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Teacher discussing with two pupils

Spoken Language

At all ages, the ability to listen and respond appropriately to others is a critical life-skill and key to accessing and developing children’s learning in school and the world around them.

We use talk in the classroom daily, we model and teach children to articulate their answers, questions, opinions, arguments, descriptions and explanations, as well as express their feelings.

We encourage children to use the English language articulately in order to communicate with their audience effectively. We regularly use talk to clarify and solidify thinking and learning through ‘Talk Partners’ in the classroom.

We provide real life contexts throughout the curriculum that provide opportunities for children to adapt their tone and style for a particular audience, from presentations to performances and role plays to debates. Talk is very much seen as a key to success.

Reading a story

Phonics and Early Reading

The first step to children enabling children to access the joy of books is for them to learn the sounds associated with each letter and critical to this is the use of a structured phonics scheme.

At St. John’s we follow the ‘Read Write Inc.’ programme but supplement this with material from ‘Letters and Sounds’ and other resources. The programme allows children to engage with phonics in a multi-sensory way using play, song and rhyme. This systematic teaching of phonics, along with working in partnership with parents, really supports early reading and writing and provides children with a firm foundation on which to build. Our aim is that all children will have a sound knowledge and understanding of phonics by the end of Year 2 and we have an excellent track record of success in the phonics check.

School library

Learning to Read

At St. John’s we have a passion for books and the written form; this is at the heart of our teaching from early reading until the children are ready for secondary school.

We believe that children must develop a love for reading in order to motivate and develop their own reading fluency and comprehension skills. Children at St. John’s are able to access all that books have to offer through high-quality shared class texts and book talk that give them opportunities to develop their skills as well as a vivid imagination and advanced vocabulary. Children can choose their own book to take home from an array of individually levelled reading books, including books from the Oxford Reading Tree, Read Write Inc. Phonics Books, Usborne First Reading and Project X reading schemes. This is encouraged across the school as the most useful and enjoyable element of home learning

Each site also has a well-stocked library where children visit regularly and can relax and enjoy a book. Our children read regularly to teachers, learning support assistants and volunteers in a group or 1:1 environment, but also relish the end of the day opportunity to hear a magical tale read by their teacher.

Books on bookshelf

Celebrating Reading

At St. Johns we love to celebrate reading and authors and this is never more true that during our annual Authors’ Week.

Each class focuses on an author and learns all about their life and their books. Also in this week, the Book Fair visits our school with a wide choice of the latest fiction and non-fiction books for the children to look at and buy. Through exciting activities like bedtime stories and house events they can fully appreciate the value of books, reading and being read to.

There is nothing more inspiring than meeting a ‘real’ author so we try to arrange opportunities for our children to do so, particularly as they move through the juniors. In collaboration with other schools, we have been lucky enough to listen to talks and have books signed by authors such as Cathy Cassidy, Michelle Paver and M.G. Leonard to mention a few. These experiences really challenge and inspire our children.

Teacher helping children

Writing

At St. Johns we value writing as a fundamental communication skill that enables our children to share their creativity, ideas and emotions; and this starts right from day one.

Children are given rich experiences in EYFS to encourage and develop a love and purpose for writing. In English lessons, we use high quality texts as a stimulus and as a model of writing excellence for them to emulate. In Year 1&2 we also use ‘Mighty Writer’ to support early stages of the writing process. This develops sentence structure, imagination and creativity through using images and symbols. Our aim is to make writing purposeful and meaningful so we will often link it to the current topic that our children are immersed in. Editing is an important skill our children develop, refining their work and striving for their absolute best to meet the needs of the audience is a key skill. We are exceptionally proud of what our children achieve and therefore celebrate their writing through publishing and displays.

Pupil writing

Handwriting

Through high expectations and a love of learning, children at St. John’s take great pride in their written work.

The journey to cursive develops consistently across the school and there is a clear progression that allows our children to develop writing fluency and an enjoyment of the written word. From the outset in EYFS, we focus on the development of arm strength and pincer grip through lots of exciting and engaging activities such as Dough Disco, a programme to develop wrist and finger strength in order to improve children’s writing using playdough and dance! It is our expectation that all children have been taught all letter joins by the end of Year 2.

Spelling

Spelling is seen as an integral element in successful writing.

We teach spelling a little and often through structured phonics and the learning of ‘red’ words (non-phonic words) in the early infants, moving on to using the Read Write Inc. programme from Years 2-6. These daily structured sessions focus on allowing children to explore spelling patterns as opposed to simply learning lists. The lessons have engaging videos in addition to short activities and games which allow children to practise their skills on a daily basis.

We also support spelling through the use of an interactive online programme, ‘Spelling Shed’, which encourages the children to earn points as they learn. Yearly Spelling Bee competitions with our cluster schools in NW24 also adds an air of challenge and fun to our learning.

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