Curriculum and Phonics
High expectations for all learners – a Mastery Approach to the Curriculum
The HEARTS Academy Trust is developing a Mastery approach to the curriculum consistent with the New National Curriculum. We have very high aspirations for all our children in HEARTS schools and we employ the Mastery approach to help children to become fluent and confident in the skills and knowledge they need.
We believe that all children are capable of making good progress in learning and we reinforce a “can do” attitude and approach to learning . The expectation is that the large majority of pupils progress through the curriculum content at the same pace. Depth of understanding is prioritised, alongside high expectations of every child.
However, decisions about when to progress will always be based on the security of pupils’ understanding and their readiness to progress to the next stage. Teaching is underpinned by methodical curriculum design and supported by carefully crafted lessons and resources.
Some children will grasp a skill or concept particularly rapidly and teachers ensure that there is always challenge for these children to engage them and ensure that they are making good progress. The challenge will not usually be to accelerate them through new content but will be an activity to broaden their understanding and encourage them to think more deeply about what they have learnt or to apply the skill fluently in different contexts.
Some children may need support or different strategies to help them to keep up with the class’ learning. This can include giving different resources, additional practice to consolidate their learning or extra teaching support either during the lesson or outside the lesson.
In most lessons in HEARTS schools, all children will access the initial teaching together with teachers targeting questions to check and move on each child’s understanding. Teachers use precise questioning in class to test conceptual and procedural knowledge, and assess pupils regularly to identify those requiring intervention so that all pupils keep up.
We have developed an assessment system that enables us to track what children can do and what their next steps are in the most important things in each subject. Teachers continually adapt teaching of the whole class and additional support for individuals to meet needs identified in these assessments.
Our structure for teaching synthetic Phonics is based on Early Reading Research (or ERR) in both Reception and KS1 . The programme ensures that the teaching of Phonics is systematically delivered and progress is built on from year to year. The teaching order from ERR is used as the basis for termly planning. Teachers then adjust the speed at which children move through the units.
In EYFS and Year 1, children are taught to read and spell through three discrete daily Phonics sessions of 15 minutes. Children learn to read high frequency words through regular practice.
They learn to understand that letters and letter combinations represent sounds in words (grapheme- phoneme- correspondences or GPCs). In Phonics sessions, they practise quick recognition of these GPCs. The sessions also give children consistent support and practice in skills of blending these sounds to read and segmenting words into sounds to help with spelling and writing. Children revise previous learning in every session so that it becomes embedded. Within each session, children practise and apply these skills in reading class texts, playing word games or writing words or sentences.
Children are taught on a group basis through a strategy known as “my turn” (where teachers model how to read), “let’s do it together” (where teachers and children read together) and “your turn” (where children read on their own). Teachers listen carefully to responses and correct or ask children to repeat where needed.
Year 1 children also have opportunity to explore Phonic skills in a longer Phonics session once a fortnight. This enables teachers to address any areas children are finding more difficult and gives extended opportunities for applying specific Phonic skills.
Children who are still learning the GPCs will read Reading books which are phonically decodable at a level appropriate to the child’s Phonic skills.
All children continue to have regular Phonics sessions in the Autumn and Spring Term of Year 2. Children who are not secure in applying their phonic knowledge at the end of Year 1 will continue to have regular Phonics sessions throughout Year 2.
Ongoing assessment in Phonics
Teachers track individual pupils’ progress in mastering phonic knowledge on a detailed assessment grid which identifies the GPCs they can recognise and blend with. This is updated at least each half term. Teachers also complete Phonics Checks assessing knowledge of GPCs the pupil has learnt so far to check their fluency in blending. Prompt support is provided if a pupil is not making expected progress.
Year 2 children who did not pass the screening check will be given extra Phonics intervention sessions. Their Phonics skills are assessed each half term and are retested at the end of year 2.
We aim to embed Phonics in all English lessons and in other curriculum subjects where appropriate. Children are encouraged to use their developing Phonic knowledge sounds to spell words . Similarly, whenever they are reading, they are encouraged to use their sounds to blend.
All letter sounds are displayed in each classroom to facilitate this and pupils are encouraged to refer to them regularly.
High frequency and “tricky words” are also displayed around the classrooms to develop independence when spelling.
When modelling reading or writing, teachers model the use of Phonics to help with spelling and decoding.
Reading is a very important part of life at Hilltop Infant School and we aim for all children to develop a love of books and reading . We know that being able to read fluently with good comprehension is vital to children’s life-long learning in all subjects. Where school and families work together, children make the best possible progress so we ask that all children read at home at least four times a week.
At Hilltop Infant School, children learn to read using a range of different books, with a focus on texts that they can decode using their Phonics skills at early stages of Reading. A wide range of Oxford Reading Tree books are available alongside books from other schemes and individual titles. We teach children to use Phonics as the prime strategy for word recognition as children learn to read and develop fluency. Children who are still learning the GPCs will read Reading books which are Phonically decodable at a level appropriate to the child’s Phonic skills.
All books are grouped into colour bandings; this helps the staff and older children themselves to choose books that are at a level they can read independently or with just a little support.
As well as their levelled reading books, children have the free choice of books from classroom book boxes to enjoy in class and they also make regular visits to the school library (once they have been in school for a couple of terms).
All children are encouraged to read daily at school; they will read captions, worksheets, group reading books and a range of other materials. Teachers will also hear them read books on an individual basis; the frequency of this will depend upon the age and ability of the children.
Children learn to read best when supported effectively at school and at home. We actively encourage all families to read with their child at home at least five times a week.
Monday to Thursday 8:30am – 4:30pm
8:30am - 4pm
Hilltop Infant School
T. 01268 762531
Executive Headteacher: Mrs Karen Mackenzie
Senco: Mrs Hanli Bouwer
Enquiries: Mrs V Adkins
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