English curriculum statement
At Park Hill School, we provide teaching and learning opportunities to develop all areas of English: spoken language; reading; writing and spelling; performance; punctuation and grammar. Our commitment to inclusion and equality of opportunity is shown through the range of strategies we employ to ensure engagement in lessons of our pupils.
At Park Hill, particularly because many of our pupils begin their school life without the oracy skills appropriate for their age, we recognise the importance of spoken language in the development of reading and writing and, indeed, of the whole individual. The skills of speaking and listening are explicitly taught and children are given a wide range of opportunities to practise these skills and develop confidence and competence.
Throughout the School, children talk about their learning, developing ideas and understanding through discussion, asking questions, being able to listen carefully to others’ views and giving them time to respond, sometimes challenging others’ viewpoints, negotiating with others in group work and considering a range of viewpoints. Talk partners are often used as a strategy to encourage discussion in lessons. Relevant vocabulary is explicitly taught in lessons across the curriculum so that our children’s knowledge and understanding of vocabulary increases. Talk for Writing, which is used throughout the school in order to embed key vocabulary in children’s minds, is one such method that is employed on a regular basis.
For younger pupils, opportunities to develop their spoken language include role play within the indoor and outdoor learning environments where children can explore language in contexts such as a garage or a hairdresser’s or a café, for example. As the children become older, opportunities are extended with the children preparing to speak to an audience using ICT presentations or posters as prompts. Children in Year 6 learn to use spoken language in a formal debate.
Spoken language is also developed through drama activities as children improvise, refine and rehearse scripts and learn to present these to an audience – for example – in their class assemblies. Rehearsing ideas through role play and spoken language enables children to explore different genres, identify with characters and develop vocabulary: teachers often use this approach as preparation to improve the quality of written work.
During the year we run poetry performance competitions where children of all ages can showcase their ability to learn off texts by heart and perform poems of their choice with expression and actions.
Every week a talk homework topic is sent home for the children to talk about with their families and then come back into school to discuss with their teachers and peers.
We promote respect towards all languages and dialects that children may bring into school with them. We value all languages and recognise home languages as a stepping-stone to progress in the use of English.
At Park Hill, reading is taught as a separate lesson from writing. However, we very much try to link reading and writing activities so that often the same genre is being taught in both lessons. The children are taught reading skills, which are based around progression statements connected with:
- decoding and blending (for Year 1)
- recognition of ‘tricky’ words on sight (for Years 1 and 2)
- retrieval of information from a text
- interpretation of information
- prediction of what might happen next
- commenting on the writer’s use of language, structure and presentation
- performance of a text
- discussing what is read and justifying their views
- identifying the writer’s purpose and viewpoint (for Years 3 upwards)
In Years 1 to 4, reading is taught in five 30 minute sessions, separate from the writing lesson, every week. We use a wide selection of differentiated guided reading books, the class libraries and the two school libraries as a source of books. In Years 3 and 4, some children on the Special Needs Register use the Rapid Reading Scheme.
In the reading lessons, our learning is based around the following cycle:
- The teaching assistant reads a text with a group.
- The teacher works with the group on the same text the teaching assistant has prepared with them the day before and the major part of the lesson involves interrogation of a text that the children have been reading. Questioning will relate to a particular progression statement pertinent to that year group and their ability. The teacher sets a follow-up activity for the group on the text they have worked on.
- The other two days are used for independent reading, including using the Reading Eggs computer program (which is also available to use at home), and reading comprehensions. KS1 pupils (and KS2 pupils working on the Special Needs Register) also complete extra phonics and word recognition activities.
- Every two weeks there is an unseen reading comprehension, which is usually differentiated two ways.
For years 5 and 6, reading is again taught separately from writing, although there is very much an overlap between the two subjects. Instead of being taught using different texts for each group, one text is used for the whole class. Children often begin their reading lessons by answering questions on a short passage (or illustration), which can be taken from their class text or can be around a short video clip. The question types used are those:
- involving retrieval of information from the text
- involving interpretation of the information given in the text
- concerning authorial intent
During the main lesson, discussions take place on the text, centring around one or more of the progression statements appropriate to their ability. Written tasks are given as follow-up activities to ensure secure understanding of what has been discussed. A cold comprehension is also undertaken by the children on a weekly basis.
We have close links with our local library, Balsall Heath, and are often involved in projects with them. We make regular visits to the library and the librarians frequently come into school to speak not only to the children but also to their parents to help promote a love of reading and make them aware of the library’s facilities.
In writing, we base our learning around the Writing Cycle which takes the following format:
- Immersion in a genre incorporating: Talk for Writing, role play, book talk, class discussion, paired discussion, sentence construction, punctuation and grammar work related to the end piece of writing to be written, modelling of the writing by the teacher, text marking of modelled texts in the same genre as the one to be written and short pieces of writing.
- Planning for ‘The Big Write’ – this is very much a supported activity involving writing frames and differentiated success criteria.
- Writing the ‘Big Write’ with the aid of success criteria provided by the teacher. Again, this is a supported activity.
- Proof reading and evaluating own work. Sometimes, the children proof read together with a partner and evaluate it together.
- ‘Close the Gap’ lesson – general learning point which the teacher has picked up from marking the books will be taught to the whole class. This is followed by the children working on their own ‘close the gap’ comments which have been highlighted by the teacher in their books.
- ‘Cold Write’ – the children plan and write an unseen piece in the same genre. Children also write their own success criteria.
- Again the children spend some time proof reading their own work and then evaluating it.
- Older children sometimes produce first and then second drafts when they have had time to consider how they might be able to change it for the better.
- Peer marking – this piece is marked by another child against the success criteria. The marker should state what they have particularly liked about the piece of writing and what they feel could be developed further. Both comments must relate to the success criteria. Sometimes, the children work in pairs whereby they look with a partner at their own piece of writing and then at their partner’s.
- Performance of their writing might take place at any of these stages listed above. We try hard to make sure there is a real purpose and audience for the children’s writing.
Grammar and Punctuation
Grammar and punctuation points are taught at the beginning of English lessons, where they are relevant to the genre being worked on. There are also discrete lessons in grammar and punctuation from Year 2 upwards.
Phonics and Spelling
We use the Letters and Sounds programme for the teaching of phonics.
Letters and Sounds is a focused teaching strategy that teaches children how the alphabet works for reading and spelling and is taught through 6 phases:
Phase 1 supports the development of spoken language.
Phase 2-5 is a systematic approach to phonics teaching and word recognition skills
Phase 6- focuses on word-specific spellings and the rules for spelling alternatives.
Phonics is taught as a discrete session every day in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. Each lesson is taught by the teacher to the whole class, although the learning is differentiated according to ability within the lesson. (Children with severe special needs are taught phonics on a 1:1 basis.) Phonics is still taught to those children in Key Stage 2 who do not have a secure phonic knowledge. The application of taught phonics skills runs throughout the whole curriculum.
Spelling, appropriate to ability and age expectation, is taught for short periods of time on a daily basis in Key Stage 2 in line with statutory guidance. The children are then encouraged to apply the rules they have learned to their independent writing.
Handwriting and Presentation
At Park Hill we aim to equip children with the skills to write in a handwriting style that is fluent, joined and legible. Children throughout the school use a cursive script where all letters start with a lead-in from the line and have a tiny hook on the end of them, which makes it easier to join them. Lower case g, y and j are not joined and neither are capital letters. Some children begin to join their letters in Year 2 but it is expected that all children will be joining their letters by Year 4 when every child must use a pen for all their writing.