The website for Witnesham Primary can be found here.
English is an important part of the curriculum and impacts all other subjects. Children are taught effective communication skills through speaking and listening, as well as reading and writing. Reading and writing go hand in hand; great writers need to read a range of genres to give them a broad range of vocabulary and ideas to use within their own writing. We aim to inspire children to read and write independently, skilfully and for enjoyment! We are passionate about giving children the fundamental skills to let them achieve later in life.
We are very enthusiastic about reading at Otley. We believe reading is for both a purpose (for information) and for pleasure, and we continually share our love of books and promote a positive reading culture.
There are two equally important elements to be able to read effectively: working out what the print on the page says (decoding) and working out what those words mean (comprehension).
We teach reading in a variety of different ways. Daily phonics is taught in early years and continues through into class 2; occasionally this continues higher up in the school if a child needs it. At Otley we follow the Letters and Sounds scheme. Whole class text teaching, individual reading practice and small group guided reading sessions also occur across the whole school where books are discussed in depth.
The main reading strategies are:
Using phonics – the sounds letters and groups of letters make.
Word recognition – words that cannot be sounded out (blended) but are remembered visually or through tricks or mnemonics.
Context – what makes sense in that situation. E.g. The dog is ________. The dog could be running or barking but is not likely to be galloping or singing.
Grammatically – what sounds right. E.g. The dog ____ black. You could not say, “The dog are black.” You would need to say, “The dog is black.”
All of these strategies are important. The use of systematic synthetic phonic teaching is the first and most important strategy early on. We use the Letters and Sounds curriculum recommended by the Government beginning in Reception and continuing through Year 2.
Sounds and letters are taught in a specific order as children build up the complexity of words they are able to read. We support classroom teaching using Phonics Play games and resources. Children bring a book home once they can aurally blend and know most letter sounds.
We use a range of reading schemes, including Dandelion, Oxford Reading Tree, Songbirds, Fireflies and Rigby Star. Children usually move through the stages and once they become independent readers they are able to choose books from the school library or from their classroom.
We value the skill of reading out loud and children in all year groups across the school are heard read regularly. We strongly urge parents to hear their children read at home regularly in all age groups. It is vital to support their reading by asking them questions about the texts, to ensure their understanding.
We believe children need to be taught to read and recognise print in a range of books and other sources such as magazines, menus, comics, signs, food labels, etc. The wider experiences the better.
There is more information on how to support your child with reading under the “Getting Involved” part of the website and you will find a link to a video for how to correctly pronounce sounds to enable pupils to be successful in phonics under the Early Years section.
Writing involves many elements such as forming ideas into sentences, spelling, handwriting and understanding grammar and punctuation.
It begins with a strong focus on talk and a strong focus on phonics. Children are given opportunities to work on speaking in sentences, telling stories, explaining and justifying their ideas and building their vocabulary. They work daily on recognising the sounds that letters and groups of letters make and playing segmenting and syllable games. We encourage children to have confidence to make independent choices and believe they are writers and value their first attempts. The first step is mark making – exciting places are set up to encourage children to want to write such as trays of glitter, water on outdoor paving slabs, cars in paint, etc. This develops into letters, words and sentences as children’s learning grows. As we give them steps to help them improve, their skills grow. Phonics is taught in discrete sessions daily and applied in English lessons. Children are also taught to spell irregular common words known as high frequency words. The current English National Curriculum includes a focus on grammar, and children are taught grammar from the very beginning of school. We teach this through games and then apply it within our writing lessons. Children need to have correct language modelled to them.
Correct letter formation pencil grip and handwriting are also modelled. Children initially air-write letters with wands saying the patterns to remember them. We also do activities which build up the children's fine motor skills in order to develop much needed muscles for writing.
In Years 1 and 2, children work on writing different genres such as instructions, simple poems, narrative and non-fiction reports. Children learn increased sound and letter combinations and increased common spelling words. They learn to use punctuation, add detail and extend their sentences. We choose engaging topics to write about such as how to make a potion, postcards from the seaside, leaflets to persuade children to visit a new town, letters to visiting aliens, descriptions of dragons and more!
In KS2 children learn even more genres such as mystery stories, plays, myths, shape poems and biographies. Children learn to improve the quality of their sentences by playing with clauses, an increased range of conjunctions, adverbial phrases, more complex sentence structures and experimenting with more complex punctuation. Phonics teaching migrates to teaching more combinations of letter patterns, along with spelling rules for which words use which, and increased rules for adding prefixes and suffixes.
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