English sits at the heart of our curriculum – it is through language, story and text that children learn to form concepts, connect ideas and express themselves. Through literacy, in all its forms, children learn to both make sense of the world and shape their place within it.
Across both writing and reading, we place a heavy emphasis on developing a child’s vocabulary. By the time children leave Yew Tree in Year 6, the limited word hoard they arrived with in Reception will have expanded enormously, giving them the language they need to understand sophisticated texts and express themselves in a wide range of contexts.
Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write by developing their phonemic awareness—the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate different sounds used in the English language. Children learn the correspondence between these sounds and the spelling patterns (graphemes) that represent them. At Yew Tree, we place a strong emphasis on the teaching of phonics in the early years of reading and writing in order to give all children a solid foundation for learning. Because not all words in the English language comply to the rules of phonics we also teach so-called ‘sight words’ by repetition and retrieval.
Phonics lessons at Yew Tree are taught daily from Nursery up to Year 2. The sessions are short, engaging and memorable with an emphasis placed on revising a previously learned letter-sound correspondence, learning a new one, practicing this, and applying it to sentence level work.
The teaching of phonics begins in Nursery and Reception using the ‘Read, Write, Inc’ scheme which continues in Years 1 and 2, where children learn alternative spellings of the previously learned sounds and refining their knowledge to become more fluid readers and more accurate spellers.
During the Summer term in Year 1, children nationwide are tested on their phonic knowledge. This test helps us to identify children who have gaps in their phonic knowledge and may need further support in Year 2. The test is low-key and we make it stress-free for the children. The children are asked to read 40 words from a list, using their phonics to ‘sound out’ the word and then blend it if they need to. Parents are informed as to whether their child has achieved the national expectation within the child’s end-of-year reports.
Reading and Writing
At Yew Tree Primary Academy, we teach our English through the Literary Curriculum. The Literary Curriculum is a complete, thematic approach to the teaching of English, placing children’s literature at its core. Children explore over ninety literary texts and experience at least seventy five unique, significant authors as they move through our two-year cycle.
As a whole school approach, it provides complete coverage of all National Curriculum expectations for writing composition, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary, as well as coverage of spelling, phonics and reading comprehension. All sequences lead to purposeful application for a wide range of audiences across a variety of outcomes.
In all year groups, we teach reading and writing through high-quality texts – ranging from picture books to Shakespeare, immersive real-life experiences, such as school trips, or a combination of both.
Over their time at the school, children will read and write a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts, including recounts, news reports, explanation texts, poems, plays and stories of all kinds. We use drama, role-play, storytelling and discussion to engage the imagination, before moving on to vocabulary exploration, sentence craft and creative writing.
Throughout the Early Years and Key Stage 1 children are taught the key principles of reading and writing in order to lay a solid foundation for developing their skills later on. In writing, an emphasis is placed on developing clear handwriting with ‘finger spaces’ between in each word. Children are taught to apply their knowledge of phonics to help them spell accurately, and to structure their work, whether it be fiction writing or a set of instructions. Our curriculum teaches the children to add variation and description to their work by developing their vocabulary, including the use of interesting adjectives and adverbs and developing sentence structure using conjunctions and sentence openers. By the end of Key Stage 1 children have been taught the fundamentals of punctuation and grammar and are developing a love for writing as a lifelong means for communication.
Children also apply their writing skills across the curriculum: writing up experiments in Science, recounting events in History and describing processes in Geography, for example.
Handwriting and Spelling
We use Oxford University Press’s Nelson schemes for both of these areas.
Handwriting is taught weekly from Reception to Year 6, beginning with mark making and patterns in Early Years all the way up to legible, joined handwriting in Year 6. When a child is deemed to have legible, joined writing they are awarded a pen license and badge to wear with pride!
Spelling is taught from Year 2 – 6 every week, following the Nelson schemes, which build on the National Curriculum’s statutory word lists. Spellings are sent home as part of homework and children are tested each week.