At Birchwood, we believe that a high-quality English curriculum is the gateway to accessing all areas of the wider curriculum. We value language and vocabulary as essential to children’s future participation in society. We have placed the English National Curriculum alongside an exposure to a wide range of rich texts at the heart of our teaching and learning. Across the children’s time at Birchwood, they will experience a wealth of high-quality fiction and non-fiction texts (as well as poetry). Each theme is accompanied by well-chosen, engaging texts which expose children to a range of genres, authors and experiences of the wider world. This immerses them in a high-quality education which supports them to read and write fluently from a young age.
We want all children to be fluent readers and writers who have developed a breadth of vocabulary within their own spoken language. It is vital that our children learn discrete reading and writing skills in a progressive sequence. The substantive and disciplinary knowledge within reading and writing are taught together which equips children with the ability to write for a variety of purposes, audiences and forms. Reading for pleasure enhances levels of text comprehension and increases knowledge of grammar and breadth of vocabulary, which contributes to a better awareness of the world.
Early reading and writing are supported by ‘Little Wandle – letters and sounds revised’ to develop knowledge and skills in phonics. By providing all teaching staff across school with regular professional development, this ensures that our teaching and learning approaches are consistent to enable children to make excellent progress as well as develop a love of reading. From the time our children start at Birchwood, they are provided with two reading books - one which is phonetically decodable and matched directly to their current learning within their phonics lessons; the second text is a high-quality reading for pleasure book from our well-resourced school library which we encourage them to share with adults at home.
When children are secure with their phonics learning, they further develop their reading skills through daily guided reading lessons, focusing on skills such as their comprehension of texts and developing a wide breadth of vocabulary. Each child has the opportunity to read at least one ‘reading for pleasure’ text and has regular access to their classroom’s engaging and well-resourced reading area and Birchwood’s school library. As they move away from phonetically decodable books, children move onto the Oxford Reading Tree scheme before becoming a ‘free reader’. Children are also immersed in a love of reading through: gifted winter books; opportunities to visit our school’s book fair; participation in World Book Day; celebration of achievement by visiting our reading vending machine; and visits from authors.
Through our key driving texts and thematic approach, our English lessons make links with many other areas of the curriculum. Our sequence of lessons enables children to focus on vocabulary, grammar, punctuation and spelling, while developing their creativity and independence within their writing. Children have the opportunity to write for a range of purposes and audiences within every half-termly theme. Their writing takes on many forms and they are encouraged from an early age to review the successes of their own writing and to make regular improvements to their own work and to the work of their peers. Across school, we focus importance upon handwriting through our pencil and pen progression and discrete, daily handwriting lessons.
We measure the impact of the curriculum through: pupil discussion and interview about their learning; regular; robust monitoring of teaching and assessment and standardised tests at the end of each term and national statutory testing.
As a result of high-quality English teaching and learning at Birchwood and the focus in which we place on vocabulary across the curriculum, our children leave as confident, fluent and enthusiastic readers and writers. They are able to talk about their own reading and writing as well as a wide range of texts and authors/poets that have been shared with them throughout their learning journey.