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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New Curriculum – planning for coverage



How are you going to plan for the new national curriculum for English? Are you looking at teaching objectives in isolation? Will you be embedding the English objectives in your cross- curricular themes or are you going to continue with English units of work?

At our recent English Subject Leader training we found that most schools are planning to use a combination of the above. English units will stay; objectives will be embedded through cross-curricular teaching; and some aspects of the curriculum, such as grammar, will receive daily discrete teaching.

Knowing how busy our subject leaders will be towards the end of this term and the beginning of next term we gave them a planning presentation to use with colleagues back in school. We designed it with one of our favourite phrases in mind “the same…but different”. What we’ve done is to take the existing Primary Framework units and adjust them to meet the requirements of the new curriculum. We’ve focussed on outcomes that demonstrate the acquisition of the national curriculum objectives rather than the features of genre, as this is where the emphasis lies in the new curriculum.

We like this approach. It provides context to learning; it gives teachers the familiarity of units they already know; and it meets the statutory requirements of the new national curriculum.


One of the challenges facing teachers in this first year of the new national curriculum is ensuring that they cover all of the objectives. To help teachers with this we’ve devised a set of coverage grids so that every new curriculum objective can be planned for across the units of work in each year group. It’s a tick chart really but a highly visual and useful one.

Our coverage grids ensure that teachers can see which objectives they’ve yet to cover and also which objectives have been revisited over the year. Our coverage grids also make it easier to spot which objectives work together in a cohesive and logical manner; meaning better quality units of work.

There’s just one more thing about our coverage grids: they’re a great tool for school leaders who will be accountable for the provision of the new national curriculum. Our grids are an efficient way of monitoring coverage and so ensuring that all children receive their entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum.

Our coverage grids are available to purchase on CD by mail order. At just £20 including VAT and postage and packaging they are proving a very popular resource. In addition to the coverage grids the CD includes an overview of possible units of work and a set of individual pupil assessment grids. All the grids come in Microsoft word format so are fully amendable.

To order a set of our coverage and assessment grids just email and we will arrange payment and delivery with you.

Click here to see a sample from our Year 3 coverage grids Year 3 Vocabulary, grammar and punctuation_objective coverage

Rachel Clarke – Director, Primary English Education Consultancy Limited.  


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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The Selfish Giant – Guided Reading Resource

Here at Primary English HQ we LOVE guided reading and if you read our posts regularly you’ll know that we write about it frequently.

What the national curriculum says

We’ve just finished a round of training and conference workshops where we looked at the place of guided reading in the new national curriculum. Yes, we know guided reading’s not a statutory requirement but when the national curriculum document itself recognises how ‘reading opens up a treasure-house of wonder and joy for young minds’  we know that guided reading needs to be central to your school provision. (Our blog post Guided Reading discusses the importance of quality and enjoyable texts for guided reading.)


Our literary heritage

In our recent work we’ve taken a particular look at the Y5 ad Y6 requirement for children to ‘read books from our literary heritage’. You may currently be reading books by significant children’s authors and older children’s literature with your children; and this new objective is not really so different – so long as you remember that it is about older children’s literature. We emphasis the children’s bit of that statement as on our travels we’ve unearthed a few ‘grown-up’ classic texts with some rather ‘adult‘ content finding their way into primary classrooms. By all means use the classics with children, but do make sure you know the texts well enough to avoid unsuitable themes. Even better still, use some of the fabulous abridged versions available from many of the educational publishers.


The Selfish Giant

By keeping one eye on accessibility and the other on engagement, the text that we’ve been using in our workshops is The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde – written in 1888. If you’re unfamiliar with this text it is a rich and evocative story of selfishness and rebirth. It is packed with figurative language and has sufficient challenge to engage the most demanding of Y6s. The version we’ve been using is the Puffin Picture version (illustrated by Michael Foreman and Freire Wright) as the illustrations add a useful scaffold for children who may otherwise struggle to access the syntactical and linguistic challenges of an older text. You can though, use any version or find the text online as it should remain unchanged.


Guided reading activities

Our conference delegates have enjoyed working on reading activities including: making predictions about the text from a word cloud; analysing the text using Aiden Chambers’ Tell me’ structure; and thinking about giants in a variety of children’s literature using our ‘same but different’ thinking frames. We linked each of these activities to the aims statements from the new national curriculum as a way of ensuring that not only were aims met, but they were done so in an engaging and creative manner.

The Selfish Giant is a wonderful text from our literary heritage that we’re certain your children will love reading as a guided group text. Our Selfish Giant – Guided Reading Resource is now available to purchase from our resources area. Just click here

Rachel Clarke – Director, Primary English Education Consultancy Limited


Post-it Note Pedagogy

Are you a Post-it Note Pedagogue? Here at Primary English HQ with LOVE them and they’re always something we keep in our school bags. In this quick guide to  Post-it Note pedagogy we look beyond the writing of lists and the marking of pages and summarise a few ways to use Post-it Notes as a teacher.

Post-it Note pedagogy:

  1. Post-it notes are great for making pictograms with young mathematicians. They can write or draw on the sticky notes and organise them to show the frequency of the data they are collecting.

  2. Children love learning about sentences through practical activities. Write separate words on Post-it Notes and use them to construct sentences. Different colours can be used for different word classes such as verbs and nouns; connectives and conjunctions; and even for phrases and clauses.

  3. Try writing different phonemes on Post-it Notes and then use them to blend words.

  4. When teaching poetry try covering up rhyming words with Post-it Notes so that children can use their knowledge of rhyme and the context to predict the hidden words.

  5. Speech bubble shaped Post-it Notes are great for teaching dialogue. With the youngest children in school you can get them to write dialogue to accompany wordless picture books.

  6. Some children are reluctant to offer answers in front of the whole class. Post-it notes can be a helpful tool to support such children. This is a great way to harvest vocabulary from the class and can make a quick and useful display.

  7. Asking children to write short book recommendations on Post-it notes and leave them stuck to books in the class library can be a useful, engaging way of getting children to offer opinions about the books they have read.

  8. Pink and green Post-it Notes can support peer assessment using ‘tickled pink’ and ‘green for growth’ as a way of marking the good points and areas for development in written work.

  9. Red, amber and green Post-it Notes are great for self-assessment. Ask children to select the appropriate colour of Post-it Note and then write a comment on it to support their self-assessment.

  10. Post-it notes are invaluable for jotting down your personal assessment notes and then sticking them to your lesson plans, assessment records or children’s work.

These are just a few of the ways that Post-it Notes can be used in the classroom. For more ideas take a look at our Pinterest Board and the official 3M website. Do also let us know how you use Post-it Notes in the classroom.

Rachel Clarke and Charlotte Reed – Directors, Primary English Education Consultancy

Getting to grips with grammar

Ensuring that all children make progress in their grammatical understanding has been high on the agenda of many schools in recent times. Many have produced progression documents setting out what is to be taught and where. Some are still working on these plans and some are yet to begin. Whatever stage your school is at with developing its grammar teaching it’s worth considering how grammar will be taught, how it will be applied into writing and how it will be assessed. Grammar is not something that stands alone. It is intrinsic to children’s reading and writing which is why this post looks at grammar in the broader context of teaching and learning.

1. Ensure that all staff and children use the correct grammatical terminology (as outlined in The National curriculum in England: Framework documentation for consultation. February 2013). When we change terminology from one teacher to another it confuses children. To some children a sandwich clause is something different to an embedded clause. Continuity of language makes it easier for children to learn.

2. The best learning takes place in context and the grammar of our first language is usually learnt through social interaction. Appendix 2: Grammar and Punctuation (The National curriculum in England: Framework documentation for consultation. February 2013) points to the importance of additional explicit grammar teaching, but recognises the importance of context by saying, “This knowledge is best achieved through a focus on grammar with the teaching of reading, writing and speaking”. So, if you want to deliver some discrete grammar lessons it’s ok. But, these lessons should take place as part of the literacy teaching sequence and the examples used should be evident in the text you are using to ensure context for pupils’ learning.

3. Modelling sentences orally, as well as in writing, makes grammar teaching multi-modal. The more modalities we use the greater our chances of recalling what has been taught. So, if you were teaching relative clauses you could model an oral structure such, “Mrs Clarke, who is a teacher, drives a red car.” The children could then invent their own sentences using the same structure e.g. “James, who is an ace footballer, supports Coventry City.” Once they are accustomed to the oral sound of this sentence move into modelling the written representation, including the correct punctuation. Children should then write their own versions. This method will need repeating again, and again, and again so that the sentence structure becomes second nature.

4. Be selective in the elements of grammar that you teach; particularly in KS2 where there seems to be so much content. Use your assessments to select an objective and cover it frequently so that it becomes ingrained in the children’s minds. Flitting between objectives or rushing through content rarely saves time in the long run.

5. Be creative. Find 1001 ways to teach the same thing. Use Grammar for Writing and practical tactile approaches in addition to written examples to keep the children interested.

6. Grammar does not stand alone, once you’ve introduced children to a grammatical concept you need to provide them with opportunities to apply their skills across the curriculum. You could develop an ‘ingredients’ approach to success criteria for cross-curricular writing which supports the application of grammar. For example, “Did you/have you included…” – making sure that the success criteria include aspects from the current grammar focus.

7. Developmental marking comments can be difficult to formulate. Save time and give purpose to your grammar teaching by weaving your grammar comments into your developmental marking. Try giving a sentence for completion or request an example linked to the current grammar focus. E.g. “Could you improve this sentence so it starts with a ‘ly’ adverbial?”

8. Creating cohesion in your grammar provision can also include what you do for pupil interventions. Do you have a group of pupils who need a focus on grammar? Cherry pick resource ideas from Grammar for Writing, ALS (Additional Literacy Support) and FLS (Further Literacy Support) to meet the specific needs of your pupils.

9. Strengthen links between home and school by incorporating a grammar focus into homework tasks. E.g. Write a story…can you make sure some sentences start with a ‘ly’ adverbial?…

10. Try developing a ‘Book talk‘ approach to grammar. Encourage children to find examples in texts to illustrate the effect of grammar. This will then support AF5 – Reading in addition to AF5 and AF6 writing. E.g Find examples of adjectives in the text. Why do you think the writer chose these? What’s the effect of their choice? What would be the effect if we changed them?

These suggestions are just a ‘starter for 10’. We’d value hearing how you have developed a whole school approach to grammar teaching.

For further reading about grammar see our post Grappling with grammar‘.

Rachel Clarke, Primary English Consultant