English at Westacre
Children are given a wealth of writing opportunities throughout the curriculum – not just during English lessons. They are taught how to write for a clear purpose using Michael Tidd’s Purposes of Writing: to inform, to entertain, to persuade and to discuss. A big part of this is learning how to select appropriate sentence structure and vocabulary to fit the purpose of the text and how, through accurate spelling and punctuation, the meaning of their writing is clear. All children are authors and we always encourage them to consider the choices they make in their writing, based on the impact they want to have on their reader.
Reading – in school
In daily Guided Reading sessions, children are exposed to high-level fiction and non-fiction texts and given ongoing practise of key reading skills: fluency, word meaning, skimming and scanning, retrieving information, inferring meaning (using clues in the text), summarising and finding evidence in the text. By teaching our children how to make sense of what they read, reading becomes a skill they can use to support all of their learning, in all subjects.
We are committed to nurturing our pupils’ love of reading so, each half term, our Guided Reading sessions become ‘free reading’ sessions, when children are encouraged to read their own choice of reading material, whether it be a graphic novel, a magazine, The Guiness Book of World Records…the options are endless!
Not only this but Reading Week becomes the focus of Guided Reading and English lessons once a term, immersing pupils in a high-quality text, and giving them time to read a book from cover to cover with their teacher and take part in thorough, ongoing discussions about the book.
We love to take every opportunity to celebrate reading at Westacre and we have a real passion for nurturing our pupils’ love of reading. We are always looking for ways to create an extra buzz around reading:
At Westacre, we use Renaissance Accelerated Reader (AR) to support and track progress in reading for all children. AR is a powerful tool for monitoring and managing independent reading practice. The information generated from children’s AR reading quizzes is used to ensure that pupils read appropriately challenging books - difficult enough to keep them engaged but not so difficult that pupils become frustrated. Children can access the AR system at school and at home, making it a powerful tool in developing a lifelong love of reading and motivating children of all ages to read more suitably challenging books.
Whilst every child is expected to have an AR book from the library, they are also encouraged to have an additional ‘choice book’, which could be in a different AR reading range, or separate to the AR system completely. This combination of the AR book and the additional ‘choice book’ enables us to focus on developing comprehension skills, as well as nurturing a love of reading.
eBooks via our ePlatform
Once logged in, children can browse a wide range of books at home, search for types of books or names / authors and also search by their AR range. They can borrow books, create a wish list and reserve books which are already loaned. Books can be borrowed for 2 weeks, and are available to read online. The screen can be customised to ensure that all pupils’ needs are supported.
Reading – at home
At Westacre, the expectation is that children will read for a minimum of 5 times a week, for a minimum of 10 minutes. Each child has their own reading record, in their learning journal, which must be filled in by the child and signed by an adult.
A weekly class record is kept of how many pupils read 5 times or more - a weekly class percentage is sent to the English Leader. The class in each year group with the best percentage each week will be announced in assembly and rewarded with 15 minutes of extra class wellbeing time in the library. Each half term, every pupil who has read regularly for every academic week is placed into a prize draw to win a £10 book token. At the end of the academic year, every pupil who has read regularly for every academic week will be entered into a prize draw to win a £50 gift voucher for the Odeon Cinema.
Communication Weeks have been planned into the curriculum to provide rich opportunities to develop pupils’ discussion, debate and drama skills. Quality discussion has also been supported in the learning journal through the introduction of the ‘thunk’ of the week and a page dedicated to discussion prompts. If children speak well, with confidence, in a range of situations, they will develop strong reading and writing skills.
The teaching of grammar and punctuation is woven throughout the curriculum. Grammar is taught in creative and meaningful ways that go beyond simply knowing terms and categories, towards encouraging children to love playing with grammar and language. The purpose of punctuation is to clarify the meaning of texts. Readers use punctuation to help make sense of written texts while writers use punctuation to help communicate intended meaning to the reader.
Teaching at Westacre
During English lessons at Westacre, whether it be reading, writing or spelling, children are taught as a whole class. Lessons are planned to ensure that all children are supported and challenged appropriately and focus groups are a common feature of all lessons. Every classroom has an ‘access toolkit’ (available to all children, irrespective of ability) which contains resources to support learning, from coloured overlays and pencil grips to working mats and task boards.
Every classroom has an English working wall, where key elements of the writing process can be recorded for children’s reference throughout a writing topic. Two key features of every classroom are the resources to accompany Michael Tidd’s Purposes of Writing (to inform, to entertain, to persuade, to discuss) and reading resources called Reading Vipers. This consistency across the school supports all children in their learning journey at Westacre.
In Guided Reading lessons, assessment is an ongoing process which allows teachers to adapt lessons to best meet the needs of learners. Children complete a range of whole class, paired and independent tasks to give the teacher a rounded picture of strengths and areas for development. Formal assessment takes place once a term, usually at the end, to give children the opportunity to apply their reading skills in a more formal context. Again, information from this activity is used to inform future plans.
In addition to assessment in lessons, we complete a termly assessment for pupils’ reading age (using the STAR Reading Test on Accelerated Reader) and reading fluency, to support our identification of children who may need additional reading support.
Assessment is also an ongoing process in writing, enabling teachers to adapt their lessons in response to the strengths and areas for development in children’s writing. Pupils complete an extended independent writing task every couple of weeks, on average, which allows teachers to assess how well children can apply their writing skills. In light of this assessment, teachers plan and deliver focused feedback tasks which are specific to the needs of individuals. At the end of each term, when a range of independent writing has been produced, an overview assessment of all skills is completed to provide a rounded picture of each child as a writer.
Self-assessment and peer-assessment is an important part of the writing process, giving children the chance to reflect on their own and other’s writing…helping them to see themselves as authors.
At every stage, teachers use the assessment process to inform their planning and ensure they provide an English curriculum, which allows every child to progress.