English at Westminster
Leads: Ben King
Emma Barr (Phonics and Early Reading)
SLT Lead: Debbie Elliott
At Westminster Primary Academy, we aim to build a love and confidence of english in all children through 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. We teach discrete ‘english’ lessons daily across the whole school with work closely matched to children’s needs and also incorporate english skills into all curriculum areas.
As often as possible, english lessons will have a ‘book led’ focus which supports our determination to foster a love of reading. Discrete lessons are also regularly taught for phonics, handwriting and guided reading.
We are currently excited to be developing an amazing new library area and school library system at Westminster Primary Academy and are confident that its successful implementation will have positive outcomes for our children.
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.
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.
In EYFS and year 1, we have a ‘phonics first’ approach to reading and our children have access to a wide variety of phonically decodable books in school that match their daily phonics lessons. When the children have secured their letters and sounds we then encourage children to transition to a wider variety of reading books that can broaden their skills and strategies, this is usually in year 2.
We use ‘Rapid Online Reading’, ‘PM Readers’ and additional phonics sessions to support the lowest 20% of readers. We also ensure that the lowest 20% have more 1:1 reading time in school and interventions where necessary in order to keep up.
For home, each year group will support parents by sending home guidance or by posting videos on ‘Class Dojo’ to help parents understand phonics and deliver it to their children at home. Children have regular personalised reading practice from our phonics tracker program. Children received personalised plans to develop their confidence in sounds they have been taught.
Phonics lessons at Westminster are taught in small groups daily in EYFS and KS1 following a systematic phonics programme called ‘Letters and Sounds’. 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’ program.
In Key Stage 1, guided reading sessions are conducted as a whole class using the Pearson ‘Bug Club’ texts. As the week goes on the teacher’s will model and teach different strategies for effective and fluent reading as well as answering comprehension questions about the text. We use the ‘Pawsome Gang’ to help us do this!
In Key Stage 2, the Pearson ‘Bug Club’ guided reading programme is used. This reciprocal reading approach allows children to explore exciting texts, both independently and within guided sessions allowing our learners to build up their confidence and skills in reading.
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 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.
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.
At Westminster Primary Academy, we inspire our children to become independent, confident writers. The children are immersed in and are taught the features of different fiction and non fiction writing genres in every year group. The children, particularly in reception and Key Stage 1, use ‘Talk for Writing’ strategies to aid their writing - including story mapping to help them retell stories and plan and write their own.
In lessons, children are given a wide range of opportunities in which to develop their writing skills including spelling, punctuation, vocabulary and grammar skills which are taught alongside the work on specific genres and texts. Where possible, our writing lessons are based around a ‘hook’, a ‘topic’ or a ‘book’ and therefore we encourage writing that has a purpose and links to other curriculum areas.
This year we are launching a new and exciting way of teaching writing based on the work and research of Jane Considine and her work on ‘The Write Stuff’ - Her tried and tested approach, is based on scaffolding and modelling the writing process in order for children to become more fluent and proficient writers.
Speaking and Listening:
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 a ‘Speech, Language and Communication Needs’ team of staff who are working on different initiatives, training and raising the profile of this area as well as working with other professionals to gain advice and strategies. In class, 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 and our ‘word aware’ strategies.