Why is English part of the Curriculum
“Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or savour their songs.” Nelson Mandela.
At The Robert Fitzroy Academy, we believe that the mastery of English is essential to pupil’s learning across the curriculum. By teaching strong communication skills- speaking, listening, reading and writing- we are ensuring our pupils can access, enjoy and flourish in the culture and society around them.
"Literature offers the thrill of minds of great clarity wrestling with the endless problems and delights of being human. To engage with them is to engage with oneself, and the lasting rewards are not confined to specific career paths.” Jonathan Stroud
High quality literature is at the heart of our English curriculum because it engages, inspires and motivates all pupils. The ranges of texts are carefully selected in order to provide children with positive and memorable reading experiences, which can be accessed by all. As most of the texts involve moral dilemmas, topical issues and character relationships, it encourages children to be emotionally engaged in learning, resulting in better outcomes for English, but also in their social and emotional understanding.
How do we teach English?
"A word after a word after a word is power." Margaret Atwood.
“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Our approach to teaching English starts with oracy. Oracy involves the skills to express yourself well: having the vocabulary to say what you want and the ability to structure your thoughts so that they make sense to others.
We support children to do this through the use of explicit vocabulary instruction, book talk, sentence stems and frames, and through drama- based strategies e.g., hot seating, conscience alley.
Opportunities to practise and develop ‘good talk’ are within all English sessions and in a variety of forms including: reciting poetry, debate, discussion.
All staff at the RFA, understand and promote the high standards of articulacy expected to act as role models for our pupils. Not only does a focus on oracy improve English skills, but also helps us as a school to fulfil our mission of shaping articulate citizens of the future.
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” Frederick Douglass.
We aim to ensure that all pupils at RFA fall in love with reading! This is because evidence suggests that children who read for enjoyment every day not only perform better in school, but also develop a broader vocabulary, general knowledge and understanding of other cultures.
Our reading teaching starts with ‘bookology’: identifying the conventions of books e.g. turning a page and early reading skills (including phonics). High quality, consistent, daily phonics teaching at RFA begins in Reception and continues throughout KS1. At the RFA we follow the validated phonics scheme 'Little Wandle- Letters & Sounds Revised'.
At RFA, we provide our EYFS & KS1 pupils with decodable texts (Big Cat Readers linked to Little Wandle) to develop their confidence and reading fluency. The better children are at reading, the more likely they are to read for pleasure. In addition to this, children get to choose a ‘share with me book’ which encourages family reading of a text which may be beyond the child’s decoding ability, but may interest them, nonetheless.
In key stage 2, children have the option to choose any text from our class book areas. They are supported in choosing, so that they pick their ‘Goldilocks text’- one which is not too hard, not too easy, but just right! Interventions are run to support children who may need additional support throughout the key stages to secure the fundamental knowledge and skills to read. If they are at the early stages of reading, they follow a 'Rapid Catch Up' program through our Little Wandle phonic curriculum. If they have mastered phonics, they follow our reading fluency intervention.
Phonics workshops are delivered for parents to enable them to support their children at home. Children in Reception and Year 1, practise their decoding and fluency in reading partner sessions, with decodable texts. The structure that we use to teach reading at The Robert Fitzroy Academy from Year 2 in the spring term, to year 6 is a whole class reading model. This involves vocabulary instruction, decoding and fluency practise and specific reading domain skill development e.g. prediction, summary.
By teaching vocabulary instruction, we are building children’s word consciousness to be curious and make links- building their ability to decipher meaning and understanding. The whole class structure ensures that children develop all aspects of reading and spend time ‘getting to know the text’. Once children develop knowledge of each of the reading domains, they become the experts- posing questions to each other!
Once children are proficient readers, they transition from learning to read, to reading to learn and have many opportunities to apply their reading skills across the curriculum.
Children have many other opportunities to hear stories read them. In EYFS & KS1, each year group has a reading treasure box, containing 20 well-chosen books for children to hear read to them again and again. In KS2, classes have high-quality class reader texts which are shared regularly. Children who are good readers, make good writers.
“You can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page.” Jodi Picoult.
All writing at The Robert Fitzroy Academy is for a purpose and links to the text being used and/or the topic being studied. Children write for a variety of purposes in different genres including: narratives, poetry, information, recount, letters.
They have discussions regarding the formality of each piece, linking back to the purpose and audience. Some of the pieces are published into ‘end products’. We believe that this is an important part of writing to help boost children’s confidence and hook into them being authors.
When teaching children to write, we ensure that there is a focus on the writing process: plan, draft and edit. Before writing, children have the chance to read good examples of the text (WAGOLL) and then generate success criteria for their own.
We believe in the importance of planning writing and so use a variety of skeletons to help children visualise their texts and plan successfully. During the drafting stage, children have access to resources to support their writing including reference texts and vocabulary.
High-quality feedback is vital to improving writing and so we encourage children to ask for and give feedback to each other about their writing as well as teacher feedback- both verbal and written. Children have opportunities to edit and make changes to their pieces of writing in response to feedback.
Encouraging children to read as a writer and write a as reader, means that they become skilled in considering the impact of their writing on the reader and how to create the desired impact. Alongside integrated grammar teaching, we deliver discrete spelling, grammar and handwriting sessions to ensure that children have the necessary transcription skills to be fluent writers, who write with impact.
Our School Reading Spine
At The Robert Fitzroy Academy, we know that great books build the imagination. The more we read aloud expressively, and the more children are able to savour, discuss and reinterpret literature, the more memorable the characters, places and events become, building an inner world of story. Our English curriculum is centered around the use of quality texts at the heart.
As a school, we have chosen year group reading spines, which build a common bank of stories to help foster a love of reading at home from Reception, up to Year 6. These books aim to create a and have been hand-picked by experts to provide a selection of story time read-alouds, gripping page-turners, thought-provoking stories from around the world, laugh-out-loud books, picture books, graphic novels, poetry collections and non-fiction choices. It is a store of classics and essential reads that will help children and enter the world of the story.
Do you want to read with your child at home, but unsure of which books to use? Well, have a look at our suggested reading spines for parents and carers.