Graphic Organisers – the Freyer Model

I’m currently big on Graphic Organisers. It’s the way that graphic organisers make it easier for children to articulate their understanding that I particularly like. But also, it’s the way that a really good graphic organiser lends itself to a multitude of educational requirements. The Freyer model (sometimes called the Freyer diagram) is one such graphic organiser.

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Filling the writing gaps with authentic texts

It’s that time of the year. You’ve looked at the children’s writing, checked your assessment grids and have established that there are a few gaps in learning.

We’ve all been there. But me saying so, doesn’t necessarily make you feel better. The children need to demonstrate that they can use the desired features and you need to find yet another way for them to do so. It’s not easy.

Not so long ago, I was asked to write a set of teaching materials that teach the key grammatical elements required by the national curriculum. Not, as is often the case, in the form of short stand-alone grammar activities. But by starting with a quality text that exemplifies a National Curriculum objective and culminates with children writing their own authentic text to exemplify their proficiency with the specified aspect of the curriculum.

The result was Writing Mechanics published by Keen Kite books.

Writing Mechanics

So how, can Writing Mechanics help you close the writing gaps? Well simply, by allowing you to focus on one specific grammatical element with the confidence that at the end of the teaching sequence, your children will be able to demonstrate their understanding of grammatical features to write authentic texts for specific purposes and audiences. Perfect for this time of the year when you need to close the writing gaps.

To find out more about Writing Mechanics click here.

Rachel Clarke – Director, Primary English Education

Progression in narrative texts

Not so long ago, I shared a post about my Progression in non-fiction texts document. It proved pretty popular and I know many of my readers downloaded the resource and started using it to inform their planning and subject knowledge. This is great news. It really is rewarding to produce a resource with the aim of helping others, and then hear that it’s been positively received.

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Progression in Non-fiction texts

In a rare turn of events, I have rediscovered my long-neglected blog and decided to share my thoughts with those of you even mildly interested in hearing them.

I’ve been busy. I mean really busy. I’ve been working in schools, writing teaching materials and all too often chasing my tail as I try to catch up with myself. I’m not complaining. Having a lot to do is the dream position for those of us who are self-employed. And I’ve loved all the opportunities that have come my way since taking my online sabbatical. But it’s time to get back on the web and start sharing the fruits of my labours. Because I’ve made a thing. And I think it’s a thing a few of you might like. In fact, I think it’s a thing that might prove rather useful in your school.

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The teaching cup-cake challenge

the teaching cup cake challenge

A short blog in which I offer a cake: fondant ratio as a metaphor for good teaching.

the teaching cup cake challenge

Fairy cakes

Back in the day the sky was bluer, children played out in the street, and small individual sponge-based treats were known as fairy cakes; a nice name evocative of mythical creatures and a sprinkling of magic. Nowadays, the skies remain blue, children still play out but also have an abundance of electronic distractions; and small cakes are somewhat larger and less imaginatively called cup-cakes. I have nothing against cup-cakes but as a fan of sponge I feel that the cake: fondant ratio of the cup-cake has shifted to the detriment of the core ingredient – cake. There is nothing wrong with fondant topping and I certainly have nothing against the addition of decoration. It’s simply that I prefer the old-fashioned fairy cake balance of mostly cake with a little topping.

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Writing moderation – weights and measures


With the moderation season now in full flow, we’ve collated a few bits of advice to help you get through it as unscathed as possible.

Weights and measures

Writing moderation is the school assessment system’s version of Weights and Measures. It’s a system where producers – you, bring your product – the children’s writing, to be weighed, measured and scrutinised by your peers. It’s the way that we maintain ‘the standard’ and use an agreed set of criteria by which we can grade that produce.

Comparing apples and pears

We’ve encountered a few writing moderation meetings where teachers haven’t sorted their produce prior to the meeting. Instead they’ve come with oats mixed with corn, apples mixed with pears and have then used the meeting for their peers to sort out their produce for them. This isn’t moderation. Writing moderation is where you come to the meeting having already decided on the level at which each child is working so that your colleagues can then act like the scales and yardsticks of the assessment system. To make the most of moderation make your judgements before coming to the meeting.

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Autumn term round-up

As December comes racing to an end we’ve decided to look back on some of our most popular blogs in our autumn term round-up.

Writing is always a popular theme on the Primary English website and this autumn term has been no different. Our article on modelled writing proved hugely popular in schools and has been read by hundreds of visitors to our website. This has also been the case with our more recent article on ways to create better writers.

The most popular search term bringing visitors to the Primary English website is guided reading. We know that it concerns hundreds of teachers around the country so this term we brought you two posts about guided reading. One about moving guided reading from good to great and improving reading comprehension with PEE. Do keep visiting us as during the new year we will be adding to our articles about guided reading with a particular look at guided reading in KS1.

We’ve looked at leadership twice this term. Once to look at updates to the Ofsted framework and secondly at how to use the DODD acronym to organise your subject leadership activities. One of our most popular posts of the term was the one we wrote about vocabulary and how to provide quality opportunities to teach vocabulary in the primary classroom.

It’s been a busy few weeks and we’re now looking forward to a good rest before starting again in the new year.

Rachel and Charlotte – Directors: Primary English Education Consultancy Limited

Creating better writers

We’re all striving to improve the quality of writing done by the children in our care. In this short post we outline five techniques to help children become better writers.

Better writers – know the purpose and audience

Do your children struggle to find the correct level of formality in their writing? Are they able to switch between the extremes of their playground voice and their posh hat voice? Exposure to texts which model these extremes (and the many points in-between) is important. Before getting children to write, spend some time establishing the purpose and audience of the writing. Help them to think about:

  • What the text is for?
  • What should it achieve?
  • Who is it aimed at?

By doing this you should help them to produce better writing which meets the need of the task.

Better writers – define the conventions of the writing

This is all about the form of the writing. Depending on the level of the children, knowing the form of writing may involve some of the following:

How should it be organised?

Does it need time conjunctions so that it is chronological or logical conjunctions to describe a process?

Which tense should be used?

Use the past tense for recounts “Yesterday we went on a trip”, the present tense can be used for some reports “Squirrels are found in many parks and gardens”.

Does the text require the active or passive voice?

Active “We added salt to the water”, passive “some salt was added to the water”

Are there ‘stock phrases’ associated with the form?

Dear sir,,,yours faithfully” in letter writing

Better writers – have teachers who model writing a text

You are the expert in your classroom. Model writing a sample text with the children. Our post on modelled writing gives 10 easy tips to support modelling writing.

Better writers – are involved in shared writing

Get the children to join in with your composition. As an example, “What would be the best word here? Why do you think I’ve started this sentence with ‘he’ rather than the characters name? Can you finish this sentence for me?

Better writers – have access to models, images and scaffolding

In our fuss-free phonics post we talked about the need for a supportive environment. If children are to achieve better writing they need a rich environment supportive of the text-type they are aiming to produce. This could include:

  • key words on display
  • text-types structures, such as those from Sue Palmer (apologies no link available)
  • writing frames to support the form of the text
  • success criteria which identify the elements they should include.

These  tips aren’t a quick fix. Producing better writers requires a consistent approach where these elements are woven together over time. By being explicit about what you want, by sharing quality examples of what you’re looking for and by modelling the writing process you should be successful in helping your children become better writers.

Rachel Clarke – Director Primary English Education Consultancy

Christmas writing opportunities


Creating writing opportunities at Christmas time

Once we are in December, Santa’s presence is in every classroom whether we like it or not! He helps us with classroom management, “You don’t want to be on the naughty list do you?”; his impending visit causes the post box to overflow with cards; and reception’s dulcet tones ring out ‘Little Donkey’. There’s no escaping it –  The big man is on his way!

Using real life writing opportunities is a great way to get children writing at any time of the year but at Christmas, the writing opportunities can be magical. Here we look at taking advantage of the big man’s visit to inspire some festive writing.

10 Christmas Writing Opportunities:

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Halloween Teaching Resources

Looking for Halloween teaching resources?

Look no further…love it or hate it, Halloween is nearly here and these days it’s becoming big business. Go to any supermarket and you will find all manner of spooky props, costumes and sweets! Actually, pop in just after Halloween and you can pick up some great thrifty props or Halloween teaching resources when they reduce them –  great for that spooky story writing unit you have coming up!

How can we help you?

Last year I wrote a blog post about some of my most favourite spooky stories  which are just great books, great story telling and great for all year round thrills and chills.

What’s new?

This year we have re-developed our spooky stories Pinterest board to become the ‘Spooky Stories and Resources’ board so that as well as spooky books you will now also find spooky images, art and craft ideas too.

If you don’t observe Halloween as a school, worry not. Our Halloween teacher resources are still for you as they fit into adventure stories, spooky stories and stories with a twist in the tale.

So, if you want to spook up your teaching this Autumn, look no further, our Halloween teacher resources are here to help!

Charlotte Reed – Primary English Consultant