At Otford, we seek to promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping children with a strong command of spoken and written language, and developing their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment. All staff seek to foster our core values of Kindness, Courage and Curiosity through English lessons. Through exposure to high-quality texts, we aim to help children value the experiences of others, develop empathy, and respect for differences they may encounter between characters, circumstances and cultures. In writing, we encourage children to be self-motivated in their learning, developing their awareness of how different writing techniques can be used effectively across different genres. Children are given the opportunity to develop their writing ideas both individually and as part of a group, and draw upon real and imagined experiences to add detail to their written work.
Teachers model and teach children how to adapt their speech to a wide range of circumstances and demands. Effective communication, both verbal and non-verbal, is taught through a variety of activities, including debates, hot seating, conscience alleys, freeze framing, role playing and presentations.
Phonics is taught every day in EYFS and Year 1, with children reviewing previous phonics knowledge before learning to say, read and write new sounds. A love of reading is first introduced in EYFS, where children have interactive, multi-sensory experiences inspired by a range of books and can develop an independent interest in reading for pleasure. This is then further developed across Key Stage 1 and 2, where children can choose from a wide range of age-appropriate books in classroom book corners, as well as browsing the titles in our extensive library area. As well as promoting this love of reading and books, all children in Year 1 and targeted children from Y2 upwards, receive phonics teaching and support through Bug Club Phonics (KS1) and Rapid Phonics (KS2). As part of this system children have access to online reading books as well as hard copy reading books which support their phonic abilities. The books assigned online are picked to specifically hit the sounds the children have been working on in school and support their progress.
As well as Phonics, the skills our reading curriculum covers are wide and varied. Phonics is the first part - the mechanics of reading, being able to sound out words (segment) and put the sounds back together again accurately (blend). The other part of our reading curriculum works on comprehension skills: inference, prediction, retrieval of information, summarising etc. A child’s phonetic ability may be different to their ability in these areas of reading but all are taught through our progression curriculum. Book bands have been purchased for children in Reception and KS1- we are aiming to further develop this provision for children in KS2 and expand this across the school to provide a comprehensive and progressive whole school reading scheme for all.
Writing is inspired by a wide variety of stimuli, from traditional short stories and class readers to thought-provoking images and short films, which are linked to the year group’s termly learning journey. In Key Stage 1 and 2, teachers use a Talk for Writing approach in line with the National Curriculum in order for children to be fully immersed in a genre and to become familiar with the structure, vocabulary and grammatical techniques across a range of text types. Children are given regular opportunities for extended writing, allowing them to demonstrate new learning. Children are also taught to review and edit their own work, fostering independent self-evaluation and encouraging the children to always strive to achieve their full potential.
Assessment of reading and writing takes place regularly to inform teacher assessments. At the end of each term, teachers assess a range of writing to identify the skills that children can apply independently. Reading is formally assessed using NTS assessments. In-year progress is monitored using the school assessment system, Target Tracker. Regular monitoring of planning, teaching and children’s progress is carried out by the Wider and Senior Leadership Teams in order to ensure that children are achieving their full potential.
The current curriculum has placed a huge emphasis on spellings and the importance
of children being able to spell the most commonly used words, as well understanding and correctly
applying spelling rules. For a child to reach an expected level at the end of the school year they
need to be able to recall spellings from their year group list and the spelling rules, alongside
all the spellings and rules from the previous year groups.
To ensure that we can maintain full coverage of the curriculum and the spelling requirements that
your child needs to learn, we will not (unless there is individual need) be revisiting or revising the
spellings and spelling rules from the previous year group. In order to retain these spellings or
spelling rules it is important that you revise and revisit them at home with your child on a regular
basis. You could practise 2 or 3 of them each week; this does not need to take up much time, you
could practise them when in a car, when standing in a queue etc.
We will continue to send home the current spellings and spelling rules that your children are
learning and test them on these. It is important to remember that a child has not fully learnt
spellings unless they are using them accurately in all their writing, and although some children do
well in weekly tests they often don’t transfer this when writing, so practise needs to be ongoing,
little and often.
These are the various strategies we use in school to help us learn and remember our spellings. As you can see there are a variety of strategies, many of them are very visual and children can find them more useful than the traditional look, say, cover, write method, (although if this works for your child then please do stick with it!) It is handy if a child can have a couple of strategies they are able to use, to help them with the learning and applying of their spellings.