The KS2 curriculum for English is led by rich texts which form the basis for reading, writing and speaking and listening tasks for the half term. These rich texts vary from picture books to novels, from non-fiction to poetry, from well-known authors to newly-published texts. These texts are used in a way which helps the children to learn how to compose and use different forms of writing for a purpose, to apply comprehension skills from retrieval to deduction, and to develop public-speaking skills such as pace, tone and expression. These rich texts also lead the learning in other subjects such as history, geography, RE and computing. By using a wide range of rich texts, we also ensure that children with different abilities are exposed to texts which are challenging for them at different times of the year. For example, more able students often are not exposed to picture books which require a lot of inference and deduction based on the images to tell a story, which is a different skill set to retrieving information from a sentence. Similarly, for children who find reading challenging, being exposed to higher-level texts with engaging plotlines can be a contributing factor to their enthusiasm for learning to read and interact with novels.
Phonics and Spelling
Systematic, synthetic phonics teaching has been shown to be one of the most efficient ways of developing early reading and spelling skills. At New Forest School, we use a combination of Read, Write Inc strategies and resources with the Letters and Sounds programme. To support this learning, we also use PhonicsPlay, a website which has been developed to provide resources which are fun and continue development of phonics skills and knowledge. Read Write Inc is used throughout the school to support students of all ages with their reading and spelling skills. We also teach discrete spelling lessons each week which are closely linked to the children’s existing spelling ability which is assessed through the use of the Vernon spelling assessment. To further support the children’s spelling learning, daily interventions take place to secure basic spelling and phonics knowledge including high frequency words and specific tricky spelling patterns.
We encourage the children to read as often as possible, and to access texts which stretch them. We closely match texts to the children’s reading levels through half-termly assessment of their reading ability using the PM Benchmarking system. This system assesses reading through a miscue analysis, where teachers mark errors and self-corrections, and then ask comprehension questions based on the text. This allows teachers to have a very secure understanding of the children’s reading ability and match them to appropriate books. We read daily in school, and encourage the children to read daily at home too.
Through our use of rich texts, we are able to develop specific aspects of the children’s writing in each unit. Although we focus on key grammar, punctuation and spelling skills throughout the units, each form and purpose of writing is given intense focus and leads the creative process in any given unit. Forms of writing include: letters, diary entries, speeches, stories, poems and playscripts. Each of these forms is written for a specific purpose, for example: to inform, to entertain, or to persuade. The children spend time learning about the specific form and purpose before exploring examples and then composing their own. This structure of learning – a three-phased approach with immersion in the text type, apprentice writing based on a rich text and expert writing generated by the learner – supports the development of a deep understanding of the purpose of writing and helps engage the children in the tasks. We also use cinematic depictions of novels (for example, Goodnight Mister Tom) to prompt creative writing and to compare novels and their dramatizations.
Speaking and Listening
Developing skills in public speaking and debate is important for young people, as being able to express yourself clearly while speaking and to be able to listen to others’ opinions are key skills in adulthood. As part of our English learning, speaking and listening is built in to our learning journeys. Children participate in debates, learning how to agree, build on or contradict another’s point of view politely and with justification. They also learn how to present – an example from this year is composing persuasive paragraphs and giving presentations to staff from Head Office to encourage them to make decisions which are good for the environment. Within this unit, the children learned to pace themselves while speaking, and to modulate their voices through a range of pitches and expressions to engage the listener.