Our Writing Intent
At Our Lady and St Brendan's we plant a seed of love of writing that will grow throughout each child’s learning journey to create strong, literary robust citizens of the future. As a staff team, we have carefully designed our bespoke English curriculum to link the literature studied to the contextual interests of our children. We want to equip them with the vocational understanding and emotional resilience required in their life journey beyond Our Lady and St Brendan's. Our oracy agenda will ensure that by the time they leave, our children will be able to articulate opinion through expression with a wide range of adventurous vocabulary used across the curriculum. Through discussion and debate, we expect our children to explain their understanding and ideas sensitively to become competent in the art of speaking. They will be expected to listen with respect and demonstrate active listening skills through recall and collaboration. As their oracy develops, they will also learn how local authors, screenwriters and poets have shaped our cultural footprint. They will also explore how literature, poetry and drama contributes to the culture, tourism and wealth of countries around the world. Each child’s understanding of grammar and punctuation will be explored through the texts with a further focus on spelling. We want our children to develop a love of writing as a medium to express their own creativity and are not encumbered by the expectation of others. We believe that for our children, writing can provide an escape and we will provide the skills to experiment, invent and create their own world of wonder through works of literature.
Our implementation of the English curriculum is structured and comprehensive, yet flexible to meet the individual needs of each child. We provide high-quality teaching using a range of resources, including a mix of modern and classic texts. Children are given opportunities to use a range of IT resources to enhance their learning, and we offer additional support for those who need it, including those with special educational needs. Each year group has carefully planned objectives linked to the National Curriculum and these are reviewed regularly. Children are encouraged to participate in peer assessment and self-reflection, to promote accountability for their learning.
Daily writing lessons
Each writing lesson follows a clear, six-step lesson structure:
- Date and learning objective
- Key spellings needed for the lesson: a combination of common exception words, statutory spellings and generally useful spellings needed for the lesson. Moreover, teachers model and encourage the highest standards of letter formation and cursive writing.
- Fix it time (optional): as a result of teachers’ formative assessment, ‘fix it time’ is an opportunity for teachers to provide whole-class feedback and address any misconceptions that have arisen during the previous lesson.
- Starter: a short opportunity for teachers to hook the children’s interest and introduce the learning objective. This is taught through games, songs, drama or group activities.
- Activity: the main activity that elicits knowledge towards the learning objective. Quality modelling, explanations, direct instruction (I do, we do, you do) and scaffolding supports children with their learning.
- Good work: the final stage of the lesson whereby teachers celebrate children’s successes, giving clear, specific feedback, thus driving children’s motivation and positive attitudes to writing.
Two-week writing cycle
Across Years 1-6, writing units are structured with a 2-week cycle:
Starting point: teachers begin each unit with clear guidance from subject leaders and their long term plan, which outlines objectives for grammar, syntax (sentence structures) and punctuation. This has been carefully sequenced to ensure progression and that knowledge is built upon prior learning. Furthermore, teachers use ongoing formative assessment, in the form of Alison Phillipson writing assessment grids, to inform writing objectives.
Hook/ prediction: These lessons ignite a strong purpose for their upcoming writing unit and establish children’s curiosity. The hook lesson can be centered around a new class text, or a model text created by the teacher; children might experience hands on experiences, such as following recipes prior to instructional writing, or have their learning space transformed into a scene from a story. Prediction based activities allow our children to later better understand the story, make connections to their own experiences and become actively engaged and invested in the story.
Text analysis: Teachers will write a model text, or ‘WAGOLL’ that is slightly beyond the children’s Zone of Proximal Development. This text will contain relevant literary features, year group spellings, as well as grammar objectives to be covered in the unit. Activities will vary dependent on year group; but will typically contain text mapping, to discern the texts underlying structure and learn new vocabulary, drama and role play, or colour coding the different features within the model text. This activity will also serve as formative assessment for the rest of the unit, so teachers can pitch SPAG lessons accordingly.
Teaching of SPAG: This phase comprises engaging, practical SPAG lessons discerned by the long term plan and teachers’ formative assessment. These lessons will ultimately support children towards their final writing outcome.
Planning: With strong foundational knowledge of the text type, and literary features that they will be expected to write, children will then plan their writing. SEN children are supported through each step of the process; undertaking activities such as illustrations, ICT to scribe ideas and plans and scaffolding. Key Stage Two children will also ‘box up’ the model text beforehand; summarising the model text into a clear structure that they will emulate in their own writing.
Draft and write: Shared writing, paired writing and modelled writing will transpire prior to independent writing; teachers will display models on working walls for children to refer back to. Whilst writing, children will refer back to a ‘checklist’ of non-negotiables, which has been differentiated to ensure that each child can make individual progress. Metacognitive process, such as the checklist, is imperative to achieve successful writing. A column for teacher assessment is also placed alongside each literary feature. Children are encouraged to read through their work to a partner or a teacher to uphold highest standards of oracy.
Edit and publish: Editing, a hugely important process, is driven through teachers’ marking and feedback. Whilst verbal feedback is a huge aspect of our writing process, teachers will utilise our accessible marking policy to support children with their editing. The marking policy is used consistently across Years 1-6, with the expectation that children can easily identify their next steps and reduce cognitive load during an otherwise complex process. Publishing is a huge driver of children’s motivation. Teachers will select pieces to be published and celebrate students successes: in the form of rewards, certificates, phone calls home or posted on the school’s Twitter account.
Spelling remains a focus across school, even after children have secured their knowledge of phonics. Children in Years 1-6 will receive daily spelling instruction of 10-15 minutes. We use the SpellingShed scheme, a scheme comprising engaging games which are encouraged to be completed at home. If children cannot access the Spelling Shed app, children are sent home with an engaging booklet of games and activities each week. Spellings are then tested each week and records are kept by the teacher. After each test, new spellings will be updated for children to practice in class and at home. Rewards will be given out each week for children who rank high up on the ‘league table.’ In addition, key spellings for each writing lesson are introduced to support children with their individual lessons.
Supporting children with SEND
An inclusive writing curriculum is a top priority at OLSB. Each child is supported through ongoing formative assessment and lessons are scaffolded accordingly. The Bradford Tool Kit is implemented to assess children working two years or more below their peers, so we can monitor small steps of progress. Children with SEND will focus on key skills; for example, simple sentences, capital letters and full stops, and independence is encouraged throughout. Further, some children follow a carefully sequenced bespoke curriculum, inspired by the interests of children, which mirrors the two-week writing cycle. Learning is paced into manageable 'chunks,' and some children are allowed longer time to study each writing objective. Effective deployment of teaching assessments is central for our SEND children, but learning always mirrors the instruction in the classroom. Technology is used to support the complex processes involved within writing; for example, children may use an iPad to scribe their ideas or support with spelling, so barriers to writing does not hinder their creativity. Children are given the opportunity to revisit and apply many concepts taught.
Our writers at OLSB are encouraged to think creatively, take risks in their writing whilst upholding the highest standards. Children’s individual progress is measured thoroughly within a variety of ways:
- Individual feedback: through verbal discussion or written comments in children’s work, in the form of next steps or symbols outlined by our marking policy;
- Whole class feedback: during daily ‘fix it’ time where necessary;
- Formative assessment: using spelling tests determined by the Spelling Shed programme of study, book marking and writing assessment grids. Teachers will use the rich information gathered by formative assessment strategies to inform future planning; teachers will not solely rely on writing objectives outlined by the subject leader, but will combine these with their own planning informed by ongoing assessment.
- Summative assessment: all data for writing and GPS is submitted to Arbor which will further inform teachers’ planning and organisation of additional intervention. Summative assessment data is gathered through NFER tests, moderation with the LA and schools within the trust, and data from SATS scores.
Our Reading Intent
"Books are a uniquely portable magic." – Stephen King
Research shows us that a child’s love of reading has a greater impact on their educational achievement than their parents’ socio-economic status. With this in mind, we aim to nurture an appetite for reading by providing a wide range of high quality, award-winning, thought provoking texts. The texts will ignite imagination and creativity which will always leave each child feeling hungry for more. We want our children to be fluent readers as soon as possible, so high quality, systematic phonics and early reading development is a priority in school. We want our children to soar beyond the expectations for their age so that they can freely select from books to nourish their own passions and interests. We will give each child opportunities to read widely and often, for both pleasure and information. Through rigorous assessment and understanding of each child’s reading capabilities, children are well supported throughout their reading journey in school.
Guided reading lessons: Across Years 2-6, guided reading sessions take place 3-4 times per week, 30 minutes per session. Each lesson comprises a reading domain, following the systematic structure of reading VIPERS:
Teachers have a firm understanding of each reading domain, with support from the Literacy Shed scheme, whereby teachers can supplement discussion points in their reading activities. Children are exposed to SATS style questions, as well as engaging games and puzzles to ensure depth of understanding. Each lesson follows a clear structure:
- Low stakes retrieval quiz of the story so far: to ensure a clear understanding of the text.
- Key vocabulary within the chapter/ extract covered in the lesson: again, to ensure that the text is understood.
- I do, we do, you do: teachers closely support children in answering VIPERS questions, scaffolding children with sentence stems, key vocabulary and images from the text. By utlising Rosenshine’s approaches, a high success rate is upholded within the lesson, ultimately securing success when completing independent tests.
- Marking and feedback.
Expectations for reading at home: children are expected to read at home, daily, for at least 10 minutes. Children between Year 2 and 6 follow the Accelerated Reader programme, whereby a baseline test matches our children to books based on their individual reading level. After finishing a book, they must do a quiz on it on the iPad in school within 24 hours of completion before being allowed to select their next book. Accelerated reader offers robust information around each children’s reading ability, and provides data illustrating any children in need of intervention. This data thus allows focus groups within guided reading lessons and additional interventions.
Reading for pleasure: Reading is at the heart of our school. Within moments of our school day, children will sit down and choose a book from our class library and settle down with our ‘book and a bagel’ time. Children choose their books from enclusive, inviting class reading corners, which are reviewed and updated yearly. Outside of the classroom, each class door displays what they are currently reading. Each Tuesday afternoon, children will leave their class and meet their ‘reading buddy.’ Children in Key Stage Two will listen to their buddy read in Key Stage One, and write a comment in their reading record book. The children absolutely love having the responsibility and discovering new stories! At the end of each day, teachers will read to their class for 10 minutes, giving the children the opportunity to decide which books they would like to read.
It is evident that our Reading curriculum has a positive impact on children's reading skills and other areas such as comprehension, language, and inference. Children have the ability to comprehend texts thoroughly; with our Accelerated reader programme, each and every child will make marked progress. As well as this, we monitor overall progress through summative assessment such as NTS papers and SATS. These ultimately determine any children in need of extra support. They will also acquire a rich vocabulary and understanding of diverse genres and text types. This will reflect not only in their literacy skills but also in their wider education journey as competent readers can access many other subjects like mathematics, science, humanities. The voices of pupils, staff and parents are always taken into consideration, and they have upheld the positive ethos around reading.