At St. Margaret's we want to raise the literacy achievement of children by putting quality children’s literature at the heart of all learning. We aim to ensure that every child has access to quality experiences of literacy and that all teachers have the knowledge and resources to support children to become confident, happy and enthusiastic readers and writers, with all the benefits this brings.
We aim for all our children to become fluent, confident readers who are passionate about reading. Children who read regularly or are read to regularly have the opportunity to open the doors to so many different worlds! More importantly, reading will give your child the tools to become independent life-long learners.
We can achieve this together through:
- Read Write Inc, a program to help to your child read at school
- Encouraging children to develop a love of books by reading to them daily, at home and at school
- Giving children access to a wide range of books at school and at home
At St. Margaret's, we prioritise the teaching of writing both as a core subject and one which unlocks opportunity in all other subjects. We aim to develop children who are clear, effective communicators who respond to their audience and the context appropriately and in doing so have the opportunity to write in a widening variety of forms for different purposes using appropriate grammar forms. Additionally, we develop their ability to spell correctly and write in a cursive style of handwriting and support children of all abilities through appropriate modelling and scaffolding to enable them to express themselves through writing.
How to say and write phonemes
Throughout YR and KS1, pupils are provided with a range of fiction and non-fiction books to aid progression with their reading. We ‘band’ books according to the reading level of a particular book. This allows children to be guided to appropriate reading material.
Below are some of the terms you may come across in our phonics sessions:
- Vowels - a e i o u
- Consonants - sounds/letters of the alphabet that are not vowels
- Blend - to merge individual sounds together to pronounce a word, eg, c-a-t blended together, reads cat
- Segment - to split up a word into its individual phonemes in order to spell it, eg, the word 'cat' has three phonemes: /c/ /a/ /t/
- Cluster - two (or three) letters making two (or three) sounds, eg, the first three letters of the word 'straight' are a consonant cluster
- Digraph - two letters making one sound, eg, sh, ch, th
- Vowel Digraphs - two vowels which together make one sound, eg, ai, oo, ow
- Split Digraph - two letters, which when split apart make one sound, eg, a_e in the word 'make' or i_e as in the word 'site'
- Grapheme - letter or a group of letters representing one sound, eg, sh, ch, igh, ough
- Phoneme - the smallest single identifiable sound, eg, the letters 'sh' represent just one sound
We have included some tips to help you when reading with your children:
- Try to say the short sound of the letter, not the letter name. This will help children when they come to blend words together, e.g., the letter names dee-oh-gee do not blend together to make 'dog'
- Read regularly with your child - encourage children to recognise sounds and, as they grow more confident, to blend the sounds together and to read sentences independently. When you are reading to your child, emphasise the rhyming words and ask what is special about them.
- Play Initial Sound Hunt games - say a sound to your child and see if they can find something in their house that starts with that letter. This also works well with 'I Spy' but remember to use the letter sound and not its name.
- Sing songs - sing nursery rhymes and traditional songs with your child and talk to them about the patterns that they notice in the words.
Letter Sound Order
The sounds are taught in a specific order (not alphabetically). This enables children to begin building words as early as possible.
The Oxford Owl website is a useful resource for parents to help them support their children at home.
Top Tips to teach Spellings
Highlight the hard bit
Frequently, there will be one part of a word that trips up your child each time. Look at the word together and highlight the part that they find particularly tricky. For example:
night separate was receive weird
what two friend said cheap
Or there may be two parts that need attention, for instance;
accommodate address necessary
Once you’ve done the highlighting together, get them to write out the word again without looking. This time they’ll be more focused on getting that tricky bit right, and will be able to remember how it looks.
Make the spelling stick
If one or two parts of a particular word just don’t seem to ‘sink in’ by simply highlighting them, try to think of other ways to help them stick.
- With weird, people often get the i and e confused. Help by saying we are weird, so your child remembers that we is the first part of the word.
- For the double s in dessert: desserts are both sweet and sugary.
- or a word with two ‘tricky’ parts, like necessary, think Cats Eat Salty Sardines to remember the c and the double s (see 'Make it an acronym' below).
Break it down
Try breaking down polysyllabic words to make each syllable easier to remember. Even young children may be doing this at school – they might call syllables ‘beats’. Help them decipher how many ‘beats’ or syllables there are in a word by clapping the word together, one clap per syllable.
So, for two-syllable words…
Danger Dan / ger
Windmill Wind / mill
Option Op / tion
And for three-syllable words…
Relation Re / la / tion
Beautiful Beau / ti / ful
It may help to segment the words into a chart like this:
Copy it, copy it, recall it
Use a chart like this:
After your child has copied the word twice, fold the paper over so they can’t see what they’ve written and ask them to have a go at writing the word unaided. They should be able to recall the spelling without looking.
Another classic technique is known as Look, Cover, Write and Check.
So, they look at the word...
Cover the word...
Write the word...
And finally check it.
Create pictures in your mind
It’s a well-researched memory trick: if you can conjure up a visual image, what you’re trying to remember (in this case spellings!) may come more readily.
For example, if your child is learning ‘bank’ but writing ‘banc’, help them remember it’s a ‘kicking K’ by saying, “I kicked my legs into the bank”. If they’re writing ‘cat’ as ‘kat’ remind them it’s a ‘curly c’ by saying, “The cat likes to curl up and go to sleep”. Encourage your child to invent their own ways of remembering words; if they have thought up the image themselves, it will be a more powerful tool.
Say it as it’s spelled
To remember double s, really stress and extend the sound: fussssssss.
To remember double z, again stress and extend it: buzzzzzzzz.
Same for double e: seeeeeeeeem.
To remember ea instead of ee, pronounce it as two separate sounds: cre – a –m.
Make it an acrostic
Sometimes, visualising a difficult word in a different way can suddenly make it stick. Create a phrase from each letter of a word and turn it into an acrostic, which can be easier to remember than the word itself. Try these, or have your child make up their own!
Ocean: Only Cats’ Eyes Are Narrow
Rhythm: Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move
Necessary: Never Eat Chips Eat Salad Sandwiches And Raspberry Yoghurt
The palm of your hands
Ask the child to write each letter of the word into the palm of their hand or onto their leg with their finger. With enough repetitions, they’ll remember how the word felt to write (this is known as muscle memory). The same occurs through repetition of writing in any media.
Sing the word
This is reportedly one of the most popular methods used by contestants at American Spelling Bees. Simply learn the word by saying or singing the letters out loud, developing a melody. This melody should then imprint in your child’s memory; if they forget a spelling they will still remember how the word’s rhythm and sound, which will serve as a prompt.
The Teaching of Writing at St.Margaret’s
Developing purpose and enjoyment in young writers.
“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music the words make.”~ Truman Capote
Writing is a key component for any individual to be able to express themselves, it is therefore vital that a child’s experience of writing from a young age is positive; it should be rewarding, purposeful and highly enjoyable.
The skill with which your child can write will have a huge impact on their confidence and success. Not only throughout their education at school but in their later career and throughout their lives as social and emotional beings. So how can we ensure that children are motivated to become brilliant young writers?
This section of our website will give you the components to the philosophy behind the teaching of writing at St Margaret’s and also some ideas of how you can best support your child with writing at home.
If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write.’~ Stephen King
The key to creating successful young writers, is creating successful young readers who love books and love stories.
At St.Margaret’s, we believe that reading high quality literature and listening to music are key to nurturing and inspiring a child’s imagination for writing. The worlds, emotions, thoughts and vocabulary that can be unlocked in a good book, or a good song, give children experience of both the world around them, and the world which is not around them. I.e. worlds that are far-off and magical.
It also gives children the experience of what good writing is; the sound of a different style of writing, be that funny, exciting, informative or spooky. The books that they listen to or read themselves may later become guidelines for writing a particular type of story. Sharing stories and reading independently will give children the tools they need to scaffold their own writing.
At St. Margaret’s , we therefore ensure that all children have the chance to experience rich texts of different types in a variety of ways, throughout their school life. (Please see separate section on Reading)
Writing in class is often centered around a particular story or selection of books and children use these as models for their own writing.
'Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing’. ~ Ben Franklin
At St Margaret’s, we believe that children learn best when they are having fun and are engaged in stimulating and pleasing activities. We need to ensure that children see writing as something that they do for themselves, not for somebody else.
Children will often want to write about their own experiences. Furthermore, if we want children to write quality pieces it is vital that they do have experiences of what they are being asked to write about.
Imagine being asked to ‘write a poem about the ocean’, if you have never been to the ocean, never seen, heard, smelt or touched the ocean. Never been able to play in the warm sand, never scrambled excitedly over the rocks following a crab or stood on the shoreline watching the waves lapping at your feet. How can we ask children to write a letter if they have never received or read a letter in the post? In order to write, children need a rich and varied plethora of experiences that engage each of their five senses.
You can read more about this under the section “The Writing Process”.
Throughout the planning, writing and feedback process, the pupil voice plays a very important role and teachers encourage collaboration between children, to share and discuss their thoughts, imaginative ideas, vocabulary and suggestions. Lots of talk in the classroom also means that children have a chance to rehearse their sentences orally and hear the sounds that the words make before writing them down.
At St Margaret’s we achieve this through the use of pair talk, group discussion and activities and through peer feedback (written or verbal).
We cannot teach creativity and imagination but we can stimulate and nurture it. Children’s minds are wonderfully untainted with logic and rationality, for many children anything is still possible. If we want children to be creative in their writing, we mustn’t tell them anything is not possible.
In the classroom teachers at St Margaret’s ask children open ended questions: Why? How? What if..?
If a child asks ‘Why is the sea blue?’ we may not give them the answer but instead say, ‘Hmm, I wonder, why is the sea blue? What do you think?’.
Invariably the answer will be a whole lot more interesting and make much more sense than the one that might otherwise have been given. You are never too young to be a philosopher!
We believe that by encouraging children to ask questions, we will nurture children’s inquisitiveness and intellectual curiosity, giving them confidence in their own ideas and creativity. Both of which are key to becoming good writers.
At St Margaret’s, within the setting of the English national curriculum (2014), teachers plan and follow a cycle of activities that give the children exposure to a variety of text types and purposes, by planning a rich variety of learning experiences that guide the process of writing and allow children to develop a sense of themselves as independent and successful writers.
Throughout each half term, children will have the chance to read and write pieces in the form of:
In Early Years and Key Stage 1, children are also taught spelling through phonics (please see our section on reading and phonics).
In Key Stage 2 we follow a spelling programme, where the children are taught spelling rules and patterns through units which are built on each year as they progress through the school.
Each year group also has a set of terminology for grammar which the children need to be able to recognize, use and understand.
The grammar, punctuation and spelling that is needed for each type of writing is weaved into the teaching of writing so that children understand it’s value and application in context.
The Writing Process
This next section will give you an idea of how lessons are planned and structured to ensure that children’s writing experiences at St Margaret’s allow children to both enjoy and make maximum progress in their writing:
1) Establishing a purpose for writing
At St Margaret’s we encourage teachers to use to establish a real purpose for writing.
The over-arching idea being that children have self-initiated an idea for their writing, know what the end-product of their writing will be and are fully immersed in the story and drama of the idea.
2) Exposure to examples of excellent writing in the style or genre the children will be writing in:
A ‘WAGOLL’ (What A Good One Looks Like) may be an example from a story or non-fiction book the children have been reading in class, a piece of writing in a journal on the internet or one of the children’s previous pieces of work. Through looking at a good example and discussing with the class what makes it a successful piece, the children have a model of good writing to aspire to and an idea in mind of what they themselves are hoping to achieve.
3) Creating Steps to Success
Children, with the guidance of the teachers, create a success criteria for writing. A series of steps for the children to use, when necessary to achieve the end product successfully. The success criteria is referred to throughout the course of the writing process and children are encouraged to identify their next steps to improve or develop their work.
‘Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’~ Anton Chekhov
The planning stage is vital, to allow children to collect the ideas and vocabulary they will need for their writing. At St. Margaret’s this achieved by one or a combination of the following experiences:
- Role play of given situations or stories, where children may work collaboratively or individually to speak their thoughts and emotions and practise using new language tools, getting in to character for a story.
- Going outside of the classroom to see, hear, smell, touch or explore a particular stimulus or environment.
- Music and dancing; where children are encouraged to express their feelings or ideas through movement, rhythm and sound.
- Art; children may want to draw or paint their ideas before trying to write them down, they may be better at first expressing their emotions through using colour or patterns.
- Educational school trips
During the planning stage, children (perhaps with the help of the Teacher or Teaching Assistant) will record some of their experiences in notes and pictures, in their books, on planning sheets, or on a voice recorder or iPad, so that their best sentences or words they have expressed during their experiences can be used at the next stage.
'Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.'~ William Wordsworth
As children progress through the school, and become more aware of the process of writing, they are encouraged to take more independence in the planning of their own writing. We encourage the development of metacognition: children understanding how they learn and how to go about creating and shaping a successful piece of writing independently.
5) Modelling of good writing and Writing
The teacher, with the help of pupils, may model beginning a piece of writing successfully, paying particular attention at this point to a grammar and punctuation focus.
The children have time to sit (or lean, lie down) and write, peacefully and independently.
In Early Years classrooms this time may be during self initiated learning or play experiences.
As the children are writing, not just when they have finished, children share their work with the teacher, their partners, a small group or the whole class. They receive verbal or written feedback from these groups and have time to respond to what has been said, by making improvements or changes to their work.
Teachers at St Margaret’s aim to provide feedback during the process of writing, rather than just once the child has ‘finished’ their piece.
When you look at a child’s piece of writing you may see:
Pink pen – this shows the child what they have done well in the piece of writing
Green pen – Green comments are formative and give the child next steps to improve their writing further.
Purple Pen – Children respond to their feedback and make improvements in purple pen
Red Pen – Red pen is used for peer feedback and children marking each other’s work.
Finally, the writing fulfills it’s initial purpose, by being displayed in the classroom, published in a class book, or by being sent to the appropriate person. This writing may then be used as a piece for guided reading as a WAGOLL for future pieces of writing.
Helping your child at home
If children are to be writers for life, they must enjoy writing. It must never be seen as a task that has to be completed for some abstract and non-contextual reason but something that they do for themselves because they find joy in it.
It is therefore vital that when we are allowed to read the child’s ideas, that we celebrate their writing, focusing on what they have done brilliantly. The more children feel successful in their writing, the more they will want to write. Empowering children with their own resourcefulness and skills is the best thing you can do to help your child improve. You could do this by:
- READING, READING, READING!!!!
Probably the best thing you can do to help your child become a great writer is to share with them great books. Reading to your child will show children just how wonderful a good story can be.
- Creating a writing journal
To help children to respond to their experiences at home, you may want to let your child create a writing journal. Tell the child it is theirs, they can write whatever they want in it, whenever they want. The journal should be precious and if the child desires, even secret, giving the child ownership of their writing. If your child does want to share their writing in this journal, it should be praised and celebrated. The reading journal shouldn’t be something where the work is criticised or has to be edited or improved, this will take away from the joy of writing.
- Modelling new language
Parents and teachers are role models for children and if we aren’t seen to be using and enjoying writing, why should we expect children to? If you want your child to describe something, try describing it yourself. If you want your child to use new vocabulary, make sure you make a big deal about using new, exciting or interesting words and celebrate when your child has a go at using them. If you want your children to write in their journal, let children see you writing in your own journal.
- Making a dictionary together or a bank of key words where you write down new vocabulary together or spellings of common or specialist words. Let children have this near at hand when they are writing.
- Giving children access to information on the computer, on the internet or in non-fiction books and thesauruses.
- Showing children what you would do to find something out.
- Asking children to say what they think about what they have written –what their favourite bit is, what part they are most proud of.
With all these practices of enjoyable and rewarding writing experiences both at home and at school, your child’s progress in writing will undoubtedly be considerably accelerated.
‘If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.’~ Toni Morrison
AModern Foreign Languages
At St Margaret's, we are learning to speak Spanish.
All KS2 children have a Spanish lesson each week, learning about everyday topics and the Spanish way of life through games and fun activities.
KS1 have access to Spanish topic mats in their classrooms, which have words and pictures linked to their topic themes.
All classes from Yr R to Yr6 have a few books in their reading areas in a variety of languages. This is, wherever possible, linked to the languages spoken at home by EAL children in the class. We are in the process of developing an area for dual language books in our school library, with access for all children.