Curriculum - what do we teach?
We work hard to make our curriculum exciting, challenging and memorable. We want children to go home every night full of stories about what they have done in school and feeling a sense of achievement. Our curriculum teaches children to be inquisitive, resilient and reflective. We use drama a lot to encourage children to see important events 'from the inside' and to empathise with others. We ask 'big questions' to challenge children to think deeply, such as 'Is it ever right to steal?' when studying Victorians and the workhouse.
You can read about our curriculum here, but we would really rather you enjoy our class blogs. On there, you'll see pictures and hear from the staff and children about what goes on in class every day. You'll see how we teach all of the subjects of the National Curriculum and how we bring the curriculum to life through Mantle of the Expert.
Mantle of the Expert
As much as possible, our curriculum is delivered through a Mantle of the Expert approach, with dramatic inquiry at the heart of what we do. Mantle of the Expert (MoE) was developed by Dr. Dorothy Heathcote right here in Newcastle. Essentially, it is a method by which children can understand the curriculum in a meaningful way through taking on the role of a team responsible experts carrying out important commissions set by an imagined client. These commissions are the tensions which add complexity to the learning, keep the tasks interesting and promote new tasks for further learning. It provides an exciting context for learning, empowers children and gives them a purpose to write, problem solve and investigate.
The depth of learning is the impressive thing in the mantle – that and the enthusiasm for learning it inspires both in and beyond the classroom. Walk around St John’s and you’re likely to meet researchers, story tellers, problem solvers, advisers, authors, inventors…the list is endless. The children know it isn’t real, but invest in it as though it is.
Throughout the summer term 2018, our whole school are building a shared mantle 'story' around WW1 memorials. Planning overviews can be found below. You'll see examples of mantle in practice in our 'class blogs' section. If you want to find out more about Mantle of the Expert click here
Our curriculum is designed to ensure that pupils establish a solid foundation in the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy and are given many opportunities to apply these skills in purposeful, memorable contexts.
Reading: We teach phonics and reading comprehension in reception and Key Stage One, through the Read Write Inc programme. This is a very structured scheme where children who are not able to read fluently are taught to learn phonemes (sounds in words), to blend phonemes to read words and to read words quickly on sight. Lessons are fun and lively and children have opportunities to read a wide range of story books and non-fiction. Pupils are grouped by reading ability, not by age, and progress is measured regularly. Children who need extra support with reading receive 20 minutes each day 1-1 support with a teaching assistant.
Our main reading scheme is published by Oxford and supports the Read, Write Inc phonics scheme. Books are sent home regularly for children to practice, supported by someone at home. Pupils in Year 2 to Year 6 will generally choose an appropriate library book to read at home, as well as regualrly reading through our online subscriptions to Lexia and Bug Club.
All children in KS2 use the Lexia Core 5 reading programme for a minimum of 40 minutes each week. This builds reading fluency, comprehension and language and grammar knowledge. Children also have a password for access from home.
We also encourage children to use the Bug Club online reading club during breakfast club, at lunchtimes and at home. Parents can support their children and can make sure they understand what they read by asking them the 'bug questions' on screen.
Every child in school has a reading response journal and is expected to complete reading tasks or personal responses each week. Parents can support this process by encouraging children to read a broad range of text types and by asking questions about what the child thinks about it.
We teach the vast majority of our English lessons through a high quality text. Where possible, other curriculum subjects are linked so that pupils learn to fully understand and become immersed in the text.
Vocabulary: Developing a wide and varied vocabulary is key to achievement across the curriculum. In every class in the school we celebrate language with a 'word of the day' and a vocabulary wall. These words are often words which would be outside of their everyday spoken language and may be linked to work in other subject areas studied.
We employ a speech and language therapist to work with pupils who need intensive support and also run programmes and workshops for parents (see Early Years Family class blog for more information).
Writing: We teach a lot of our writing skills through 'Talk for Writing.' You can see examples of Talk for Writing by clicking on the tab at the top of the page. Our writing curriculum is centers around the use of high quality texts, wherever possible linked to other subject areas through the 'mantle.' Spelling is taught daily and children are expected to spell words from the word lists below.
We teach maths through a learning system called Maths Makes Sense and through resources from White Rose Maths. Children develop skills in arithmetic, data handling, geometry and reasoning. Partner teaching gives pupils opportunities to explain and deepen understanding of key areas of maths. To find out more click here or on the 'Video Guides for Parents' tab at the top of this page.
We are currently re-writing our calculation policy which we will publish here soon.
An overview of maths taught in each year group can be found below.
As well as a daily maths lessons in their own year group (mixed ability), all pupils are streamed by ability for an additional 'Daily Skills' maths session. This ensures basic skills in maths are constantly practiced and revised.
We use resources from Learning Challenge Curriculum to map out coverage of the National Curriculum by year group, linking to our 'mantle' themes. For copyright purposes, they are not published here but can be shared with parents as an overview of the curriculum covered each year. Recent examples of termly overviews can be found below. How we have chosen to cover the history curriculum can also be found below.
Developing as confident citizens
Our school is a rich, multi-cultural community and we learn to value each other's cultural and religious differences. There are around eighteen different languages spoken by our children and we celebrate how we are all different, all equal. Our PSHE curriculum weaves through many other subject areas and can also be found below.