English at St. Peter's
English is at the heart of our curriculum at St Peter’s: a subject that directly affects and influences every area of our lives. It is through language, narrative and text that children learn from concepts, connect ideas and express their ideas, views and feelings. Through literacy, in all its forms, children learn to both make sense of the world and shape their place within it.
Reading for Pleasure underpins our curriculum and we want all our children at St. Peter’s to develop a life-long love of reading. Our book corners are well stocked with an impressive range of children’s literature, from the classics to modern favourites to the best of contemporary literatures.
Intent: What do we want from our English curriculum?
“It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own” — Katherine Patterson
Frequent guided reading sessions focus on discussion, unpicking vocabulary and critical appreciation to unlock the meaning of a text for all children. Sessions also teach the skills needed to answer comprehension test questions. Classes regularly enjoy Book Club sessions which focus solely on reading for pleasure: the children engage in ‘book talk’, discussing what they are reading, making recommendations and hearing from their classmates. Different realities are reflected and explored in the stories that we share to engage and provide a context for all children.
Alongside this, we have special events such as author visits, books fairs, World Book Day and the annual Readathon – one of the highlights of the year!
In all year groups, we teach writing through high-quality texts – ranging from picture books to Shakespeare. Over their career at St. Peter’s, children will write a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts; including recounts, journalistic writing, explanation texts, poems, plays and stories of all kinds. Structural and technical knowledge for writing is paired alongside developing an appreciation of writing as a lifelong means for communication and expression of oneself. Our curriculum ensures that children write for a purpose and for an audience, giving their writing meaning.
Drama plays a pivotal role in our writing, enabling the children to explore texts through role play, freeze-frames, movement to music, storytelling and discussion. These activities take place both in the classroom and in drama sessions taught by a specialist teacher in the drama studio.
Vocabulary development is another important strand. We use Mrs Wordsmith as a tool to engage the children in more challenging and interesting words, enrichening and deepening their vocabulary. The children then use these new words in their writing.
Spelling, Punctuation, Grammar and Handwriting
At St Peter’s we foster a curiosity and love of words. We follow Jason Wade’s Sounds & Syllables approach which teaches children how to spell by building upon what they already know and understand from phonics teaching. The strategy is simple and logical, recognising the crucial relationship between sounds and spellings. At the heart of Sounds & Syllables is a clear five-step sequence: ‘say it’, ‘snip it’, ‘segment it’, ‘target it’ and ‘link it’. The strategies we teach have an impact where they matter most - at the point of writing. The spellings we are working on each week are sent home as part of the children’s home-learning and we celebrate children’s progress in a variety of ways.
Grammar and punctuation objectives are taught through engaging, regular sessions, as well as being interwoven into writing lessons. This enables children to use a range of sentence structures, making their work more interesting to read and to provide purpose and context for the learning of grammar and punctuation.
At St. Peter’s we are very proud of our pupil’s handwriting and take particular care in our handwriting style. We use Letter-join’s on-line handwriting resource and Lesson Planners as the basis of our handwriting policy as it covers all the requirements of the National Curriculum.
Implementation: What do our children experience?
Our English teaching is interwoven with our topic (History, Geography and Science) curriculum, which enables children to apply their writing skills in different contexts, for example writing up experiments in Science, recounting events in History and describing processes in Geography.
Daily English lessons could involve any of the following:
- Immersion in class texts through discussion and drama activities
- Spelling, punctuation and grammar activities linked to the writing outcomes.
- Vocabulary enrichment
- Teacher modelling
- Pair/group talk/activities to generate ideas
- Practise of sentence construction
- Planning and drafting
- Writing imaginative and engaging texts covering a range of genres
- Editing and improving.
Impact: how do we know that it works?
By the end of their time at St Peter’s, our children will have become confident, passionate and life-long readers, the bank of vocabulary they arrived with will have hugely expanded, giving them the language skills they need to understand and write sophisticated texts and to express themselves clearly in a wide range of contexts. Our children will demonstrate their growing competence in literacy skills in daily lessons, and in their end of key stage assessments, ready for the challenges of secondary school.