What English means at St Thomas…
English is understanding, enjoying and applying the spoken and written word. It allows us to communicate effectively and make sense of the world.
“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society.” Kofi Annan
At St Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Primary School, we know that strong literacy skills set pupils up for life, and as such, seek to ensure Literacy is the invisible thread that runs through all areas of learning. We encourage children to focus on how to learn and foster literacy skills that can help make us all successful lifelong learners. This comes through our overarching promotion of the St Thomas Learner who makes S=P+A+C+E for their learning. We believe a quality English curriculum should develop children’s confidence and (positive) attitude by gaining a love of reading, writing and discussion. Once this is place they will want to put in the effort and persevere in order to succeed, and therefore gain pleasure and personal fulfilment as a result.
We appreciate that our St Thomas Learners will come to this subject with different starting points and experiences. We will seek to bridge this spectrum by providing regular opportunities to ‘rediscover learning’ by going over past teaching and concepts. This will be done both within lessons and as exclusive time at regular time slots during the day. We will also provide opportunities for stretch and challenge which will be accessible for all pupils through ‘Going Deeper’ challenges which are dropped in throughout the teaching of all areas of the English curriculum.
We understand the importance of parents and carers working in collaboration with school to support their children in all areas of literacy, we therefore encourage a home-school partnership which enables parents and carers to understand how to enhance the skills being taught in school.
We love reading!
Watch our masked readers and see if you can work out who they are BEFORE you open the reveal!
English at St Thomas...
At St Thomas of Canterbury we have a real focus on the teaching and learning of English. Children will experience quality opportunities to listen to, read, write and respond about a range of different genres.
Speaking and Listening
In Speaking and Listening, children will become active listeners who develop their visualisation skills, subsequently enhancing their imagination and in turn, supporting their reading and writing skills. Children will enjoy recalling, questioning and exploring information and will be able to communicate their ideas and thoughts clearly, developing an awareness of their audience in order to interject when appropriate and maintain eye contact and positive body language. Drama plays an important role in both English lessons and extra-curricular activities and productions. It gives the children opportunities to explore, discuss and deal with issues. It encourages them to think and act creatively, thus developing critical thinking and generating ideas for further discussion and writing. Through drama, children are encouraged to take responsible roles and make choices, to participate in and guide their own learning. Visiting drama groups are a frequent addition to the planned units of work and help to engage the children in their learning by making it interesting and fun.
In writing, children will draw on their experience and skills learnt through quality opportunities in Speaking and Listening and Reading to write for different purposes. Our aim is that children will become confident, able, independent writers who enjoy and understand the structure, purpose and forms of writing and can apply these skills to adapt their writing to different audiences. Children will be able to express themselves in a variety of different ways using their knowledge of Standard English, Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar and clear handwriting, to allow their ideas to be recorded successfully and their writing to flow. As a result of experiencing a range of texts and genres, children will develop an awareness of authors’ intentions so helping their ability to write for effect with an awareness of the reader.
Reading and Phonics
At St Thomas the children will develop an appreciation of reading by becoming confident in using a range of decoding, comprehension and inference skills. They will be able to respond to a range of texts with their own views and opinions. Through quality teaching, children will be given skills that will enhance their reading; particularly when using expression and punctuation in a text. They will be given rich opportunities to read a range of different texts out loud to an audience.
We teach the early stages of reading through Phonics. We use Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised synthetic phonics programme. (see Phonics section below for more information.)
In June each year the children in Year 1 have a Phonics screening which is a nation wide programme to evaluate their success with reading using phonics. More information on the screening can be found in the presentation for Year 1 parents on the Year 1 Learning page.
Writing at St Thomas
Using the principles of S=P+A+C+E for Learning, all pupils should be able to confidently communicate their knowledge, ideas and emotions through their writing. We want pupils to acquire a wide vocabulary, a solid understanding of grammar and be able to spell new words by effectively applying the spelling patterns and rules they learn throughout their time in primary school. We want them to write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences. We believe that all pupils should be encouraged to take pride in the presentation of their writing, in part by developing a good, joined, handwriting style by the time they move to secondary school. All children will be taught how to consider the impact of their learning by completing Learning Reflections, both individually, through paired discussions and as a class. We believe that all good writers refine and edit their writing over time, so we want children to develop independence in being able to identify their own areas for improvement in all pieces of writing by setting next steps. They will do this by editing their work effectively during and after the writing process.
Writing at St Thomas
In order to help us to develop confident, enthusiastic writers we teach writing for a variety of purposes and within different contexts. Teachers plan for these writing opportunities across the different areas of the curriculum. This provides our children with regular opportunities to write both short and extended pieces and ensures they are mindful of their intended audience. Writing tasks are specific and meaningful, and often meet a purpose to engage children and to illustrate how their writing skills can be applied to real life contexts. Children are introduced to the concept of editing from early Key Stage One and become adept at refining and improving their work as a matter of course. From this, they are also able to identify their next steps.
Children receive a ‘presentation promise’ at the start of the academic year which sets out high expectations in terms of handwriting and layout.
Children receive a weekly ‘spelling challenge’ which they complete at home each week, and these are then tested in school. Additionally, spelling is incorporated into daily literacy lessons, and in Key Stage One daily phonics lessons take place. Children who need additional support with writing receive a variety of interventions that are tailored to address their gaps and support their progress.
Writing at St Thomas
Pupils will make good progress from their own personal starting points. By the end of Year Six they will be able to write clearly and accurately and adapt their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences. Our pupils will acquire a wide vocabulary and have a strong command of the written word. Most importantly, they will develop a love of writing and be well equipped for the rest of their education and later life.
Phonics at St Thomas
At St. Thomas’ we aim to create a love of speaking, listening, reading and writing; the consistent approach of phonics teaching is one of the ways that we ensure this. The systematic teaching of phonics has a high priority throughout the Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1, and it is our intention that by the end of Year 2 the children will have progressed through the phonics phases and have developed strong blending and decoding skills. These skills, in combination with a range of word recognition, comprehension and grammatical knowledge that they continue to build on throughout Key Stage 2, will assist them with speaking, reading and writing throughout their life. We aim for every child to leave the school with the skills of an accomplished public speaker, reader and writer.
Phonics at St Thomas
Children at St. Thomas’ are taught to read by breaking down words into separate sounds or ‘phonemes’. You may have heard this referred to as Synthetic Phonics. They are then taught how to blend these sounds together to read the whole word. Children are taught to spell by hearing a word and splitting it up into the sounds that make it. This is called ‘segmenting’. Children then use their phonic knowledge to record the letters that represent those sounds in the correct order. The children are encouraged to use these strategies to read and write in all lessons. Phonics and Tricky Words are taught according to the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised systematic synthetic phonics programme:
Phase 1 – Nursery into Reception
- Looks at sound discrimination, rhyme, oral blending and oral segmenting.
Phase 2 – Reception
- Introduces the first set of phonemes and teaches children to blend the sounds together to read whole words.
Phase 3 – Reception
- Teaches another 25 phonemes, most of which are digraphs (two letters making one sound e.g. ow in cow) and some trigraphs (three letters make one sound e.g. igh in high).
Phase 4 – Reception / Year 1
- Teaches children to read and spell words with adjacent consonants e.g. jump or stamp and polysyllabic words (more than one syllable e.g. sandwich).
Phase 5 – Year 1/ Year 2
- Teaches children alternative ways of representing sounds they already know e.g. in Phase 3 they learnt ow (cow) and in Phase 5 they learn ou (loud).
Consolidation and Rediscover – Year 2
- Focuses on becoming fluent readers and accurate spellers by teaching rules for suffixes such as -ing, -ed and –est;
- It consolidates the learning of previous phases;
- Develops strategies for learning spellings;
- Focuses on comprehension and reading for pleasure;
- Is a transition from learning to read to reading to learn.
In Reception, phonics is taught as a whole class approach to ensure that quality first teaching is accessible to all children. This enables staff to ensure application across subjects, embedding the process in a rich literacy environment for early readers. The children start by building on their Phase 1 knowledge from nursery before moving onto Phase 2 and up to Phase 4 by the end of the academic year. The teaching approach is visual, auditory and kinaesthetic to appeal to all learning styles and therefore, increasing the likelihood of success. Phonics is taught daily in Reception and Year 1. The children will be heard read in small groups 3 times a week, focusing on decoding, prosody (rhythm, stress, and intonation) and comprehension.
Children in Year 1 continue to follow the Little Wandle programme in their daily phonics sessions and group reading. In June they sit the Phonics Screening Check. In Year 2, children have regular whole class phonics sessions to rediscover the sounds taught so far, whilst also learning the National Curriculum spelling rules through the use of Spelling Shed. Children in Year 2 receive small group phonics interventions if they have not reached the required level in their Phonics Screening Check or if it is felt that they will benefit further from these.
In Key Stage 2, for those children who need further embedding of phonic knowledge, they will follow the Little Wandle Rapid Catch-Up programme.
As well as the sounds taught at each phase there are also ‘High Frequency Words’. Some of these words are decodable but some cannot be broken down into separate phonemes and are considered ‘Tricky Words’. We teach the children to be able to spell and read the whole word by sight, for example, ‘said’ or ‘what’. We have clear and comprehensive lists of these words which are taken from the requirements of the National Curriculum word lists for each ‘stage’.
Each Phonic session follows the same structure:
- Introduce lesson focus
- Revisit and Review (Rediscover)
- Teach and Practise
- Practise and Apply
The children have reading books, which match their current phonics level, which they are encouraged to read at home. The books are phonetically decodable apart from pre-taught ‘Tricky Words’, thus setting the children up to succeed with reading from the outset. Phonics sound cards and Tricky Word flashcards are also sent home as a revision tool once they have been taught in class. As part of our Home School Link we run parent workshops on Early Literacy Skills, including Phonics.
All classes in the school display the Grow the Code Little Wandle phonics poster and all children use appropriate Little Wandle resources to support reading and spelling.
Phonics at St Thomas
The impact of our phonics teaching is monitored by our English and Phonics Leaders through work scrutiny, reviews of assessment and lesson observations. Class Teachers regularly assess the children’s phonics knowledge. These assessments allow teachers to identify any gaps in learning, which is used to inform future planning. Our thorough tracking system, which is updated termly, enables teachers to check children’s progress in relation to the curriculum. Regular Pupil Progress Meetings with Year Group Teams and Senior Leaders ensure that any child that is not making expected progress can be supported with timely and appropriate interventions and targeted phonics teaching.
By the end of Reception, most children are able to:
– Say a sound for each letter in the alphabet and at least 10 digraphs;
– Read words consistent with their phonic knowledge by sound-blending;
– Read aloud simple sentences and books that are consistent with their phonic knowledge,
including some common exception words;
– Spell words by identifying sounds in them and representing the sounds with a letter or
– Write simple phrases and sentences that can be read by others.
Our results from the Phonics Screening Check show the positive impact of our early phonics teaching. Parents report increased confidence and knowledge of phonics after attending our Early Literacy Skills and Phonics Workshops, therefore better equipped to support their children’s reading at home. Phonics teaching at St. Thomas’ supports every aspect of our S=P+A+C+E (Success = Perseverance + Attitude + Confidence + Effort) for Learning approach. From the start of their journey in phonics learning at St. Thomas’, the children’s Success is ensured by our inclusive and nurturing approach of praising their Perseverance, positive Attitude and Effort, thus increasing their Confidence.
The whole team approach of quality teaching of phonics ensures that the children have the skills to decode words, moving on to be able to read texts with fluency and comprehension. We expect that all St. Thomas learners become confident, able readers.
Reading at St Thomas
At St Thomas’, we want to inspire a love of reading for all children, whatever their age or ability. Children are supported to make S=P+A+C+E for their learning, which encourages a growth mind-set. Our aim is to ensure our children are confident to have a go, choose books that excite them and most importantly, reach their potential. We recognise that each child is unique and will have different starting points so we track progress carefully and provide support and opportunities to ‘Rediscover’ their learning when needed before providing opportunities for ‘Going Deeper’.
Reading is at the heart of our curriculum, not just our English curriculum. As well as explicitly teaching the skills of reading and comprehension, our creative curriculum means that there are many discreet opportunities to share texts and appeal to different children’s interests. Children are exposed to a wide variety of high-quality texts and reading is a part of the school day, each day.
Reading at St Thomas
Reading is a part of daily teaching and learning from the moment children start at St Thomas’ in the Early Years Foundation Stage. Story time is special and exciting where discussion is encouraged and every opinion is valued. This ethos continues throughout the school and we make sure that time is given to share a story as a whole class whatever the age group. This time is so important as children have the opportunity to sit back, listen and ‘get lost’ in a book. Every child can access and enjoy the content and rich vocabulary. They can listen to a book that they might not choose themselves or have the opportunity to otherwise read. This dedicated time is so important to inspire children to have the confidence to ‘Go Deeper’ and choose more challenging books to read for pleasure. Reception and Year 1 take home a reading for pleasure Story Sack each week to enjoy with their family.
In each year group, teachers select ‘class readers’ at least three times a year, which in some cases children can take home their own copy to keep and treasure. We believe that having this ownership is important as it makes books special and children can then build up their own library of books at home starting in Reception. These texts are carefully chosen to encourage children to ‘Go Deeper’ and explore titles outside their comfort zone, exposing them to new, ambitious vocabulary in an environment where they are supported to do so. We want to encourage discussion around language and a genuine interest in books.
From Year 2, reading as a whole class becomes more structured, allowing dedicated time to explore texts together and work on comprehension skills. In Key Stage 2, these sessions happen regularly and when needed, smaller groups do guided sessions to support reading and comprehension skills further. These structured sessions give teachers opportunities to ‘Rediscover’ learning with some children or set ‘Going Deeper’ challenges for others. Time is given for children’s learning reflections to take place and next steps are agreed so children are aware of what skills to practise.
Individual and Small Group Reading
Children are heard read regularly in Reception and KS1 as these early years are so formative for reading. Children learn to read at their own pace, starting with picture books that allow for meaningful talk before moving onto books with words. It is crucial to make sure that children are adequately challenged but also that if reading is more challenging for them that they receive extra support. If this is the case, then specific provision is put in place so children can ‘Rediscover’ their learning. Class teachers monitor progress continuously and the English team look at progress half termly to make sure the correct provision is in place and that adequate challenge is also provided.
Our reading books are systematically ordered to ensure that children are set up to succeed, only reading phonically decodable books which reflect their learning and match the curriculum. Every child has a reading record book that documents their reading journey and parents and children are asked to sign a reading promise which recognises the importance of the home-school partnership. Parents and staff use the reading record books to comment on children’s progress in reading and give regular feedback. When staff hear children read, they share the child’s next step with them. This in-the-moment feedback makes reading purposeful and the next step meaningful for the child.
Our school environment celebrates reading and in each classroom there is a clear, designated space for a book corner/area with further titles to explore. Our vibrant and well stocked library offers another opportunity to find books and extend children’s choice of texts. Each year, we take part in activities during Book Week and use this opportunity to further ignite children’s passion for reading and also to share our staff’s passion as well.
Reading at St Thomas
Children at St Thomas of Canterbury make excellent progress in reading. Our use of the Little Wandle programme and structured and progressive reading books throughout the school allows us to track the progress of each child and provide timely support ensuring that each child can reach their potential. From interviews with children from each year group it is clear that they all enjoy reading if exposed to the right texts. This is why we provide so many different opportunities to read and ensure a variety of texts and genres is available. We are confident that all children leaving our school at the end of Year 6 enjoy reading and have the skills needed to tackle new and challenging texts.