At Norwood, our English curriculum is centred around the main aims of the National Curriculum. We are dedicated to "promoting 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". We believe that through an engaging, enriching and meaningful English curriculum, our children develop the skills needed in order for them to be able to:
- read easily, fluently and with good understanding
- develop a love for reading whereby they want to read widely and often, for both pleasure and information
- appreciate Britain's rich and varied literary heritage
- acquire a wide vocabulary as well as an understanding of grammar and the rules of language for reading, writing and spoken language
- write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their choices of language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences
- use high-level discussion in order to learn; elaborating and clearly explaining their understanding and ideas
- are competent in their speaking and listening abilities, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.
There are two important areas to reading: word reading (being able to decode unfamiliar words within a text using phonics and the speedy recognition of familiar words, along with common exception words which cannot be sounded out) and comprehension (understanding of the text that is being read), both of which our children need to master.
By the end of Year 1, we aim that Norwood children have mastered word reading through a secure understanding of all 40+ phonemes which children can identify when reading words within a context. Their improving fluency and accuracy when reading both familiar and unfamiliar texts is built upon in Year 2 and Key Stage 2 where the challenge level of the text increases.
Here at Norwood, we use the systematic synthetic phonics programme, Little Wandle. This begins in Year R where children are taught the sounds (phase 2 and 3 sounds), as well as how to read and write these sounds within words and phrases. Towards the end of Year R children spend time practising applying their knowledge of these sounds when decoding words to read and segmenting words to spell. In Year 1, the children learn their phase 5 sounds which are alternative graphemes (the written letters) for phonemes, for example: the long a sound in day: ay which can also be spelt: a-e, ai, a, eigh, aigh, ey, ea. Children are taught to recognise these graphemes when reading while making a 'best guess' for the correct grapheme when spelling.
Good comprehension relies on children being able to understand what they are reading and this requires them to bring their knowledge and experience of the world to the text in order to make sense of it - this is taught and practised throughout early years, KS1 and KS2. At Norwood, we believe that there are 3 tiers of comprehension. The first requires children to be able to find the answers to specific questions either in the text, picture or film clip that they are using. We call this retrieval or 'right there' questions. The second stage is where the children have to interpret the text, picture or film clip in order to establish a deeper understanding, we call these types of questions, 'clue' questions because they have to be like detectives and look carefully at key parts of the text to help them to answer them. The final stage is the 'connect or craft' type questions where children need to think more deeply and broadly to consider the choices that an author has made and the wider themes that a text has within it - i.e. friendship, bravery etc. Through our guided reading sessions, we employ a range of techniques to aid children's fluency (echo reading, ghost reading, choral reading, paired reading, repeated reading etc) while we teach the corresponding reading skills that support children in answering these types of questions. We ensure that children benefit from high-quality discussion with the teacher and their peers, as well as from reading and discussing a range of stories, poems and non-fiction texts. Through the interesting and varied texts that we read and analyse, both linked to the curriculum and other high quality texts, as well as multi-modal stimuli that we use, children will develop an appreciation and love of reading, as well as knowledge across the curriculum. We understand that reading widely often increases vocabulary, feeds their imagination and opens up a treasure-house of wonder and joy for curious young minds.
Similarly to reading, writing is separated into 2 key areas - transcription (which includes spelling and handwriting) and composition and effect (the ideas part of writing and the structuring of these into speech and writing).
Children's technical accuracy when writing is incredibly important. In KS1, children apply their understanding of phonics when spelling words as well as being able to recall the high frequency words (which often can not be broken down using phonics) that they often see during their reading. During Year 2 and KS2, children begin to learn spelling rules and develop their understanding of word and spelling structures. Writing down ideas fluently depends on effective transcription, on spelling quickly and accurately within writing. At Norwood, in addition to Little Wandle Phonics in EYFS (early years foundation stage) and Year 1, we follow the 'No Nonsense spelling programme' which covers the content of the National Curriculum through engaging lessons which build on a revise, teach, practise and apply model. It is this, along with high expectations for seeing these skills and rules being applied during their writing, that ensure children become proficient in spelling. In addition to this, handwriting is equally important. Our cursive script can be seen below and the preparation for children to become neat and fluent writers, begins in EYFS through 'Funky Fingers' which promotes the gross and fine motor skill development that are essential for writing. This then aids the learning of each individual letter's formation (with lead ins) which progressively builds into writing whole words and sentences. Children regularly practise their handwriting and when they are writing neatly, with flow and style, they begin to write in pen.
The content of children's writing is crucial to them becoming successful authors who show an understanding of their audience, purpose and context for their writing. At Norwood, composition involves forming, articulating and communicating ideas, and then organising them coherently for a reader with accurate and effective use of a widening repertoire of vocabulary and grammatical structures. Furthermore, children are taught the skills of planning, revising and evaluating their writing in order to make it a successful piece. Within our creative curriculum, children are given a vast arrangement of experiences that develop the ideas for writing whether this is through the use of high quality texts, film clips or pictures, trips or real life, topical events. It is through the exploration of these, in addition to speaking and listening activities, that children collect, discuss, sort and evaluate their ideas. During phase 2 of the learning journey, children evaluate the effectiveness of models of writing - 'reading as a writer' as well as learn and practise the skills, which includes vocabulary, punctuation and grammar work, that they need for their final writing outcome. Children at Norwood are supported with learning new skills and embedding previously learned skills through shared, guided and independent writing opportunities. The final stage of the writing process is where they plan, write and edit their piece of writing, based upon their chosen TAP (text type, audience and purpose). From Years 1 to 6, children gain experience of, and practise in writing narratives, explanations, descriptions, comparisons, summaries and evaluations which supports them in rehearsing, understanding and consolidating what they have heard or read.
The national curriculum for English reflects the importance of spoken language in pupils’ development across the whole curriculum and ultimately, it underpins the development of reading and writing. The quality and variety of language that children hear and speak are vital for developing their vocabulary and grammar and their understanding for reading and writing which is why it is of such a high priority at Norwood. We ensure the continual development of children's confidence and competence in spoken language and listening skills. Children learn to discuss and explain their understanding of books and other texts, making their thinking clear to themselves as well as to others, as well as being taught the conventions for discussion and debate. Speaking and listening activities, including drama is at the heart of our English curriculum. Children are taught the skills to adopt, create and sustain a range of roles, responding appropriately to others in role. They have opportunities to improvise, devise and script drama for one another and a range of audiences, as well as to rehearse, refine, share and respond thoughtfully to drama and theatre performances.