'We breathe in as readers and breathe out as writers.'

Our English curriculum at Bentley West aims to help pupils develop key skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing.  Our English curriculum is engaging, fun, book centred and vocabulary rich.

Pupils are taught in Early Years and Key Stage One to read using a phonics programme called Read Write Inc (RWI).  This allows them to develop word building and decoding skills, becoming confident readers and enthusiastic and talented writers.  With this as a foundation, children are then introduced to a wide range of texts –through the Literacy & Language programme and a variety of published authors.

Language and Literacy skills permeate all areas of our curriculum.  The texts we use are often linked to the current topic e.g. when children are studying Rivers in Year 4, they read The Wind in the Willows.

Children need to be able to speak, read and write fluently and accurately.  Therefore, children are encouraged to communicate effectively in speech and writing and to listen with understanding.

Reading and writing are both key development areas for our school.  We aim to provide stimulating and engaging texts which cover a range of fiction and non-fiction writing genres.  Comprehension, spelling and grammar are also fully integrated in our English lessons.  Teachers use a variety of activities and approaches to make these fun.

At Bentley West, we want to encourage all our children to love books.  The children love to sit in our classroom book corners and choose a book to take home or read in school.

Reading at Bentley West 

Reading is a key development area for our school.  We aim to provide stimulating and engaging texts which cover a range of fiction and non-fiction genres. Guided reading takes place daily with a clear focus on skill and knowledge development through a whole class reading approach. Extracts of high quality texts with challenging vocabulary form the basis of these sessions and our children are taught reading strategies through the use of VIPERS from Year 2 onwards. Children are then able to apply these skills to the vast range of books in our library that are linked to our online Accelerated Reader Programme where children are set ability appropriate quizzes to show their understanding of what they have read in a fun, engaging way. 

Parental engagement and support is essential to pupils making progress in reading. For this reason we provide the following to allow parents and children to enjoy reading together at home;

Echo Reading and the 6 Ps

Information for parents

Building fluency – Echo Reading and The 6 Ps

Echo reading is a rereading strategy designed to help students develop expressive, fluent reading. In echo reading, the adult or confident reader reads a short segment of text, sometimes a sentence or short paragraph, and the student will echo it back.

“Students must hear fluent readers begin modelling if they are to understand how they should sound when they read fluently” (Miller and Veatch, 2011). Since echo reading uses modelling as a form of assisted reading, students are able to gain the support and guidance they need to develop fluent reading skills.

What does echo reading look like?

What does fluent reading look like?

To help learners focus on their reading fluency, various aspects of reading aloud have been separated into six key elements. Each aspect works in partnership with the others to produce a rich and vibrant reading performance:

Pitch: The musicality of the reading voice – including tone and intonation.
Power: The strength given to the reading voice – including volume and stress.
Pace: The speed and rhythm at which we read.
Punctuation: The adherence to and understanding of the marks an author has placed upon the page.
Pause: The knowing of when not to read and for how long.
Passion: The emotion of the reading – including empathy and sympathy and the development of a reader’s love for the written word.

Writing at Bentley West 

Pupils' understanding of the skills they are developing daily and how these build into a bigger picture to enable them to write for specific audiences and purposes is essential to them developing as writers. 

For this reason, as a school, we have adopted “The Write Stuff” by Jane Considine to bring clarity to the mechanics of writing. ‘The Write Stuff’ follows a method called ‘Sentence Stacking’ which refers to the fact that sentences are stacked together and organised to engage children with short, intensive moments of learning that they can then immediately apply to their own writing.

This approach makes sure that all of our children are exposed to high quality texts that stimulate quality responses to reading, high quality writing and purposeful speaking and listening opportunities. Our curriculum ensures that all children have plenty of opportunities to write for different purposes. We encourage writing through all curriculum areas and use quality reading texts to model examples of good writing. Writing is taught through a number of different strategies. We believe that children need lots of rich speaking and drama activities to give them the imagination and the experiences that will equip them to become good writers.

An individual lesson is based on a sentence model, broken in to three chunks: 

The Write Stuff is based on two guiding principles; teaching sequences that slide between experience days and sentence stacking lessons. With modelling at the heart of them, the sentence stacking lessons are broken into bite-sized chunks and taught under the structural framework of The Writing Rainbow. Teachers prepare children for writing by modelling the ideas, grammar and/or techniques of writing.

These are: 

Initiate – a stimulus to capture the children’s imagination and set up a sentence. 

Model – the teacher close models a sentence that outlines clear writing features and techniques. 

Enable – the children write their sentence following the model and have the opportunity to 'deepen the moment' where they can explore the plot point further and demonstrate their own creative sentences using their previous learning.

Independent Writing Opportunities 

When the pupils are ready to apply all of the knowledge and skills they have obtained from their sentence stacking lessons, they apply their understanding in an independent writing activity. They are then taught to edit their work and justify their choices of language and sentence construction before producing a final draft which is in the form of the task set at the start of their learning journey. As a result, our pupils produce high quality, extended pieces of writing that are fit for audience and purpose and are celebrated across the whole school community.

Our children at Bentley West are encouraged to see writing as a journey; re-drafting and editing are used before writing is published. Writing extends across the curriculum with children being given opportunities to write for a range of different purposes outside of the writing lesson.

The FANTASTICs system allows children to identify the nine elements that all text types are comprised of. When pupils are familiar with these nine elements, they are able to ensure that they are incorporated into their writing. The FANTASTICs help children to sharpen their understanding of their own and others’ writing by encouraging them to be observant and reflective.

“The Write Stuff” also reinforces grammar through the use of: 

The FANTASTICs which are an acronym that summarise the ideas of writing. 

The GRAMMARISTICs cover national curriculum requirements, capturing the broad spectrum of key grammar knowledge. Discrete gammar lessons are also taught to ensure specific grammar knowledge is taught and revisited. A grammar routeway is used to ensure consistency and progression through school.

The BOMBASTICs capture the ten powerful ways to add drama and poetic devices to writing. They help children structure their work, teaching them to showcase their writing voice, demonstrate originality and to take risks in a bid to capture the truth of a situation.

The Three Zones of Writing: The FANTASTICs (Ideas), The GRAMMARISTICs (Tools), and The BOOMTASTICs (Techniques) support their learning, precision and writing.

Key Benefits of The Write Stuff: 

Pupils who understand how to apply sentence scaffolds to their independent writing as they develop their expertise. 

Standards improve because many worked examples are provided over the year that extend understanding through a wide range of genres and non-fiction text types. 

Children have a clear view of what high quality writing looks like and their learning is structured clearly and misconceptions dealt with. 

Pupils know how to improve their writing and make it more focussed and actionable feedback is provided to guide their learning. 

Children have a concept of how to build, plan and complete a piece of writing due to narrative maps and non-fiction shapes.

Here is an example of a Plot Point Map. We have these displayed in all KS1 and KS2 classrooms to support children's independent writing and vocabulary choices along with whole class sentence stacks. 

Spellings at Bentley West 

At Bentley West, we firmly believe spellings are to be taught, not caught and every child deserves to have high quality spelling lessons.

The daily work we undertake in phonics has a greater focus on spelling. To increase the impact of this work, in every class the spelling words for each week will also be the spelling focus in all of the written work that the children undertake for that week. This will mean that the children will not only be taught how to spell the words, but will be given every opportunity to use and apply these spellings in context.

For children who have moved beyond phonetic spelling, mainly the children in Years 2 - 6, will be taught spelling rules and patterns through the Spelling Shed programme of study. The children will be taught spellings weekly by their class teacher.

Research shows that the traditional spelling test is one of short term memory and does not support children in understanding the principles of spelling. Recent scans of the brain have shown that when children learn spellings for a test they are using a different part of their brain entirely from when they tackle spellings in the context of their writing.

Analysing the spelling of our own children has confirmed this. Children who perform well in spelling tests and show little or no improvement in their spelling within other writing. Children who find learning spelling lists difficult, not only do not use the spellings correctly in writing but also find the task of learning spelling lists stressful and often feel unnecessary pressure on the day of the test.

The pressure on parents to ‘drill’ their children on spelling lists as well as the expectation that every child should read regularly at home and complete other homework activities gave another reason for us to review our practice. The focus words for each class will be sent home at the beginning of each half term for your information. These words will not be ‘tested’ weekly but there will be an expectation that over the course of the half term, all children will make progress in spelling these words correctly within their writing. Your child will continue to receive spelling activities to complete at home to practise their learning from that week. 

Please read our parent/carer letter and spelling pack for more information. 

Speaking and Listening at Bentley West 

Being able to communicate effectively is essential to all development and particularly for English. For this reason we provide a wide range of opportunities for talk throughout our curriculum. Every class has visit coordinators who welcome guests and other adults into their class and share their 'End Goals', learning journeys, targets and achievements with confidence and pride. 

Pupils present their final pieces of work in a range of ways, for example performing a presentation, reading a news interview in front of a green screen or performing their poems to their peers. Pupils use their work as a basis for developing key skills that will enable them to be confident speakers who communicate effectively and who listen intently. 

For more information about our English curriculum, please contact our English Lead Miss Baxter.