Thornhill’s Key Principles for the Teaching of English:
At Thornhill Primary School, English is at the heart of our learning and teaching and essential to every area of the curriculum. Our English curriculum promotes language development that enables children to communicate effectively and to appreciate the richness, magic and power of the written word. It enables children to see language as a source of pleasure and enjoyment and use it to develop powers of imagination, creativity and inventiveness. Developing a love of reading, and the importance of this for our children both now and in the future, underpins our approach in every aspect of the curriculum.
In the EYFS, children are exposed to English right from the start through sharing books with adults, listening to, learning and performing nursery rhymes, songs and stories. We recognise that literacy skills are dependent on communication skills and there is a strong focus on the development of listening and attention, understanding and speaking. Our recently renovated EYFS environment offers a literacy rich environment promoting engagement with reading and writing across the curriculum both inside and outside. There are numerous activities and resources that promote mark making and when ready children are introduced to letter formation through direct teaching of handwriting. A love of writing is promoted through giving children opportunities to write for a variety of purposes throughout the environment. In Reception and KS1, more structured activities support children’s writing development alongside these other opportunities.
Systematic phonics teaching is introduced from Nursery through Ruth Miskin’s renowned Read Write Inc. (RWI) Phonics programme. The rigorous training provided equips our staff with equal expertise and through careful assessment and monitoring, we can very quickly identify any necessary group changes. At home, children are further supported in developing their reading skills using special RWI books that are matched to their phonic knowledge. If required, RWI can be used as a form of targeted intervention for children even in KS2.
Throughout KS1 to KS2, English is taught through a ‘core text’ (Power of Reading) approach. This is an immersive approach to teaching English, allowing for connections to be made to all other areas of the English curriculum. Each year group is taught via class novels/books that are used by the class teacher to underpin the teaching of all aspects of English – speaking, listening, reading and writing. This allows children to study a genre for deeper understanding before applying their knowledge to create their own written pieces. Where possible, the chosen texts will be linked to other curriculum subjects to foster a cross-curricula approach to learning.
The Effective Teaching of English at Thornhill
- Design: The teaching of Reading at Thornhill strives to provide children with the skills to read accurately, fluently and with good understanding as well as foster a love for reading. It develops children’s understanding of vocabulary and the techniques authors use to show meaning, build atmosphere and engage the reader.
- Direct instruction and modelling: We have daily reading sessions beginning with guided ‘carousel’ groups from EYFS/KS1, evolving into a Whole Class Guided Reading (WCGR) format by KS2. This flexible approach reflects the progressive objectives set out in the English curriculum, ensuring our children are first and foremost successful orators before building on their comprehension skills. Both models allow opportunities for the teacher to read aloud, modelling the skills required of an expert reader and clearly demonstrating one of our core values: leading by example.
- Exploration: Opportunities to explore a wide range of texts is actively encouraged and facilitated at Thornhill. We place value in the freedom of choice yet we recognise the need to guide our children to make appropriate choices that will both offer suitable challenge and maintain interest. Thus we utlise Accelerated Reader (AR) to support our children through identifying their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), which then offers children a range of books to choose from in every interest level. Furthermore, AR provides tailor-made quizzes to check recall and understanding, offering feedback and next steps along with recommendations for the children’s next book. From our desire to empower the children, all of our texts have been hand selected to reflect the diverse society we live in.
- Discussion: Dialogue is integral to developing the powerful communicators we pride ourselves on at Thornhill. In every session, all children are encouraged to discuss ideas and opinions in response to questions related to the text. This dialogue can be conducted in pairs, small groups or in teacher-led discussions. These rich discussions further develop children’s ability to draw inferences, discern fact from fiction and nurture empathy, which is crucial in our ever-changing environment.
- Practise and application: In each reading session, we plan a range of activities that specifically targets a reading domain such as retrieval, summarising or making predictions. By rigorously assessing our children, we can quickly identify gaps to ensure children continue to make progress and intervene if needed.
- Design: Through our writing curriculum, children will develop a strong command of the written and spoken word and the ability to write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences. Concurrently, teachers will nurture their confidence and competence to produce high quality writing whilst establishing a good understanding of grammar and punctuation and its use in effective written communication.
- Direct instruction and modelling: As part of daily planning, previous knowledge and next steps within our progression are identified and shared with the children. Outcomes are planned with a real purpose in mind and utilise the core text as a stimulus for the outcomes. The learning journey is shared with children and they understand how each step of their learning will contribute to the outcome through modelled and shared writing. The teaching of spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG) is planned for and taught through the learning journey. Where necessary to introduce a new concept or cement understanding, additional discreet SPaG sessions may be planned.
- Exploration: We believe in immersing our children in texts through reading and analysing the skills of an expert writer. This is important as through this immersion, children become aware of the language skills of a writer and use this as a model for their writing. Using this model, children develop greater competence in the conventions of spelling, punctuation, sentence structures and text organisation.
- Discussion: As with Reading, dialogue is integral to developing our prized communicators. In every session, all children are encouraged to discuss ideas and opinions in response to questions related to the stimulus. This dialogue can be conducted in pairs, small groups or in teacher-led discussions. These rich discussions support the children to analyse, critically evaluate and identify authorial techniques in texts to use in their own writing.
- Practise and application: After the teacher has modelled the writing, demonstrating clearly how the success criteria relates to the expected outcome, children practise and apply these skills either independently or through Shared Writing. This ensures inclusivity and draws upon the wealth of unique writing styles present in every class. Opportunities for editing and improving written work is planned weekly and children are encouraged to take an increased responsibility for proof-reading for mistakes and editing their work or a partner’s, with the reader in mind, as they progress through the school. Once edited, children are given the opportunity to publish their writing focusing not only on presentation skills but the impact of how it is presented to their intended audience.
- Assessment: Assessment in English at Thornhill is an ongoing process, from initial assessments of learning to inform planning, through daily review and feedback, including self- and peer- assessment by the students, to summative tests administered once a term. Teachers log progress towards curriculum goals on Target Tracker, adjusting planning and delivery of learning accordingly, all the while encouraging students to be aware of their own achievements and areas for development.
- Beyond the classroom: Our brand new state of the art library is well stocked with a diverse range of carefully curated books and every class has a special timetabled session each week to exchange books or simply to be immersed in the rich environment as they read for pleasure. A dedicated school librarian supports the children with book recommendations and discussions in the children’s very own Book Club. Stories are written to be shared; to demonstrate this, we like to make our children’s experience of literature an active and creative one. From World Book Day to Book Fairs, to regular storyteller visits and author sessions, to our annual Poetry Performances and writing competitions, we are always striving to bring the magic of reading and writing alive!