Reading Vision Statement
Learning to read accurately for meaning and developing an enthusiasm to read for pleasure are essential for children’s educational development and wellbeing. Consequently, we prioritise the teaching of reading to ensure all children learn to decode successfully by the end of Key Stage 1 and are fluent readers by the end of Year 3, so that they can learn to analyse increasingly complex texts throughout Key Stage Two. In each year, we ensure children experience some of the best current and classic stories and poems through independent and shared reading opportunities so that they are encouraged to read widely and broadly, for pleasure and interest, outside the curriculum topics and reading spines we provide at school.
At St Francis of Assisi, we recognise that reading is multi-faceted and know that to develop effective readers we must provide high quality teaching in spelling, grammar, writing and the wider curriculum as well as in the different reading experiences we offer. Our curriculum aims to ‘teach children to read and then provide opportunities for varied, extensive and successful reading experiences’, where they read for pleasure, develop an identity as a reader, and read to learn (A. Castles, K. Rastle and K. Nation, 2018). Therefore, in part, reading at St Francis supports our curriculum by adding breadth or depth to subject knowledge. However, in the main, we aim to enable children to effectively make meaning from print, pictures and multi-modal texts; reading with thoughtful, discriminating and critical understanding.
Implementation – Teaching of Reading:
In the teaching of reading, teachers at St Francis follow research-informed approaches. This begins in the Early Years with synthetic phonics progresses to analytic phonics before focussing more explicitly on comprehension.
These comprehension sessions place metacognition at the centre, as teachers demonstrate how to connect ideas and ways of thinking to show how good readers make sense of what they are seeing. This responsibility is gradually released to children so that they can develop an independence at monitoring comprehension and making meaning.
Fluency and active reading is modelled and practiced throughout all phases, as teachers understand “reading slowly” and with expression encourages reading for meaning. Equally, we know that ‘teaching content and vocabulary is teaching reading’, as they are the base from which understanding is built (D. Willingham). This is particularly significant for children at St Francis as our school is comprised of a rich mixture of languages. Consequently, this element is often pre-taught and vocabulary development is a key focus in wider provision from the Early Years through to Year 6.
Implementation – Reading Aloud and Reading Experiences
We understand that for many we represent the ‘gatekeepers of literature’ and know our children are entitled to regular opportunities to read independently and visit our magnificent, well stocked library; receiving considered and discerned recommendations from informed staff as a part of this experience (Chambers, A. 2011). As well as containing a rich variety of poems, picture books and current and classic literature, this space aims to match the content taught in our curriculum. This provides children opportunities to explore aspects of the classroom learning further, but also facilitate access to related themes not explicitly taught, so broadening their interests.
Alongside time to read independently, we recognise the importance of regular, timetabled ‘read-aloud’ experiences in supporting children to catch the enthusiasm to freely read for pleasure and to help them ‘learn the rules of the reading game’ (Meek, M. 1991 p.111-112). These shared reading experiences not only support a shared knowledge of different texts, fostering common discussion and understanding, but also help to create communities of readers who are able to appraise and question what they are hearing. In selecting books, teachers aim to respond to the interests of their cohort as well as choose from a carefully sequenced progression of high quality current and classic texts that are engaging to listen to when well performed. These ensure children regularly encounter the ‘Five Plagues of the Developing Reader’ (Lemov, D. 2016 p.29) and reoccurring themes that link strongly to our school values
Implementation – Selecting Texts: Across all reading, diversity is a particular focus, as we understand our book choice should reflect and celebrate the breadth of cultures and traditions from the different ethnic groups that form our school community. Moreover, collectively, these texts should challenge prejudice, and demonstrate authentic, inclusive representations of children from different backgrounds and life experiences, where ‘otherness’ is not the underpinning feature.
This allows our children to “see themselves” in the literature, supporting their developing identity as a reader, as well as allowing them to discover words, worlds, ideas and perspectives that are new to them.
At St Francis, we hope to inspire children to love reading and recognise its importance in their journey through education. We know that children who see themselves as readers are more likely to meaningfully engage in our carefully planned curriculum and willingly pursue these interests in their own time. In this sense, we understand that becoming an enthusiastic, critical reader is crucial to succeeding in almost all aspects of learning and will contribute to success in other subjects. It will lead to our children developing a rich vocabulary; encountering the learning taught in class more frequently whilst obtaining a broader and deeper understanding of the subjects which we teach and the world around them. We would look to see their reading outside of school recorded in contact books or through online platforms. In classrooms, we would look to see children exhibit ‘readerly behaviours’ as part of a reading community. These might include being enthused by what they are reading, engaging in ‘book gossip’ and looking forward to times in the day that are dedicated to reading books of their own choice or those shared as a whole class. These attitudes might also be reflected in pupil monitoring surveys conducted throughout the year. Our holistic approach will result in the continuation of our extremely positive phonics results and those at the end of KS1 and KS2 as well as data pertinent to reading that is tracked internally. However, we recognise that effective reading teaching will impact upon children beyond these academic achievements and benefit them after their time with us ends in Year 6. Ultimately, we believe that learning to read independently will enhance the wellbeing of our children, deepen their emotional self-awareness and empathy for others. It will give our children the tools they need to participate fully as future members of society and help them to fulfil their aspirations.
Writing Vision Statement
Learning to convey meaning through marks is one of the most exciting activities a child undertakes at school, from writing your name for the first to crafting an emotive setting description. It is also an important means for children to communicate effectively or be creative and expressive in a variety of different aspects of life. Therefore we recognise the importance of children learning to write clearly, accurately and engaging, as set out in the National Curriculum, but also to provide teaching opportunities that allow them to take ownership of the creative process, discover what writing means for them and understand the different ways in which it is used.
At St Francis of Assisi, we recognise the importance of children learning to write clearly, accurately and engagingly, adapting their language for a range of purposes or audiences, and having the opportunity to develop their own authentic voice as a writer. We aim to cultivate classroom environments where children take pride in their written learning across all areas of the curriculum and experience teaching that allows them to invest in their writing and take ownership of the creative process.
Implementation – Transcription:
At St Francis, we recognise that children must develop an automaticity in transcription in order to devote capacity in their working memory for creativity and monitoring their writing. Therefore, we prioritise and monitor the development of gross and fine motor needed for mark making in EYFS and KS1. In the summer term of Year 2, when teachers judge the children to be ready, cursive handwriting is introduced using the progression outlined in Letter Join. This continues through Year 3 and Year 4 where the children practice regularly to develop fluency whilst developing their stamina through regular short burst writing. Children begin to encode during their phonics sessions from the Early Years through to Key Stage One and, once they have a confident grasp of the phonetic code, they move onto more focussed spelling lessons. These maintain a phonetic focus through the use of sound buttons but also extend to demonstrate how prefixes and suffixes adjust word meaning and function, as outlined in the national curriculum.
Implementation – Composition and Writing Communities
To encourage engagement in writing and the written process, we must plan stimulating writing opportunities that begin from a variety of start points – including literature, drama, real experiences and play – and allow the children to discover the different ways in which writing is used. This includes writing for pleasure, for themselves, writing for a variety of different purposes and opportunities to write across the curriculum. We know that writing together in a community of writers strengthens and expands the capacity of each individual and our teachers recognise their role here as the facilitator between the work of experienced writers and the learners in their classroom, who are aiming to innovate upon these ideas and techniques. This may be through a model text or where a text is used as a Launchpad for creativity. Here, through a lesson or sequence of teaching, teachers support children to independently apply and bring their own meaning key learning by gradually releasing responsibility through oral rehearsal, modelled, shared and paired writing experiences; both in the classroom and during play. During this process, we understand the importance of cultivating spaces where children feel comfortable with sharing as much or as little of their writing as they please. The sharing of writing is a gift, so children are entitled to a sensitive but helpful feedback from adults and their peers.
Oracy is an important aspect of our teaching sequences and approach to writing. This stems from our understanding of the intrinsic link between talk and writing that occurs at every phase of the writing process: The internal writing and rehearsing before making a mark; the writerly conversations when thinking about word choice or phrasing; and reflecting upon what has been heard, paying attention and learning from the ideas of others. We recognise this process is important for all learners but particularly the high proportion of our school community who speak English as a second language, as they particularly benefit from the high quality discussions around spoken and written word.
Supporting these principles is our curriculum, which was developed in collaboration with schools in our Multi Academy Trust and outside experts. it organises content backwards from end points at each Key Stage. It embellishes the national curriculum and aims to remove barriers to success at each step of a child’s learning journey by mapping a clear progression of grammar, sentence structure and authorial techniques that interleave and build upon key concepts. Furthermore, it includes statements to exemplify what moving beyond the expected standard could look like in each year group to support teachers in providing high quality learning experiences. We know that for this to have meaning for our children, such learning should be introduced purposefully with a writing outcome or publishing opportunity in mind and should consider the intended impact each feature or device might have upon the reader.
At St Francis, we know each child is entitled to learn to write effectively and practice the key skills outlined in the National Curriculum. However, beyond this, they are also entitled to discover what writing means for them, be that functional, expressive, creative, cathartic or for self-growth. We aim for our curriculum to deliver both. In the classroom, we would look to see children participating enthusiastically in shared writing sessions, experimenting with ideas orally before committing their own thoughts to paper. We would look to see children get lost in their writing, confidently applying taught concepts and experimenting with ideas. We would hope to see children proud and excited to share their drafts and published pieces with their peers, teachers and other members of staff. This will contribute to the continuation of our positive results at Key Stage One and Key Stage Two and work to improve the number of children who achieve high levels of attainment.
Writing and Grammar
In this school, we mainly follow a Talk for Writing structure from Reception to Year 4. In Year 5 and 6, we slightly adapt this structure to extend the learning and independence of the children. In Key Stage 1, lessons are generally based around a key text. In Key Stage 2, key texts are used and lessons are based around the features, the audience and the purpose of a set genre. Links between topic and literacy are made at all times and literacy is very much at the heart of the topic, together with the skills of the subject.
Handwriting is explicitly taught from Reception based on the Read Write Inc. method. Children will have regular handwriting lessons throughout the school to aid transcription with fluent and legible handwriting. Letterjoin is used from Year 2 onwards to support this learning.
Spelling and Phonics
Phonics is taught from Reception onwards and Bug Club, Letters and Sounds, Read Write Inc. and Jolly Phonics are used to support the learning. From Year 2 upwards, the children follow the Read Write Inc. Spelling programme which is enhanced by spelling games and activities to develop their knowledge, joy and love of words.