At Ark Blacklands, English sits at the heart of the curriculum. It is through talking, reading, writing and vocabulary acquisition that children learn to communicate ideas, express themselves deeply and to understand the world in which they live.
At Ark Blacklands, Reading is at the heart of our school. We recognise that success in reading is vital for success across the curriculum, and for life after education.
We have a two-pronged approach to reading; we want to instil our pupils with a deep and lifelong love of books and language, whilst also providing them with the skills to read, developing both decoding and comprehension in partnership. All pupils should leave our school with the ability to read, write and speak in the academic language that they will need to be successful in secondary school and beyond
We place a huge importance on learning the skills of reading, developing both decoding and comprehension in partnership. We want all children to become confident and skilled readers with a lifelong love of books.
Approach to Reading
Early Reading: Becoming an accomplished reader is underpinned by a strong start in early reading. Phonics (taught using Read, Write Inc.) is the beginning of our children’s journey towards mastering reading. Our team of RWI Practitioners are relentless in their dedication to ensuring each and every child at Ark Blacklands learns to read as quickly as possible.
In phonics lessons, children learn one thing at a time, then keep practising it until they are ready to move onto learning the next skill. The RWI approach ensures that everything connects: children connect sounds with mnemonic pictures; words with their meanings; stories with the sounds they know, and children connect their own experiences to the stories they read.
Starting from the very first week of school, we teach phonics every single day to ensure success. Children are grouped according to their phonic ability so that every child makes rapid progress and any children falling behind are quickly identified. We employ a dedicated RWI professional to deliver interventions for our most vulnerable children.
We invest in the development of our Read Write Inc teachers through an ongoing relationship with the RWI team and regular coaching from our experienced Phonics Lead. We understand the importance of engaging parents: the Phonics Lead holds parent workshops, as well as maintaining dialogue with parents regarding their children’s reading.
Read to Succeed: Every child from Y1 upwards at Ark Blacklands participate in reading lessons: Read to Succeed. These lessons are based around high-quality books but are also supplemented with linked non-fiction texts and poetry. This exposure to a wide range of literature enhances comprehension skills and supports the acquisition of knowledge and ambitious vocabulary. Our reading curriculum is designed around the “Five Pillars of Reading”, which forms the basic components of our lessons.
- Phonics Instruction: Phonics does not end after the pupils have taken their phonics screening test. We continue to utilise the phonics programme in reading lessons across the school to help pupils decode unfamiliar words.
- Vocabulary: At Ark Blacklands, we use implicit and explicit vocabulary instruction so that the children can rapidly increase their ability to embed new words into their writing and into their speech. We integrate explicit instruction in our Read to Succeed lessons, as well as delivering separate vocabulary lessons. We promote independent vocabulary acquisition by teaching pupils how to construct meaning from the structure of words, the context and by using reference guides.
- Fluency: In order to comprehend a text, pupils must be able to read quickly and accurately, with a firm knowledge of how to respond to punctuation and sentence structures of varying complexity. Throughout the week, pupils undertake repeated oral readings of a text with regular feedback and opportunities to hear the teacher model prosodic reading. Teachers plan for opportunities for pupils to practise swift word recognition and automaticity. We aim to build accuracy, automaticity and prosody which ultimately frees ‘cognitive space’ for comprehension.
- Comprehension Instruction: Within the Read to Succeed lessons, children learn the necessary comprehension skills of retrieval, inference, paraphrasing and sequencing as well as learning to make connections between texts; to discuss and evaluate ideas and to express opinions. We teach pupils how to construct meaning in a text and strategies to aid comprehension, including: predicting, clarifying, questioning, making connections within and between text and summarising.
Reading for Pleasure: Reading for pleasure is an integral part of our reading curriculum. All pupils participate in daily reading for pleasure sessions, where the pupils engage in rich discussions about books and are exposed to a wide range of high quality texts, both fiction and non-fiction. As well as this, all children have daily story time where their teacher will share the class story with the pupils.
Reading at Home: At Ark Blacklands we recognise children need constant practice to become established, fluent readers and therefore place a strong emphasis on reading at home in addition to school. All children, from EYFS to Year 6, are expected to read at least five times a week and record their reading in a reading record book. Parents are encouraged to support children in this. Teaching staff monitor children’s reading habits and book choices, working with parents to inspire pupils to become great readers. In parallel with this, we celebrate children’s reading through sharing stories, partner classes, assemblies, awards and World Book Day.
Our writing Curriculum enables our children to become creative, confident writers who write clearly and accurately and can adapt their language and style for a range of purposes and audiences. All children are provided with many opportunities to develop and apply their writing, and to plan, revise and evaluate their work. They will also develop an awareness of the audience and context, and an increasingly wide knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. We aim for all pupils to leave school being able to use fluent, legible and speedy handwriting.
Approach to Writing
Writing: At Ark Blacklands, writing begins from a very early age - as soon as a child can mark make. Gross and fine motor skills are developed through our provision within EYFS, ensuring all children are developmentally prepared to form letters correctly (taught in Read Write Inc) along with the correct pencil grip.
In Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, children are taught the skills of writing through storytelling and discussion which supports their ability to structure the text and independently write in the chosen genre. A two-week unit is planned for English writing lessons, which begins with children analysing the model text and unpicking the grammatical features and organisation. As the unit progresses, teacher model and scaffold writing tasks, giving children the chance to practise the transcriptional and compositional skills needed to write independently. Throughout the two weeks, teachers will also plan in opportunities for “check-point activities” to assess learning and address misconceptions which may arise before a quality piece of independent writing is achieved. Intentional monitoring is used throughout the lessons to provide the children with timely and constructive feedback, which has an immediate impact on their writing progress.
The English writing curriculum is built upon the use of engaging and challenging texts each term. Children are introduced to a range of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry in order to guarantee their exposure to a rich tapestry of English literature, as well as providing them with imaginative writing opportunities. This range of texts ensures the children not only understand the structural and technical knowledge of language but are also inspired to become successful writers who can communicate effectively and write for a variety of purposes.
Spelling: Our spelling curriculum begins with the Read Write Inc Phonics Programme taught in Early Years and Year 1 and follows onto the Read Write Inc. Spelling Programme for Years 2 to 6. This programme develops children’s understanding of spelling rules and common exception words in each year group. Children receive a short, fast-past spelling lesson at the start of each week where they are taught a spelling rule; opportunities are then given to practise this rule at school and at home and to finish the rule is tested within a group of words at the end of the week. The approach also allows opportunity for rules to be revisited and revised throughout the year to consolidate understanding and prepares children for the higher demands of the English Spelling Curriculum in upper KS2.
Handwriting: We use Oxford University Press’s Nelson Handwriting scheme to enhance children’s transcript abilities. As well as practising letter formation in daily phonics lessons, all year groups across the school receive handwriting sessions. In Year 2, children will learn to join their handwriting using the first four joins. In Key Stage 2, children continue to work on joining, legibility and writing at length; receiving a pen licence when they can write fluently in a neat, cursive style (commonly by the end of Year 4). Handwriting progress is celebrated across the school through handwriting and published walls in every classroom.
Our English curriculum ensures that pupils leave Ark Blacklands Primary Academy with the skills they need for success at secondary school and beyond.
Please see here for further detail of the impact of our English curriculum.
Our English overview
We believe in the importance of using quality texts to support the teaching of reading and writing at Ark Blacklands. Our English overview, detailing how our Book Spine supports writing devlopment, can be seen here: