Inspired by others.

I recently read several blog posts by @headguruteacher, a secondary school Headteacher who has a fantastic blog about his work. One of the posts that particularly caught my eye was the one that shared the research his school development is based on. It would be a great idea if every school shared theirs so that we could all dip into different research papers and link with those who were endeavouring to develop and embed the ideas.

So in the interests of sharing, I thought I would list the research that we base some of our work on.

  1. For our grammar work, we draw very heavily on Debra Myhill’s research. More than anything, her work has helped us to think about the type and quality of talk that surrounds grammar teaching and learning as well as the idea that it is the impact on writing that is important.
  2. Our work on growth mindsets has been very influenced by Carol Dweck and Jo Boaler (with thanks to the maths team).
  3. The model of CPD that we have found to have a significant effect on the quality of teaching and learning is the lesson study model. I love the way that it is about little tweaks to teaching that can have a significant effect on individual children. I also love the fact that it focuses on children and their learning not the teacher and their performance.
  4. For writing, our favourite piece of research is Transforming Writing which focuses on embedding formative assessment in the writing process. This has had a very real impact on how we teach writing.
  5. In spelling there is not one piece of research that stands out as being the key driver but several. Anyone who has seen our publication No Nonsense Spelling will recognise word study as being one of the key ideas behind it as well as the use of research into the importance of morphemes.
  6. In reading we use a wide range of research.  Reciprocal Reading is a key component of the 2014 national curriculum and is a key tool to be dipped into. We believe guided reading is a key strategy that teachers of reading need to use to meet children’s needs. This document is a really useful summary of the research in this area.

We have also used:

What are the key research papers that you use in your school?

What does it mean to be a writer?

Now that we have finished the end of key stage assessments and results are in, there is time to reflect on what the new assessment arrangements mean.

One of the things that has become clear with the removal of ‘best fit’ is that we need to adapt our understanding of what a  writer is as defined by national assessments. If we consider the Simple View of Reading, there is a very clear understanding that to be a reader you need to have the decoding skills and language comprehension. You are not a reader if you can decode the words but not understand them and nor are you a reader if you can understand words but not decode them.

svor The two elements are necessary to be considered a reader.

The same can now be said of writing.

svofw To be a writer you need to have both composition and effect and accuracy in punctuation and spelling.

Composition and effect is present in the assessment criteria but worded very differently. It is about noun phrases for detail and precision, about atmosphere, about the use of dialogue to show character and managing shifts of formality. One of the things that the exemplification files did do was to show how the quality of the writing is linked to the grammatical devices used by commenting on their impact.

This year has been stressful in terms of not knowing what the assessment would look like at the beginning of the year. Almost every teacher I have spoken to recently has said that they will start next year very differently to the way  they did this year, knowing what they know now.

Is there anything you will do differently in September?




Managing shifts between levels of formality

I have been working with several teachers on the end of KS2 statement

manage shifts between levels of formality through selecting vocabulary precisely and by manipulating grammatical structures

The exemplification files for Leigh and Frankie show some good examples of what this can look like in writing.

  • in narrative they have shown the difference in formality between the story and some of the speech used by characters
  • in an explanation the text is more formal with a much more informal tone when relating the information to the writer’s own life
  • in a newspaper report the formality of the journalists report is contrasted with the informality of the direct and reported speech
  • in a diary different levels of formality are used to emphasise a point
  • in a letter the personal reflection on what will happen is more informal to show the excitement and enthusiasm of the writer

We then went on to think about texts that would model this for the children. One that we had to hand was My Secret War Diary by Flossie Albright – author Marcia Williams.  You can open this book on any page and find some examples of shifts in formality. We happened to open the book on p60 and found diary entries in very informal, spoken language which doesn’t always have subject verb agreement.


Flipping heck, I’m scared. I don’t want to sleep all alone downstairs no more. The Luftwaffe has begun to attack British Ships in the channel; our pilots spotted dozens of German aircraft dropping bombs on a convy near Dover.  Cook says it’s their invasion tactic to draw British planes into battle and then destroy them … I hopes we got enough planes.

This is then contrasted with a war talk in assembly from Miss Duncan on p61. It is more formal, although it still uses the pronouns you and our but it also contains the passive to distance and separate ‘us’ from the downed pilots who are prisoners. Another good page to use would be p22 and 23 where the informality of the diary entries is contrasted with a more formal newspaper report and within the report there are shifts of formality as well.

Which texts have you used to teach this? Has anyone used a film that would support the teaching of this element?

Teaching spelling – homophones

seven stepsWe are blessed with a language that contains many homophones. I did read somewhere that it was a sign of the sophistication of our language but I can’t find the quote so it may be something I made up to convince someone they were a good thing. They can certainly be the basis of word play.


The seriously chased are seldom chaste for long. The seriously chaste are seldom chased for long.

The 2014 National Curriculum does demand that we teach children how to spell a large number of homophones, some of which are near homophones but are seriously challenging. How many adults know when to use affect or effect?

I recently worked with  a couple of NQTs teaching in Yr6 who wanted to know how to teach the difference between affect and effect.  We generated a long list of ideas and then tried to categorise and generalise the ideas behind the activities and came up with a seven step plan. Of course, we then realised that it could be used to teach the spellings of any homophones.

You can find our seven step plan here.  You do not always need all seven steps and nor do you always need to do them in the order that we have listed here.

Do you have any good resources you could share to teach children how to make choices about the homophones they use?

Christmas Writing

I have to say that it is a bumper year for great christmas adverts .  I am in love with Mog and his christmas calamity and think it beats the John Lewis advert hands down. I do think that the John Lewis advert and Baboon on the Moon are very similar.
Here is my list of favourite christmas adverts that would be great to use to support writing and as a little present, there are three teaching sequences now available to go with them – one for Yr1/2, one for Yr3/4 and one for Yr5/6.

mogThis is such a fun story where a chain of events lead to Mog escaping quickly from the kitchen, which is in ruins.  I love the expressions on Mog’s face as he moves through the catastrophe.  We have a sequence for Yrs 3 and 4 based on this advert.


mononthemoonThis is a great advert, which if Mog wasn’t around would be my favourite this year.  It tells the story of a man (grandpa) far away and his loneliness.  The little girl goes to endless trouble to get in contact with him and because this is Christmas, she manages it. We have a sequence for Yrs1 and 2 based on this advert and Baboon on themoon . Although the sequence moves onto invented writing, you could stop at the end of the innovate stage. Download the sequence at .

spanishlotto My third favourite christmas ad is the spanish lottery advert which tells about a man who goes to work every day in a rather boring job and the things he does to pass the time. The staff then win the lottery and he thinks he is not included. But it’s christmas so I am sure you can guess the ending.  We have  a sequence for Yrs5 and 6 based on this advert at


kwikfitMy final ad is one from KwikFit  just for the joy of Christmas and the magic of Santa Claus for children. I love the reindeer nose peeking out at the end. is where it can be found.



Do you have a favourite Christmas ad to support writing that we should know about?




KS1 Assessment and reporting arrangements

The assessment and reporting arrangements (ARA) are now out for KS1 here. They are in a very different format and if you are not familiar with the ARA then it will be difficult to know what to search for. Below I have summarised what is in each section so that at the very least you can search for a section and read everything about , missing nothing!

Section 1 Introduction – how to use the format that the manual is in.

Section 2 – Key changes. This is a very brief overview of the changes to the tests in 2016.

Section 3 Key dates.

Section 4 National curriculum tests. In this section you will find more detail about the tests, sample materials, test frameworks, test orders, modified materials and delivery of test materials.

section 5 Participation in tests. This section is interesting because on the video released by the STA it states that all pupils should have access to paper 2 in reading but here it states that pupils who are working below the standards of the test do not need to take it.  It suggests that a sample paper is used to inform decisions about working below the test standard. Headteachers will need to write a report about any pupil not taking the test, explaining why, refering to actions to support the pupils, identify procedures used to analyse and monitor the pupil’s needs, indicate where the information is recorded and identify whether this is a long or short term circumstance.

Section 6 Test administration. Schools can undertake the tests anytime in May. Details are included about pupils who move school during May.

Section 7 Phonics screening check.

Section 8 Teacher assessment. Moderation information is still not available yet so there will be updates to this document once this has been finalised. This section also details pupils working below the standard of the national curriuclum, what happens when pupils change schools and reporting results at the end of KS1.

Section 9 Reporting to parents. This details what reports must contain and detail about RE.

Section 10 Keeping and maintaining records.

Section 11 Legal requirements and responsibilities. Of particular interest will be the reponsibilities of Heads, teachers and governors.

There will be a PDF version available in October.

Happy reading.

Testing – very testing!

We live in a new world as far as assessment goes and for many this is a very unsettling time. Over the last few months we have been asked frequently about which tests we would recommend. This is an almost impossible question to answer because it depends on so many things. Instead, here is a list of questions that should be asked in order to get the right test for each situation.

  1. What do you want the test to tell you? Do you want to know about a child’s decoding, comprehension, reading age, progress in relation to the curriculum, spelling age, single word spelling, spelling in context etc.
  2. Can you find this information out any other way? Is testing the best/only way of finding out this information?
  3. Are there easy-to-use analysis tools that come with the test?
  4.  Are you concerned about the reliability of the test?
  5. How often do you want to test?
  6. How much are you prepared to spend on testing each year?

The answers to these should help guide you through the wide and varied range of tests available.

Are you using any tests? Are they doing what you want them to do?

Effective teaching of spelling

A lot of schools are now focusing on their teaching of spelling.  To be honest, it has not generally been taught well in KS2 for a while but the new grammar, punctuation and spelling test has ensured that we pay more attention to it.  At present two of the projects that I am involved in are focusing on the teaching of spelling and children with disadvantage. Currently we are grappling with what constitutes effective teaching of spelling and have come up with some ideas.  We ae drawing heavily on what we know works in phonics to help us with this list:

  • systematic and consistent teaching of spelling.  We know that fidelity to a pathway has an impact on the effectiveness of phonics teaching and learning and I see no reason why this is not so in spelling.  It helps us to follow the expectations of progress and to ensure that we cover everything that we need to do so.  There are many spelling programmes out there, most of which have to be paid for but ours are free!
  • we know that in phonics children need to blend and segment 20-30 times in a phonics session. This helps to establish the neural pathways for this way of working. It stands to reason then, that the more the children use the convention/rule with words and write the words, the more effective it will be.  Writing the word once will not support learning.
  • this means that one off lessons will not work for those who do not have deep neural pathways for looking at words.  Working on the idea of revise, teach, practise and apply will help to secure this work, Although in phonics, this structure would happen in one session, we use these over a series of sessions; the first being teach, second practise and third apply.
  • in order that children apply what we are teaching in spelling sessions we need a strategy to support this transference.  We use have-a-go sheets. (the next post will focus on these)
  • in the teach, practise and apply sequence, the practise session needs to have a greater degree of independence than the teach session.
  • spelling work must involve writing the words in a stream of words (sentences). In phonics we always finish off the session with reading or writing sentences. It is our experience that children can often read or write individual words but sometimes struggle when doing so in sentences.  Surely the ultimate is that children spell words corrctly when writing in sentences. if this is so, we must practise it!
  • all children need access to age-related teaching with additional work for catch up if they are behind. Our mantra is ‘as well as not instead of’.  This is a fundamental principle and is often one that needs some changes in how things are organised in order that it happens.
  • children need to learn strategies to learn spellings.  This is a routine and can be developed and refined over the years in KS2.

What do you think is important in the teaching and learning of spelling?

Yr2 spelling in the new curriculum

Some of you might have guessed that Becca and I are still working.  We will stop on Friday but here is tonight’s offering.  Spelling in Yr2.

With the new curriculum we have come to realise that phase 6 (in Letters and Sounds) is probably no longer relevant. Our current advice is that Yr1 pupils need to secure phase 5 and then Yr2 need to start a spelling programme.  And so with that in mind we have written a session by session plan.  It starts off with daily spelling and moves in the summer term to spelling 5 times over a fortnight to come in to line with Yr3 and KS2. However, if your cohort is not great at spelling you might need to continue daily spelling all year and Yr3 might need to start with daily spelling in the first term and then reduce the amount.

We have updated the spelling pathway to include Yr2

You will find the overview and what to teach each session available here.