Expanding our vocabulary
At St. Joseph's we do not shy away from introducing our children to more adventurous language. We routinely express that bigger words need not be scary, we just need to know what they mean and anyone can use them. A wider vocabulary gives us the power to understand texts, and to express with feeling, subtlety and nuance in our own writing. We reinforce new words and technical vocabulary through Wow Word matching activities and classroom displays. They also feature as bonus words on our spelling sheets each week. We complete dictionary activities to search for, understand and deploy new language.
As we move from the long, gloomy winter months into Spring and then the Summer terms we love to take advantage of our spacious and natural school grounds and take our reading sessions outdoors. Sometimes we read our class book as a group and other times we spread out and have alone time, just us and our books. This is can be really valuable and therapeutic for the children who love to have that quiet time in the day to immerse themselves in a book.
World Book Day
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic we had to adapt our World Book Day celebrations this year, as most of our children were at home. Staff members shared their favourite books and children were asked to send in a photo of themselves holding their own favourites. When school fully reopened, the children were given their vouchers and free books from the school.
Our two classes often join together to share reading. The older children love reading with and teaching the younger children who look up to the KS2 children as role models. It is a lovely bonding experience and helps build confidence in reading for all of our children.
Promoting reading and celebrating our writing through visual displays
Here you can see some samples of the writing we have been doing in 2020-2021. As part of our drive to improve writing across the school, staff think of creative and exciting ways for the children to present their work. Children are always motivated to produce their best work when they can write it up in gel pens or on fancy writing paper.
In our bid to improve writing at St. Joseph's, Skiddaw has focused heavily on sentence construction this year. To make the lessons exciting and accessible we have described characters and scenes from films that the children are interested in and can relate to. This year we have written descriptive sentences around Star Wars, Isle of Dogs, Where the Wild Things Are and Harry Potter.
The pandemic has allowed us to re-assess the effectiveness of home / school learning participation and adopt new online platforms to make learning more accessible and modern for families. We have left behind paper reading records - which had a tendency to get lost, tatty and soaked by leaked water bottles at the bottom of children's bags - with the online platform Go Read. Children's reading is logged digitally and recording comments are logged on each pupil's profile. Parent and staff feedback with this new system has been overwhelmingly positive so far.
Skiddaw class have read carefully selected books that are a balance of accessibility and challenge that will provoke emotional investment, intrigue and suspense in the developments of the plot. Each book includes concepts and vocabulary that will be new to the children and provide a discussion point, whether it is challenging words, technical vocabulary, cultural diversity outside their direct experience or new, more mature themes and contemporary issues. The feedback from these books has been overwhelmingly positive, and is reflected in the results of our pupil survey. Mr Barnes will change the atmosphere in the room through use of lighting, music and sound effects to bring the stories to life for the children. Below you can see this year's class book selections.
Our new library
St. Joseph's has recently undergone a refurbishment, as we upgraded our classrooms, staff room and importantly, our school library. With a new coat of paint, new shelving, furniture and wall decorations we now have a much more welcoming and attractive space to promote reading across the school. The children love spending time with their books on our new bean bag chairs. We also use the space for guided reading groups and interventions.
We recognise the importance of spaces within the school that are comfortable, accomodating and enticing in order to promote reading as an enjoyable activity. Below you can see some of our school's reading areas.
Books, books, books!
At St. Joseph's we take every opportunity to promote Reading For Pleasure and we have had a big push on it this year. We believe that access to high-quality literature for children is crucial to foster a love of reading. Reading improves overall literacy, but children must be shown that reading can be exciting, fun, beautiful, emotional and engaging. We have sent home free books to children on several occasions this year as part of our pledge to improve reading for pleasure. The pictures below show children holding books they have received from St. Joseph's, as well as celebration events we have held such as World Book Day and Puffin's 80th Birthday celebrations. The Unworry book is a fantastic resource full of engaging, mindful activities which has helped form part of our nurture work following the return from the pandemic lockdowns. Each child received a copy. Below you can see more of the books we have provided for our children this year.
Talk for Writing
At St. Joseph's we use Pie Corbett's Talk for Writing scheme which has made English writing much more accessible and less daunting for our children. They have plenty of practice learning texts, acting them out and planning them through a range of engaging activities which bring the information to life. This puts them in the best possible position to write effectively on their final piece.
Diversity & other cultures
St. Joseph's believes it has a responsibility to teach children about a range of stories, backgrounds and cultures and to promote understanding about the experience of people from other countries, different relationships and those with disabilities. Below you can see some of the stories we have embraced in our school. The children have benefitted enormously to exposure to cultures, stories and experiences beyond their own direct experience.
KS2: Pupil Voice Survey
We wanted to know which of the many books we have looked at this year were the most popular, and what the children liked about them. We conducted a survey to find out. Below you can see the results and a selection of photographs of the children holding their favourite books.
As well as authors, St. Joseph's frequently look at the work of illustrators and their body of work which will often cross over with art topics. This year Skiddaw have looked at the work of Christian Robinson and Levi Pinfold, whereas Whinlatter have looked at Oliver Jeffers.
KS2: Guided Reading
Our guided reading sessions operate in two groups. We will pick two books with similar themes or connections and analyse them in detail. The groups then swap and look at the other book. Afterwards we will compare and contrast the texts we have looked at, reflecting on what we liked about them and why.
Authors at St. Joseph's
Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic has curtailed opportunities for authors to visit us in person - something we have really valued in recent years, with authors such as Helen Haraldson and Gloria Edwards visiting last year - but we have not let that prevent our children from connecting with them. Making use of excellent web platforms such as Seven Stories we have given our children access to ideas and inspirations behind authors such as Michael Morpurgo, Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney and Hannah Gold who wrote the beautiful and moving book, the Last Bear.
KS2: The Moomins & Tove Jansson
On the final week before Christmas, Mr. Barnes saw the opportunity to squeeze in an extra festive-themed focus: Christmas in Scandinavia! Skiddaw learnt about Dala Horses in Sweden, Icelandic Folk Mythology and very popular choice with the children, The Moomins by Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson. Mr Barnes turned one of our rather sorry looking outdoor sheds into a Moomins themed reading grotto, with blankets, cushions, fairy lights and Moomins decorations, books and toys.
Oracy: Performance & Recital
At St. Joseph's we recognise the value of immersion in texts and stories, and the opportunity of bringing words to life. We frequently perform stories and poems out loud or through drama. Performing texts is an aspect of Talk for Writing, Pie Corbett's innovative writing program which St. Joseph's have adopted. Below you can see Skiddaw class performing rap, poetry, Shakespeare and Brian Selznick's the Boy of a Thousand Faces.
At St. Joseph’s, we believe that a quality English curriculum should develop children’s love of reading, writing and discussion. We have a rigorous and well organised English curriculum that provides many purposeful opportunities for reading, writing and discussion. Our curriculum closely follows the aims of the National Curriculum for English 2014 to enable all children to:
● 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 presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.
These aims are embedded across our literacy lessons and the wider curriculum. We will provide the means for children to develop a secure knowledge-base in Literacy, which follows a clear pathway of progression as they advance through the primary curriculum. Regular assessment and review will ensure that we are able to provide targeted support so that all children experience success in literacy; we believe that a secure basis in literacy skills is crucial to a high-quality education and will give our children the tools they need to participate fully as a member of society.
Early reading is supported through the Floppy Phonics scheme. Whole school staff training and ensure that staff are equipped to teach with the expertise and skills required to promote excellent progress, as well as a love of reading. Each class has an inviting reading area to encourage a love of reading, and a newly developed school library at the heart of the school helps children see the value and status we put on books and reading.
When planning literacy lessons, teachers make links to other areas of the curriculum to ensure that cross curricular links provide further context for learning. Teaching blocks focus on fiction, non-fiction or poetry, in line with the 2014 National Curriculum and comprehension, grammar and writing are embedded in lessons. Lessons sequences themselves build progressively towards an extended piece of writing. Handwriting is also taught within literacy lessons, and children are encouraged to take pride in their work.
To enrich the literacy curriculum, the school takes part in a wide range of enrichment activities. These include author visits, online author/illustrator or publisher events, celebrating World Book Day or National Poetry Day and author focus events. On three occasions recently we have given all the children a book to take home to develop a love of reading and to ensure children have access to high quality text. Children also take part in poetry and creative writing competitions, which are celebrated in whole school assemblies.
We invest heavily in books that will inspire children and celebrate diversity and inclusion. We want children to see themselves reflected in the books they read, and to learn about the lives of others.
Assessment for Learning is embedded in literacy lessons and children are active in reviewing the successes in their work and identifying, with support from their teacher, target areas for development to ensure a continuous and individualised approach to improving their work.
The organisation of the English curriculum, has realised a community of enthusiastic readers and writers who enjoy showcasing their developing literacy knowledge and skills. Children are confident to take risks in their reading and writing, and love to discuss and share their ideas. Outcomes of work in both literacy and topic books evidence the high quality of work and the impact of varied and cross curricular writing opportunities. These enable children to write across a range of forms and adapt their writing successfully, considering the purpose and audience.