Through the study of English, children learn to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions to others. Through their reading and listening, others can communicate with them. Through reading in particular, children are empowered to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Literature, especially, plays a key role in such development. Reading enables children both to acquire knowledge and to build on what they already know. All the skills of language are essential to participating fully as a member of society.
At GSIS, the aim is to develop high standards of language and literacy. Learning is planned to equip children with strong command of spoken and written language, and promote their love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment. The EPD curriculum for English aims that children:
- read easily, fluently and with good understanding
- develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information
- acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language
- appreciate the rich and varied literary heritage of the English language
- write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences
- use discussion in order to learn; they should be able to elaborate and explain clearly their understanding and ideas
- are competent in the arts of speaking and listening, making formal presentations, demonstrating to others and participating in debate.
Ages 5 to 11
The curriculum for English reflects the importance of spoken language in children’s development across the whole curriculum – cognitively, socially and linguistically. Spoken language underpins the development of reading and writing. The quality and variety of language that children hear and speak are vital for developing their vocabulary and grammar and their understanding for reading and writing. Continual development of children’s confidence and competence in spoken language and listening skills is essential. They should develop a capacity to explain their understanding of books and other reading, and to prepare their ideas before they write. Children are encouraged in making their thinking clear to themselves as well as to others. This ensures that they build secure foundations by using discussion to probe and improve their English. Children understand and use the conventions for discussion and debate. In addition, they are enabled to participate in and gain knowledge, skills and understanding associated with the artistic practice of drama. Children are encouraged to adopt, create and sustain a range of roles, responding appropriately to others in role. They have opportunities to improvise, devise and script drama for one another and a range of audiences, as well as to rehearse, refine, share and respond thoughtfully to performances.
The programmes of study for reading focus on developing children’s competence in word reading and comprehension (both listening and reading). Skilled word reading involves the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words. Underpinning both is the understanding that the letters on the page represent the sounds in spoken words. This is why phonics is emphasised in the early teaching/learning of reading to beginners (i.e. unskilled readers) when they start school. Good comprehension draws from linguistic knowledge (especially vocabulary and grammar) and on knowledge of the world. Comprehension skills develop through children’s experience of high-quality discussion, as well as from reading and discussing a range of stories, poems and non-fiction. Children are encouraged to read widely across both fiction and non-fiction to develop their knowledge of themselves and the world in which they live, to establish an appreciation and love of reading, and to gain knowledge across the curriculum. Reading widely and often increases children’s vocabulary because they encounter words they would rarely hear or use in everyday speech. Reading also feeds their imagination and develops curious young minds. By the end of their primary education, the aim is that children are able to read fluently, and with confidence, in variety of subject areas.
Programmes of study for writing are constructed similarly to those for reading:
- transcription (spelling and handwriting)
- composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech and writing).
Focus is on developing children’s competence in these two dimensions. In addition, children learn how to plan, revise and evaluate their writing. These aspects of writing are incorporated into the programmes of study for composition. Writing down ideas fluently depends on effective transcription: that is, on spelling quickly and accurately through knowing the relationship between sounds and letters (phonics) and understanding the morphology (word structure) and orthography (spelling structure) of words. Effective composition involves forming, articulating and communicating ideas, and then organising them coherently for a reader. Children are supported to develop clarity, awareness of the audience, purpose and context, and an increasingly wide knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. The development of fluent, legible and, eventually, speedy handwriting, is emphasised in order to facilitate writing confidence and competence.
Spelling, vocabulary, grammar, punctuation
Opportunities for children’s vocabulary arise naturally from their reading and writing. As vocabulary increases, children learn how to understand the relationships between words, how to understand nuances in meaning, and how to develop their understanding of, and ability to use, figurative language. They grasp how to work out and clarify the meanings of unknown words and words with more than one meaning. It is expected that children increasingly show control of their speaking and writing. Conscious use of Standard English is emphasised, and children learn to show this in written form through the elements of spelling, grammar, punctuation and by knowing the ‘language about language’. Children are encouraged to think consciously about the vocabulary they need to discuss their reading, writing and spoken language, and are supported to learn the correct grammatical terms in English in an integrated manner.