The English Curriculum
At Thriplow we believe all our children are entitled to an ambitious and rich English curriculum that ensures they will become fluent readers and writers who are able to confidently access the demands of the secondary school curriculum. Our English curriculum is centred around high-quality texts. This is the stimulus for all our reading and writing. We have carefully chosen texts to adapt the curriculum to the needs of our children, which lead to the development of the personal and cultural capital of children at Thriplow. As a school we strive to instil a love of reading through the teaching of high-quality texts and surrounding the children with an environment that is rich in language and print. Children explore these in a number of ways such as recitals, drama, performances of plays, assemblies, the arts, celebrations of book days, shadowing book awards and whole school projects. We have a wonderful library that is kept up to date with ‘birthday donations’ from parents and a wish list online. The library is enhanced with displays of books being covered in classes. Each class has access to a wide range of fiction and non-fiction within class.
Speaking and Listening at Thriplow
English at Thriplow is not just about the National Curriculum. Our caring Christian ethos places a great emphasis on developing self-esteem and confidence. We firmly believe that learning to express oneself articulately is an important aspect of education, and we aim to improve the children’s spoken English through a variety of initiatives and activities.
- Learning a poem by heart every term and reciting it to the class/Key Stage/whole school. Each child keeps a Poetry Anthology as they move through the school which shows the poems they have learnt to recite. We hold a Poetry Recital Competition each year and the winner receives a prize and has his or her name engraved on a trophy.
- Every child in the school (Years 1 – 6) is encouraged to deliver presentations to their peers. In Year 1 and 2 children take part in ‘Show and Tell’ which is a time to present to the rest of the class with artefacts and pictures of a subject of their choice. During the year, the whole school listens to a presentation delivered by a teacher and considers the skills needed. The Year 6 children are the first in the year to deliver a 3 minute talk on any subject to the rest of KS2. Year 5 and Year 4 also have the opportunity to deliver a presentation later on in the year.
- The children also have the opportunities to join in a whole school debates.
- We teach the children about having the confidence to address others in a confident and respectful way.
Teaching of Phonics and Reading at Thriplow
At Thriplow school, we teach children to decode (read the words on the page) using the Sounds Write phonics programme. This was introduced in September 2021 and we currently have 4 members of staff who have passed the thorough training. Our journey with Sounds Write has just begun, and it is planned that over the next few years the whole of the teaching staff will be trained to teach phonics and spelling through this method. It is a linguistic phonics programme that teaches children 175 sound-spelling correspondences over YR to Y2 and beyond. The linguistic phonics approach looks at the relationship between the spoken language and the written word. Children will study three main skills to enable them to learn to read: blending, the skills of blending letters together; segmenting, separating sounds for spelling; and manipulating, swapping sounds to develop reading accuracy. The programme is highly specified, carefully sequenced and code knowledge is revisited so that it is taught to be remembered. Phonics is taught as whole-class and any children who are struggling to keep or retain the taught code are carefully monitored and put on our whole class provision maps with extra support.
The Year One Phonics Check is carried out in June each year. Over the past two years the children were required to take the check in the autumn term of Year 2. In 2020, our pass mark was 100% and in 2021 it was 93% (cohort of 15).
In Foundation Stage, children are formatively assessed by the class teacher and teaching assistants and evidence of this is kept on an online platform called Tapestry. The class teacher carries out baseline assessments in September and then continues to use formative assessments to ensure they are keeping up with the learning of the initial code. Any children identified as not keeping up are put onto the provision map for additional class based support. In addition to the phonics check, pupils in Year One carry out checks with their teacher to ensure they are on track and making progress. These are carried out in September, December and March. As with Foundation Stage, children are put on to the provision map for extra class based support if needed and discussions with the SENDCo are carried out.
In YR and Y1, children practise reading the words on the page by reading texts that are fully aligned to our phonics programme. These are different to what you might read at home because they are phonically controlled to ensure they are practising previously taught sound-spelling correspondences. It is vital that children develop their code knowledge to automaticity, so they have opportunities to practise from repeated reading of the same texts. In addition, they listen to texts read to them from our reading curriculum to ensure they experience a rich reading diet that develops their vocabulary and background knowledge. Once children have learnt sufficient code, the texts they take home will be selected by them with support from their class teacher.
Reading is more than lifting the words from the page; children need a rich vocabulary and background knowledge to help them understand the words they are reading. Our reading curriculum has been carefully selected to ensure all children develop a broad and deep vocabulary and background knowledge to develop their reading comprehension.
Across the whole school, specific reading techniques are used to ensure that all children join in with reading aloud. These include repeated reading and close reading of sections of text. Additional scaffolding may be required for some of the learners, for example children may pre-read the text with an adult ahead of the whole class lesson. Teachers also select vocabulary to teach explicitly and implicitly from the text and children are given plentiful opportunities to pronounce the word and use it orally in a variety of contexts. We give children child-friendly definitions and do not promote guessing definitions. We run our reading lessons in this way in order to expose children to high-quality literature and develop their fluency, as well as to increase their vocabulary breadth and depth.
Teaching of Writing at Thriplow Primary School
At Thriplow we use a thorough, systematic and creative approach to the teaching of writing. The National Curriculum is used as the ‘bare bones’ for how teachers plan their writing sequences.
Talk is at the centre of teaching the children to write. We believe if they can’t ‘talk it’ they won’t be able to write it. In the first few years of a child’s schooling at Thriplow, time is dedicated to orally composing sentences or parts of texts, learning texts/poems off by heart and using them as a model to scaffold their writing from. Writing is taught through the use of high quality texts, real life experiences and using writing across the curriculum to inspire and enthuse the children to write. Each teacher ensures they are teaching a range of writing that covers non-fiction and fiction text types linked to the learning going on in their own class. Teachers are trusted and given the freedom to adapt writing sequences in order to adjust to the needs of each class and follow the interests of the class.
We use discrete phonics, grammar, punctuation and spelling and handwriting lessons to ensure there is rigour but then teach the application in their writing through modelling, shared writing and paired composition. Sometimes we use the process of the ‘slow write’ to ensure the focus is applied.
Fluent handwriting is crucial to allow children to think about what, not how, they are writing. We teach and practise handwriting discretely to the point where children no longer have to think about how they are forming, and later joining, their letters.
All teachers throughout the school carry out continuous formative assessment and this is put into the Provision Maps. This is regularly updated and it shows what additional support and progress is happening within each class. These are shared with the SENDCo, other class teachers, teaching assistants and the head teacher in staff meetings and also governors with a subject specific responsibility.
The children have termly phonics assessments to check for decoding ability and fluency testing using DIBELS. The DIBELS assessments identify whether children are reading at an age-appropriate level and give detailed diagnostic information on key aspects of reading, so that teachers know exactly where and how to give additional support.
We assess pupils’ writing termly and moderate regularly. Assessments are collated in the children’s Writing Portfolio which moves up the school with them. Additionally, every year group participates in a system called Assessing Primary Writing once a year, where children’s writing is judged anonymously and ranked with other pupils nationally. This supports our professional judgements and shows us how our children’s writing compares across the country.