Langley Mill Academy: English Curriculum
“It occurred to him that strength was quite different from toughness and that being vulnerable wasn't quite the same as being weak.” (Michelle Magorian)
English at Langley Mill Academy promotes high standards of language and literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written language. English will teach pupils to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions; it is key to our pupils achieving Langley Mill Academy’s vision that every child attains their full potential in terms of academic excellence and social responsibility.
We strive to promote a love of literature by reading around themes and exposing children to a range of genres so that they can explore and develop their enjoyment of reading. Through reading in particular, our pupils develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Integral to this development is every child being immersed in good quality literature which develops pupils’ acquisition of a wide vocabulary, thus addressing recognised vocabulary deficit, and allowing children to explore and appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage.
As our context is predominantly White British, our curriculum promotes the rich diversity of Britain, including an appreciation of Langley Mill’s locality and history. We carefully choose the literature we expose the children to so that we can plan for purposeful opportunities to learn important aspects of British values, history, mental health, well-being, equality and citizenship, developing our pupils’ cultural capital. Our Live Laugh Learn motto helps us all remember the six we are statements: We are respectful, safe, caring, friendly, enthusiastic and responsible.
English provides the knowledge & skills that pupils need to take advantage of the learning opportunities, responsibilities and experiences offered by our whole curriculum, as well as further education & later life, therefore providing & equipping the 44% of pupils who come from disadvantaged backgrounds with access to all future opportunities.
We value the home-school partnership as essential in helping pupils achieve their best. Effective communication with parents and carers ensures our pupils read at home and develop a love of reading with their parents, instilling within them core values of respect, hard work, good behaviour and a passion for learning and future aspiration.
Our English structure helps pupils to build knowledge an understanding of reading, writing, grammar, spelling and speaking and listening. We enable pupils to acquire knowledge and to build on what they already know, whilst also allowing us opportunity to identify what the children do not know and intervene appropriately and proportionately. We consider an English skill to be the capacity to perform, drawing on what is known.
At Langley Mill Academy we have built a cross-curricular approach through termly topics, which make meaningful connections between reading, English lessons and curriculum topics, allowing teachers to plan creativity across the curriculum. Knowledge and skills are well sequenced and develop incrementally, following our pupil tracker for reading, writing, grammar, punctuation and spelling. It is recognised that knowledge is embedded through spaced retrieval and activation of prior learning when applied to a task. Key Performance Indicators and objectives are revisited by all year groups. For example: Prepositions, a Year 4 objective, are revisited in Year 5 and Year 6.
All pupils (unless working on individual Learning Plans) are able to read to an age appropriate level and fluency & take part in whole class Themed Reading & the class novel; thus exposing all pupils to quality literature. Teacher subject knowledge enables all pupils to achieve their potential with reading being our priority when planning and implementing our curriculum:
Autumn Term: Values
During our values topic, we explore how democracy has evolved from invasions, to emperors, to Athenian democratic rule and finally to what the world did when these values were threatened by fascist dictators. Vocabulary knowledge is embedded through this topic, progressively evolving each year alongside our Knowledge Organisers for each term. Democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty & civil rights are explored, whilst considering why our values of mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs are so important in our modern society.
Year 3: Invaders and Settlers: The Twits; The Enormous Crocodile; Beowulf (Michael Morpurgo); Vikings at School; Eye Witness Viking Voyage; The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark (science)
Year 4: Romans in Britain: The Iron Man; A Roman Rescue; The Roman Bean fest; Horrible Histories Rotten Romans; Junior Caesar.
Year 5: Ancient Greeks: Percy Jackson, & The Lightning Thief; Men and Gods; An Encyclopaedia of Myths and Legends; Greek Gazette.
Year 6: World War: Good Night Mister Tom; The Machine Gunners; How we see things; Erika’s Story; The life of Walter Tull; The Blitz & Friend or Foe.
Spring Term: Journeys
Year 3: 80 Days around the World:
Year 4: How the World was changed by explorers
Year 5: To Boldly Go...: The Highway Man
Year 6: An Unexpected Journey: The Hobbit, Eye Witness Volcanoes, National Geographic Everything Volcanoes & Earthquakes, Journey to Jo’Burg.
Journeys was chosen to allow children to explore the world we live in, developing a global perspective and to enable children to see that a journey isn’t just from one location to another but can also be seen as change over time. An English Unit is being designed around ‘The Boy Who Biked the World’ by Alistair Humphreys, with Y3-5 studying books 1-3 respectively.
Summer Term: Origins
An opportunity to study our local area and where we come from.
Year 3: Robin Hood: A local Myth or Legend?
Year 4: What happened in Derbyshire in Tudor Times?
Year 5: What was Victorian Langley Mill like?
Year 6: Derwent or Nile: Which is the most important valley in the World?
Implementation: Reading the Class Novel
The class novel supports the English Unit and it is usually linked to the termly curriculum topic: Values, Journeys or Origins. It is read for 15 minutes every day in its own timetabled slot. The books are organised in Year groups. ‘Class Novel’ can also include non-fiction texts, such as a science text. There may be more than one text per English unit. For example, Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ & National Geographic: Everything Volcanoes.
The class novel should be challenging. The children should be able to access it, but it should be a text that many of the class could not sit and read cover to cover independently. A class novel ensures children have access to and study a text in its entirety from start to finish and build the skill of following a text through.
The class teacher should read the class novel aloud so that children get the best possible understanding of it. Teachers model self-correction when reading and draw attention to the fact they have done so.
We use these 'class novel' sessions to focus on the skills of prediction and summary more than the other three ‘themed reads’. Teachers read the novel with enthusiasm and passion and do not give the children copies to follow so as to avoid multitasking. Both teachers and pupils should enjoy this session and 'read for pleasure'.
Implementation: Themed Reading
Themed reads are timetabled Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in their own 45-minute slot. The reading themes include other curriculum subjects, poetry, classics, historical events, authors, songs, culture and social issues, effectively building cultural capital. They do not have to link to English or Curriculum topics. We can design additional weeks and lessons which develop our own themes around current events.
1) The main skills covered during themed reading lessons are depth of vocabulary, inference and retrieval.
- Lessons begin with the reading. All children need a copy of the text they can see / read. Texts should not take more than 15 minutes of the reading lesson to read. Teachers might read some of the text for modelling purposes, but children should do the majority of the reading
- Basic reading aloud - children take sentences or paragraphs depending on text length/sentence length/proficiency. Partners could take it in turns.
- Echo reading - teacher reads exactly how text should sound and asks a child to ‘echo it’ giving constructive feedback as appropriate.
- Choral reading - pairs, groups or the whole class read aloud at the same time.
- Drop ins - if a child has not read aloud to the class due to proficiency, the teacher should ‘drop in’ with them during an activity and hear them reread part of the text.
2) Children should then do a very short retrieval quiz (quick start) that shouldn’t require much, if any, looking back over the text.
3) After this, any unfamiliar or potentially limiting vocabulary should be explored and read around for a few minutes. This could be accompanied with pictures/visuals where possible for a deeper understanding.
4) Deeper questions or activities should then be presented one at a time. These should take three forms: individual thinking, partnered talk and solo work. Children should get into the routine of knowing what each of the three forms requires of them. The Djanogly Reading Tracker could be used to assess pupil(s) during ‘Themed Reading’
A separate response book is used for the themed reads. A suggested layout is provided; however, there is flexibility and room for creativity. Pupils responses can include lists, explanations, opinions, pictures, diagrams, thought bubbles etc. It would be desirable to keep the 3-day theme on a double page. Expectations on handwriting, presentation and effective feedback remain high.
Challenge in Themed Reading
Challenge, coherence and progression is developed by the texts. They need to get harder: that difficulty could come through either more complex syntax or deeper themes, but that’s the crux of it. Questioning, though obviously increasing somewhat in difficulty, largely stays the same as illustrated here by the same question being asked about The Tunnel in Y3 and The Good Thieves in Y6: What is the impact of this picture on the reader? / What is the impact of this opening on the reader?
Implementation: Independent Reading
- One book from the reading scheme. Encourage reading of both fiction and non-fiction. Texts should be read at the instructional / easy boundary (95% accuracy) with fluency and understanding. Children reading at an ‘easy’ level should be moved up a band as long as the texts remain age appropriate with suitable content.
- Five home reads with records checked weekly. Children who are not reading at all at home should be flagged with School Leadership Team. No detentions will be given but a dialogue will be opened with the parents and child.
- SEND / WB children to read in school daily. At a minimum all other children read once per half term with teacher & twice with TA. Teachers to assess using Djanogly Reading Tracker. All adults to carefully consider the level of challenge a text provides and the appropriate / expected band for the Year group.
Implementation: English Lessons
Overview / Long term plan
A ‘long term plan’ / overview of English is completed by all Year groups and saved on the school server in the English Curriculum folder. There are 12 units each year: two per half term. All folders are ready on the server to save planning.
- In the overview, we plan each unit considering the class novel (supporting texts) planning for purpose, audience & features of the main composition.
- Objectives are taken from our formative assessment system called O-track and include key performance indicators (KPIs) for each year group. These should be selected for each unit and teachers record by each objective which unit(s) they will be taught in. All objectives must be taught by the end of the year.
SMART lesson plans
A SMART board planning structure has been designed for a week of lessons (5 days) A unit will consist of 3 SMART board files saved in the prepared folder with supporting resources.
The SMART slides provide an initial framework for English lessons at LMA in 2020-21, which we can develop & improve. They are a basic structure that can be edited and added to with further slides and supporting photos, images, text extracts, quotes, other inspiring media & teaching resources. A set of planning slides contains an overview, the spellings for the week, the new vocabulary in the unit, a BUSC (or a reference to a display BUSC that can be photographed and put on the slide when complete), five spaced retrieval starters, five lessons and one reflection slide. A set of year group targets & a spelling overview are also included.
The English journey:
Engage, saturate, identify & deconstruct, dabble, plan, draft, composition task, revise & edit, publish. This journey will generally take 3 weeks with the supporting class novel.
- Each lesson should have two main slides: a retrieval starter slide and a lesson slide with objective & three elements: identify, dabble and task. This is not set in stone & will depend where we are on the journey. For example, the first lessons in a unit will primarily be identify / dabble and later in the unit the majority of a lesson will be the task & composition.
- An approximate format would be: Day 1-2 to engage & saturate, day 3-7 to deconstruct & dabble within a supported framework with shorter written pieces for exercise*, days 8-12 for planning and composing and days 13-15 for editing and publishing. The task will include challenge for all pupils and refer to the BUSC. *The shorter task pieces should feed into the composition.
- The spaced retrieval slides are starters to a lesson, usually Grammar Punctuation and Spelling based & can be completed on white boards. This part of the lesson should be quick, buzzy & limited to 10 minutes. The format for the week is as follows: Monday: Last week. Tuesday: Last term. Wednesday: Last year. Thursday: Spelling & phonics (selected from DLT spellings slides) Friday: This week's successes.
The Boxed Up Success Criteria links explicitly to purpose of writing and to the reader & is displayed in every classroom. In the middle, pupils put what the writing purpose is and its intended audience; outwards from this are the intended ‘effects’ on that audience, or what the writing is meant to provide for its readers; outwards again are the features from a studied text which might help to achieve these things and the final outer box contains examples of vocabulary, phrases, and sentences. Writing is no is no longer just a tick list of things to include at set points. Challenge can be developed by pupils and accessed independently.
A reflection, written in purple pen, should be completed in books every week. This could include peer marking. All lessons will include review, analysis, success sharing & teaching points at any time. These do not just come in a plenary (at the end of the lesson) - if you do this you shouldn't need one.
Writing target slides are included on the lower slides for each year group, with Key Performance Indicator objectives to refer to when writing.
Two things we always remember:
- the selected class novel should usually link directly to your English unit. This allows pupils to study a text in its entirety from start to finish and build the skill of following a text through, allowing understanding & developing of characters, setting & themes – and consequently a command of the subject they are being asked to write about. The novel will be read for 15 minutes each day, separate to the English lesson, in its own timetabled slot. Not to be missed - this is a "non-negotiable".
- This is a plan and a format for presenting lessons. It needs to serve both our pupils and the other teachers using it. Identify, dabble and task should make lesson activities and outcomes clear. Extra supporting slides can be put in for each day with any required resources either snipped onto the slides or saved in the folder.
Implementation: Handwriting & Spelling
The teaching of spelling is resourced from Twinkl spelling:
- Spelling Overview: A teacher overview for the half term (6 weeks), with 10 spellings each week.
- Spelling Menu: One menu per pupil to be printed off and kept in the back cover of the curriculum book for the half term. Themed menus are available, which could link to topic or behaviour systems.
- Spelling Menu Stickers: Awarded for eight correct spellings out of 10. This can be stuck on the pupil’s spelling menu.
- Classroom lists & posters: Display in the classroom weekly. Refer to it when selecting activities from the spelling menu. Snip the list for inclusion on weekly smart board plan.
- Spelling list - Look, Say, Cover, Write sheets: Given out every Monday for homework.
- Handwriting Sheets of spellings: Use as extra handwriting for pupils who need it.
- Monday: A 45-minute timetabled lesson where spellings are introduced, taught, practised and handwritten. Handwriting is always modelled on the board or IWB, following our school policy with demarcation lines for ascenders and descenders. Handwriting follows the school protocol and, unless a child clearly demonstrates a neat previously learnt style, always starts from the line for lowercase letters and isn’t looped. Usual expectation in handwriting sessions will be for a line of each word, with spacing between each word being approximately the size of a letter ‘a’.
- One chosen activity from the spelling menu. Further activities could be selected mid-week.
- Friday: Spelling test. Marking can be done by peers with pupils reading out their spellings. Record results.
When marking curriculum books incorrect spellings are indicated by ‘sp: word’ (see marking policy).
HFW should be written by the teacher for the child to copy three times. At a teacher’s judgement, for other incorrect spellings, subject specific and technical vocabulary, pupils should use a dictionary and self-correct.
Pupils have a wide vocabulary and a rich understanding of the meaning of vocabulary encountered in our curriculum. They can communicate and express themselves on an inter-disciplinary level, writing to inform, entertain and persuade. All pupils (unless specified in their individual learning plan) can access the curriculum and are not falling rapidly behind their peers, as evidenced by their curriculum books.
Teachers are experts in the teaching of reading with a continuous weekly focus on vocabulary in English lessons, themed and individual reading. There is strong evidence that pupils’ comprehension, knowledge, vocabulary and ideas are developing as they should towards endpoints with 'Themed Reading' allowing pupils to express, communicate and share responses.
Current in school data, although impacted by COVID lockdowns, indicates pupils at Langley Mill Academy are broadly in line with end of KS2 2019 national averages in reading and writing with the expectation that we will narrow the attainment gap between maths and reading at the end of Year 6.
‘Interventions’, including phonics, are used to support reading and accelerate progress. We have planned for 15% of all our pupils to undertake a daily 20-minute session working 1:1 with an adult on a 10-week programme called ‘Switch On’, designed to increase children’s fluency & understanding. Children undertaking Switch On should be reading at a 90-95% instructional level whilst also developing understanding. We also use a dyslexic screening test for pupils who would benefit from a profile of activities. English interventions include precision teaching of HFW, phase 3 and phase 4 phonics, and spelling.
Training with staff is ongoing and focussed on what our pupils need. Currently staff training includes:
- Writing intervention training: Success @ Writing October 2020.
- Phonics: Staff skills audit & training 15/10/20 with phonics interventions established in Years 3-5.
- Development of Themed Reading and teacher instruction in the teaching of reading (based on Rosenshine's principles), as well as developing ‘local area’ themes to align with our origins topic.