At High Down School we believe that a quality English curriculum should develop children’s love of reading, writing and discussion. At the heart of our English curriculum are thoughtfully chosen high quality texts that extend and enhance the children’s vocabulary. We recognise the importance of nurturing a culture where children love to read, take pride in their writing and can clearly and accurately adapt their language and style for a range of contexts. We want to inspire children to be confident in the art of speaking and listening and to be able to use discussion to communicate and further their learning.
Our curriculum closely follows the aims of the National Curriculum for English to enable all children to:
● read easily, fluently and with good understanding
● develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information
● acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language
● appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage
● write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences
● use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas
● are competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.
These aims are embedded across our literacy lessons and the wider curriculum.
We use Unlocking Letters and Sounds which was validated by the DfE in December 2021. Please click here to see the ULS parent presentation
We begin teaching phonics in the first few weeks of term 1 in Reception and children make rapid progress in their reading journey. Children begin to learn the main sounds heard in the English Language and how they can be represented, as well as learning ‘Common Exception’ words for Phases 2, 3 and 4. They use these sounds to read and write simple words, captions and sentences. Children leave Reception being able to apply the phonemes taught within Phase 2, 3 and 4.
In Year 1 through Phase 5a, b and c, they learn any alternative spellings and pronunciations for the graphemes and additional Common Exception Words. By the end of Year 1 children will have mastered using phonics to decode and blend when reading and segment when spelling. In Year 1 all children are screened using the national Phonics Screening Check. In Year 2, phonics continues to be revisited to ensure mastery of the phonetic code and any child who does not meet age related expectations will continue to receive support to close identified gaps. For further details please see the Unlocking Letters and Sounds progression:
To ensure no child is left behind at any point in the progression, children are regularly assessed and supported to keep up through bespoke 1-1 interventions. These include GPC recognition and blending and segmenting interventions. Children are closely monitored to ensure these interventions have an impact.
As children move through the early stages of acquiring phonics, they practise by reading texts which are fully decodable and closely tailored to their current phonic knowledge. In Reception these are always selected for them by the teacher or teaching assistant. These books are drawn from a variety of schemes, all following the Letters and Sounds teaching progression. The schemes are Floppy’s Phonics, Songbirds, Rigby Star Phonics, Big Cat Phonics and Phonics Bug.
Books are changed frequently, whilst allowing sufficient time for reading and rereading at home.
As children move through the school, those who take a little longer to ‘take off’ with phonics also have access to fully decodable, but more age appropriate texts, from the Rocket Phonics and Dandelion Readers schemes.
Once children have a secure knowledge of the letters and sounds taught and can blend words confidently, (usually expressed as the ability to read at a speed of approximately 90 words per minute) they access our Book Banded reading scheme which has books from various published schemes and is designed to give children experience of a variety of reading genres. There are fiction and non-fiction books within each level to encourage the development of comprehension skills.
Comprehension is taught through individual, guided and whole class reading. Children are introduced systematically to the skills of information retrieval, inference, predicting what might happen next in a text and sequencing events, whilst focusing on developing a wide and varied vocabulary.
All children are encouraged to select books from the classroom, library or home to share with their parents to encourage a love of reading (see also information below on our ‘100 Reads’ and other ways of promoting the love of reading).