GROW With Oulton
GROW with Oulton is a programme designed to create the Gold standard
by which students can improve their Reading, Oracy and Writing skills.
GROW at Oulton Academy means we believe highly developed literacy skills are fundamental to the success of our students both in school and in the wider world beyond. Our aim is to ensure all students improve their levels of reading, oracy and writing to enable them to effectively access and excel in all areas of the curriculum and have the tools needed to thrive in life beyond Oulton Academy. By focusing on literacy, we are making sure that students feel empowered to pursue anything they wish because they have developed these skills and that there are no barriers to achieving their dreams. Each aspect of literacy provides the foundation for their achievements academically and socially. The literacy skills developed will ensure students can be active members of society who have an appreciation for our values. For example, by reading and expressing opinions clearly, the students can gain a deeper understanding of our British values by taking part in democracy. Likewise, by reading about other people and cultures, the students will gain a greater appreciation of individual liberty and mutual respect.
The nature of GROW means that there is a common thread which runs through all aspects of the knowledge rich curriculum we offer at Oulton Academy. The oracy skills developed in one lesson will benefit in another, so this multi-disciplinary approach ensures that any barriers to learning can be tackled and students can be challenged at all levels of the curriculum.
Great Reading helps your child’s wellbeing, develops imagination and has educational benefits too. Just a few minutes a day can have a big impact on children of all ages. Reading is essential and serves as a basic building block for learning, regardless of the school subject. By reading more, students can learn more concepts and knowledge that would otherwise be inaccessible- therefore encouraging reading is crucial to develop life-long learners.
Oracy plays a vital role in our day to day lives. Good oracy is an important social tool that not only helps to form respectful relationships but also builds self-confidence. This can have a positive effect on the mental health and emotional development of an individual as their ability to express themselves is developed. We aim to enable students to speak confidently, explore ideas through talk, challenge opinions and develop their own arguments in a clear, confident and articulate manner.
Writing makes children's thinking and learning visible and permanent. It provides children with opportunities to explain and refine their ideas to others and themselves. Writing is the fuel that drives communication, and communication serves as a framework for society. By allowing students to be creative with their writing, they also develop their problem-solving skills, creative thinking ability, logical skills, and a personal voice.
Throughout Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 and across all curriculum areas, Oulton students are motivated in every lesson to communicate efficiently. Iterative tasks require thoughtful discussions and in-depth questions, high-quality lesson resources and texts with clearly labelled reading strategies require students to actively engage with what they are reading, and each Gold Zone assessment task provides students with the opportunity to make their understanding and learning clear and coherent on the page.
Each student has three relevant literacy targets that link to our academy’s Literacy Standards. These targets apply to all subject areas and are in every single exercise book. From Science to Sports Science, English to Spanish, Great Literacy is modelled, explicitly taught and assessed everywhere as a core value within our learning community.
Subject teachers make use of technology such as visualisers, so students can see live marking take place; a technique that includes the student in the reflection process of assessing and evaluating their work. Students are regularly encouraged to read their work, orally reflect and provide feedback and alternatives for development and then draft and rewrite to push their work to a higher standard.
Extra-curricular opportunities offer students the chance to meet with like-minded individuals and enthusiastic staff members to be creative, while developing their literacy skills. These opportunities to GROW include (but are not limited to):
- Creative Writing Club
- Debate Club
- School council and other pupil voice activities
- Topic showcase events in projects such as STEAM
- Work experience
- School productions
- Poetry competition
- Bespoke learning and enterprise days
- World book day activities
- In all lessons, staff are explicitly instructing students to make use of reading strategies at various points of the lesson. These are specific to each curriculum area and are included in the student planner, on pages 129-130. The reading strategies are selected to focus on the skills required to tackle complex fiction and non-fiction texts.
- All of year 7, 8 and 9 have at least an hour on the Reading Plus programme, where they complete Reading, Vocabulary and Visual Skills lessons; these focus on the three components of reading, comprehension, vocabulary and fluency, with the level selected by the programme, based on Benchmark assessments. Students complete these assessments during the course of the school year; one in September, a second after approximately 50 lessons, and a third at the end of the year. In addition, there are three intervention groups, in year 7, 8 and 9, who are given an extra hour of intervention on Reading Plus, in place of MFL.
- The academy also has put in place a 1 to 1 reading programme for the cohort of weaker readers in Year 8. This involves a weekly 20-30 reading session, using Barrington Stokes books, especially selected for dyslexic and reluctant readers; these are undertaken by various members of the school body, including teachers and clerical staff.
- Every Wednesday, there is a weekly Book Club in the library. Students are able to read a book collectively and discuss the plot, character and themes. At least once a year, the Book Club also takes a trip to Waterstones in Leeds, to select new books for the group and have a book purchased for them.
- In lessons oracy is a fundamental part of all activities and learning that takes place. In every lesson student learning is enhanced through high level questioning; this encourages students to not only demonstrate verbal responses, but show leadership by building debating skills, reflection skills, making judgments and justifying their choices. A range of questioning techniques are employed by the teachers; these are also taught to the students explicitly to improve their own investigation and analytical skills. Prompt cards, model sentences, Kagan strategies are all utilised to assist proficiency in speaking.
- Vocabulary is the foundation of all learning that takes place. Key vocabulary that is shared among subjects is mapped into the curriculum alongside subject specific terminology. This is then taught explicitly in every lesson, in every curriculum area. Teachers use all three literacy skills to embed the vocabulary; ‘read, repeat, define and apply’ strategies teach students new words. These are immediately assessed through assessment for learning to ensure student understanding. Ultimately, this enables students to build a greater vocabulary to encourage self-confidence and help them access all curriculum, examination and post school texts.
- Emotional literacy forms an integral part of developing student well-being and confidence. All teachers and subjects promote well-being. In particular, however, the English curriculum centres on the growth of emotional literacy and the exploration of thoughts and feelings. Along with other subjects such as History, Drama, Geography, Art, Photography, RHSE etc. English lessons encourage empathy and individual expression which students respect and reflect upon. In addition to classroom learning and the highly trained pastoral team, the school houses specialist staff who support and teach students in developing their emotional literacy enabling them to remove barriers to communication.
- While oracy skills are not assessed in examination form in most subjects, GCSE English Language and Languages require students to demonstrate their speaking skills as part of their final examination. In addition to the subject lessons, whole school learning such as form time activities, guest speakers, assemblies and videos of effective communicators are all modelled and deconstructed to enable students to see what makes a successful speaker.
- In preparation for college interviews, student have the opportunity to experience mock interview scenarios, as well as utilising their work experience and interviewing guest companies to build their confidence.
- Over the past 3 years, the academy has provided, and continues to provide, amazing opportunities for students to promote their skills in collaboration with an award-winning sustainability project with the Heaven company. Top architects from Stephen George Architects and Veronica Heaven (Director and creator of Heaven company) established and oversea the projects; they provide amazing ‘real world’ insight which culminates in the presentation of outstanding work and oral presentations.
- This year also saw a group of year seven students successfully beat other highly creative works of poetry to achieve a place in the Poetry Slam finals. Their intelligent and passionate presentation of their work was an inspirational display of self-confidence, motivation and leadership as they wrote and performed “World Leaders for a Day.”
- The school is especially proud of the student voice that is present throughout the school. In particular, the student council meet and use regular discussion, debate and persuasive skills to lead key ideas within the academy. Charity work, promoting student rights and well-being are all enthusiastically delivered with maturity and conviction.
- In all lessons, students are encouraged to demonstrate what they have learned during the lesson in their Gold Zone. This section of each lesson offers students the chance to visibly present their knowledge while considering how they communicate. The individual literacy standards as targets help to direct writers so they know exactly what to consider and work on in their writing, no matter which subject.
- In English, KS3 students are assessed twice a year using the Improving Secondary Writing programme. The tasks vary each time and assess students on different areas, such as writing for a particular audience, purpose and form. The completed assessments are marked online using a comparative method which then aids staff in providing students with personalised feedback on how to develop further.
- In order to write effectively in their examinations, KS4 students are provided with acronyms such as CHIPS (Connoting, Highlighting, Indicating, Portraying, Suggesting), to help develop analysis, and PISCES (Powerfully, Interestingly, Skilfully, Cleverly, Effectively, Successfully), to help develop evaluation. These tools, plus other effective methods, are proven to help students with mastery of language when delving into the different layers of analysis of texts and extracts.
- One of our wonderful English teachers, Mrs Wilby, runs a Creative Writing Club that is open to all students. The club has become a weekly event for our budding writers to meet, discuss, plan and create powerful and engaging stories and tales. Each March, our CWC crafts a short story which is shared among all of our students during World Book Day, to really inspire other young people to join in the magical world of writing.
- Poet and writer Andy Craven Griffiths recently attended Oulton Academy to run an exciting workshop on poetry in the annual Poetry Slam. A large number of year 7 students attended the sessions and were encouraged to share exciting vocabulary to create their own poem. Following a performance of all the poems, one lucky group was chosen to attend the Poetry Slam Live Event and compete against other Leeds schools. Andy had wonderful things to say about our young writers and we look forward to having him back to work with our new year 7 cohort next year.
World book day activities
Education Endowment Foundation: Click for more information on reading fluentlyGov.uk: Click for more information on the reading frameworkEducation Endowment Foundation: Click for more information on preparing for literacy
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Reading helps your child’s wellbeing, develops imagination and has educational benefits too. Just a few minutes a day can have a big impact on children of all ages.
Read aloud regularly
Try to read to or with your child every day; it’s a special time to enjoy a story together. Stories matter and children love re-reading them and discussing the characters, themes and plot.
Encourage reading choice
Give children lots of opportunities to read different things in their own time - it doesn’t just have to be books. There’s fiction, non-fiction, poetry, comics, magazines, recipes and much more. Try leaving interesting reading material in different places around the home and see who picks it up.
Choose a favourite time to read together as a family and enjoy it. This might be everyone reading the same book together, reading different things at the same time, or getting your children to read to each other. This time spent reading together can be relaxing for all.
Create a comfortable environment
Make a calm, comfortable place for your family to relax and read independently - or together.
Make use of your local library
Libraries in England are able to open from 4 July, so visit them when you’re able to and explore all sorts of reading ideas. Local libraries also offer brilliant online materials, including audiobooks and ebooks to borrow. See Libraries Connected for more digital library services and resources.
Talk about books
This is a great way to make connections, develop understanding and make reading even more enjoyable. Start by discussing the front cover and talking about what it reveals and suggests the book could be about. Then talk about what you’ve been reading and share ideas. You could discuss something that happened that surprised you, or something new that you found out. You could talk about how the book makes you feel and whether it reminds you of anything.
Bring reading to life
You could try cooking a recipe you’ve read together. Would you recommend it to a friend? Alternatively, play a game where you pretend to be the characters in a book, or discuss an interesting article you’ve read.
Make reading active
Play games that involve making connections between pictures, objects and words, such as reading about an object and finding similar things in your home. You could organise treasure hunts related to what you’re reading. Try creating your child’s very own book by using photos from your day and adding captions.
Engage your child in reading in a way that suits them
You know your child best and you’ll know the best times for your child to read. If they have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) then short, creative activities may be the way to get them most interested. If English is an additional language, encourage reading in a child’s first language, as well as in English. What matters most is that they enjoy it.
Oracy plays a vital role in our day to day lives. Good oracy is an important social tool that not only helps to form relationships but also builds self-esteem. This can have a positive effect on the mental health and emotional development of an individual as their ability to express themselves is developed.
The ability to communicate well is essential beyond the classroom and into the real world to improve social skills, effective interaction and, to improve communication in college or workplaces. We strive to enable our students to effectively participate in conversation and debate but moreover, to be able to take a confident leading role in a variety of discussions and scenarios.
As parents/carers there are a number of ways that you can support your child in developing their speaking and listening skills.
Talk to Your Child
Opening a discussion is really helpful. Encourage open ended questions/prompt phrases that don’t elicit yes/no answers for example:
- Can you build upon your response?
- Could you tell me why you think that?
- Would you explain that to me?
- Can you offer an alternative opinion/idea?
- How convincing is this idea?
- Where might this idea take us?
Try to Encourage Rules for Talking with High Expectations:
- Formal vocabulary which avoids slang.
- Key vocabulary related to the topic.
- Good eye-contact
- Project your voice clearly and with a pace that is easy to follow.
- Speak in full sentences and articulate key words.
- Read with expression.
- Avoid fillers “un” “err” “like”
- Listens and paraphrase (reword) what others say to form the start of your responses.
A sophisticated vocabulary assists your child in articulating themself clearly and concisely with less frustration.
Create lists, mind maps and displays of sophisticated vocabulary associated with the topic of study or discussion. Encourage your child to try using these words at home or in class discussions.
Model speaking with your child and use a range of words to broaden their vocabulary.
Ask them to reword sentences using higher level vocabulary by asking your child to replace a word with a more specific or sophisticated synonym; add a subordinate clause or use one of the keywords from their lessons in their answer. This way you are constantly raising the standard of their thinking and speaking.
Paraphrasing encourages the individual to reflect on what thy have seen, heard or read and then reword this in a clear, articulate and considered way.
Ask your child to summarise, reword or rephrase something you have watched, read or discussed such as a news item, sporting event, film or book. They could present a synopsis of the information!
Encourage your child to redraft and redraft and redraft writing assignments ensuring they are building and improving vocabulary and sentences every time to make the work sound articulate, professional and academic. If they think and speak using sophisticated language they are more likely to use it in their written work and vice versa.
Again, by modelling this process first, children are able to see, hear and understand the thinking behind the redrafting process. It is worth remembering that if your child answers using complex sentences, their thinking becomes more complex too.
Finally, two main areas of oracy form around exploratory discussion (such as debates) and formal presentations of ideas. Some activities to develop these areas you can consider are:
- Watching/listening to a debate show together on a topic of interest e.g. a post football match commentary and paraphrase/ share your opinions.
- Construct an argument for/ against a controversial topic.
- Mind map ideas together on a subject of interest or plan an activity.
- Talk for two minutes on a given topic without pausing or hesitating.
- Inspire them to video themselves speaking on a topic for two minutes and play it back to assess the confidence and fluidity.
Read with Them
Reading and writing are partners in creative crime. Reading to your children regularly is a guaranteed lifelong love affair with words. Be sure to spread the silk of sentence structure and you are sure to see your bookworms revel in the joys of reading. Writing wizardry is bound to follow.
Write a List of Story Ideas
As any keen writer will know, there is nothing worse than stumbling your way into a writer’s block. Afterall, it would hurt! So, what better way to beat the fiction friction, than to create a list of your latest and greatest literary ideas? Remember, no idea is too silly. In fact, when it comes to inspiring kids to write, the sillier the better. Don’t be a writer slighter, get out your notepads, write a list and make the most of childhood imagination.
Don’t be a Grammar Grumbler
We all know that spelling and grammar are an important part of writing. After all, commas are companions to structure and full stops give sentences a well-deserved break. But they can also be a hurdle to creativity when fretting and fussing over perfectly formed stanzas. When it comes to getting your children to feel inspired by writing, leave the red pen at home. Once the ideas begin to flow, the punctuation is sure to follow.
Sometimes, knowing what we want to write is half the battle. So, what do you do when storytelling stalls? Avid readers love colourful characters. Having fascinating folk to write about is a sure-fire way to get the creative juices flowing and encourage your child to write with freedom. Don’t be afraid to encourage children to delve deep into their characters – once they begin to learn who their character is and where they have been, they may begin to imagine where they are going… And thus, their story has begun.
Create a Personal Diary
Dear Diary, did you know that one of the biggest obstacles to new writers is knowing exactly what to write on the page? Many of our greatest literary ideas come from the experiences we have had in our own lives. This makes writing a diary the ideal way to spark more creative concepts of fictional fascination. Better still, diaries function as a marvellous means of helping developing children to express their thoughts. This provides young people with the chance to build upon their own emotional confidence, leading to better mental well-being and increased confidence in their thoughts and ideas.
Enter Writing Competitions
Nothing gets young minds creating quite like the possibility of a victorious prize. So, be sure to get your child even more passionate about penmanship and keep an eye out for some wonderful competitions.
Praise and Critique
Criticising our children’s work is never an ideal path to perfect prose. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feel free to offer as much critique as we do praise. Guidance from others is a vital part of the writing process. It makes us re-think our ideas and consider the ways in which we can become better at writing. Of course, be sure to scatter plenty of parental praise into your feedback… Positivity breeds paragraphs!
Write with Colour
When learning to write creatively, familiarity breeds content over contempt. When sitting your child down to knock out the next Harry Potter, make sure that they feel comfortable with their tools of the trade. Whether this means tip-tapping away at the laptop or giving colour to imagination with a rainbow of colourful paints or pen, all writers revel in their own particular writing superstitions. So, make sure your children have the perfect writing environment to let their ideas shine through.
Voice Writing Tools
Sometimes, getting ideas onto the page fast enough can be half the battle. If your child struggles with this, they may enjoy the freedom of 21st century voice writing tools. Gone are the days of Alexa struggling to identify a single instruction. Today’s voice to text tools are incredibly accurate and allow ideas to flow straight from brains and onto the page.
Practice Word Play
No matter what you’ve previously heard, it’s always fun to play with words. Sit with your child, with pen in hand, and prepare some nouns. For one thing we know is exciting, is having joy with playful writing. So, let your words alliterate and rhyme away, don’t hesitate. And once your writing is all done, you’ll find wordplay is tremendous fun.