Writing at St Michael’s Catholic Primary School
At St Michael’s we believe that all pupils should be able to confidently express their thoughts, emotions and ideas clearly and creatively through the written word. Our aims are for all children to have fluent and legible handwriting, write for a variety of purposes and audiences and develop a secure understanding of grammar and punctuation. We also intend for our children to be able to independently re-read, revise and edit their writing both during and after the writing process. We recognise the importance of nurturing a culture where children take pride in their writing and encourage the use of a cursive handwriting style from Year 1 onwards. Ultimately we want creativity to be at the helm of our writing curriculum and for children to learn new skills in a fun and engaging way.
As our approach to writing, we use Pathways to Write: a ‘proven methodology which develops vocabulary, reading and writing skills through the mastery approach’ (The Literacy Company). Using a ‘mastery approach’ to writing within our teaching, allows for a greater development of vocabulary and spelling.
English lessons are taught daily across the school and to the whole class, therefore allowing all children to have access to the age-related skills and knowledge contained in the National Curriculum.
Each class studies a different high-quality text every half term which offers children engaging, yet challenging English lessons. Within each unit of work, children are given opportunities to participate in drama, spoken language activities and writing for a variety of purposes. Opportunities are also planned for children to use knowledge from other subjects within their English writing and vice versa.
The Pathways to Write process follows three stages:
The Gateway (1-2 lessons). This begins with a ‘hook’ session to intrigue and enthuse our writers. Pupils also have the opportunity to predict the text, establish the purpose and audience of the writing and revisit previous mastery skills and ongoing skills.
The Pathway (10 lessons) Pupils are introduced to three new writing skills (mastery keys) from their year group curriculum. Opportunities are provided to practise and apply the skill they have learnt through short and extended writing tasks. Pupils are also given opportunities to recap and apply previously taught skills. Greater depth writers are challenged through a range of writing tasks such as changes to form, viewpoint and audience.
Writeaway (4 lessons) At the end of a unit, a fiction or non fiction outcome will be written covering a wide range of genres and themes over the year. During these lessons, time is given for planning, writing, checking, editing, redrafting and publishing. This extended piece of writing gives pupils the opportunity to apply the mastery skills taught in that particular unit.
Grammar and Punctuation
Grammar and Punctuation are taught, where possible within English lessons; allowing the children to learn skills in a meaningful manner. However, new concepts in grammar and punctuation might be taught as discrete sessions in preparation for a new unit of work or if additional support is needed. We also use Rising Stars Vocabulary units from Reception to Year 6 that support children in developing their vocabulary in fun and engaging ways and then using this knowledge in their writing.
As a school, we follow the Read Write Inc Spelling programme. Although the teaching of phoneme-grapheme correspondence underpins this programme, it also develops children’s knowledge of word families, how suffixes impact upon root words, and provides mnemonics to remember the trickiest spellings. The teaching revolves around instruction (with the help of online alien characters), partner and group practice, and competitive group challenges that help children commit new words to memory. These sessions are taught to Years 2- 6, three times each week. Children also have spellings to learn at home each week and they are tested on these the following week. Children have access to spelling mats and word banks during writing tasks and rich vocabulary and words often misspelt are also on display in classrooms.
Children are taught how to form letters correctly through the Read Write Inc Phonic scheme that is introduced in Reception. Children remember rhymes or phrases for each letter to support them in writing each letter correctly. From Year 1, we introduce a pre cursive style and we encourage all our pupils to start every letter ‘from the line’. By Year 2, we want our pupils to start joining their writing using the schools agreed handwriting style (Joinit C15) so that by the end of Year 3, most pupils are writing in a clear, joined handwriting style. Any children who have difficulty with their handwriting, will be given additional support on a regular basis.
At St Michael’s, the implementation of the writing journey is well established and taught thoroughly throughout all key stages. This allows our pupils to become confident and creative writers with a secure knowledge of grammar and punctuation skills. Their writing skills are embedded throughout the year in a range of cross curricular writing opportunities which has resulted in the standard of writing in other subjects raising.
Writing is assessed throughout a unit, by the use of St Michael’s marking policy so that children can clearly see what they have been successful with and what targets they need to work on in their next piece of writing. An ‘end of unit write’ or ‘Big Write’ is completed each half term which is assessed by teachers in order to monitor progress. Children also complete a termly standardised test (GAPS Rising Stars) in order to benchmark performance & track progress against national averages in grammar, punctuation & spelling.
Teachers moderate their writing internally with colleagues to reach appropriate judgements but also attend moderation meetings with local schools, schools outside of our authority and other Pathways to Write schools through the Literacy Company consultants. Year 2 and Year 6 teachers attend Local Authority moderation meetings to make accurate judgements with other teaching professionals, if children are working at the expected or above expected levels. The teaching of writing is monitored by leaders through learning walks, book scrutinies and pupil and teacher interviews.
The impact on our children is clear: progress, sustained learning and transferrable skills. By the end of Key Stage 2, with the various genres of writing familiar to them, our pupils are creative writers who show consolidation of skills and a deeper understanding of how and when to use specific grammar, punctuation and spelling objectives.
We hope that as children move on from us to further their education and learning that their creativity, passion for English and high aspirations travel with them and continue to grow and develop as they do.
eading opens the door to learning, enabling children to access the wider curriculum and be successful in all other areas of the curriculum. We value reading as a key life skill and are dedicated to ensuring our children become lifelong readers with a lifelong love of books.
We use Read Write Inc. to teach phonics and graphic knowledge (common exception words and tricky words). From the second week of starting school, children in our reception class begin letter sound correspondence. The following is a breakdown of where we expect children to be in relation to their phonological development through Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. This ensures that children are secure in their phonic knowledge before they start a spelling programme.
End of Autumn Term: Know Set 1 sounds and read words by blending
End of Spring Term: Know Set 1 sounds, read Red RWI storybooks and red book banded books
End of Summer Term: Being to learn Set 2 sounds, read Green RWI books and yellow book banded books
End of Autumn term: Know set 2 sounds, read Purple RWI books and blue book banded books
End of Spring Term: Working on set 2 and 3 sounds, read Pink RWI books and green book banded books
End of Summer Term: Read Set 3 words speedily, read orange RWI and Orange book banded books.
Autumn term: Set 3 sounds, read yellow RWI books and turquoise book banded books
Spring term: Complete RWI phonic programme and start RWI Spelling programme book 2A. Read Blue RWI books and purple book banded books.
Summer term: Complete 2A spelling book and start on 2B book. Read Grey RWI books and gold and white book banded books.
Reading books in EYFS and Year 1 match our phonics programme. Children are taught specific phonemes / graphemes and then have access to the equivalent books that reinforce the phonics that have been explicitly taught. They also have access to a specific band of books that they can choose from to take home. These books have been carefully banded to support and reinforce the phonics taught. We encourage parents to hear their child read at home to develop fluency and comprehension. Our expectation is that children read at home each day for at least 5 -10 minutes. Each child is given a Reading Diary for the parents to use to make comments about their child’s reading. The teacher monitors these in order to ensure children are reading at home and also to gain information about other books that children may have access to at home.
Daily phonic sessions take place from Reception to Year 2 in small groups with a trained adult leading each group. If children are not reaching expectations and keeping up with the pace of our phonics programme we intervene quickly by giving extra support. We give 1:1 catch up support provided by teaching assistants. The content of these sessions is determined by on-going gap analyses and our in depth knowledge of each child. These sessions are additional to our daily phonics sessions. We build a skilled team who can teach phonics: every member of our staff delivering phonics has either accessed external Read Write Inc. training or received recent in house refresher training by our Phonics Lead.
Guided and Whole Class Reading
Children also take part in daily guided or whole class reading sessions in which particular reading strategies and reading skills will be taught and embedded ( see outline of class reading activities). Some children will also receive regular individual reading sessions with an adult or take part in reading intervention programmes. Whole class reading lessons are sequenced using the weekly plan below to ensure all skills are being taught on a regular basis.
Reading for Pleasure
St Michael’s aim to create a love of reading through using a range of engaging texts through both lessons and story time. EYFS story time sessions will engage children from a young age and encourage them to join in with rhymes, alliteration and revisiting their favourite books. Every classroom has a designated reading area which is well-stocked, inviting and appealing to children to enhance their interests in reading. Children have access to a wide range of reading materials in school including fiction, non-fiction, newspapers and magazines. Our school library has been refurbished to enhance children’s imaginations and curiosity in books. Children have access to the library to spend quality time reading for pleasure in safe and comfortable surroundings. The reading school calendar includes class visits to the local library, in school visits from local authors, story tellers and illustrators.
Through the teaching of systematic phonics, our children become fluent readers which means that they can access the wider curriculum. Children are assessed termly using the RWI assessment sheets and tracker. Attainment in phonics is measured by the Phonics Screening Test at the end of Year 1.
We use Benchmarking to assess a child’s reading fluency and comprehension skills. This is completed on a termly basis or when a teacher feels that a child is ready to progress to the next book band. Attainment is also measured by termly internal standardised tests for each year group (PiRA) and attainment in reading is also measured using the statutory assessments at the end of Key Stage One and Two. These results are measured against the reading attainment of children nationally.
We firmly believe that reading is the key to all learning and so the impact of our reading curriculum goes beyond the results of the statutory assessments. We give all children the opportunity to enter the magical worlds that books open up to them. We promote reading for pleasure as part of our reading curriculum. Children are encouraged to develop their own love of genres and authors and to review their books objectively. This enhances a deep love of literature across a range of genres, cultures and styles.
English Resources used at St Michael’s
At St Michael’s we use the Read Write Inc (RWI) programme to get children off to a flying start with their literacy. RWI is a method of learning centred round letter sounds and phonics, and we use it to aid children in their reading and writing.
Reading opens the door to learning. A child who reads a lot will become a good reader. A good reader will be able to read more challenging material. A child who reads challenging material is a child who will learn. The more a child learns, the more he or she will want to find out.
Using RWI, the children learn to read effortlessly so that they can put all their energy into comprehending what they read. It also allows them to spell effortlessly so that they can put all their energy into composing what they write.
As our children reached the end of Key Stage 1, they move on to the following spelling programme:
Read Write Inc Spelling
How does this programme support your child in learning to spell?
RWInc Spelling is an interactive programme which teaches spellings in a fun and engaging way. Each unit is introduced with a short video. It helps children to learn spellings with common patterns and uses rules in order to help them recall spellings as well as teaching exceptions to these rules.
Individual workbooks allow children to practise their spellings and the teaching naturally follows on from the Spell Review part of the RWInc phonics programme taught as soon as the children enter preschool at St Michael’s. Therefore the children are already proficient at using dots (for individual sounds) and dashes (for digraphs) and prefixes and suffixes can be added to root words to help them to spell with greater accuracy, understanding and confidence.