Speaking and Listening
We believe that developing children’s speaking and listening skills is essential in enabling them to become effective communicators, both in spoken and written forms. If we cannot say it, then we cannot read or write it.
We are firm believers that children learn best through play. In YR, we plan daily role-play opportunities, where children are encouraged to adopt familiar or imaginary roles and personas for example using the role-play areas, small world play, with puppets etc. These may be based on real-life experiences – the home, the vets, or the doctors, for example – or on characters, settings and events from a variety of nursery rhymes, traditional tales and stories. Children are also supported to develop and use a wide range of vocabulary linked to their interests and learning through adults interacting and engaging with them in their play and modelling and extending their language appropriately.
In KS 1, as an introduction to the text drivers for Writing, children use drama to develop language acquisition.
To further develop these fundamental skills across the school, we plan a range of performances to a range of different audiences for example, Christmas and Easter plays, Y2 Leavers' Assembly, topic landings to different year groups, parents, Governors, the community etc. We also plan opportunities for children to work with skilled visitors (drama and theatre groups) and learn from real life experiences.
We believe that 'reading is the most important skill' and therefore we actively promote reading for pleasure as a focus in our daily teaching including reading for information. Creating a culture of reading is a vital tool in ensuring our children are given the best life chances. Inspiring passion in our readers will ensure that their love of reading will extend far beyond the classroom and allow them to build on their skills independently through a real curiosity and thirst for knowledge.
The culture of reading begins in Year R where children are immersed in stories, poems, rhymes and songs. Picture books are introduced and explored developing their imagination, vocabulary and communication skills. Children are given ownership of their reading experiences with access to inviting reading areas and daily votes to choose the book of the day.
Reading skills are taught through daily Phonics and Guided Reading lessons which teach decoding and comprehension skills systematically from Year R to Year 2.
We teach Phonics using 'Rising Stars: Rocket Phonics' which is a Department for Education (DfE) validated systematic, synthetic phonics programme. This sets out a carefully planned and sequenced order to learning letter shapes, names and sounds that they represent when we read and spell. Phonic lessons follow the Revisit-Teach-Practice-Apply approach explaining that the letters of the alphabet represent sounds (phonemes) and put together (blended) to make words and that each sound has a written representation (grapheme) which are split up (segmented) for spelling. Planning builds on prior knowledge and enables the children to apply their phonic strategies when decoding for reading and encoding for spelling more complex words. Phonics is taught from day 1 in YR.
The children are provided with phonically decodable books that match the phonics they they have been taught to practise and apply their learning. They read twice per week in Guided Reading lessons with an adult unless they need additional one to one support as daily Target Readers. Books are given once a week to enable them to develop fluency, accuracy and an understanding of what they are reading. Parents are encouraged to access the Rising Stars on-line platform for additional texts to practise.
Once the children are able to accurately decode, they move onto ‘book banded’ books which ensure that they are presented with appropriately challenging reading material at age-appropriate levels. We are committed to ensuring that all children are able to read at a sufficiently fluent level that they are no longer ‘learning to read’ but are now ‘reading to learn’
Our Reading Curriculum also explores key authors per year group per half term. This enables the children to make links between books read and begin to make comparisons and opinions. Reading is also promoted through cross-curricular links per topic per half term.
Children also access the library where they are encouraged to choose a book to share with parents at home. These books may well be beyond their reading ability but encourages our strong ethos of reading for pleasure as they are based on their interests.
We are always looking for new and exciting ways to inspire the children and therefore participate in the annual World Book Day celebrations in March and Year 1 sign up to the Hampshire school library service Picture Book Award.
Some words are not able to be decoded using phonics and are known as Common Exception Words (CEW). To support the learning of these words we have developed a Keyword Reading scheme which progresses from Year R to Year 2 words and includes specific vocabulary to support the wider curriculum. Children learn these words at school using a variety of techniques to support memory such as actions, songs and colour coding. Children are expected to practise CEWs at home and once children are fluent in their recognition and application, their achievements are celebrated in tour weekly Celebration Assembly.
The purpose of any form of writing is communication. Therefore, children need to be taught to produce well-structured, detailed writing in which the meaning is made clear and engages the interest of the reader. All writing has the need for a purpose and audience which can take many forms. The purpose could range from informing, entertaining, discussing and persuading but in all cases, writing is used as a means of creative expression. As choice encourages creativity, we aim to immerse children in a wide range of rich literature (including audio and film as well as written text), enabling them to use books of their/our choices to inform their own writing.
Motivation to write is key to children’s writing development. Our topics are introduced with an exciting launch, message or discovery which then provides the children with a challenge or key question. Our writing tasks also have their own hooks to ensure children are aware of the real purpose and audience for their work. Topics across the school have been planned with children’s interests in mind and are regularly reviewed to make sure they are current and relevant.
Writing skills are taught daily which include vocabulary, grammar, spelling and handwriting. These are sometimes taught as a specific lesson focus with opportunities to embed these during more sustained pieces of writing and across the wider curriculum.
We have a progressive spelling scheme following the requirements of the National Curriculum Common Exception Word (CEW) lists including blending words from our Phonics scheme. Spellings are sent home each week, and practised in school daily, ready for the weekly spelling test on Fridays, to ensure children secure their spelling skills. The expectation is that they are then able to apply the rules in all aspects of writing. Children can also practise their spellings by logging into Spelling Shed.
Children start their handwriting development in Year R with opportunities to mark make, explore a range of media and Doh gym. Doh gym movements are designed to increase strength and control from the shoulders down to the fingers and play a key part in supporting handwriting before pencils are introduced.
Core strength and fundamental movement skills (daily Wriggle Time and Merton Mile) are also developed using the NHS SOLENT therapy pack to target the physical development (both gross and fine motor skills) of children to support their writing journey.
Letter formation is taught using the cursive style and is introduced at the same time as the letter sounds.
KS1 introduces handwriting books where children consolidate single letter formation following a progression through the letter families and then progress to joining their handwriting. This is taught first in isolation and then embedded in words to add context.
Vocabulary and Grammar
Vocabulary and grammar are taught by exposing children to rich texts and the use of high quality WAGOLLs (What a good one looks like) to model an example of writing. Children are introduced to new, adventurous vocabulary and given opportunities to use it in their writing. This is often supported by working wall displays which are frequently changed and updated according to the learning in the classroom. Teachers will source and produce pictorial word mats with key vocabulary and images to be used in the classroom. These are also sent home every half term for children to practise reading and writing. This particularly supports children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) and children with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND) who may not be familiar with the new topic vocabulary.
Our English curriculum ensures all children leave Merton Infant School as confident and expressive speakers, readers and writers ready to access learning in Key Stage 2 and beyond. Children make exceptional progress from their starting points.