“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow… “
Lawrence Clark Powell
Philosophy and approach
English is at the heart of our curriculum at Cornerstones. Through this rich and diverse subject we aim to provide stimulating learning experiences driven by challenge, creativity, imagination and curiosity, giving children opportunities to express and communicate ideas in new ways and make real things for real audiences. Through carefully chosen, relevant topics and challenging and diverse texts, children take ownership of their learning pathways, developing self-esteem and confidence as readers, writers and communicators of the future.
The message to pupils:
‘English is a creative subject where we are always making something new or original. It is a subject that allows us to explore our own and other people’s emotions and provides safe and interesting ways to express our thoughts, feelings and ideas through talking and writing. It is a chance to enter different worlds and experiences through reading or creating them for ourselves. In English lessons we can ask real questions and debate things that matter to us.’
Planning, teaching and learning
Structured around a 4 year-rolling programme, our English topics and texts weave in and out of all subject areas. High-quality, challenging texts, including picture books, are the bedrock of our whole curriculum, and each English unit of work is planned around a carefully chosen book, often linked to, or driving, the whole term topic.
Through a creative, immersive, whole class approach, children in our mixed-age classes develop a love of language and literature in all its forms. Children are taught to read in a variety of different contexts for a range of different purposes These include:
Whole Class Teaching Text
- To engage and immerse the whole class (including mixed ages and abilities), in a high-quality challenging text for a sustained period of weeks.
- To intentionally teach language and inference skills.
- To engage in high-quality discussion about stimulating literature.
- To use text as a platform for meaningful and purposeful writing, embedded in the language and key themes of the book.
- To generate a love of reading through shared pleasure in a book.
- To further embed learning in other subjects, by linking texts to the long-term plan.
- For children to independently read books matched to phonics level and ability.
- For children to take reading books home and read to an adult regularly.
- For children to read a variety of stimulating free-choice texts independently in school.
- For children to read a variety of texts for learning in other subjects.
- For children to develop a love and personal connection to literature in all its forms.
- To further develop specific reading skills in other contexts such as group/guided discussions, shared and paired reading, personally targeted skills, test technique etc outside English lessons.
Being Read To
- To fully immerse children in a rich variety of texts, including texts they cannot access independently.
- To share in another person’s delight or presentation of a book eg a parent, teacher, or other child.
By providing stimulating writing opportunities, led by our text approach to whole class lessons, all children are encouraged to find their inner ‘voice’ and learn to love expressing themselves through the art and craft of writing. Writing is a life skill, and our rich curriculum enables all learners to find new and stimulating ways to communicate with different audiences. Writing challenges are planned to reflect the topic theme and text so they maintain a sense purpose and meaning.
Our youngest children are encouraged to class themselves as writers and authors from their very first mark-making experiences. Our older children work arduously on their writing projects, and are constantly challenged to develop their personal style and voice, as well as learning valuable life skills such as editing and redrafting.
We take a holistic approach to writing and grammar, through carefully planned activities ensure children can meet the demanding expectations of the grammar curriculum, by experiencing and enjoying technical terminology in relevant contexts.
We provide opportunities for our pupils to develop the stamina and skills to write at length; use accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar; write in a range of ways and purposes; and write to support their understanding and consolidation of what they have heard or read. There are two aspects of writing development: transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition. We use the Read Write Inc Scheme of work to teach spelling in discreet daily sessions. Children with SEND or with specific learning gaps use Lexia or other specifically tailored interventions.
Wider curriculum themes
Our texts are carefully chosen to reflect our wider curriculum themes:
- Opening up horizons – multi cultural awareness and celebrating diversity
- Challenging ‘comfortable complacency’ with a focus on courageous advocacy and challenging injustice
- Challenging things learned, and being challenged by these things, supported by intentional questioning.
- Developing the whole child, with a focus on resilience, perseverance, self-esteem and mental well-being
We frequently use our texts as a platform through which to deliberately teach these themes or as a platform of discussion. Texts are chosen from a wide variety of different cultures and contexts, which celebrate diversity and difference. Class discussions about these books encourage children to open their minds and horizons beyond their immediate community and consider the life experiences and perspectives of others. Through topic-based, meaningful fiction and non-fiction texts, children are exposed to global issues and encouraged to challenge the injustice they find within them. Equipped with ambitious vocabulary, children take part in reasoned discussions and debates about pertinent issues raised in literature, either through factual knowledge, or through the perspectives of a much-loved fictional character. Through a passionate love for their reading material, children challenge things learnt through intentional questioning and learn to think and express their own unique voice. In English lessons, children experience the inherent value of reading and writing for their own personal development and mental health and wellbeing, both within and beyond the classroom.
In all classes children’s reading is taught predominately through a whole-class approach. Enthusiasm and engagement in a whole class text is the vehicle through which children learn the majority of their reading skills. However, each school adopts a different approach to reading interventions and catch up to meet the needs of the learners in their class. For example, some schools timetable in a focussed group reading session, others give more time to one-to-one interventions. All practitioners are reflective and responsive to the needs of their classes and adapt their planning and delivery appropriately and flexibly.
A culture of high expectations is established through the careful choice of an accessible yet challenging whole-class text. SEND needs are supported through scaffolding during activities and in engaging with the text, this can be through small group work, additional resources and provision such as word banks, and additional pre-teaching to prepare children to access each lesson.
Themes are linked to our over-arching whole school topics whilst diversity, mental well-being and cultural knowledge and understanding are explored and intertwined within our studies and discussions.
We use Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised to plan and provide daily engaging phonics lessons. Take a look at our phonics page for more information: Phonics