English and Literacy

Nurture and Engagement

For pupils on our Nurture and Engagement Pathway, English focuses on Pre-literacy and communication skills, including listening and attention skills through sessions such as Attention All and Intensive Interaction. 

Pupils are exposed to and experience a variety of texts, stories and performances that promote a love of literacy. Sensory stories are often used with small groups and individuals to ensure they are able to actively engage in the experience of listening to, and understanding a story. The focus for developing pre-reading skills is taught through communication and focuses on using objects, signs and symbols in order to develop their understanding and extend their ability to make a meaningful choice. Where appropriate, pupils in Key Stages, 3, 4 and Post 16 will be taught to recognise symbols and social sight words in the environment that will support their independent skills in the community e.g. ‘Toilet’

Pupils focus on developing their fine and gross motor skills, mark making and pre-writing skills, beginning to use tools with intent and demonstrating increasing control.

Practical Living and Life Skills

Pupils working on the Practical Living and Life Skills pathway learn to read and write in order to best prepare them for the future, by focusing on the functionality of literacy at a level appropriate level to them. 

Pupils are initially taught using the Letters and Sounds Phonics approach for learning to read. If pupils have not been able to progress past Phase 2 by the end of Key Stage 2, they are moved on to reading using the POPS approach. This is a whole word approach that teaches words used in everyday life and has been adapted to best suit the needs of our pupils at Mill Water. Adults continually model reading behaviours, demonstrate enjoyment and explore meaning through texts by sharing books and other literature with the pupils.

Writing focuses on functionality in line with pupils’ potential future destinations and opportunities. In collaboration with Occupational Therapists, pupils’ fine and gross motor skills are developed as a precursor to many later skills, which may include handwriting. Where pupils do not develop the necessary fine motor control, alternative methods of recording are made available e.g. laptops. The curriculum ensures there are opportunities for practising to write for a purpose which will support pupils in their adult lives e.g. writing a shopping list, writing a card etc.

Independent Living and Learning

As well as learning to read and write for functionality, pupils who are working on the Independent Living and Learning Pathway are learning to develop their literacy skills in order to understand and convey more complex meaning through their reading and writing.

Pupils working on the Independent Learning and Living Pathway will learn to read and write following the Mill Water Phonics Programme. This approach uses a structured and systematic, multisensory approach to learning synthetic phonics. Pupils attend 2 sessions a week taught by a specialist TA, grouped according to where they are in the programme, and the same approach is followed up in work in the class throughout the week. Pupils are also taught High Frequency words within the scheme.

Where pupils have the fine motor skills to do so, Cursive handwriting is directly linked to and taught as part of the Phonics Programme. Pupils who do not have the appropriate fine motor control but are able to access the Phonics Programme, are able to record their work through the use of devices e.g. using an iPad or a computer. To support the multisensory approach to learning phonics, even those who are unable to write will experience forming the letters at an appropriate level e.g. large movements in the air, using their finger to make the shapes in sand etc. Pupils not only work on the ‘transcription’ element of writing, but will also develop their composition skills which enables them to write more complex sentences, conveying meaning to the reader.

Additional and Alternative Approaches

We recognise that some of our pupils, often those with an ASC diagnosis, will present with ‘spiky’ profiles in their learning and may not learn or develop their literacy knowledge and skills through a phonics approach. These pupils can often read words, but have little or no understanding of what it is they’re reading. To support these pupils to make progress, we use the Autism Comprehension programme which is a structured approach to developing comprehension and sentence building skills.

Reading Schemes

We have a variety of reading schemes used across the school to ensure that books are appropriate and motivational across all age ranges. This includes Dandelion Readers, Oxford Reading Tree and Ginn books. We also have a range of decodable non-fiction books, as well as a wide range of books available for pupils to enjoy and share in the library.

Once pupils have the necessary skills to read, they move on to the Dockside books which develop further reading skills e.g. finding information in a text.