At Westover, English sits at the heart of the curriculum and has been carefully shaped to develop ‘The Westover Child’. It is through speaking, listening, reading, writing and vocabulary acquisition that children learn to communicate ideas, express themselves deeply and to understand the world in which they live.
It is our intent that children at Westover experience and study a wide range of books that cover a broad range of topics, themes and cultures. Reading for pleasure and fostering a love of books is paramount at Westover. A broad range of writing opportunities are planned for children so that they are able to express themselves and write for a wide range of purposes and audiences.
On the link below your will find the English Curriculum and skills progression document.
What is Phonics?
“Phonics is a method of teaching people to read by correlating sounds with symbols in an alphabetic writing system” – Oxford Dictionary definition.
At Westover Green we follow a systematic synthetic phonics programme known as “Letters and Sounds”. Letters and Sounds is made up of 6 different phases that children work through from Reception to Year 2. (Please click on the link to see the progression).
Synthetic phonics is a method of teaching reading. The children are taught to read letters or groups of letters by saying the sound(s) they represent. Children start to read words by blending (synthesising) the sounds (phonemes) together to make a word. Systematic synthetic phonics is key to teaching children reading and writing. It provides them with strategies to decode words, which is especially important because English is such a difficult language to learn with the many different ways to make the same sound from different letters or combinations of letters.
Children in Foundation Stage through to Year 2 have daily whole class Phonic lessons. If children are working below ARE (Age Related Expectations) we have rigorous phonics interventions that take place to close these gaps in addition to their daily phonics lessons. Children are assessed using Phonics Tracker every half term and more detailed written assessments take place at the end of every term. These then help us to identify children’s gaps in their phonics and apply interventions for these children.
Phonics Reading books Our new phonics phase reading books from “Big Cat” ensure that we have fidelity to one programme across the school in regards to the teaching of Phonics. The Big Cat books are all based on the ‘Letters and Sounds’ systematic synthetic phonics programme to ensure that the books our children read at home directly link to the sounds they learn in class (through phonics lessons or interventions) and are matched closely to their phonics levels. Children’s books are changed once a week to ensure that children develop fluency (fluency is the link between recognising words and understanding them so that readers can make the link between words, sounds, and meaning more quickly), become confident at decoding skills, as well as developing an understanding about what they are reading by being able to comprehend.
Children choose their own Phonics reading book from a large selection of fiction and non – fiction books aimed at their specific phonics level. By picking their own book, we nurture and develop individual preferences and enable an excitement about reading. The assessments that take place every half term ensure that the children are given an appropriate phase of book that is adjusted accordingly. Once children are secure with their phonics they then move onto Accelerated Reader.
|Reading phases and colour bands linked to Letters and Sounds|
Reading is a vital part of every child's education and a range of research evidences the crucial impact reading has on children's future attainment and life successes. If we want to give our children the best start in life, we need to make sure they experience a rich and varied world of reading and that they see themselves as readers as they grow.
"Reading for pleasure is more important for children's cognitive development than their parents' level of education and is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background." Sullivan and Brown (2013)
At Westover Green it is our intent that all children will be able to read fluently and with good comprehension. We encourage our children to read widely for both pleasure and to gain information across the curriculum. Through the school, it is understood that reading is multi-faceted with many skills that build together to develop a reader. These reading skills are taught under the umbrella of two broad focuses: word recognition (decoding) and language comprehension.
When children are secure in all the phonic phases and use their sounds confidently to decode unknown words, accelerated reader is implemented to support children with their independent reading choices. Children usually move onto the accelerated reading system between Year 2 and Year 3. Every half term, children take a Star Reader assessment which gives children a guide to their ‘zone’ so that they select books that they can decode and comprehend. Their STAR level is tested every half term to see how they have progressed. All the books in the library that are registered with Accelerated Reader have a coloured label on the spine to help them recognise books within their ‘zone’. Children take a quiz on the website after reading each book to assess how well they understood it.
The system is used to motivate students to increase their reading and vocabulary comprehension and guide them to independent reading. Motivational rewards such as star badges, certificates and competitions are regularly implemented to support engagement.
Guided reading is taught to the whole class and not in differentiated groups. Teaching the whole class means that all pupils are being taught by the ‘expert’ in the room. Therefore, leading to all pupils reading with the teacher more often, moving faster through more or longer texts and benefiting from the teacher’s expert explanations, modelling, questioning and feedback. It also makes possible more integration between guided reading, topic-related reading and reading as a stimulus for writing. Guided reading texts are chosen to be challenging to stretch and challenge all children within the class.
Guided reading teaching is planned and implemented according to the following 5 elements:
- Element - 1 Preparation and Prediction: This element focuses on teaching a range of skills such as pre-teaching selected vocabulary which may be out of the children’s experiences; pre-teaching cultural/historical/geographical context – or links to topics being taught; skimming and scanning; prediction through picture clues and (closely-read) fragments of text.
- Element 2 – Reading: This element focuses on decoding and modelled ‘expert’ fluent reading by the teacher. Other techniques used in this element are choral reading (reading altogether), echo reading (teacher reads a sentence / children then repeat it), reading independently, paired reading and / or children volunteer / invited to read like a teacher. During this element, a text/ extract will be read more than once to ensure deepened levels of understanding are developed.
- Element 3 - Clarifying Vocabulary: This element focuses on words and phrases; moving from the simple to the sophisticated. Discussion and teacher questioning probes and develops understanding through discussions about synonyms (words with similar meanings), antonyms (words with opposite meanings), imagery, words within words (morphology), subject specific vocabulary, word roots and etymology (word origin).
- Element 4 – Questioning: Teacher questioning during this element moves from the literal to the inferential. At Westover, we understand that the quality of interactions surrounding carefully planned questions leads to a developing and deepening comprehension.
- Element 5 – Sequencing and Summarising: The skills of sequencing develop before summarising and children are explicitly taught both of these skills.
To teach the skills of reading, we use VIPERS. VIPERS is an acronym to aid the recall of the 6 reading domains as part of the national curriculum. They are the key areas which we feel children need to know and understand in order to improve their comprehension of texts.
VIPERS stands for
Sequence or Summarise
Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R) Time
At Westover Green, we value and prioritise reading books aloud to the children. Every day, in every class across the school, the teachers dedicate a time when they read aloud to the children. We believe that reading aloud to the children develops a love and enjoyment of books, stimulates imagination, and helps develop language, vocabulary and listening skills. Our ‘Read Aloud’ provision has been developed by the teachers and ensures that children will have listened to a wide range of books by different authors by the time they leave at the end of Year 6.
To support children across the school, we use a wide range of interventions to ensure children develop their reading skills quickly. Group phonics interventions, daily 1:1 readers, group reading comprehension interventions and 1:1 Literacy interventions are used to support our learners. We also run vocabulary and new to English interventions for children with English as an additional language.
At Westover, writing begins from a very early age as soon as a child can mark make. Gross and fine motor skills are developed through our provision within EYFS, ensuring all children are developmentally prepared to form letters correctly. Letter formation is discretely taught in phonics sessions and encouraged through the continuous provision.
In Key Stage 1 and 2, children are taught the skills of writing through carefully planned writing journeys. Each writing journey is developed to build on reading into writing and is planned to link to learning across the curriculum and engage and capture the children’s interests. Challenging topic-based texts support them in writing in various genres for a range of purposes and audiences.
Each writing journey typically takes between 2 – 3 weeks and is split into the following stages:
Hook – The ‘Hook’ is designed to capture the children’s interests and imaginations, drawing them into the process and motivating them to write. Some examples of ‘Hooks’ that have been used at Westover include: finding dragons eggs in the forest; a survival day in the forest leading to recount writing, finding parts of mythical creatures around the school, visits out and visitors in as well as film clips, drama and high quality texts.
Stage 1 – Familiarisation with Genre (What does a good one look like?) - In this stage the children are taught to understand the genre, its features, organisation and grammatical structures. They also unpick what makes an effective version.
Stage 2 – Teaching the writing tools – In this stage the children are taught grammar and punctuation in context. These tools are split into vocabulary tools, grammar tools, punctuation tools and author tools. They complete sentence and word level work to develop the specific skills in order to apply them to their own writing.
Stage 3 – Teacher modelling and scaffolding – This stage is highly scaffolded by the teacher. Teachers adopt a ‘writer’s voice’ and explicitly model the choices writers make to directly impact on the reader. This can either be done as a whole class (shared writing) or as guided groups (guided writing).
Stage 4 – Independent application – In this stage, children write their own version and are encouraged to look back to toolkits built up through the writing journey. During this stage, children are also encouraged and taught how to edit and improve as they write.
Stage 5 – Editing, redrafting and publishing – In this stage and according to age, children are taught to edit for sense, punctuation, spelling and through polishing vocabulary choices. In Key Stage 2, children begin to re-draft to include edited improvements but also to improve again. Children are also encouraged to publish their writing – this could be hand-written or typed depending on the audience. We use ‘Pride and Progress’ boards in school, which display children’s published writing and are a visual for teachers to show children how far they have come and to celebrate the progress they have made.
Our spelling curriculum follows on from the Letters and Sounds Programme taught in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, developing the children’s understanding of the rules of spelling and the common exception words required in each year group. Children in Years 3-6 receive spelling lessons from the Westover Green spelling scheme where they are systematically taught the spelling rules and requirements before embedding them throughout the week.
We use Oxford University Press’s Nelson Handwriting scheme. Children in EYFS practise letter formation as part of their daily phonics. This is carried through to Year 1 where children receive timetabled handwriting sessions. In year 2, children will begin to learn to join their handwriting. In Key Stage 2, children continue to work on joining, legibility and writing at length, receiving a pen license when they can fluently write in a neat, cursive style through the curriculum. Handwriting progress is celebrated across the school through Pride and Progress boards.
Speaking and Listening
At Westover we understand that speaking and listening skills are what underpin the entire curriculum. With this in mind, we have started to use the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) programme with our Reception children. As part of this programme, the children complete a language screen and a selection of children are identified to have intensive intervention to boost and develop both their receptive and expressive language.
It is our intent that all children become confident and skilled at speaking and listening by the time they leave us. We support all our children in achieving this through talking partners, pupil presentations, poetry recitals, performances and debates which take place in classes, year groups and in whole school situations.
Our school welcomes many families with English as an additional language and we support these children with a variety of speaking and listening intervention programmes led by highly skilled staff. In addition to this, vocabulary is explicitly taught and secured through images and a range of strategies to ensure the classroom is inclusive to all learners.
Across the whole curriculum children are encouraged to develop their vocabulary and use discussion in order to support their learning. This is embedded within all planning in the school and modelled by teaching staff. Children are taught to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas.