English at Minterne
Written by: Kirsty Warner
Date: September 2023
To be reviewed: September 2026
Spoken word, reading and writing are key skills that lie at the heart of learning. At Minterne, we aim to provide exciting, interesting and varied teaching and learning experiences across our curriculum that will ensure our pupils are able to use and benefit from these skills throughout their lifetime.
Our entire curriculum reflects the importance of spoken language. We believe that it is key to our pupils’ learning and the foundation for the development of reading and writing. At Minterne, we strive to ensure that children continually develop confidence and competence in spoken language and listening skills. Our pupils are given frequent opportunities to talk about their understanding of books and other reading. Oral rehearsal before writing is an integral part of our lessons. The use of talk partners in every class for every lesson allows us to help the children build their ability to listen, to converse and to explain their thoughts and ideas with increasing depth and clarity. We promote discussion as a tool for learning.
Vocabulary: Teachers promote the vocabulary that our children need to discuss their reading and writing as they naturally arise. We teach pupils to control their speaking consciously and to use Standard English. As well as this, technical vocabulary is discussed and recorded as part of our Learning for a Lifetime curriculum. Throughout the school, teachers use a variety of strategies to broaden our pupils’ vocabularies and foster a curiosity around words; this includes strategies that are used to support those with Speech, Language and Communication needs.
Drama: Drama is highly valued at Minterne and is used often to encourage pupils to explore a story or a concept, as well as prepare for writing using techniques such as conscience alley, freeze framing and role play. There is a long-established tradition of ambitious year group productions at Minterne, where all children make a valued contribution. These performances are remembered vividly and fondly by our pupils long after they have left us.
We aim to encourage all pupils to develop a love of books and reading. Alongside this, we strive to ensure that all our pupils read easily, fluently and with good understanding. New books are promoted in assemblies, authors visit our school and children make book recommendations to one and other. The school council gathered pupil voice to help redesign the school library. We now have a team of pupils who act as ‘Library Assistants’; they run projects within the library as well as supporting other pupils. We also run a weekly ‘Reading Crew’ club where older readers support younger peers; disadvantaged and more vulnerable pupils are actively encouraged to attend.
Word-reading Skills: For children who are still developing early word-reading skills, there is a rigorous and sequential approach; we use Project X CODE on a daily basis in small, differentiated intervention groups as part of Guided Reading. The Project X reading scheme (which is also used by our feeder infant school) is also available for children who wish to use it all the way up to year 6. Where further gaps need addressing, No-Nonsense Phonics is also used for individuals to effectively boost fluency and confidence in reading.
Word-reading skills that are appropriate to each year group in Key Stage 2 are honed in Guided Reading sessions where we use RIC questions to focus on key skills (Retrieval, Interpretation and Challenge).
Reading Comprehension: Reading comprehension is developed through high-quality shared-reading and discussion with the teacher; during lessons across the curriculum and during Guided Reading sessions. Minterne pupils are introduced to a wide range of stories, poems and non-fiction. Most of our English units of work are based around a high-quality class text (often developed from The Power of Reading project) and our children access many of our topics through sets of high-quality non-fiction texts.
Libraries: Our colourful library is manned daily by our library assistants and is brimming with an extensive range of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and newspapers for the children to use and borrow. The children can visit the library at lunchtimes to borrow books and as a quiet place to enjoy a book. Class libraries / book corners are well-stocked with fiction books and children borrow them to take home for reading and use them for reading in class.
Accelerated Reader (AR): We use the Accelerated Reader system to ensure that all children select an independent reading book that will allow them to make good reading progress. It also provides teachers and parents with clear information on how well our children understand the books that they are reading. Engagement and motivation are promoted through rewards that are set for children as they achieve their reading goals. Parents who have registered receive an email each time their child takes a quiz which details their level of understanding of the book. Children are involved in setting individual, termly targets for themselves for the amount of reading they undertake at their personal level. All the children who reach their target are awarded with a certificate, their name on our central display and are entered into a raffle to win a Kindle.
AR allows teachers to monitor pupils’ reading, including the number of words read. Pupils who have read one million words are rewarded with an exclusive green school polo shirt and they wear these with pride.
Homework: Pupils are given opportunities to read their AR book at school but are also expected to read it at home; every child in the school is required to read with an adult five times per week as homework and this is recorded and checked weekly in the pupil planners.
Children at Minterne are keen to write because writing is preceded by stimulating, supportive teaching and activities. Units of work are often centred on a high-quality class text and the children write, in various fiction and non-fiction genres, in response to the text. Where there is a valid link, writing is also related to a topic or another curriculum subject, such as science or history.
Teachers use Guided or Shared Writing and modelling techniques to impart effective writing composition skills; forming, articulating and communicating ideas, and then organising them coherently for the reader. Talk partners and groups often share ideas through discussion and through display on the class Working Wall. Teachers present excellent examples of writing to our pupils; together, they evaluate the devices used to make the writing effective then pupils aim to emulate this level of competency in their own work. Pupils are taught to plan and revise their writing; peer and self-assessment is often used to celebrate success and make improvements to pupils’ writing, as well as to foster independent learning.
Grammar: Grammar is learned implicitly through speaking and reading. At Minterne, we aim to make knowledge and understanding of grammar explicit in order to enable our pupils to develop conscious control and choice in their language. Grammar is taught in a weekly lesson and applied in context during other lessons across the curriculum. Grammar concepts are introduced at an appropriate stage and then continue to be revisited to consolidate knowledge and build on our pupils’ understanding. Pupils are taught grammatical terminology through discussion and practice.
Spelling: In order to record their ideas, children need quick and accurate spelling skills, as well as clear, fluent handwriting. Spelling is taught through short, interactive activities; teaching how knowledge of phonics, word structure and spelling structure facilitate quick and accurate spelling. Some spellings are given for children to learn at home. Word lists from the National Curriculum can be found in our pupil planners.
Handwriting: Handwriting is taught to pupils in the lower school and through English lessons. There are clear ‘Presentation Priorities’ displayed in each class and these are shared with pupils and parents. This poster contains an example of correct letter formation for the children’s reference. At Minterne, children begin by writing in pencil. When their teacher feels that they are approaching a sufficient standard to write in pen, they are placed in the ‘waiting room’ whereby, if they can maintain a high standard, they will be awarded a ‘Pen License’.
Assessment, Record-keeping & Target Setting
Reading and Writing are assessed at three key points in the school year. Assessment against a pupil’s age-related curriculum is made using tracking grids originally produced by Kent LA. At two points during the year, teachers use the statements to assess whether the children are on track to meet age-related expectations by the end of the year. At the end of the year, teachers decide whether individuals are emerging towards, expected or exceeding (Greater Depth) age-related standards and this is reported to parents.
At Minterne, we follow Kent LA ‘steps’ to track pupil progress; each pupil must progress six ‘steps’ per year to maintain good progress. Any child who is not making this progress will be targeted with intervention in order to close the gap. Teachers will share with their pupils what is required to make the next term’s ‘step’.
Minterne has adapted the Kent LA tracking grids for teachers to record their ongoing observations of individual pupils; there are individual sheets for writing and group sheets for reading.
Teachers gather evidence to support their judgements in the following ways:
Parents are asked to support their child with development of reading by reading at home five times per week. This is recorded in the child’s planner and checked weekly. Parents are also asked to help their child learn spellings each week. Year leaders communicate spelling patterns that are covered at school to parent in a letter at the start of each new term. At the end of certain units of work, parents are invited into school to celebrate the children’s learning. Parents can register to receive an email with their child’s quiz results each time their child completes a reading book. They are also kept up to date with Accelerated Reader information via the school newsletter.
Pupil planners contain information for parents and children on:
Role of the English Leader
The subject leader will lead and monitor the effective endorsement of the English policy throughout the school by:
This policy should be read in conjunction with the following school policies: