pupils are taught how to plan their writing by exploring and collecting ideas, drafting and re-reading their writing as it flows. Within these skills at the heart of developing our writers, we follow a cycle of writing:
- immersion; discussing and investigating the features of the genre and generating ideas for writing:
- organising and planning their own writing
- writing a first draft
- editing and improving with support from their teacher and peers
- reflecting on their improvement comments and finally redrafting and sometimes publishing their work.