A Parent’s Guide to Writing at Gamesley School
At Gamesley School, the starting point for our English lessons which include speaking, listening, reading, writing, spelling and grammar are the Oxford schemes, Read Write Inc Phonics, Read Write Inc Language and Literacy and Read Write Inc Get Spelling. Upper Key Stage 2 teachers also refer to the Collins Grammar Scheme to inform their discrete grammar lessons. The Ros Wilson writing materials are also in school and form the basis of our whole school assessment system for writing.
These schemes have provided us with a clear, whole school basis to the teaching of writing and the basics which underpin it. Writing is a very complex process which involves many elements and these have to be taught thoroughly if children are able to move on to acquire higher level skills.
Read Write Inc Phonics is a method of learning centred on synthetic phonics, blending them together to read and write words and using these learned sounds in both reading and writing. It is delivered through a systematic programme. All staff (teachers and teaching assistants) have been trained to deliver this programme.
The children learn to write the letters and letter groups which represent the 44 sounds and then move onto learning to write words by saying the sounds and graphemes. They then learn to build sentences orally and develop more complex sentences. By the end of Year 1 the children are able to compose a range of texts using discussion prompts.
The RWI spelling programme is introduced at the beginning of Year 3 and is taught outside the daily English Lesson.
Writing opportunities are also embedded throughout the broader curriculum and at least 50% of assessed writing in Key Stage 2 is generated not through the scheme but through other subject areas, thus demonstrating the children’s ability to use and apply the skills they have learned.
All staff involved in the delivery of RWI attend training sessions, whether in house during staff meetings or on INSETs.
Learning to Write
Teachers are expected to teach writing to their whole class with the exception of those children who learn in the SEN group each morning. English is taught five times each week for an average of one hour each day.
RWI phonics lessons always include some writing opportunities on a daily basis with extended writing opportunities at the end of each unit.
With Read Write Inc Literacy and Language, several “reading days” may be followed by a series of “writing days”. Work is adapted and differentiated to enable all children to be challenged, experience success and make rapid progress. Teachers and support staff provide one to one and small group targeted support in the afternoons to ensure all children have the skills they need to take part in the daily English lessons.
In addition to the daily English lesson, children in Years 3 -6 have spelling lessons each week. Discrete grammar lessons taught outside the daily English lesson are introduced in year 5 and 6.
Assessment, Feedback and Marking
Each child has a “Big Writing” folder which contains 6 pieces of levelled writing each year. Writing is assessed against the Ros Wilson grids in Years 1 -6 and against the Early Learning Goals in EYFS.
Detailed feedback is shared with each child and individual targets for improvement are agreed. In addition in Key Stage 2, teachers level writing fortnightly (including Big Writing) and levels are recorded in the teachers mark books. Writing levels are recorded on the school tracking grids in December and June.
Extended writing is always marked in some detail . This includes assessed Big Writing (6 times each year) plus “Read Write Inc” writing opportunities.
There are two formal assessment periods each year, December and June, when levels are submitted to the Headteacher and the Writing Leader. In addition, Year 1 children are also assessed on entry to KS1 in September against NC levels. These assessments serve as a baseline against which we are able to measure progress throughout the year and key stage.
Each teacher also carries out some analysis of their class data looking at progress, attainment and groups of children. Proformas for this analysis are provided by the Headteacher.
At Gamesley School, handwriting is taught using the Spectrum scheme which begins with following patterns, copy writing letters and then moving to joins. In EYFS particular emphasis is placed on letter recognition as well as correct formation.
In the early stages of the RWI scheme, the children take home a photocopy of the “sound of the day” worksheet.
Once they reach Yellow stage of the RWI Phonics scheme, the children move onto to learning the “sound of the week” and more formal spelling tests are introduced. The children are expected to learn the spellings they will need in order to complete their ‘composition writing’ and also to revise spelling patterns introduced earlier in the scheme.
From the summer term in Year 2 and throughout Key Stage 2, spellings are sent home for the children each Friday for a test on the following Wednesday. In KS2 these spellings are based on the work completed in the Get Spelling scheme. Time is also given for the children to learn their spellings during the school day. If a child’s test results indicate that s/he needs extra help in learning spellings then s/he will join “Spelling Club” at playtime on Thursday and Friday where staff will offer help where necessary. This is not regarded a punishment and takes place in a happy and supportive atmosphere.
We expect children to apply learned spellings correctly in expanded written work. Mistakes of known words will always be marked in blue and three spellings will be chosen for revision in accordance with the marking policy.
English homework is set weekly throughout school. Homework is set on a Friday and is due back by the following Wednesday. In EYFS and KS1, the tasks may be simple and require no recording. In KS2 children are sent home with work sheets that revise skills already practised in school such as grammar and punctuation exercises and particularly, tasks that link with the layered targets. A register is taken when homework is collected in and the quality of the completed work is checked. If it has not been completed or little effort has been made, children spend lunchtime with their teacher and complete the work. This valuable time also serves to support any children who may have struggled with the task. We do not call this detention and it is not regarded as a punishment. It is a homework club where children have another opportunity to work hard and make progress.
Meeting individual needs
For some children, the physical act of writing can cause great difficulty and frustration. In these cases the following equipment will be considered:
Writing slopes which can support children who have issues with handwriting or visual perception. Dycem ensures paper does not slip off the slope
Coloured paper; this can help children with visual perception difficulties including scotopic sensitivity.
A scribe; some children have fantastic ideas but have difficulty either with working memory, emotional issues or with handwriting and in these cases it may be necessary for an adult to act a scribe.
Laptops or tablets can be provided for children with severe motor difficulties.
If children reach Year 4 and are working at such a low level that they are unlikely to attain a minimum of a Level 3c by the end of Year 6, they are referred to Mrs Liz Hill who runs small group intervention classes in English and Maths each morning. She uses and adapts “RWI Code” and “RWI Phonics” to support children in developing basic reading and writing skills in a supportive environment with a very high adult to child ratio.