At St John St James, we aim to use writing as a means for our pupils to express their creativity, through providing them with the skills necessary to become independent writers with unique authorial voices. By the time our pupils reach year 6, our aim is that the pupils are proficient in developing their writing using the same process as an author would: exploring and collecting ideas from a range of authors and texts; drafting and re-drafting their writing and publishing it for a range of purposes and audiences. To do this, we provide our writers with the tools to communicate and share their ideas with those around them through exposure to high-quality texts, which exemplify the power of vocabulary and authorial choices. Through this process, as well as a focus on transcription and composition, our pupils develop into skilled and creative young writers.
In the Early Years, our writing curriculum is based on the Literacy Early Learning Area, whereby the pupils learn transcription and composition skills through a text-based curriculum. Through these texts, the children articulate their ideas and structure them in speech first, then writing across fiction and non-fiction genres.
The children follow the SFA phonics programme, which is explicitly taught 4 times a week. Similarly, the pupils carry out writing four times a week to secure their writing stamina and confidence in their articulation of ideas in preparation for Year 1.
Key Stage One and Two
Our writing curriculum is based on the National Curriculum, with individual class texts specifically chosen as exemplary models of the skills taught in a specific year group. In Years 2 to 6, the children have three hours a week designated to writing. In Year 1, the children have 5 slots of 45 minutes for writing.
Each class teacher follows the school’s Writing Fundamentals, which outline the vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, composition and transcription skills required for that specific year group. These skills are shared with teachers and pupils through our Writing Assessment Grids. These grids are placed in the front cover of each pupils’ writing book and when a pupil shows they are proficient in a given skill, the teacher marks them off and provides the pupil with a target based on skills they have not yet met.
Each class has a class text, which they read, analyse and use as inspiration for their writing in their lessons. These texts are linked to their humanities topic and change every half term in Key Stage One and every term in Key Stage Two. The writing curriculum map outlines which text each class is focusing on.
Each writing cycle runs over two weeks and includes the following six lessons:
Reading and analysing the class text and discussing literary devices used by the author. Pupils also use discussions, role-play, presentations and improvisations to immerse themselves in the text and consolidate their understanding of the narrative.
Using the class text to understand how specific grammar skills can enhance pupil’s writing and providing an opportunity for children to practise that given grammar skill, which they will be able to use later in their writing.
Children draft key ideas that they would like to include in their writing, with a close focus on grammatical techniques and sentence starters.
The pupils produce a first draft of writing.
Editing and improving writing with support from talk partner, their peers and adult feedback. Children support others with improving their written communication, as well as working on their own piece.
- Performance or Publish:
Using the pupils’ oracy skills, they perform a part of their writing, reflecting on how to engage an audience and create a specific mood through performance. This enables children to work on their drama skills and to think carefully about key executional skills, such as intonation, volume and movement. It also encourages children to listen and respond to their peers questions and answers about their compositions.
Alternatively, children use this lesson to publish their writing, based on feedback from the edit lesson, in order to give to a specific audience.
Each class has a writing working wall, which is used as a fundamental part of the children’s writing development. Throughout the writing cycle, the children and adults add phrases, vocabulary, images and ideas to the working wall, which are visible to all children and can be accessed by the children in their writing lesson as a means of supporting them in developing their ideas, as they write.
Each half term, class teachers work with the English subject lead to produce medium term plans, ensuring each writing genre has a clear purpose and audience and that skills taught are progressive across the year groups and ensure all children are adequately supported and challenged in the lessons.
We use the Headstart spelling programme from Year 1 through to Year 6 and the children are taught spelling for an hour each week. This programme focuses on spelling rules, where children are encouraged to partition the word into its root word and then apply the appropriate rule. Four rules are taught simultaneously over the course of four weeks, with a practise spelling test taking place weekly and a formal spelling test taking place at the end of the four week spelling period.
Every pupil is also provided with access to the Spelling Shed application, which is used at home as well in class to practise and develop pupils’ ability to spell accurately.
We teach children to use a continuous cursive style of handwriting. They start with individual letter formation and correct pencil grip in EYFS. Children begin to join when their letter formation is secure; usually, from the end of Year 1. In Establishment phases, children across the school continue to practise handwriting and are rewarded across the curriculum for neat, cursive presentation. In Key Stage Two, children who need additional support with the formation of their cursive letters have a weekly handwriting intervention.
Regular book looks and lesson walkthroughs display the clear progression of skills taught across the year groups and children’s ability to write fluently with highly developed and ambitious vocabulary, as well as an excellent understanding of writing techniques used to extend detail and description. The children are also proficient editors of their own and others’ work and are able to assess the effectiveness of their own and others’ writing, as well as suggest improvements.
Each term, children carry out a writing assessment, which provides children with the opportunity to display the skills in their writing toolkit in an independent manner. These assessments reveal the excellent transcription skills of our pupils, with well presented, punctuated and correctly spelt words. Similarly, our pupils show they are able to well organise and structure their writing, using a variety of cohesive devices to do so.
Our School Fundamentals Tracker, as well as the Writing Assessment Grids, ensure teachers and leaders are well informed of the skills met and areas for development for each pupil. Based on this, teachers consistently provide pupils with new targets to work on and change these regularly to ensure children are consistently challenging themselves and developing their breadth of skills in writing.