English Language

Avid readers, fluent writers, powerful speakers

Why literacy matters

For us literacy is more than being able to read and write. It is about having the cultural literacy, fluency and enjoyment of words that allows students to operate at a high level and engage fully in the world around them. It is, if you like, ensuring all our pupils leave school being able to access broadsheet newspapers and a world of debate and analysis, not just tabloids.

This means:

 

  • Teaching phonics rigorously when children arrive.

  • Developing deep understanding and comprehension.

  • Exposing pupils to challenging fiction and non- fiction texts.

  • Creating a love of writing through workshops.

  • Developing great handwriting and a deep understanding of grammar, punctuation and spelling. - Developing a wide range of vocabulary and idiom that can be deployed with discernment.

  • Creating a love of words and a love of reading building out from a vibrant library.

Reciprocal reading 

The reciprocal teaching approach focuses on allowing students to hone and internalise four main skills used by successful readers: predicting, summarising, clarifying and questioning. Students are taught a variety of strategies under each of these headings to use when approaching a text. Crucially, they also verbalise the reading process using these four areas as signposts in their thinking.

Predictor - Makes predictions about what might happen next in the story using evidence from the text to support ideas.

Clarifier - Clarifies dif cult words and phrases by sounding them out, reading around them and thinking what would make sense.

Questioner - Asks questions to clarify what is happening and to explore why things are happening or what might happen next.

Summariser - Recaps what has happened in the story in their own words, giving just the most important details in order. 

Robust vocabulary instruction  

“Looking up words or committing definitions to memory leads at best to a superficial understanding and a rapid forgetting of words” (Greenwood, 2002). Robust instruction on the other hand, is effective not only for learning meanings of words but also for reading comprehension.Whereas traditional vocabulary teaching may include cloze exercises, key words displayed or dictionary definitions, robust vocabulary instruction directly explains the meaning of words and most importantly is playful interactive and followed up. The process of robust vocabulary teaching is as follows:

Step 1: Know what you know. Find out how well students already know the word.
Step 2: Teach the word through a range of activities that cover what it looks like, what it sounds like and what it means.

Step 3: Make it meaningful. Link it to their lives and experiences and to words they already know.
Step 4: Put the words to work; use it or lose it! 

Story telling 

At School 21, all children learn to be storytellers. The Storytelling approach enables children to imitate the key language they need for a particular genre orally before they attempt to write it themselves. Through fun activities that help them rehearse the tune of the language they need, followed by shared writing to show them how to craft their writing, children are helped to write in the same style.The approach is based around the core principles of Imitate, Innovate and Invent which reflect how we learn.The structure of the process is as follows:

HMSS (Hear, Map, Step, Speak): children learn the story from memory in a multi-sensory manner. In this way, vocabulary, syntactical patterns and plot content are internalised.

Deepen: Through a range of fun, creative activities the story/text type is developed both linguistically and in the imagination of the child.The child now deepens their understanding of plot, character, setting and mood.

Shared writing: Through the collaborative act of producing a shared piece of writing with the children, the teacher demonstrates in a clear, pacy and interactive way, how to craft a piece of writing.

Independent writing: Once children have had the opportunity to practise creating the chosen genre with teacher demonstration, the child now has the opportunity to apply what they have learnt more independently.

Innovation: The original story is now changed through substitution, addition or plot recycling enabling children to adapt the story content while maintaining language patterns and general plot structure.

Invention: Children invent new stories using the plot matrix from a wide range of stimuli.

Reading: Opportunities are provided throughout to ‘read as a writer’ in order to explore and analyse how techniques writers have used create ‘excellent’ versions.These are then used to develop ‘toolkits’ with the children so they know what they need to include to be successful in their own writing. 

Literacy is more than being able to read and write. It is about having the cultural literacy, fluency and enjoyment of words that allows students to operate at a high level and engage fully in the world around them.

Looking up words or committing definitions to memory leads at best to a superficial understanding and a rapid forgetting of words

At School 21, all children learn to be storytellers. The Storytelling approach enables children to imitate the key language they need for a particular genre orally before they attempt to write it themselves.

School 21, Pitchford Street, London, E15 4RZ      T:  020 8262 2121     E:  info@school21.org.uk

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