St Michael with St John Church of England Primary School

Nurture, Inspire, Achieve.

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Welcome to the English page!


At St Michael with St John, we view the acquisition of language skills to be of the utmost importance and so the teaching of all aspects of English is given high priority.  Spoken language, Reading and Writing are integral to the whole language experience and we provide opportunities for children to develop these skills in English lessons and across the curriculum.  At St Michael with St John, we are following the programmes of study for English from the National Curriculum.  Detailed schemes of work may be viewed in school on request.  For more information regarding Reading and Writing, please refer to the policies below.


Our mission statement underpins our reading curriculum.  It is firmly based upon on our belief that, ‘with God all things are possible’. It is encapsulated in our motto: Nurture, Inspire, Achieve.


Nurture: We care for, support and protect our children whilst they are growing and learning with us and encourage them to do the same for each other and the wider community.  We recognise that the ability to read independently and effectively for meaning is one of the most important skills that we can teach our children from the very earliest age.


Inspire: We inspire each child to become a confident, inquiring citizen with an enthusiasm and desire to learn and explore.  We value and promote reading so that children understand that it is a vital skill which enables them to access and be successful in other areas of the curriculum.


Achieve: We develop each child to be capable of achieving in life, to develop academically and socially, and to succeed in school and beyond.  In order to achieve in life, we place the systematic teaching of reading at the very heart of our curriculum.



At St Michael with St John, the teaching of reading begins from the very moment the children enter our school in the Nursery.  Children are told stories and rhymes from the very beginning and are immersed in activities that include playing with sounds.


We follow the Jolly Phonics scheme in Reception and Key Stage 1.  Jolly Phonics is a comprehensive programme, based on the proven, fun and muliti-sensory synthetic phonics method that gets children reading and writing from an early age. This means that we teach letter sounds as opposed to the alphabet. These 42 letter sounds are phonic building blocks that children, with the right tools, use to decode the English language. When reading a word, they recognise the letters and blend together the respective sounds; when writing a word they identify the sounds and write down the corresponding letters. These skills are called blending and segmenting. These are two of the five skills that children need to master phonics:


  1. Learning the letter sounds: Children are taught 42 letter sounds, which is a mix of alphabet sounds (1 sound – 1 letter) and digraphs (1 sound – 2 letters) such as sh, th, ai and ue.  Using a multi-sensory approach each letter sound is introduced with fun actions, stories and songs.
    We teach the letter sounds in 7 groups of 6 letters at a pace of 4-5 sounds a week. Children can start reading after the first group of letters have been taught and should have been introduced to all the 42 letter sounds after 9 weeks at school.
  2. Learning letter formation: This is taught alongside the introduction of each letter sound. Typically, children will learn how to form and write the letters letter down during the course of the lesson. 
  3. Blending: Once the first few letter sounds are learnt, children begin blending the sounds together to help them read and write new words. 
  4. Segmenting: When children start reading words, they also need to start identifying the phonic components that make the word sound the way it does. By teaching blending and segmenting at the same time children become familiar with assembling and breaking down the sounds within words. 
  5. Tricky words: These are words with irregular parts, such as ‘who’ and ‘I’. Children learn these as exceptions to the rules of phonics. Introducing the common tricky words early in the year increases reading fluency (as they frequently occur in those first simple sentences you might expect them to read).


Alongside these skills children are also introduced to the main alternative spelling of vowels. These five skills form the foundation that children build on with each year of grammar teaching.


Reading for Pleasure

Reading for pleasure is given a high priority at SMSJ.  We hold an annual Super Reading Week in October and celebrate World Book Day in March, during which our children have access to a variety of reading experiences, including visits from local authors & visits to Blackburn Central Library.  Reading Buddy sessions take place on a half-termly basis and children enjoy sharing stories with children from a different class.  We have a fantastic school library which is open at lunchtimes and children enjoy collecting stamps on their library loyalty card.  We also celebrate ‘Author of the Month’ and have lots of competitions for the children to take part in.  Our school book shop offers a range of popular fiction and non-fiction titles which we sell at cost price.


Other ways of promoting reading include:


Star Reads

Each class has an on-going ‘Star Read’ – these are a core of books from the Pie Corbett Reading Spine which ‘create a living library inside a child’s mind’.  The Star Read is read by the teacher as timetabled to promote reading for pleasure and enjoyment. It is an expectation that the children should be able to talk confidently about the star-read books, what they’re about and the author of each book by the end of the year.


Reading Corners

Each classroom has a reading corner which promotes reading for pleasure and provides children with a comfortable place to enjoy a good book. 

Emoji Reading


Writing is integral to our children’s whole language experience and takes place in the English lesson on a daily basis.  In addition to this, we provide opportunities for children to develop their writing across the curriculum and apply the skills learned in English lessons.  There is one planned 'Writing Across the Curriculum' opportunity per subject, per half term. 


We provide additional extended writing opportunities through half-termly ‘Big Writes’.  This approach incorporates a ‘wow’ or learning experience that is designed to motivate children and encourage them to want to write.  Learning experiences are linked to our Super Learning Days/Weeks.  Examples include: author visits during Super Reading Week, First Aid/CPR training during Safety Week and special visitors e.g. a Team GB Paralympian basketball player during Active & Healthy Me Week.


The development of spoken language at SMSJ is of paramount importance, given that the vast majority of our children have English as an Additional Language.  Therefore, oracy plays a crucial role in all areas of the curriculum.  Strategies include regular end of unit presentations, drama, performance poetry, class Collective Worships, public speaking and debate.  On Tuesdays, we are very fortunate to have local actor Paul Simpson in school who works with the children on oracy.  It is wonderful to see our children's confidence being nurtured and they love to receive Mr Simpson's weekly 'Pineapple of Bravery' award!


Our school takes part in the annual debating and public speaking competitions and we were delighted to come first (for the second year running) in the public speaking competition and winners of the debating competition in 2019.  This is a great achievement for us and is testament to the hard work of our children, staff and their families.

Debating Competition Winners - June 2019

Pineapple of Bravery Award for Oracy