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Writing

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear; my courage is reborn.” Anne Frank.

Intent

At Lowbrook, the intent is that children are given the opportunity to write every day. The programmes of study for writing consist of two components: transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech and writing). With this in mind, staff will ensure that through their teaching, pupil’s competence is developed in both these dimensions.

Writing down ideas fluently depends on effective transcription. Effective composition involves forming, articulating and communicating ideas, and then organising them coherently for a reader.

Pupils are taught to plan, revise and evaluate their writing and have a good understanding of audience, purpose and context. They are instructed in how to use figurative language and are encouraged to explore the relationship between words and nuances in meaning. As writing depends on fluent, legible and speedy handwriting this too has a place on the timetable as does the teaching of spelling, vocabulary, grammar and punctuation.

SPAG & Vocabulary Development

“A rich vocabulary supports learning about the world, encountering new ideas, enjoying the beauty of language. A rich vocabulary enhances an interview, allows one to see humour in wordplay, shores up what an individual wants to say, and especially wants to write. It is clear that a large and rich vocabulary is the hallmark of an educated individual.” Bringing Words to Life – Isabel L. Beck, Margaret G. McKeown and Linda Kucan

 

At Lowbrook Academy, we believe that it is important to support our pupils’ development of vocabulary by providing them with a range of vocabulary learning strategies that they can use to confidently explore any unfamiliar words they encounter.

Children’s acquisition and command of vocabulary are key to their learning and progress across the whole curriculum. Vocabulary must be actively developed and systematically built upon through pupils’ current knowledge, making links between known and new vocabulary and discussing the shades of meaning in similar words

Understanding through comprehension of the meaning of words must be encouraged and modelled across all domains and language which defines subjects in their own right is a feature of all lessons.

From reading and writing, chances arise naturally to learn more vocabulary. Additionally, we aim for pupils to know how to work out and clarify meanings of unknown words, and words with more than one meaning.

Standard English is always encouraged, and pupils are taught to control their speaking and writing consciously for different audiences and purposes.

It is our intent that writing opportunities and the use of rich vocabulary is woven through all domains and that children are given the opportunity to write every day not just in English lessons but in subjects right across the curriculum.

As the National Curriculum states that schools are only required to teach the relevant programmes of study by the end of the Key Stage, this allows for flexibility in introducing content earlier or later than set out in the programmes of study. Therefore, as is the practice across school, we have the authority to teach to stage not age.

Implementation

The allocation of time set out below is the starting point for planning, however the art in teaching is not determined by time and it is expected that teachers will act professionally within these guidelines to allocate appropriate and effective amounts of time to Writing & SPAG. 

In line with the recommendations outlined within the Cambridge Review each class works towards 30% of the curriculum being designed around our own distinctive locality. The curriculum will be planned and delivered by the class teachers, specialist teachers, higher level teaching assistants, teaching assistants and authors.

Writing will also be also taught across other domain areas and the high standards of writing in Literacy must be maintained throughout these domains. The weekly figure is therefore nominal.

In Early Years Foundation Stage, the overlap of Areas of Learning makes hourly time allocation inappropriate and aspects of English are often child-initiated or addressed through play. This said, each day a specific time slot is given to the teaching of phonics as it is across Key Stage 1. To ensure progression from Early Years and through KS1 teachers, we use Monster Phonics assessments to determine which phase the pupils are working at. Monsters Phonics is a systematic synthetic phonics programme validated by the DfE. Children are grouped accordingly and taught depending on their needs and interventions put in place where gaps in knowledge are identified to ensure pupils ‘keep up’ rather than needing to ‘catch up’. It is also the case that pupils in Key Stage 2 may be targeted with Monster Phonics interventions should this be required to support their spelling knowledge.

At Key Stage 1, the daily English lesson, in addition to the daily Monster Phonics lesson, will ensure pupils become competent in the key skills as already laid out with a regular focus on handwriting, spelling and composition. Pupils in Year 1 engage in ‘Big Write’ lesson at the end of each week which is an introduction to more sustained periods of writing, supporting their writing stamina. There are also opportunities in Year 1 for child initiated or directed play. It is expected, however, that the teaching of writing and the use of literature to enhance lessons and improve understanding is a daily activity.

By Year 2 and through Key Stage 2, elements of the writing curriculum are taught through the Big Write approach. Aiming to raise standards in writing, the children take part in ‘Big Writing’ lessons every week.  It is based on a philosophy by Ros Wilson (a former teacher, LA advisor and Ofsted Inspector).  Children develop their writing voice through fast, fun, lively and mainly oral activities based on vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation (VCOP). The premise is that if a child can say it, a child can write it. With a quality text forming the basis of exploration, each week a different genre is tackled. Daily English lessons allow time for the pupils to explore the chosen genre and with a focus on vocabulary, conjunctions, openers and punctuation (VCOP) they plan their own extended piece of writing which is composed in an allocated slot at the end of the week. These slots, approximately 45 minutes, allow pupils the chance to develop concentration and a greater stamina for writing. Extended pieces are filed in individual pupil’s folder providing a portfolio of independently completed work.

The Big Write approach is also complemented by the guidance from the Education Endowment Foundation which discusses a number of strategies that support the teaching of writing. These are:

  • Pre-writing activities – engaging children in activities prior to writing that help them think of and organise their ideas. This can involve tasks that encourage them to remember what they already know, find out about a topic they are not familiar with, or arrange their ideas visually (for example, by using a planning tool or graphic organiser) before writing.
  • Drafting, revising and editing – helping pupils to get their ideas written down as a first draft which they can edit and revise.
  • Sharing – instructing pupils to share, read, and edit each other’s work.

Every classroom reflects the importance of VCOP through the use of Literacy displays and working walls. In addition, on a daily basis depending on need, pupils will carry out handwriting tasks and explore spelling patterns.

There is a robust policy for spelling within the school that explores phonics, spelling rules and patterns including exemptions to rules. Within our Monster Phonics lessons, we are able to follow the guidance set out by the Education Endowment Foundation which suggests ‘look, say, cover, write, check’ is an effective strategy for spelling. Pupils are encouraged to:

  • Look carefully at the word structure, shape and form (or the salient orthographic, morphological, and structural features)
  • Say the word out loud. Focus on grapheme phoneme relationships within the word. Exaggerate the pronunciation of the word to highlight correct spelling (For example ‘choc-O-late’ or ‘sep-AR-ate’)
  • Cover the word.
  • Try to remember or picture the spelling, and write the word.
  • Say the written word out loud to check that it matches the sound and recall the structure, shape and form.
  • Uncover the word and check that the spelling is correct.

Spelling benchmarks are set for children throughout the school. The children are taught strategies for learning spellings to assist them with this work. All children have appropriate spellings to learn weekly as well as termly Spelling Stars, whereby every six weeks the children are given a series of words, some high frequency and other topic words, to learn to spell over the course of the term. In proving that they can do so they are awarded with a Spelling Star.

With this two pronged approach, the 2014 National Curriculum word lists for all year groups are covered and are embedded in lessons. It is good practice in this school to retest children on the Spelling Stars they have previously achieved as an appropriate tool to consolidate past learning.

The teaching of grammar is taught within Literacy lessons and where appropriate in isolation so as to reinforce understanding. The two statutory appendices on spelling and on vocabulary, grammar and punctuation are incorporated into our Grammar teaching.

We promote academic vocabulary by ensuring subject specific vocabulary is taught not only within Language, Oracy and Literacy lessons but also through all domains: Tier 2 (words that are not necessarily specific to subject domains but require pupils to have a ‘mature’ vocabulary in order to comprehend the meaning of the word) and Tier 3 (subject specific words and key terms). Pupils are introduced to key subject specific vocabulary (Tier 3 words) at the start of each curriculum topic, ensuring that pupils are exposed to academic and subject specific vocabulary multiple times, interweaving the vocabulary throughout the term and year.

It is our belief that consolidation of learning and knowledge is fundamental; and therefore creating Awe and Wonderwithin writing lessons is key to this. The development of Book Week (to tie into World Book Day) has been hugely influential with our pupils in achieving this. Annually we design a whole week of activities around reading and promoting a love of books by inviting authors and storytellers into the school to foster a love of reading and writing amongst the pupil. Writing workshops are arranged, trips to the local library are planned and parents join us at school to tell us about how being able to write proficiently is important in their workplace, e.g. in marketing, PR etc. Book Week is a highlight of the Academic year and is used to complement and enrich our weekly curriculum.

Other themed weeks throughout the year: Science Week, Maths Week, Arts and Culture Week and Sports Week all incorporate an element of research and writing whether it’s finding out about an influential scientist or a famous mathematician for instance.  Pupils also write factually as well as creatively about a country and culture of choice providing edited and amended compositions for our yearly summer creative arts exhibition. Again these opportunities all give pupils a purpose and meaning for their work, something staff strive for on a daily basis.

Opportunities to learn beyond the classroom are seized with pupils visiting the Roald Dahl Museum and Sky Studios and other such venues. We engage with the local library and always promote the Summer Reading Challenge. In addition, staff seek out opportunities for pupils to participate in other local or national initiatives. These might involve entering writing competitions, such as the rotary writing competition, or working with a poet in residence, having work published and performing in poetry recital events.

The introduction of Philosophy for Children, an approach to learning and teaching which enhances children’s thinking and communication skills, boosts their self-esteem, and improves their academic attainment has now become an important aspect in enhancing the English curriculum. Through P4C pupils’ confidence is raised in relation to oracy and skills of metacognition and vocabulary knowledge and it has been proven that this in turn has a positive impact on pupils’ attainment at KS2 equivalent to two months’ extra progress in literacy skills.