We follow the Department for Education's National Curriculum programmes of study for Key Stages 1 and 2, details of which are published on the DfE's website. The National Curriculum for English aims to promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written word, and to develop their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment. It aims to ensure that all pupils:
- 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.
We believe that speaking, listening, reading and writing are an essential part of all activities in the curriculum. We ensure that children will experience a wide range of creative and inspiring activities to develop these skills through independent and team work.
The intent of our Writing curriculum is:
To enable all children to enjoy the process of writing, to write confidently and be able to understand the purpose and audience of what they are writing at all times.
We teach writing using our own bespoke policy for implementing the national curriculum. This implementation policy draws heavily on the work of Jane Considine and her publication The Write stuff.
Writing units last for between 2 and 3 weeks. Each term, children will learn to write in specific genres which are mapped out over the course of their time at Birkbeck to ensure a full and comprehensive knowledge base in all writing disciplines. The class text is used as a stimulus for a writing unit at least once per term. In every term, children also have one unit of spoken word which makes up the core aspect of our oracy curriculum. These units are either a speech, a debate or a performance poem and they last for one full week.
Our curriculum map specifies the genre to be taught, the text stimulus to be used as the starting point for the unit and the grammatical and technical knowledge to be taught within the unit. Each unit specifies new concepts to be taught and previously taught knowledge to be revisited. Each narrative unit also introduces children to a sentence structure taken directly from well renowned authors and this is also specified on the curriculum map. Our curriculum map also specifies the objectives from our oracy progression map that will be covered in that unit. You can see our full writing curriculum map below:
Alternatively, you can view the most important of this information on our curriculum poster which identifies which genres of writing children learn about in each term and what the main stimulus for this writing is.
We are very proud of the diversity that is woven into our Writing curriculum. We have deliberately woven in authors from a range of ethnic backgrounds and texts and videos that portray characters from an equally wide range of backgrounds enabling all children to see themselves in the authors, subject matter and the characters they explore as part of our curriculum.
Teachers use our Writing implementation guide to deliver our Writing curriculum. This is an in depth document that forms part of our induction and training schedule for new staff so that we can ensure consistency of approach to teaching in the subject. This implementation includes planning, sentence construction teaching in line with Jane Considine's sentence stacking methodology, vocabulary development, editing and redrafting and independent writing sequences which come at the end of every taught unit. In all lessons, teachers' decision making is guided by our principles of high quality teaching and learning. These are the same in all subject areas and what they mean to us in writing can be found in the document below:
Our Grammar knowledge progression can be seen below. This details the grammar expectations for each year group and how we develop these from one year group to the next.
At Birkbeck Primary school, we use the Read Write inc Phonics scheme as our DfE approved Systematic Synthetic Phonics approach. Through this approach, children learn to segment and blend words using their knowledge of the phonic code. We see the effectiveness of this approach and so we continue to use it when children are in Key stage 2.
Children in Years 3-6 learn spellings through phonemes and the ever-increasing irregular spellings of these phonemes in words. For example, in Year 3, children revisit the /a/ sound they first learned in Reception and identify this phoneme in words such as salmon, plait and guarantee. In their first spelling lesson each week, they learn that there are three further spellings of the phoneme /a/ - al , ai , ua. They spend time learning to spell these words and identifying words that follow these phonetic spelling patterns. This approach also helps us reinforce a confidence in phonics as the approach to reading and helps us to avoid unhelpful misconceptions such ‘not all words can be sounded out’.
In their second spelling lesson each week, children learn to spell Tier 2 words which also make use of the focus phoneme. We select these words from the 345 most commonly used Tier 2 words that feature in Christopher Such’s book, The art and Science of teaching Primary reading. We believe that children benefit from being able to spell these words because of their flexible use and broad contextual relevance.
In their third spelling lesson of the week, children learn to spell words which use the focus phoneme but that also use Latin and Greek roots. Over 60% of the words in the English language come from Latin and Greek roots and so learning to spell these words is of importance to children because they learn to apply the meaning of the roots every time they see them within other words and this helps them to understand the meaning of words they are encountering for the first time. For example, children who understand that the root ‘acro’ means ‘top’ are more likely to make inferences about the type of activity an acrobat does.
Each year group has their spelling phonemes and corresponding words mapped out for the entire year so that we can ensure well sequenced provision and systematic retrieval opportunities.
Children in all year groups have one Handwriting session per week. In this session, they write sentences dictated by the class teacher, that use the words they have learned in their spelling lessons the previous week.
Teachers use the Handwriting policy to ensure the consistent teaching of handwriting across the school. This policy can be found below:
Assessment in Writing
Writing is formally assessed once per term across all year groups. Children's body of writing work to date is considered against the school's writing descriptors for the year group. We use Pixl's Writing assessment grids to do this.
Writing assessments are reported to parents and carers at parents evening every term.
The intent of our Reading curriculum is:
To develop reading fluency, enabling access to a wider range of reading material so that children can develop a love and enjoyment of reading that will sustain rigorous interest in the meaning, construction and intended impact of the written word.
Whole class reading is taught every day in Years 3 -6. Children in Year 1 and 2 who have completed the Phonics programme also do whole class reading every day. These lessons utilise our class core texts on a Monday and a Friday. These texts have been chosen for their literary value as well as the positive diversity that is inherent within the plots and characters. We have also deliberately selected authors from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds as we know that it is vitally important for children to know that authors come from all ethnic and social backgrounds. The list of core texts can be seen below in our curriculum poster.
On a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, children read extracts from three linked texts as part of their reading lessons. This approach means that we know we are exposing children to a full and wide range of genres when reading and enables them to develop their understanding of links and connections between texts within the theme of that week. Extracts that are taken from non-fiction or narrative books are available for children to read in the class book corners. The full list of texts used in Years 3 - 6 can be seen below:
We know that background knowledge or a lack thereof is one of the biggest barriers to understanding reading that children face. For this reason, every reading lesson begins with an explanation of the historical and social context of the text about to be read and clarification of the meaning of the most challenging vocabulary included in the text.
Following this, lessons teach one of three elements of reading:
- Close reading
- Extended reading
You can read about what each of these are in detail in the document below:
Each year group does a different amount of each of the three elements and their coverage timetables are set out below:
Year 1 and 2 - for those children who have completed the Phonics programme
Year 3 and 4:
Year 5 and 6:
At Birkbeck Primary school, we believe that it is essential that children hear reading aloud on a daily basis. Each year group has at least one core text per term (see above) and teachers read this book to their classes every day for a period of between 10 and 15 minutes. Not only does this model excellent rhythm, prosody and intonation but it also inspires an enjoyment of reading for our children.
1:1 reading in school and at home
In Reception and Key stage 1, children read 1:1 with an adult every week at least once per week. This is an opportunity for children to practice their prosody, automaticity and intonation and also serves as an assessment opportunity for adults who may then decide to move children up to the next book band.
In Key stage 2, specific children will read 1:1 with an adult every day to practice their fluency. Other children will read 1:1 with an adult less frequently but will be heard read aloud as part of reading lessons.
Children in Reception and Key stage 1 read their assigned phonics books at home. Once they have completed the Phonics programme, they read banded books which are stored in the library. The adult who reads with the child 1:1 will take them to change their book when they have finished it or are ready to move to the next band. They will record this in the child's reading record book. Parents and carers are expected to listen to their child read every day for a minimum of 10 minutes and should sign to say that this has taken place, in the reading record book. These will be checked and signed weekly by adults at school when they read 1:1 with the children.
In Key stage 2, children take one of the books from their year group reading spines (see above) home to read. They must sign their book out of the class library and return it there once they have finished the book. Parents and carers in Key stage 2 should hear their children read aloud once per day for at least 10 minutes and should sign the reading record book daily to confirm that this has taken place. The reading record books are checked and signed by adults at school weekly.
Some children in Key stage 2 benefit from reading banded books for longer and we support this. Children who benefit from reading these books are allowed to take these home and will be heard read 1:1 ever day by adults in school.
Assessment in Reading
Assessment in reading takes place once per term. We assess children's comprehension using Pixl tests and these provide us with a comparison with a sample of between 20,000 and 30,000 children from across the country. This means that the data we hold is robust as it is contextualised within such a large sample of children.
We also assess reading ages once per term and use the NFER reading age tests to do this.
Reading assessments are reported to parents and carers at parents evening every term.