English sits at the heart of our curriculum. We believe strongly that it is through language, story and text that children learn to form concepts, connect ideas and express themselves. Through all forms of literacy, children learn to 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 Riversdale Primary School in Year 6, the limited word supply they arrived with in Reception will have expanded enormously, giving them the language that they need to understand sophisticated texts and express themselves in a wide range of contexts.
Alongside our curriculum, we take many opportunities to develop a love of reading and writing for pleasure and hold an annual writing competition, have regular author visits, hold books fairs or book swaps, and World Book Day is one of the highlights of the year! Please see how the different strands of English are taught across the school below.
In all year groups, we teach 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 write a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts. We use drama explorative strategies and discussion as well as other stimuli such as photographs, drawings and music 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 writing in order to lay a solid foundation for developing their skills later on. 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 focus on the audience and purpose of their writing, carefully selecting writing strategies that suit these. In addition, children are taught 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. This structural and technical knowledge is fostered alongside developing a love for writing as a lifelong means for communication and expressing oneself.
Children regularly apply their writing skills across the curriculum: writing up experiments in Science, recounting events in History and describing processes in Geography, for example.
In a recent Pupil Voice centred around Writing, children stated that they enjoy writing and find the writing opportunities given to them in school very engaging. In particular, children sited "having [their] work published on Pobble" as being one of the most motivating aspects of our writing curriculum. Pobble is a closed website where staff upload examples of the children's writing to be shared with their parents/carers and other school children across the world. Children are also able to receive moderated comments by other children, and some of our pieces have received comments from Australia and Dubai.
Handwriting, Spelling and Grammar
At Riversdale Primary School, we teach the children the Jarman handwriting script. 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 licence to display on their desk with pride.
Spelling is taught from Year 1 – 6 every week, whilst spellings are sent home as part of homework on a daily basis and children are tested on these each week.
From Year 2, grammar becomes an explicit focus and is taught weekly by class teachers. We are very lucky to also have a grammar specialist on the staff that will support in the planning of lessons, development of resources and undertakes intervention groups where necessary in order to ensure that accurate grammar usage is a strength within the school. As they progress, children are taught to write for a range of purposes using explicit sentence models and ambitious vocabulary. They then learn to shape these sentences into coherent paragraphs before planning and creating their own original works of fiction and non-fiction.
When children leave Riversdale Primary School, they consider themselves to be skilled writers, confident in their ability to express themselves through language.
We want all children at Riversdale Primary School to develop a life-long love of reading. Therefore, we approach the teaching of reading from all angles. Daily Reciprocal Reading lessons focus on the skills of comprehension, first unpicking vocabulary, then moving on to unlocking the meaning of textual extracts.
Teachers read a wide range of written material regularly with the children. Each class has access to a ‘library’ within their classroom, containing challenging and interesting novels for them to borrow and for teachers to read to them, exposing children to language and classic stories. Additionally, we have a home-school reading system (up to Year 6), which requests that children read a book at the appropriate level for them, each day.
Phonics is taught at the school from the Early Years/Foundation Stage through to the end of Key Stage 1/start of Key Stage 2 (where appropriate). As a school we utilise the Letters and Sounds phonics scheme, as this best suits the needs of our students. To learn more about how Riversdale uses Letters and Sounds, take a look here.
Below are a just a few examples of the songs that we use to teach phonic sounds:
Practicing Phonics at Home
The best phonics resources are ordinary reading books. Alongside the books your child brings home, seek out books that you and your child enjoy reading. Discuss words that present a challenge, breaking them down into their component sounds in order to read them if necessary. Make sure you set aside quiet time for reading and enjoying books together.
Please find our English policies below: