Our pupils undertake an exciting, ambitious and diverse English curriculum, brimming with rich sequences of lessons, designed to instil a love of speaking, listening, reading and writing which will last a lifetime. Pupils’ reading and writing skills remain at the forefront of everything we do to support them in addressing disadvantages. Our curriculum prepares them for a highly successful adult life and enhances and improves ‘pupils culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually.’
We understand that writing is an essential skill and that we must overcome any barriers that prevent children from becoming confident writers. We have high expectations of all children and ensure all learners can access the same high-quality and highly ambitious writing curriculum. We want our pupils to acquire a wide range of imaginative, ambitious and judicious vocabulary and a confident use of punctuation and grammar. We want our pupils to be able to spell new and common words through the application of spelling patterns and rules children learn throughout their time at Molehill. We want pupils to write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences, developing an individual flair for the subject.
We have a cohesive and progressive reading model which allows children to explore reading comprehension from the earliest point in the school, whilst also teaching children to be confident, fluent readers. Using a sequential, progressive and coherent approach to phonics ensures children develop decoding skills at the earliest point; through revision and repetition, we overlearn to ensure the content taught becomes knowledge – transferred to the long-term memory – ensuring children have the skills to read fluently. We understand that the knowledge we provide the children supports their future success and we teach our children how to connect their learning to the wider world, including the different pathways and careers they might pursue in the future. We emphasise and prioritise reading as a lifelong habit and its necessity in lifelong learning and are clear that children cannot access our curriculum without revision and challenge.
Our core text choices enable pupils to explore key themes such as: tolerance, acceptance and understanding. Not only do these themes develop key empathetic characteristics that we strive for in our young people, but all of our texts give students the opportunity to explore the importance of social, cultural ideas and ideologies within different settings and different time periods. These books build awareness of a range of social issues whilst continuing to give pupils opportunities to build on their writing and analytical skills. We’ve logically ordered texts in terms of the events in our pupils’ lives and our study of Shakespeare Week further supports how we shape our pupils to embrace British Values.
High quality, challenging texts are central to our learning and our inquiry approach to learning. We ensure reading is directly connected to everyday learning. The text types we use expose children to a wide range of challenging vocabulary and grammatical structures to support the teaching and implementation of spelling and grammar foci. Children are exposed to rich language and vocabulary that is explored and utilised across the curriculum.
Our highly ambitious approach addresses one of the social disadvantages in our local area. Each of these texts aim to raise the ambitions of our young people. Across all of them, they clearly see the importance of believing in themselves, striving to make the world a better place and can be inspired by the heroes of each text: explorers, teachers and brave risk taskers, intending to pave the way for our young people’s futures.
A key focus, particularly in light of the pandemic and allowing students to prepare for the world of work, is exercising mastery over key speaking and listening skills that are required within any workplace. Pupils develop their writing and comprehension skills and refine their skills of writing for specific audiences and purposes. They develop reading skills through a wide-range of nonfiction. One of our main objectives is to ensure pupils feel confident, empowered and passionate about our subject. Armed with vital knowledge and a high quality set of skills that they’ve enjoyed accumulating, our pupils are in the best place to begin year 7 and the Key Stage 3 curriculum.
We aim to build a curriculum which develops a love of reading to help pupils know more, remember more, and understand more. We know there are two inextricably linked elements that need to be taught and developed if our students are to become proficient readers. Alongside phonics decoding (word reading skills), comprehension (word and sentence understanding) is essential. Reading is a fundamental tool which, once mastered, opens learners to a wealth of written knowledge and empowers them to become autonomous learners. In order to read across the curriculum with fluency, accuracy, understanding and enjoyment, pupils require exposure to a range of developmentally appropriate learning experiences. These experiences enable our learners to apply phonic and graphic knowledge, draw meaning from the context and the grammatical content of the sentences and develop word recognition.
The systematic teaching of phonics has a high priority throughout the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1. Phonics is taught daily to all children in KS1. Phonics is the lifelong skill of encoding (spelling) and decoding (reading). At Molehill Primary Academy, good phonics teaching enables children to become fluent readers by the age of seven and we ensure that children are confident spellers by continuing to teach phonics beyond KS1. Phonics also fosters good speaking and listening skills.
We follow a systematic synthetic phonics programme; Phonics International (a DfE validated programme). ‘Phonics International (PI) is a highly-organised, systematic and yet flexible online synthetic phonics programme (program)‘.
With synthetic phonics, children are taught to read and spell at the same time. They are taught to convert letters into sounds and then blend the sounds to form words. The Phonics International programme, devised by Debbie Hepplewhite, is made up of 12 units (see Progression document), and has high expectations from the beginning of Reception.
In Reception, the children will learn to read, write, blend and segment with the following GPCs:
- Unit 1: s a t i p n c k ck e h r
- Unit 2a: m d g o u l ll f ff ss b j y
- Unit 2b: ai ay w oa ow ie igh le o a e i o u y
- Unit 3: ee or z zz wh ea ea se ze aw
- Unit 4: ng nk v ve oo oo y ey x ch sh th ph
In Year One, the children will build on their prior knowledge and learn to read, write, blend and segment with the following GPCs:
- Unit 5: qu ou ow oi ue er ar ce ge se
- Unit 6: ce ge oe i-e e-e o-e a-e u-e air are ear ere eer ear ere ier ir ur ear (w)or our si s ge ture x f ph or au aw ie ch ou ew ti ci ssi kn wr mb st
At Molehill Primary Academy, we know that phonics learning does not end after the phonics screening check in Year One. Therefore, in Year Two, the children will build on their prior knowledge and learn to read, write, blend and segment with the following GPCs:
- Unit 7: -le -il -al aw au al oar oor our ch tch ge dge x kn wr mb sc gu bu ch rh
- Unit 8: sh ch ti ci ssi /zh/ si s z g ge ou ous ph gh ch wa qua war gn st
Phonics is taught in whole class sessions to ensure that the children are being taught the age appropriate code. We use a two-pronged approach of systematic and incidental teaching. Where intervention is required for those needing additional support or those needing challenge, the same programme is used so that the phonics practice does not become diluted.
It is a prerequisite that our Reception learners must be able to auditorily blend and segment given sets of words that are made up of Units 1-4 phonemes. They must also be able to associate learned phonemes to graphemes before being given phonetically decodable books to read. Thus, early in the Reception year, our children will take home a book to share with an adult with the intention of developing comprehension skills and a love of reading.
Once the child has mastered auditorily blending and segmenting, they will be able to take home phonetically decodable books and another book to share and develop their enjoyment and comprehension. As our students in Year One and Two progress and begin to recognise words through morphology and sight, they will start to take home books that, through exposure, will build upon their comprehension, automaticity and fluency.
At Molehill Primary Academy, we believe it is essential for every child to thoroughly enjoy reading. Reading for pleasure is embedded across all school life, creating a culture of reading, allowing them to build strategies for learning and provides them with better life chances. We believe that active encouragement of reading for pleasure is a core part of every pupil’s educational entitlement, whatever their background or attainment, because, as research shows, exposure to a broad range of texts contributes widely to educational achievement.
Through reading independently, guided, shared and paired reading, children learn to read with confidence, fluency and understanding. They learn to appreciate the joy and wonder of reading, fiction and nonfiction. This is a lifelong skill which will ensure they are secondary ready, and which they will take further into their adult lives.
Reading comprehension lessons across the school follow VIPERS. VIPERS is an acronym to aid the recall of the 6 reading content domains found in the National Curriculum Test Framework. This ensures children have a sound understanding of each of the skills. Children are exposed to high-quality texts linked to the transdisciplinary theme and central idea of a class’s Inquiry-based learning. Children are routinely expected to independently produce oral and written responses to questions about the text they have read. This does not have to be a whole text and is predominantly an extract or passage from a lengthier piece. Teachers encourage the independent reading of a text to increase the metacognitive load to develop critical thinkers and independent learners. The text is then modelled by an adult and discussed with children, using questioning to probe and extract themes and key points.
All reading comprehension lessons follow the same sequence, designed to develop text recall, explore language and how it can be used in context before answering comprehension questions.
The recap is the recall of previous reading and applying this knowledge to teacher directed questions that require knowledge of the text and what has previously been read and generating inferences in order to answer successfully.
The vocabulary check is an opportunity to explore unfamiliar language that will be presented in the reading extract. This is to contextualise language and understand its meaning and purpose in a piece of writing.
This is the reading of the extract.
The independent activity involves children applying the skills of reading comprehension to questions that are related to the VIPERS strands.
Deeper thinking is an inference-based independent task that requires a longer, written answer. This is a more open question that requires the student to explain and justify, clearly using the text as evidence.
All of our pupils will learn to write clearly, with neat and legible handwriting, to spell and use punctuation accurately and to write in grammatically correct sentences. The aims of the English National Curriculum underpin the planning of all writing sessions at Molehill. All writing sessions are designed to expose children to the necessary writing skills outlined in the English Programmes of Study. Inquiry-based PYP is used as a vehicle for writing, providing children with a foundation of knowledge that can be transferred and utilised in a variety of writing opportunities.
As children enter the Early Years Foundation stage there are mark making and writing opportunities in all areas of learning. Through early teaching of Phonics International, children are taught letter formations and, whether with writing implements or in the air, children are taught to apply phonic knowledge to form words. As each child’s phonic knowledge advances, as well as the ability to write high frequency words, children will be taught to write simple sentences. Children are encouraged to write through child initiated learning time, where they are able to independently select and use a range of writing tools.
In both Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, transcription and composition form the basis for what is taught. Writing takes place in many forms – word and sentence activities, independent, modelled and shared writing. Throughout the week, writing skills are also taught discretely or embedded as part of our inquiry lessons, therefore pupils apply the skills they have been taught in all areas of the curriculum.
Our writing sequence ensures that children are given the time to generate ideas by conducting research or through the use of inspiring stimuli – like animation or the key texts that form the core of our curriculum – before they plan their written content. During the drafting phase, children begin to form their ideas as extended pieces of writing where children demonstrate their growing stamina for writing at length. This process is followed by the revision and editing of their writing, where children check and edit their own writing, making alterations to ensure their pieces are coherent and meet the requirements of a genre, purpose or target audience.
The writing teaching sequence is designed to ensure children gain the necessary knowledge and skills to at least achieve the end of year writing age related expectations for their year group. Children are given the opportunity to write for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences as evident in our writing genre mapping.
Through synthetic phonics, children are taught the different ways of spelling sounds then apply their growing knowledge to write words and sentences. Alongside decodable words, the reading and spelling of common exception and tricky words are taught. Spelling rules and strategies are introduced in Year Two to help spell accurately. From Year Two to Year Six, we use the No Nonsense Spelling Scheme to support delivery in up to three sessions per week. Children learn spelling rules and strategies in a way that is creative and engaging. We encourage children to explore words and develop an understanding of the origins and connections between words.
Vocabulary provides the building blocks to language development and in turn, is intimately connected to both effective reading and writing skills. We acknowledge the indispensable need for rich and varied vocabulary for all our children and each member of our staff endeavour to promote this daily. Across the academy, each classroom environment is vocabulary rich. We use dictionaries and Chromebooks throughout our day to engage the children with new words. We want all our children to explore vocabulary for themselves. Our aim is that children are able to decipher new words and use them when speaking and writing, both informally and formally.
Grammar and punctuation knowledge and skills are embedded within our English session in addition to teaching grammar and punctuation skills discreetly during SPAG lessons. The teaching of grammar objectives follows a clear, progressive sequence outlined in each year group’s grammar coverage document. This, alongside our curriculum, ensures all learners understand the necessary features and skills to write successfully for a range of genres.
Handwriting is taught throughout both key stages. In the Foundation Stage, children develop many pre-writing skills. Correct letter formation is taught in a variety of enjoyable ways. As they progress, children begin to write letters using a variety of materials. Children are taught how to hold their pencil correctly. Children learn to regulate the size of letters which leads to neatly presented work. They are taught to join letters which leads to fluent, legible writing.
Speaking and Listening are not taught as discrete subjects, but are embedded in all aspects of school life, across all areas of the curriculum and are a part of everything we do. We encourage children to engage in questioning and interact with both their peers and all adults throughout the school. All are provided with varied contexts for talk enabling them to communicate confidently and effectively. We provide our children with a number of opportunities to develop their language, speaking and listening. They learn to express their ideas verbally, to discuss and debate issues with others and that their choice of language must be varied to reflect the purpose and audience. We recognise that these skills are invaluable to the children living in this modern world.
By the time children leave Molehill Primary Academy, they are competent readers who can recommend books to their peers, have a thirst for reading a range of genres, including poetry, and participate in discussions about books, including evaluating an author’s use of language and the impact this can have on the reader. They can also read books to enhance their knowledge and understanding of all subjects on the curriculum, and communicate their research to a wider audience.
Pupils make good progress from their own personal starting points. By the end of Year Six, they will be able to write clearly and accurately, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences. Our pupils acquire a wide vocabulary and have a strong command of the written word. Most importantly, they will develop a love of reading and writing, becoming well equipped for the rest of their education.
Through the delivery of an uncompromising and highly ambitious English curriculum, pupils learn exceptionally well. Our pupils’ end-of-key-stage outcomes continue to improve, making rapid progress in the subject.