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At Cherry Orchard Primary Academy (COPA) our English Curriculum has been designed to ensure that all children develop the basic skills in reading and writing as quickly as possible. There is a particular focus on Phonics and Early Reading Skills in the Early Years and Key Stage One (KS1). This forms a solid foundation for our children to become independent readers and therefore be able to take full advantage of an engaging wider curriculum, based around the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP). Here at Cherry Orchard we believe that reading opens the window to the world. Children are supported and encouraged to become independent readers, in order to access meaning and information from the written world around them. We are passionate about developing readers who have a love for reading and read for pleasure.
English lessons are designed with a clear pathway of progression, as children advance through the Primary National Curriculum, which is delivered, where appropriate, through the IB PYP.
National Curriculum aims for English underpin the planning of all English lessons at Cherry Orchard. In Year R and KS1 the English curriculum is predominantly delivered through the Read Write Inc (RWI) programme which is designed to get children reading as quickly and accurately as possible. Once children are assessed as reading at the required level of accuracy and fluency they are ready to move off the RWI programme and into whole class English lessons.
Read, Write Inc (RWI) and Key Stage 1
Children are assessed and then put into groups based on their ability. This means that activities are targeted to the needs of pupils, regardless of their age or starting point. We call this the ‘Goldilocks Spot’ for learning. Children work with others who require a similar challenge level ensuring activities are ‘just right’. Groups are ‘fluid’ meaning that when a RWI Group Leader identifies a child who is exceeding in their group they will be able to move to the next group after being re-assessed. All children are assessed at least termly by either the Early Years Lead for Year R or the Read Write Inc Leader. This is to ensure that their progress is tracked effectively. Regular assessment also makes sure that children who may need additional support are identified quickly so teachers can put interventions in place if necessary.
RWI teaches children to not only read accurately and fluently but also teaches comprehension skills and embeds a love for reading. Children will learn to form letters, spell correctly and compose their ideas step-by-step. This systematic approach leads to success as highlighted in research into the teaching of systematic synthetic phonics Rose’s Independent Review of the Teaching of Early Reading (2006) explains the importance of a systematic approach.
Read Write Inc (RWI) is closely matched to the Year 1 National Curriculum. The average child will aim to finish the RWI programme by the end of Year 1, or by the end of the first term in Year 2 if he/she started their RWI journey in Year R. Interventions are used, where necessary, to accelerate progress of children not working at age expectation and to fill gaps in their learning.
Throughout the RWI programme children also focus on and develop:
- Spoken language
- Reading comprehension
- Writing – transcription; handwriting; composition; vocabulary, punctuation, grammar and spelling (SPAG)
This means that RWI is not just a phonics programme, it teaches children to become proficient in all of the National Curriculum areas of being a good reader / writer. Additional whole class writing lessons and discrete spelling and grammar sessions are also timetabled accordingly.
After Read Write Inc in KS1
After a child has completed the RWI programme they will then go into class English sessions. We refer to this as ‘Off of the programme’ in KS1 and in KS2 we simply call this ‘English’. Children will be required to complete the RWI programme (up to grey level), once they have reached this level they are assessed to see if they are ready for ‘Off’ the programme’ English sessions. These sessions combine reading and writing amongst other skills including listening and speaking, grammar and punctuation. The National Curriculum for each year group underpins the skills that are taught. Those children who are not ready to come off the RWI programme will continue to progress through it until they reach the required standard to go into class English sessions. They will receive intervention. This may mean that a small amount of children working significantly below their age related expectations may continue to be on the RWI programme until Year 3.
If a child reaches Year 4 and is still not working at age related expectations in English and can not access their whole class English lessons, they will be assessed under the Ruth Miskin Fresh Start programme. This is a continuation of the RWI programme suitable for older children. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) reported that Fresh Start shows ‘considerable promise as an effective catch-up intervention for low-attaining readers’. The aim is to get children reading accurately and fluently as quickly as possible so they can access English lessons.
In Nursery, children focus on developing listening skills through activities, games and songs to learn about environmental sounds, instrumental sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration and oral blending and segmenting (e.g. hearing that d-o-g makes ‘dog’). From Term 3 children are taught a sound a week, following the order of letters in RWI, learning the sound, corresponding picture and letter formation rhyme. Throughout the week they will then practise saying, reading and writing that sound during child initiated learning.
In Reception, children are taught a sound a day and practise saying, reading and writing the sounds in discrete RWI sessions. They then begin to apply their phonic knowledge, learning to blend and segment the sounds in order to read and write words. Within RWI sessions they also participate in a range of gross and fine motor activities in order to develop muscles needed for forming letters. Children start sessions in whole classes and are assessed and grouped from Term 2. Throughout the school day, sounds are used in a number of ways so that children practise and remember what they have learnt. During child initiated time, the environment provides a wide range of opportunities for purposeful reading and writing and adults support or extend children when appropriate.
English in KS2
By the time children reach KS2, it is expected they will be ‘off the RWI programme’ and be able to access whole class English lessons.
Writing in KS2 will include opportunities for different skills to be mastered within genres that link where possible to the concepts and knowledge in the PYP central ideas. This knowledge and skill follow the progression as outlined within the National Curriculum. Writing is to include opportunities to develop Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPAG) skills, language acquisition through exposure to high quality texts, planning and writing of different genres, editing and improving and writing their ‘published’ works.
Please see below an example of the sequence of learning that may be used:
English / Writing Sequence:
Discrete Reading lessons in KS2 allow children to access age appropriate texts and be taught specific skills including: interference, retrieval, structure and language, prediction and author’s voice. Opportunities are given through the IB Primary Years Programme to access relevant reading materials across genres. We continue to assess children’s reading fluency as they move through KS2 to ensure they are on track, to be able to access the reading paper in the KS2 SATs and be ready for secondary school.
Through RWI sessions and discrete weekly handwriting sessions children are taught:
- To sit and hold a pencil correctly
- To form lower case letters, capital letters and digits 0-9
- To understand which letters belong to which handwriting ‘families’ (letters formed in similar ways)
As outlined in the RWI programme children will begin to form letters in print form. They will only move on to cursive writing when they are ready (usually towards the end of Year 2 ready for KS2).
At COPA we refer to the following speeds of writing:
- Speed 1 is our best, slowest and most controlled speed, used for final drafts and during dedicated handwriting sessions
- Speed 2 is our every day, normal speed for writing
- Speed 3 is our speediest writing for note taking and white-board work
Spelling – non RWI
From Year 1, classes receive weekly spellings to learn and practise at home and are introduced to spelling rules appropriate to their year group, following the spelling curriculum. Children are tested in school and are expected to spell them correctly in their spelling test and also in their everyday writing. The method of high frequency, low-stakes testing provides an opportunity for children to recall and attempt to apply the knowledge they acquired in their everyday work. Research and studies suggest that students learn most effectively when these frequent opportunities are provided (Roediger, 2013). Some children may receive differentiated spellings based on their current phonic and spelling knowledge/ability if working significantly below the National Curriculum level for their year group.
We want to provide children with as many opportunities to read as possible. Children are expected to read their book band book for at least 10 minutes a day in KS1, 15 minutes in Year 3 and 20 minutes a day in Year 4. This book band book corresponds to KS1 children’s RWI group and is changed regularly. Those not on the RWI programme their book has been chosen by adults within the school who have listened to them read for fluency and comprehension to ensure they are on the correct level book. Every class also has a weekly visit to our school library to choose books to take home and share.
Alongside our IB PYP at COPA we have adapted the RWI programme to best provide more writing opportunities for our children in KS1.
Those in Orange RWI group and above have a reduced RWI session of 40 minutes a day followed by an English lesson in Term 1. From Term 2 those in Pink group also join if appropriate. These English sessions provide further writing opportunities and challenge children at the correct level. Children below Orange group continue to do the full hour of RWI as the strategies for early writing skills used in the RWI programme offer the ‘Goldilocks Spot’ for these children.
KS1 English sessions follow a sequence of learning which include dedicated Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar sessions as well as the opportunity to explore different genres. Where possible, writing is linked to the year group’s central idea. We also write about topical events that come up in the calendar such as Diwali, St Andrew’s Day, Christmas and Easter.
At COPA, we currently have pupils in LKS2 (Years 3 and 4), although we will be taking these pupils through to Year 6 by 2021.
The impact on our children is clear, progress achieved is sustained as they move up the school and the English skills they learn are transferable into other learning opportunities. The longer a child has been at COPA the better their attainment, as proven in homegrown and non-homegrown data. As a result of the way English is planned, delivered and encouraged at Cherry Orchard Primary Academy we have a community of young people who are developing a love for reading. They are enthusiastic about reading and also enjoy showcasing their developing writing skills. Evidence of this can be found on our Writing Journey Walls in each classroom. Cherry Orchard Children are confident to take risks, this is an IB Learner Profile we encourage, which strengthens their want to share their ideas.
Our attainment at the end of KS1 is inline with National Average, with results in the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check being above national since we opened in 2017. Currently we do not have any KS2 data due to only opening in 2017 and not having any Year 6 classes. Attainment in Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is also inline with the National Average.
The introduction of Fresh Start for Year 4 children (who are working below age related expectations for English) has only very recently been implemented therefore it’s full impact has not yet been fully assessed. Further training will be provided if necessary to ensure this is an effective provision for these children. As identified in research by the EEF and in a range of case studies, those children receiving Fresh Start as an intervention make considerable more progress than those children originally working at the same level but not receiving Fresh Start. Also identified in the research and case studies, children receiving Fresh Start show positive progress results for Free School Meal (FSM) eligible children, and for all pupil sub-groups regardless of age, sex, first language, ethnicity, or special education need.
Since the introduction of the IB PYP transdisciplinary writing opportunities have increased and the standard of writing has improved. One of the reasons for this being the use of just one Learning Journey Exercise book instead of lots of different books for different subjects.
“Teach a child to read and keep that child reading and we will change everything. And I mean everything.”
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.”
George R.R. Martin
If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”