English at Westminster
SLT Lead: Debbie Elliott
KS2 English Lead: Ben King
Early Reading Lead: Emma Barr
At Westminster Primary Academy, we aim to build a love and confidence of English in all children through communication, reading, writing and speaking and listening. We believe that developing a love of reading and language is vital in achieving success at school and in the future. As often as possible, English lessons will have a ‘book led’ focus which supports our determination to foster a love of reading. We teach discrete English and phonics lessons daily and on top of this, we teach handwriting, guided reading, spellings and also incorporate English skills into ALL curriculum areas.
We are enjoying our beautiful, modern and inspiring new library, installed in 2021. This area has boosted our children's love and enthusiasm for reading. Heavily supported by our reading for pleasure project, we have invested so much into this area that it is bursting with exciting and varied texts for the children to enjoy.
We are proud to have been working towards gaining our whole school ‘Communication Friendly Settling’ accreditation through ELKLAN and continue to adopt and use these strategies to help our children develop.
Early Years Foundation Stage:
English skills underpin the whole of the EYFS curriculum with communication, language and early reading being at the forefront of our learning and planning journeys. There are specific English and communication areas in which children are assessed in the early years. Where children are not working at expected standard in these areas, interventions will be put into place in order for children to start KS1 as confidently as they can.
Listening and Attention:
In EYFS, we encourage listening skills in various ways such as by reading to the class, or getting them to play in roleplay areas. When listening, we ask the children to pick out the key information. For example, asking them if they can predict or remember what happens next, or how the story ends. In their learning and play we are looking for whether the children contribute appropriately, and whether they can sustain attention, despite any distractions.
Assessing understanding involves asking children ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions and deciding how much they’ve grasped the concept, action or idea. We try to look for when children attempt to reason something, or expand on an idea or concept already presented to them. We try and encourage children to ask questions about the world around them, as well as try to answer these themselves, through deliberation or physical exploration.
In EYFS it is vital that children are able to successfully articulate themselves so that they can form their own narratives and explanations. Staff ask simple and more complex questions and then model and encourage them to answer in full sentences using new vocabulary they have learnt. We look to see if children can order their ideas and whether or not they can talk about the events in the past, present and future. Our staff are trained in strategies to support children in developing their speaking. We also screen all EYFS children and offer interventions to those that would benefit from additional support.
By the end of reception, children should be able to understand and read simple sentences. They should be able to decode unknown words using a phonic based approach. They should know and be able to retell familiar stories that we have enjoyed in school and those they have enjoyed at home. For home reading support our children received target word and sounds practice for home. They also have their own allocated books to read on their ‘bug club’ account. We love that our bug club scheme allows children to re-read the texts they have been allocated as homework.
All our experience has shown that the children who regularly practise at home make better progress.
In the EYFS, the aim is for children to be able to spell words phonetically, using sounds that they know and spelling some words correctly. Their writing should start to become legible and understandable, not only for themselves, but others also. They should also be able to spell some irregular, yet common words. We ensure that writing tasks are incorporated into all learning areas in the department.
An important aspect of teaching writing in EYFS is enabling children to have the gross motor and fine motor skills necessary to form letters and maintain a stamina for writing. Much of the ‘play’ we plan encourages strengthening for this.
Within this area, we put an emphasis on children being able to express themselves and their ideas and being able to show originality in their spoken and written ideas as well as starting to express their own ideas through music, art, role play, and making up stories. We encourage children to tell and act out familiar stories, plot twists and stories of their own.
Reading at Westminster Primary Academy:
Children have access to a variety of reading schemes to help them develop confidence and enjoyment in reading. Our three main schemes are ‘Oxford Reading Tree’, ‘Big Cat Collins’ and ‘Pearson’s Bug Club’. These schemes offer us a breadth of genre, interest and subject matter. Our early reading books are decodable and matched to follow our phonic program and the children read books specifically matched to their personal learning journey.
Children access ‘Bug Club’ online for home reading. This enables children to have books long enough to reread for fluency. Its online quizzes help us to monitor their understanding of their reading and this is regularly monitored by staff to ensure children are reading appropriate levels of texts. This system also supports our readiness for distance learning (when needed) as staff can manage children learning remotely. Children's engagement, success and access is monitored and rewarded regularly in school.
At Westminster we believe that good phonics teaching is the key to enabling children to become successful readers. We have a robust and systematic way of teaching that follows the DFES ‘Letters and sounds’ guidance to support the teaching of phonics. Children progress through the program and are assessed systematically and regularly to ensure that their gaps can be filled and children keep up with the pace of learning.
Phonics is the primary approach to teaching early reading in EYFS and Year 1. We recognise the varied needs of the children at Westminster and aim to provide a learning environment which enables all children to reach their maximum learning potential. For children that need further support we have trained staff and quality intervention to support children with their acquisition of phonics.
When the children have secured their letters and sounds we transition them to banded books and to a wider variety of reading books that can broaden their skills and strategies, this is usually in year 2. We have a good assessment system, PM Benchmarking, that helps us to pinpoint children skills, strategies and comprehension of reading. We use this to ensure that we know children's next steps clearly and that they are reading books that are well suited to match their needs.
Sometimes children struggle to keep up with their peers, and often we have new children from out of the area that can be lower than expected for their age. For children who are struggling, we have a variety of reading interventions to meet their needs. Our close monitoring and assessment of reading progress ensures that we know which children need support and the best support we can offer. We offer a variety of interventions to ensure these children can build confidence and make good progress.
Our staff are always happy to support parents with reading at home. We offer lots of reading clubs, open afternoons and online ‘how to ‘ videos for parents. All class teachers are happy to support anyone who may be struggling with reading at home. As well as ensuring that the bg club books match the children's reading journey we also send home their personalised next steps that are populated by our assessments program ‘Phonics tracker’.
Phonics at Westminster Primary Academy:
Phonics lessons at Westminster are taught in small groups by trained staff daily in EYFS and KS1 we have a systematic program which follows the guidance of the DFES letters and sounds. At Westminster we have a robust teaching program that we have designed to follow letters and sounds and to meet the needs of the children in our school. Teachers use the same strategies, teaching approaches and resources to ensure that there is fidelity and consistency in our approach. Our reading books are fully decodable, support the program and allow the children to progress as they read books that match their phonics ability.
Children are regularly assessed so that we know children's next steps and can ensure they keep up with our teaching program. This is supported by our ‘phonics tracker’ assessment tool. Parents are regularly informed of children's next steps and given materials to support children at home.
We have in place a systematic 1:1 intervention program to support our lowest readers to keep up with their phonics that works alongside and matches all systems, resources and strategies they receive in their phonics lessons. This is used in both KS1 and KS2. We also use BRP, Rapid reading and Wiki Prim to support struggling readers in KS2.
Guided Reading at Westminster Primary Academy:
In Key Stage 1, we do whole class guided reading sessions supported by Pearson bug club guided reading. We have a clear teaching sequence which allows children to move from decoding to expressive reading and is concluded with understanding the text. Teachers follow our guidance to ensure that children develop their decoding, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.
A range of comprehension skills are taught with the support of the ‘Pawsome Gang’ , who help teach the children the skills of Vocabulary , Inference, Prediction, Retrieval and Sequencing.
In Key Stage 2, the Pearson ‘Bug Club’ guided reading programme is used. This reading approach allows children to explore exciting texts, both independently and within guided sessions allowing our learners to build up their confidence and skills such as inference in reading. It also ensures that we have consistency of approach across the whole key stage.
Spelling at Westminster Primary Academy:
Every week, each year group has access to a weekly spelling rule taken from the National Curriculum. The children are taught this rule and are given time and different activities to practise the spellings at home and in school. The children are tested on the word list on a Monday (baseline test) and are given a score. Then they are tested on the same words on a Friday after learning the words all week and are rewarded for attitude and improvement.
Vocabulary at Westminster Primary Academy:
We use ‘Word Aware’ to plan for and teach new vocabulary linked to our topics and key texts. We make sure that children are secure on their ‘Anchor Words’ and then we plan and teach children their ‘Goldilocks’ words (pitched ‘just right’) for their year group. These are probably the most important words to learn and revisit as these tier two words will be needed to make sense of the topic / text. We also plan for ‘Step On’ words which are complex words that need explaining but are unlikely to be encountered regularly afterwards.
Handwriting at Westminster Primary Academy:
At Westminster Primary Academy we follow the ‘Penpals for Handwriting’ scheme of work. This is a consistent scheme that has been tried and tested in schools and is proven to drive up handwriting standards. It is split into developmental phases which provide clear progression for primary children. We aim for our children to leave in Year 6 with the ability to write using their own style of fast, fluent and legible handwriting. In addition to teaching handwriting during discrete handwriting lessons, we have high expectations that what is taught and applied during these lessons will also be applied in all writing.
Writing at Westminster Primary Academy:
At Westminster Primary Academy, we inspire our children to become independent, confident, fluent and proficient writers. We are embedding Jane Considine’s ‘The Write Stuff’ as a consistent approach to teaching writing across the school. All of her units are based around high quality, age related inspiring texts. In these units, the children are immersed in and are taught the features of different fiction, poetry and non fiction writing genres, as well as using colour coordinated consistent symbols across the school to help children make sense of all the wow features that make up different pieces of writing.
Children are prepared for the planning and independent writing process because teachers more carefully and explicitly model and scaffold the ideas, grammar and techniques of the writing process through short learning ‘chunks’ within the ‘Sentence Stacking’ and ‘Experience' lessons.
As a school, particularly in reception and Key Stage 1, we continue to use some ‘Talk for Writing’ strategies to aid their writing - including story mapping / actions to help retell stories and plan and write their own. We also use specific approaches such as ‘Colourful Semantics’ to help children structure simple sentences.
In other lessons, children are given a wide range of opportunities in which to develop their writing skills including spelling, punctuation, vocabulary and grammar skills. Where possible, our English units / texts are linked to current topics and therefore we encourage writing that has a purpose and links to other curriculum areas.
Speaking and Listening at Westminster Primary Academy:
At Westminster Primary Academy, we believe that talking / communication is vital for all learning. This is currently an area of great importance at our school and we have gained our ‘Communication Friendly Setting’ status through ELKLAN. This has been achieved by ensuring all staff in school are trained on the basic principles of ‘Communication Counts’ and apply these into their everyday work with children. In class and around school, children are encouraged to speak clearly, confidently in full grammatical sentences to communicate their needs and thoughts as well as to actively listen to others. Children are given opportunities in all areas of the curriculum to develop these skills in paired, group or whole class situations including through role play, small world or drama activities. Extra support is given to children with speech, language and communication needs and English as an additional language. Speaking and listening is supported by our talk boost intervention programs in Reception and KS1 and our ‘Word Aware’ strategies.