Subject Leader - Mrs Callender
My name is Mrs Callender. I have worked at St. John Fisher for over 10 years. Initially I became English lead as I have a life-long passion for reading. However, after working in KS1 for a large part of my career, I also developed a specific passion for early reading - supporting our youngest pupils to become readers as early as possible and then nurturing that throughout their school journey.
Before I became a teacher, I attended university and gained a BA Hons in English Literature with Political History. I then took a break from education and travelled the world; working on cruise ships for several years.. Upon returning to England, I settled in Widnes and followed my ldream of becoming a primary school teacher.
My work at St. John Fisher is centred around the belief that literacy is a fundamental right for all children. Through our curriculum and strong reading culture, we aim to ensure that all of our children leave St. John Fisher being able to speak, read, and write fluently so that they can express themselves and their ideas clearly.
English at St John Fisher
At St. John Fisher we expect that our children will leave our school able to communicate their knowledge, ideas and emotions confidently and clearly both orally and in writing. Therefore, we expect that children are able to speak and write with grammatical accuracy, for a variety of purposes, with different audiences in mind and have a broad vocabulary. We also want our children to leave our school with a life-long love of reading that will support them as they learn to make sense of them world around them and continue to develop the social and emotional skills needed in their futures.
EYFS and KS1
At St. John Fisher children will follow the Read Write Inc. phonics scheme to teach the children how to decode and become readers. As the children move through this systematic program, they build fluency reading decodable books that match their phonics level. By the end of the EYFS, the children should have developed the ability to decode, segment and blend words which use the correlating sounds matched to their developmental stage in the RWI scheme. They should also be able to recognise a variety of common exception words relevant to their developmental stage within the scheme. The children should have a developed recognition for print, know that print carries meaning and understand that, in the English language, we read from left to right.
By the end of KS1, children should be able to ask and answer questions about a variety of texts that are appropriate to their developmental stage. They should be able to discuss a wide variety of texts including fiction, non-fiction and poetry and should have an understanding that non-fiction texts are often structured in different ways. The children should be able to make predictions based on what has been read so far and should be able to make inferences based on what is being said and what is being done.
We rigourously assess the childrens progress every 6 weeks to help us identify children who may need additional support. If this is the case, then we have staff trained in fast track tutoring which is extra daily practise in reading sounds and words on a one-to-one basis. In this way we ensure all children are making progress.
As children become more confident readers, we use high quality texts to deliver whole-class reading lessons that explicitly teach reading skills. Over a week all children also take part in a small group activities. These allow children further opportunities to develop skills taught and to work with a adult to develop specific areas of need.
To suppplement our whole class reading and provide opportunities for children to read and further develop their reading skills at home, our KS2 children also have access to Reading Plus. Reading Plus in an online reading platform where children can select from a wide range of texts to read and answer questions. The difficulty of the text and the difficulty of the questions are matched to each childs individual stage of development making the platform very individual for each child. Children will have time allocated in school to completed a certain number of lessons of Reading Plus each week and will be expected to complete the remaining lessons at home as part of their homework.
Outside of reading lessons, children also have the opportunity to listen to and read more complex texts and independently apply the reading skills taught.
Children who are struggling with their reading progress are identified through regular assessments. A range of interventions are available based on each child's individual need; whether that be gaps in phonics knowledge, fluency or reading comprehension. Fresh Start is a comprehensive KS2 reading intervention which teaches pupils letter-sounds and reviews previous sounds and words. Chidlren will also apply what they’ve been taught by reading words containing the sounds they know in lively, age-appropriate stories and non-fiction texts that are closely matched to their increasing phonic knowledge. By the end of the programme, pupils will be able to read these accurately and fluently.
From EYFS onwards, we use Pathways to Write which is a mastery approach to writing that is taught through high quality texts. Our daily writing sessions use high quality texts to develop vocabulary and oracy skills, and introduce a range of genres.
In writing sessions we seek to ensure children have a deep understanding of what they have learned so they can recall their learning, use it flexibly and apply it readily to a variety of contexts. Therefore alongside teaching new skills, we regularly assess and revisit previously taught skills so we can support children to make progress. The teaching of grammar and punctuation is embedded into our writing units. All writing skills are taught progressively. Genre specific skills are also taught.
We supplement our writing units with a poetry unit at the beginning of each half term. This enables us to develop the vocabulary and figurative language skills which enahnce our writing.
Spelling and handwriting are both taught discreetly in KS1 and KS2. From EYFS we use Letterjoin to teach pre-handwriting then handwriting skills. In KS2 we continue to develop our mastery of cursive handriting. To teach spelling we use the Pathways to Spell programme which is a research-based series of lessons following a Review, Explain, Practise, Apply and Reflect model. Through this programme, we aim to develop a school of spellers who use a series of strategies in lessons and in their independent writing.
In reading, pupils quickly learn to decode enabling them to become confident fluent readers. Reading and critical thinking skills are then developed allowing children to independently understand and interpret a range of texts for a range of puposes. Reading for pleasure is then developed through our teaching and our positive reading culture.
Pupils’ writing shows positive development from their individual starting points and children make at least expected progress. It is important that our children enjoy writing and see themselves as writers. Their writing is celebrated and shared across school when appropriate. Children in all year groups are able to write for a range of purposes and audiences and make effective language choices. As children progress through school, they build upon their prior knowledge and skills and this is evident in their writing. They take pride in their work and develop their own ideas to become creative writers. Our children apply their writing skills across the curriculum and are able to manipulate language, grammar and punctuation effectively.
The impact on our children is clear: progress, sustained learning and transferrable skills. Children’s love of reading, their broad vocabulary and their ability to think and talk about their learning means that their English skills translate into life-long skills that will enable them to be successful in the future.