At Willow Farm Primary School, we value English and want it to develop children’s love of reading, writing and discussion. One of our priorities is helping children read and develop their all-important love of reading and its associated skills. We cultivate this love for reading at Willow Farm and we are incredibly proud of our new library where our children are able to visit and read for pleasure. Our year 6 librarians are proactive in recommending books to younger children and also demonstrate reading aloud to small groups during library sessions. All our English lessons are based upon high quality text, carefully chosen by our staff to inspire and engage children in their classes. In Foundation and Year 1 children will learn to read following the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme (see Phonics). The children have 3 weekly guided reading practice sessions with an adult where they share books and practice decoding, prosody and comprehension. We aim ambitiously and want all our children leaving KS1 as fluent readers. From year 2 upwards, the children are taught to develop their reading skills and become prosodic readers through our Whole Class Reading approach. There are a wide number of skills covered in these sessions such as analysis of texts, inference, comprehension, prediction and retrieval.
Talk for writing
We have introduced the 'Talk for Writing' approach to writing developed by educational writer, Pie Corbett. It is fun, creative yet also rigorous and has a proven record of accelerating children's learning.
It starts with enjoying and sharing stories. Throughout the school, we place a strong emphasis on children reading stories and enjoying a range of literature. Through regular reading, we want children to build up an extensive and rich vocabulary for use in their own writing.
Talk for Writing is powerful because it enables children to imitate the language they need for a particular topic orally before reading and analysing it and then writing their own version. It is built on three stages of teaching:
1) Imitation - the children learn a text and the language they need
2) Innovation - the children adapt the model text with ideas of their own
3) Invention - the children create their own text using the language and skills that the model taught them.
During the initial 'imitation' stage of Talk for Writing, a text (fiction and non-fiction) is introduced and read to the children. Together they learn to tell the story off by heart. To help them remember the text a multi-sensory approach is used. They retell a text with prosody, expression and actions and use a visual story map to support their retelling. As children learn the text word for word, they build up a bank of interesting vocabulary, phrases and types of plot which they can then use in their own writing. The principle is that if a child can tell a story, they will be able to write a story.
Once the story is learnt, children are encouraged to adapt it. At this 'innovation' stage, children make the story their own. They could start with a simple change of character or for older children it may involve telling the story from a different view point. They will make changes to their story map and rehearse retelling their innovated story orally. They will then write out the innovated story in manageable sections and will receive feedback from the teacher. There is an opportunity to respond to this marking before they go on to write the next section. These daily short burst writing sessions also give the children time to practice their handwriting, grammar, spelling and punctuation. This very supportive and structured approach allows children to gain confidence and know what they need to do in order to get better.
The final stage is the 'invention' stage where the children use all the skills they have learnt to write an independent piece. There is the freedom to draw upon their own ideas and experiences, or they can 'hug closely' to the shared text should they need to.