English Rationale

At Underwood West Academy, English is at the centre of our curriculum.  To acquire a wide vocabulary, children are provided with rich and varied opportunities to read, write, speak and listen. We promote high standards to all children and they are encouraged to work to the best of their ability, presenting work to a high standard which they can be proud of and developing a love of literature.

We aim to give our pupils opportunities to become fluent readers with a secure understanding to the texts they read, develop a habit and pleasure for reading, gather of wide range of vocabulary and clear understanding of grammar, have access to a wide range of text types for different audiences and purposes, join in discussions to learn from their peers and understand the importance of speaking and listening. At Underwood West, we develop our English by using cooperative structures, providing a wide range of stories, poems, songs and non-fiction texts, daily teaching of phonics, weekly spelling, encouraging reading for pleasure, drama (hot-seating), interactive role play areas and the use of word aware.

Reading at Underwood West:

A love of reading is promoted through our choices of high quality class texts, used as a stimulus for lessons and around which we base all our learning.  These stories are chosen to engage and inform the children and lead to our Best Book work.  Reading is enhanced through the use of our school library, shared reading opportunities, regular guided reading sessions, inference training and our volunteer reader scheme. Reading for pleasure is also encouraged through our classroom reading areas and regular discussions of the books being read both by children and teachers. We endorse a balanced approach to the teaching of reading and draw on resources from a range of sources and various texts. We use different reading schemes, including Oxford Reading Tree, Rigby Star, Oxford University Press, Lighthouse stories, Collins Big Cat and PM Stories. During guided reading sessions, we create opportunities for children to apply reading skills to high quality texts, learning to predict, re-tell and develop comprehension. We value contribution and encouragement by parents and carers and children are encouraged to read daily at home, this is promoted through our “reading stars” reward system where children receive certificates and bookmarks to celebrate reading successes. At Underwood West Academy, children from Reception to Year 2 are taught phonics using the Letters and Sounds scheme. Daily phonics sessions provide a very structured approach where children are taught in smaller groups and progress is assessed regularly. Children work through different phases, building up their knowledge of sounds through reading and writing words and phrases.

Our approach to reading not only enables children to read a variety of genres and to read books from different cultures and times but enhances their love of reading. By providing a text rich environment and using quality texts as a stimulus to lessons, children are given opportunities to practice their reading skills, widen their experiences, develop their imaginations and to read for pleasure.

In the early years, children are introduced to Concepts About Print, looking at the conventions of books including book orientation, print, illustrations, words, letters and punctuation. In addition to daily phonics, Reading sessions are delivered where books are shared and children have opportunities to follow texts and build up their knowledge of key words.

Small Guided Reading sessions allow the children to apply the reading strategies they have learnt to a new text.  They engage in tasks such as retelling stories, trapping key words or phrases, discussing book covers and titles and looking at features of different types of texts. They begin to develop early comprehension and inference skills.

Throughout  Key Stage One

In Year One, children are taught in small groups, building on skills learnt in EYFS. These Guided reading sessions take place daily, with children working with adults at least twice a week.  Children are also in engaged in listening to whole class stories where inference and comprehension skills are explored further.

In Year Two, children continue to be taught in smaller groups. In addition to reading texts with an adult, children are engaged in independent reading activities that require them to apply their comprehension and inference skills.

Throughout Key Stage Two

As pupils progress through Key Stage 2 the emphasis switches from decoding skills to developing comprehension and inference skills.  A whole class approach is taken to reading the shared class text with a ‘book club’ feel discussion each day.  To widen the children’s experience of different genres and to facilitate the teaching of specific reading skills a further guided reading session takes place three times a week using the EEF model for teaching reading comprehension.

Whole school

We aim for children to become independent problem solvers when reading.  Children are encouraged to develop independence with reading from an early age. We do not use one reading scheme - we use several and organise the books into book bands of similar difficulty. These include Oxford Reading Tree, Lighthouse Texts, PM texts, Oxford University Press and Collins Big Cat. Each band is represented by a colour and children are regularly assessed to ensure that they progress to the next band as appropriate. They are encouraged to choose books that match their interests from a wide range of different genres, such as picture books, novels, information books, poems and comics. Within school, children also have access to e-books and audio books.


Children are introduced to new texts by looking at the book and discussing the story before reading. Key words, sounds and phrases are identified before the children attempt to read the book on their own. They are encouraged to track text 1:1 until they are reading with some fluency. At this point, they are taught to read with their eyes, only using their fingers at points of difficulty.

When reading, children are supported to attempt unfamiliar words or phrases by asking “Does it look right?” Does it sound right?” and “Does it make sense?” Children are prompted to identify any errors or try new words by rereading words or sentences or reading on to gain an understanding of what has been read.

Children are encouraged to listen to themselves when reading, to ensure their reading sounds good and is fluent and well phrased. Children are taught to use punctuation to enhance their expression.

On completion of a text, children are asked questions to establish their understanding of a text – these can be literal questions or questions that require the children to make inferences about what they have read.

As the children get older and become more competent readers, they engage in comprehension sessions where they are taught to find answers to questions within a text. They are also engaged in inference lessons where they are taught to predict, suggest possible answers and “read between the lines”, searching for meanings beyond the written text.

Children are encouraged to read at home and generally take a banded book home at least twice a week. This is recorded in their reading logs. A whole school reward system is in place where children receive certificates for reading 10, 20, 30 etc times at home and moving up the reading stars. On reaching a gold star, children receive a new book and special sticker from the Principal.

 In EYFS and Key Stage One, children are encouraged to take library books home to share with adults at home.

Each area in school has a reading corner and school is currently developing a new library. Children have free access to books both inside and outside school.

We hold Super Learning Days where different authors or genres of texts are explored and encourage visitors to come into school including authors and recently a local poet.

Phonics at Underwood West: 


In order to support children to be confident and independent readers and spellers, Phonics sessions are taught daily across EYFS and KS1 and where appropriate, KS2. The children are taught through a structured approach using the Monster Phonics programme; a programme that has recently been implemented in school (Autumn 2020).  Monster Phonics follows the national curriculum and is recognised by the government as a key resource to be used by schools. It is both fun and engaging, and is perfect for parents to support children at home.

Children are taught to recognise the sounds in words (phonemes) and the letters or groups of letters that make the sounds (graphemes). They learn to segment words (break them up into the sounds they make) and blend words (merge the sounds back together). Children use this knowledge to support them to read real and nonsense (alien) words.

During phonic sessions, children also learn a bank of key words for each Phase of the programme.

The Monster Phonics programme categorises sounds into 10 areas and uses the Monsters as a categorisation. Each monster has a different colour. That colour represents the way of spelling the sound.

Watch the video https://monsterphonics.com/how-it-works/ to meet the monsters.

Children learn through the assignment of colour and the linkage of the sound, as well as seeing the colour, creating more ways of remembering the spelling. Teachers use games, songs and activities that continuously reflect this way of learning, so that structure is constantly seen, heard and experienced by your child. This consistency is critical in ensuring that a complicated language is learnt in the most simplistic way.

Phonics screening

At the end of Year 1, children undertake a phonics screening test to assess their phonic knowledge. Any children not passing the screening test re-take the phonics screening at the end of Year 2.

Home Learning

To support your child with learning at home, you can access these free resources for parents:

 Activities:  https://monsterphonics.com/free-phonics-worksheets/

Ideas for learning spellings: https://monsterphonics.com/free-resources/fun-ways-to-help-children-learn-phonics-spelling/

Games:  https://monsterphonics.com/games/

Flashcards:  https://monsterphonics.com/flashcards-2/

Information about phonics:  https://monsterphonics.com/how-it-works/letters-and-sounds


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Writing at Underwood West:

All children are encouraged to become fluent writers, who are able to express their feelings and opinions creatively in a variety of text types, both fiction and non-fiction.  Every opportunity is given for the children to base their writing on a memorable experience and write for a specific audience and purpose. We have developed a two week writing cycle which aims to break down composition of writing and scaffold a structured and supportive approach to writing. In KS1, we use elements of Talk for Writing, to support teaching of the writing cycle.   In KS2, we use the writing cycle to develop understanding in a wider range of text types, allowing the children skills to apply to a variety of writing purposes. In years 5 and 6, we follow the IPEELL approach; a structured approach enabling opportunities for self and peer assessment and independent goal setting.

Drama plays an important role in our English curriculum and is incorporated into our lessons to support children’s speaking and listening, reading, writing and performing skills. Imaginative play, role play, hot seating and Helicopter stories are also used to enhance speaking and listening skills. Poetry is a key element in our curriculum.  We share a weekly poem and encourage class discussion. Children learn to recite and perform poems across the key stages as well as creating their own. 

Spelling at Underwood West:

At Underwood West, we firmly believe that for children to communicate their understanding in all curriculum subjects, good spelling is an essential skill. To allow pupils to be confident and effective writers, children are taught a range of spelling strategies to support them during independent tasks. This allows children to write freely with the skills to independently attempt spellings without seeking adult support.  Children are then given small group sessions to learn how to identify and correct their own spelling errors.

Throughout the week, children through school are taught to develop these spellings strategies. Children from Reception to Year 2 are taught phonics daily using the Letters and Sounds scheme. Lessons follow the model of Review, Teach, Practice and Apply. Children in KS2 are taught spellings using the Babcock scheme. During the week, phonics and spellings are reinforced through independent learning, guided reading and guided writing sessions, as well as being reinforced at home.

We aim that all our children will become confident communicators who are able to listen to and respect the opinions and thoughts of others.



Newcastle Street, Crewe, Cheshire, CW1 3LF

Please direct your enquiries to

Mel JamesBursar

01270 260580