At St Stephen’s Junior School, we believe that the fundamental skills of reading and writing form the very foundation of all learning in every subject. It is for this reason that we strive to provide each child with the experience of a rich and culturally profitable English curriculum that is underpinned by highly inspirational texts, carefully selected for each topic of study. We seek to foster a life-long love of reading among our pupils that enhances their cultural experiences and has a lasting positive effect on their futures. We strongly advocate reading for pleasure at St Stephen’s, be it through the daily sharing of a ‘class text’ or quality time in our fantastic school library. As a school, we also adopt the ‘VIPERS’ reading scheme, which systematically teaches children the essential skills of English comprehension that has far-reaching implications for their success beyond the subject of English itself. The approach to teaching writing at our school is guided by the pedagogical method of ‘slow writing.’ This technique offers every child, regardless of their background or ability, the opportunity to write with confidence, quality and creativity by focussing carefully on the grammatical construction of each sentence, supported by a rich vocabulary. We also offer a wide range of stimulating experiences both inside and outside of the classroom to further spark our pupil’s imaginations whilst writing.
Curriculum maps have been drawn up for each topic for every year group. A range of texts has been carefully selected to support teaching and these have been linked to a variety of possible outcomes, aiming to ensure all children passing through our school have been exposed to a range of writing genres, both fiction and non-fiction. In turn, these have been linked to the different National Curriculum objectives for Lower and Upper Key Stage 2. (See Curriculum Maps). We adopt a slow writing approach which focuses on developing a rich vocabulary and supplying a sound grammatical basis from which the children can confidently produce an independent, high quality written outcome. Over the Key Stage the form of this, in terms of underlying structure and pedagogical support, will become increasingly independent and varied. For instance, a sentence by sentence approach will be adopted in Year 3 as opposed to a paragraph by paragraph approach in Year 6. To further facilitate the children’s independence, we have introduced editing stations which encourage them to reflect on their own work through specific lenses to enhance its quality prior to teachers providing personalised feedback.
The VIPERS are used to cover the 6 main skills required for reading comprehension, these being: Vocabulary, Inference, Prediction, Explanation, Retrieval and Summarising. We explore each of these through a range of techniques which include the close analysis of text, drama techniques such as acting out, hot seating and freezeframing and even the use of art. Each week, children are exposed to a range of activities or questions relating to different VIPERS in order to develop their comprehension skills. We adopt a whole class approach to the teaching of reading as we believe this best serves the needs of all children, allowing all to be exposed to high quality texts and the subsequent rich discussions, even if these are above their independent reading level. This is one of the ways in which we hope to develop within each child a desire to read for pleasure. In terms of reading comprehension, progression is by exposure to increasingly complex texts, requiring a deeper application of the same skills.
For children below age related expectations in reading, we run a phonics intervention in Years 3 and 4 based on the Read Write Inc Programme. Further support is provided in Year 4 to children who require more intensive instruction with the use of the Switch On programme. Additionally, children’s reading ages are assessed each long term and banded books are given out where appropriate to support reading at home.
Spelling and Grammar
We follow The Spelling Shed scheme which is based upon the requirements of the National Curriculum for each year group. This informs our weekly spelling lessons and subsequent tests, with children having access to the Spelling Shed platform from home. Furthermore, children work towards spelling badges which encompass the common exception words taken from the National Curriculum for each year group. This is completed as part of early morning work, with badge tests occurring at the end of each short term.
Grammar is embedded within the day to day teaching of English as we feel it functions best when taught in a meaningful context. However, in Year 6 there is a specific focus on teaching discrete grammatical skills to prepare children for the complex expectations they will face at secondary school within English and in MFL.
Writing is moderated in line with the requirements expected at the end of Key Stage 2. In order to facilitate this, writing trackers have been provided for each year group that show progression within the National Curriculum objectives for Key Stage 2 (see trackers). Objectives are grouped as being either working towards the expected standard, working at the expected standard or working at the greater depth standard. Each term, children’s final pieces will be moderated using the tracker by highlighting evidence to support the different objectives within each standard. At the end of the year, this will be used cumulatively to assess the standard of the individual child based on the evidence.
Reading is assessed using the NFER assessments tri-annually. Upon completion, teachers use gap analysis to inform subsequent teaching.
Spelling is assessed using weekly spelling tests following the Spelling Shed scheme and termly tests of the common exception words occur based on the individual child’s level.