At Darrington School, we believe that for pupils to write well they need to hear, read and tell stories inspired by rich, high quality texts. From an early age, children also need to see the value of writing, from adding their name to a painting to mark it as theirs, to making a shopping list for a picnic. When pupils are inspired, or have a meaningful purpose, they are more motivated to write. We believe that it is our role to engage pupils in a wide variety of inspiring and meaningful opportunities to promote writing for a variety of purposes and audiences, whilst supporting them to develop the skills they need to become confident, independent writers.
Early Years and Key Stage 1
Our aim in the Early Years and Key Stage One is to develop the phonic segmenting skills of emergent writers so they become confident and independent when writing. The aim is also for children to use these developing skills to support their writing across the curriculum. By the end of Key Stage One, children are well equipped with the phonics and writing skills necessary to express themselves clearly and present it effectively for an intended purpose or audience. During Early Years and Key Stage One, we immerse children in stories and language in order to transfer this language style into their own speaking and story-telling and later, their writing. Talk is a vital part of a young writer's development. Talking with peers helps children to generate ideas for what they want to write about - if they can't say it, they won't be able to write it.
Within the first few weeks of a new school year, an initial baseline assessment is made of each pupil’s level of development to establish their starting point and help inform the next steps in learning.
The small world areas in KS1 and EYFS are positioned next to the reading area and are enhanced with puppets and props relating to popular, well-loved stories rich in language and illustrations to encourage pupils to talk about and retell stories using storybook language. Information texts are also selected to draw out the children’s knowledge and understanding in other areas, such as dinosaurs and minibeasts.
Writing in a meaningful context is always at the forefront of planning and mark making/writing is encouraged through all areas of continuous provision across the setting (inside and outside), such as captions for box models, shopping lists in the home corner and outdoor nature hunts etc.
Children are always encouraged to talk about their writing and teachers scribe for early writers and model examples of good writing practice. These can be in the form of simple captions, speech bubble quotes or sentences and can develop into quite detailed narratives. A storytelling/drama approach is regularly used in EYFS to enhance communication and literacy skills based on storytelling and acting, and also helps to ensure the children’s own stories are valued and shared.
Phonics is taught in nursery using fun, group activities. The focus is on ensuring the children in nursery are secure in rhyming, oral blending and segmenting through regular consolidation and widening experiences to maximise depth of understanding and consistency. In the summer term, children are introduced to the Read, Write, Inc (RWI) nursery programme and may be introduced to some letter recognition where appropriate.
Phonics continues to be taught using Read Write Inc at the start of Reception, where children will begin to learn their single letter (set 1) sounds and further set 2 sounds, which includes two and three letters making single sounds, e.g. 'th' and 'igh'. In KS1, children continue to build their phonic knowledge with the introduction of set 3 sounds. This introduces the children to alternate spellings of sounds they already know from EYFS, for example "ay, a-e, and ai".
Tricky ‘Red Words’ (high frequency, irregular spellings such as ‘said’) are introduced for each storybook set – although not displayed as the aim is for children to remember the spelling rather than rely on a visual. Games, sayings and songs are also used as a way to help the children remember these words when reading and spelling them.
Key words relating to other cross-curricular areas of learning are displayed for children to read, match to items or copy from for their own writing.
In EYFS, application of phonics skills is encouraged through weekly small group writing activities that are carefully planned to match the children’s level of ability and linked wherever possible to a meaningful context, such as captions for a class book or writing a letter of thanks.
In KS1, writing skills are applied in daily English lessons, consisting of looking at texts as a reader, then a writer and using the text as a model to develop their own writing.
The skills to be a writer, from thinking of an idea, forming a simple sentence, verbalising and repeating it and segmenting the sounds in words, are regularly modelled and practised with the children until they are able to do this independently.
Assessment is ongoing and a high value is placed on verbal, immediate feedback. EYFS and Year 1 children are also assessed each half term on phoneme recognition and their ability to blend words to read. Any phonemes requiring additional reinforcement are included in daily interventions such as playing phonic games that target the key sounds. Any areas requiring further consolidation are also entered into a child’s reading diary for additional support at home.
Both the ongoing, formative assessments and half termly summative assessments ensure children’s phonic and spelling knowledge is on track, meaning children ‘keep up’ rather than ‘catch up’.
Writing is monitored using a variety of strategies such as book scrutiny, lesson observations and pupil interviews.
Writing is implemented in Key Stage One around a two-year rolling programme of class texts and supported by other supplementary texts which link with it. This programme ensures that all children access a wide range of quality, language rich fiction, non-fiction and poetry which influence the writing genre focus. In the KS1 classroom, enhanced provision provides opportunities for writing, enticing children into areas and giving purpose and enjoyment.
In order that families understand how we teach writing, there is a meeting in the first few weeks in September for parents of nursery and Reception children. Parents are guided to resources such as Oxford Owl, where they can find support from phonics pronunciation to reading level appropriate e-books. In EYFS, writing that children initiate themselves is photographed where relevant for school and the original sent home for children to share with their parents whilst it is still relevant and meaningful. In KS1, writing is completed in writing books, though writing completed independently during classroom learning is sent home for children to share with their parents.
The impact of our EYFS and KS1 writing curriculum is shown in several ways including through the progress and outcomes of pupils against the Early Learning Goals at the end of reception, Phonics Screening Check for Year 1 pupils and English grammar, punctuation and spelling SATs at the end of Year 2.
Pupils’ written work is taught at an age appropriate standard across EYFS and KS1 and the quality of pupils’ written work demonstrates that pupils are acquiring knowledge, skills and vocabulary in an appropriate sequence so that they know more and remember more. Internal and external moderation with other schools helps ensure teacher judgements regarding standards are correct.
Pupils are confident and able to talk about what they have learnt using the taught vocabulary, such as those relating to phonics. Pupil voice also demonstrates that pupils enjoy and are able to recall their learning over time.
Key Stage Two
During key stage 2 pupils develop understanding that writing is both essential to thinking and learning, and enjoyable in its own right. They learn the main rules and conventions of written English and start to explore how the English language can be used to express meaning in different ways. They use the planning, drafting and editing process to improve their work and to sustain their fiction and nonfiction writing. We ensure that the programmes of study for English are covered over a two-year cycle. We carry out the curriculum planning in English in three phases (long-term, medium-term and short-term). Our medium-term plans give details of the main teaching objectives for each term. These plans define what we teach, and ensure an appropriate balance and distribution of work across each term.
Writing is implemented in Key Stage Two around a two-year rolling programme of class texts in our mixed age classes. Our book-led curriculum is also supported by other supplementary texts which may link with it. This programme ensures that all children access a wide range of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
Speaking and listening skills are key to the preparation for writing. Pupils use Talk for Writing approaches and drama to explore characters and situations in more detail before writing in role. Speaking and listening is also developed across other areas of the curriculum and school life, such as SCARF, RE, School Council and Worship Wonderers.
With each genre, language and layout features are identified. Prior knowledge is revisited to support children to recall previous learning and make connections, and in so doing, help pupils to retain new facts and vocabulary into their long-term memory. Talk is scaffolded through the use of word banks and Knowledge Organisers and teacher modelling.
Teachers support children through whole class teaching, in groups and 1:1 when needed, to practice new learning, question for understanding, check for misconceptions and to give clear and appropriate feedback. This moves children from supported practice to independence at the correct pace for them, ensuring all children are working within their optimal learning zone.
Learning walls in classrooms provide important scaffolding for children. Vocabulary is displayed along with questions, and model exemplars of the work being taught. Vocabulary is also broadened through the regular use of Building Power vocabulary by adults and children and each class also records an ambitious word each week in a class book that is prominently displayed. Words included have been used in context with the class and recognised by the teacher and pupils as being new and ambitious. The vocabulary book acts as a prompt for the word to be used by pupils throughout the week and also so that the vocabulary can be revisited and remembered at different times throughout the year, as well as shared with other classes to enhance their vocabulary.
Writing frames are used to support pupils’ planning, alongside teacher modelling, and pupils are taught how to revise and evaluate their writing. Pupils are also encouraged to develop vocabulary through the use of thesauruses and dictionaries.
Grammar and punctuation in Lower Key Stage 2 is taught through English lessons where skills and knowledge relate to a genre, although one off grammar lessons may be necessary for some concepts. In Upper Key Stage Two, a weekly SPaG lesson is taught and there are also SPaG starters and quizzes in other English lessons to aid understanding and memory. Pupils are reminded to incorporate these skills into their cross-curricular writing and individual writing targets often relate to key areas of grammar and punctuation requiring further reinforcement.
Assessment for learning is used inform teachers about their pupils’ level of understanding and next steps and to enable pupils to become more active learners. Learning objectives (in the form of WALTs ‘We are learning to’) are shared at the beginning of each lesson. In Upper Key Stage Two, success criteria are co-constructed and included in pupils’ books for the final piece of writing. Pupils are encouraged to assess their own and each other’s work through peer marking. Ongoing formative teacher assessments in reading and writing result in targets being provided for individuals to work towards.
At Darrington School, the impact of our writing curriculum is shown in several ways including through the progress and outcomes of pupils in national testing.
Pupils’ written work is taught at an age appropriate standard across each year group and the quality of pupils’ written work demonstrates that pupils are acquiring knowledge, skills and vocabulary in an appropriate sequence so that they know more and remember more.
Pupils are confident and able to talk about what they have learnt using subject specific vocabulary. Pupil voice also demonstrates that pupils enjoy and are able to recall their learning over time.
Teachers also participate in regular moderation, both within school as well as with teachers from other schools within the pyramid from the same year group. National exemplifications and LA guidance is used to support judgements and examples of pupils’ moderated work is filed to support future assessments.