The English curriculum at Birchwood is made up of phonics and reading, GAPS (grammar, punctuation and spelling) and writing. Quite simply, it our intention that every pupil, irrelevant or needs, achieves their full literary potential and develops a love of life-long reading, writing and literature.
Birchwood’s WOW curriculum is driven by key texts that launch the topic and drive the topic's theme, e.g. Stig of the Dump linked to the Stone Age in Year 3. Therefore, the school’s curriculum model is itself based upon literacy across the curriculum. In Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 a new initiative started in September’16 which sees every child at Birchwood given their own copy of the class text each term. Children are permitted to take these texts home and read for homework resulting in increased reading stamina, and more time in class to use the class text to drive guided reading, topic and written work. The initial ‘driving text,’ is then supported with additional literature surrounding the same topic but introduces non – fiction, poetry and a range of other genres. We aim to provide a wide range of opportunities for our pupils to write for a purpose and for a real-life audience using excellent models of writing as a basis. This leads to pupils self-reflecting, critiquing and becoming fully immersed in their topic areas.
Through English we aim to support this philosophy by:
- fostering the enjoyment that exploring our rich literary heritage can bring
- enabling children to develop and explore their skills in English with increasing maturity and awareness of audience;
- encouraging children to work and explore this subject independently and with others (pairs/groups) through speaking & listening activities; drama; writing for an audience and purpose and Philosophical discussions and debates;
- modelling to children how to improve the quality of their written work in English leading to them effectively editing and improving to a high standard;
- teaching children to critically analyse their work and the work produced by others
- encouraging and celebrating creativity and imagination in this subject
- teaching basic skills such as grammar terminology and comprehension leading to their application across the wider curriculum
- building on reading comprehension skills at all levels
- placing a high quality class text at the centre of our learning
At Birchwood we recognise that children learn best when they are provided opportunities to revisit, revise and reflect on their skills and understanding in order to apply their learning across all areas of the curriculum. Pupils are given opportunities to develop their use, knowledge and understanding of spoken and written English within a broad and balanced curriculum, with opportunities to consolidate and reinforce taught literacy skills. Each child is able to a high quality class text that is interwoven throughout written outcomes that are linked to the reading, writing and GAPS curriculum. Please refer to the class curriculum maps on each class page to view excellent examples of high quality texts at the center of our learning.
Birchwood’s WoW curriculum is driven each term by a key literary texts that are central to the topic. A central key text each term enables us support literacy across the curriculum as all topic areas focus around this. The initial ‘driving text,’ is then supported with additional literature around the same topic enabling the introduction of non-fiction, poetry and other genres. Carefully selected classic and high quality modern texts ensure that all children are immersed in a rich vocabulary-based curriculum. In addition to this, challenging context derived vocabulary is woven into the curriculum in the form of ‘fancy pants’ words for EYFS and schema word lists for Key Stage 1 and 2. These cross-curricular academic word lists are shared with parents at the start of each topic and are clearly displayed in each classroom. Over the course of a term pupils are encouraged to rehearse, revise and revisit the schema words and embed them into both their spoken and written English.
Valuable Speaking and Listening opportunities at Birchwood include:
Poetry Recitals; persuasive speeches following the Year 5 Suffolk Food Hall Trip; School Council Campaign Speeches; Eco-School Council and Junior Road Safety presentations; Class Assembly performances to parents and School Productions.
Our aim is to ensure that prior to each topic children are immersed in experiences that allow them to access the curriculum and class text. Schema words and planning in other curriculum areas are deliberately organised to allow all children to access class texts and other subsequent learning experiences in English. We inform parents of the topic the term before it is taught encouraging them to support their children with relevant experiences. Trips and experiences are arranged, wherever possible, at the start of each topic and then referred to as a valuable stimulus during the topic.
There are literally hundreds of ways we can demonstrate the excellent impact our curriculum design has on our pupils. In a nutshell, here are two examples:
1 - 2019 Birchwood results for pupils compared to their peers nationally are simply the best since the school opened in 1990 and are well above all 2019 national outcomes. For example, Birchwood Y6 reading at expected = 100% compared to the national figure of 73% and 50% at greater depth. Y1 Phonics Screening Check = 97% pass / national figures of 85%. Birchwood is also the top performing school out of all 307 in Suffolk for reading.
2 - Pupils writing persuasive letters to SUSTRANS, following an English unit on persuasive letters, and gaining £150,000 funding for the installation of solar panel technology that now heats the school's water. As a result of teaching a purposeful unit of writing, our pupils were inspired to plan, draft, redraft their work with a real-life outcome. This gave our pupils first hand 'life experience' that they can bank in their life-long learning vault.
3 - Birchwood Literary Culture - past and present Birchwood pupils work is published and has ISBN coding as they have become authors in their own right / recent pupil perception on 'what is the best thing about Birchwood school?' = "our class text and the school library" / our annual Poetry Recital Festival and pupils performing in the West End / support at all levels e.g. Reading Dogs for most vulnerable and Shakespeare Club for the most able.