English is at the heart of our curriculum, as it is through our use of English that we communicate and connect.
Click here to read about how we approach our curriculum, and to download our progression maps.
Spoken language, stories and written texts lie at the centre of our culture, helping us to understand and influence the world around us.
Reading and writing ‘float on a sea of talk’: we place great emphasis on developing confident, articulate speakers who can listen to and understand others. Developing a wide vocabulary is a key element of this. When we plan our teaching we are conscious of the new words, phrases and concepts that children need in order to really understand a new topic, and be able to explain their learning. Our lessons in all subjects are designed to support children’s speaking and listening skills by including opportunities for discussion, debate, explanation and presentation to an audience.
Our planning ensures that we cover all the elements of the National Curriculum for English.
At Hanover, we are passionate about developing a love of reading. We approach reading in a wide range of ways, in order to ensure that no child misses out on the pleasure of books and reading.
Every class benefits from a curriculum centred on high quality texts. Not only do we use these texts to teach the different reading skills, we also use them to understand others’ points of view, to expand horizons, and to be a shared experience for the class to discuss.
We have a brilliant school library, which stocks a diverse selection of fiction and non-fiction books that will appeal to children’s wide-ranging interests, passions and hobbies. Each class spends a session in the library every week so that they can enjoy discovering, sharing and reading new books. We encourage children to take a book out each week from the library so that they can read it at home.
We expect children to read at home every day for at least ten minutes from Year 1 onwards, and children are provided with an appropriately challenging book and a reading record to support this. In Reception, we expect children to start by reading one or two pages three or four times a week and gradually build up their stamina.
In Reception and Key Stage 1, we use the FFT Success for All phonics scheme to support their reading development. This scheme includes a progression of books which are closely linked to their phonics knowledge to ensure steady progress. We may also supply banded books to children who need a different level of challenge. In Key Stage 2, we provide a range of banded books for children where needed, alongside children’s choices of books. We expect every child to have a ‘book on the go’ and teachers and training assistants are dedicated to helping children find the ‘right’ book for them.
For children in Reception and Key Stage 1, reading sessions with the teacher focus on practising early reading skills and comprehension of carefully chosen texts. This is supplemented by shared and modelled reading, where the teacher demonstrates key strategies and explains their thinking about vocabulary, author’s intent, and the purpose and meaning of the texts.
In Key Stage 2, children have a daily whole-class reading lesson, focusing on skills such as retrieval of information, summarising, expanding vocabulary, and explaining their understanding of the text. Additional support with reading is provided for those children who need it and children will either read 1:1 with a trained teaching assistant, or in a small focus group, in order to improve their phonics, decoding and comprehension skills. We also work with Beanstalk Coram, whose reading volunteers work with different groups of children throughout the year, with the aim of encouraging and fostering a love of reading!
We regularly read stories in assembly and we contact authors and poets for visits, input and conversations about their books. And of course, World Book Day is always a highlight of our year!
Every year we will hold an ‘open classroom’ event where parents can come into classrooms for a reading lesson, learning the strategies of effective readers and sharing the pleasure of reading alongside their children.
Writing is about communicating, and children are born communicators. We encourage even our youngest children in EYFS to engage in purposeful writing - writing letters, making cards, recipes, lists and notices, and telling stories which are scribed (written down) by adults until the children are ready to take over the task of writing for themselves.
In Early Years and Key Stage 1, our play-based provision ensures that children use their developing writing skills for a huge range of purposes linked to the things that motivate and interest them: making information books about dinosaurs; writing instructions for models made in woodwork, or recipes that they have followed and adapted; letters, notes, lists, poems. We find that, when children are not ‘made’ to write, they want to write more. We teach young children correct letter formation and handwriting from the very beginning, moving on to important skills like using ‘finger spaces’, re-reading for sense, as well as editing and correcting. They then apply these skills in their freely-chosen writing, as well as in adult-led writing tasks.
From Year 2 to Year 6, we follow Pie Corbett’s Talk for Writing approach which enables children to read and write independently for a variety of audiences and purposes within different subjects. This structure follows three main stages: Imitation, Innovation and Independent Application.
What is Talk for Writing? Pie Corbett explains - YouTube
A key feature is that children internalise the language structures needed to write through ‘talking the text’, as well as close reading. The approach moves from dependence towards independence, with the teacher using shared and guided teaching to develop the ability in children to write creatively and powerfully. All units are powered by a high-quality text and teachers carefully plan these units to include a progressive and ambitious range of grammar, vocabulary and language devices. Throughout their time in KS2, children are shown how to meaningfully edit and improve their writing by working with their partner. And of course, we celebrate children’s work frequently by ‘publishing’ final pieces and reading these aloud to a partner, small group or class!
Phonics is a way of teaching reading that focuses on the sounds in different words, then linking those sounds to individual or groups of letters which represent those sounds. Children in Nursery are encouraged to develop their ‘phonemic awareness’ through listening activities, games, singing and reciting nursery rhymes. Children need to be able to hear individual sounds before they are introduced to written letters; this stage is very important, and underpins the phonics learning which begins in Reception.
Children from Reception to Year 2 will have a short daily phonics lesson based on the Fisher Family Trust's 'Success for All' scheme. Lessons focus on revising known letters, teaching a new letter and its sound, practising blending letters together to make words, and segmenting aloud the words they want to write before representing those words with letters.
They are also introduced to ‘key words’ - words which are very common and which are best learnt by sight (for example: go, the, to, me, they - none of which can be ‘sounded out’ using phonics). Parents are encouraged to help children learn their key words, and to help child spot them in the books they are reading at home.
We run regular parent workshops on early reading and phonics.
Handwriting and spelling
We use Cambridge University Press’s ‘Penpals’ scheme for handwriting. Children are taught correct letter formation from the very beginning, starting with drawing and painting shapes and patterns on large sheets of paper, then using plain paper to write letters, before moving onto lined exercise books by Year 1. The Joining of letters starts to be taught in Year 2.
In KS2, we continue to use the ‘PenPals’ scheme and all classes will have at least two short handwriting sessions a week. For children who require extra support, we provide regular, short interventions and appropriate writing tools and resources. Teachers themselves model correct handwriting (adhering to the ‘PenPals’ scheme) in and around the classroom, to ensure consistency and high expectations. All children are expected to use joined, legible writing by Year 6.
In KS2, we use the No Nonsense Spelling programme to teach spelling patterns and rules in a carefully sequenced programme, building on phonics knowledge developed in Key Stage 1. Children will have three spelling lessons a week where they discover, practise, check and assess new spelling patterns. Some lessons include looking at the etymology of words and building upon our knowledge of suffixes and prefixes. We also ensure that these lessons focus on teaching children strategies for remembering spelling patterns, working out the meaning of words with similar letter patterns, checking whether words ‘look right’, and assessing learning through mini tests and quizzes.
Punctuation and vocabulary
Grammar is the way that words are arranged in sentences to make meaning. At Hanover, we look at grammar in the context of texts we are reading, where we consider the impact of an author’s word choice and sentence structure. These models are used as a basis for children to adapt and modify to write their own sentences. We learn grammatical terms (for example, understanding the function of verbs, nouns, and adjectives in Key Stage 1, and conjunctions, adverbs and prepositions in Key Stage 2 ) in order to discuss and improve children’s own writing.
Punctuation is taught sequentially, and starts with identifying capital letters and full stops as demarcations of a simple sentence. As children’s ideas and ambitions become more sophisticated, they are taught to use a wider range of sentence structures and the appropriate punctuation to add emphasis, to represent speech, to create tension or humour - but always to make their writing clearer for the reader.
Reading at home
We want to foster a love of reading which will follow children throughout their lives, to enable them to write creatively, accurately and efficiently. We wish for our children to develop a love of language and for them to possess the tools they will require as they move through the school and onwards in their lives. Reading with your child at home makes a huge difference to their achievement. We made the following film to help parents read more effectively with their children. Please do watch it and try some of the tips.