'High Expectations, lead to High Achievers'

Writing at Elm Academy

At Elm Academy, we believe that it is extremely important that all pupils are given the tools and strategies they need to develop as effective and skilful writers. Our aim to ensure all pupils enjoy writing through making it purposeful, engaging and by giving the pupils an audience. By linking our writing to our topic for that half term and the whole class reading text they are currently reading, pupils become engrossed in the facts and the knowledge they have learnt and can therefore concentrate on learning, embedding and refining the key skills for effective writing. At Elm Academy Writing is carefully and sequentially planned so pupils have the opportunity to build on and develop skills they have learnt in previous years. This ensures pupils are supported to remember key skills and develop their cumulative knowledge to enable secure and progressive learning. SPaG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) is purposefully linked to the genre of writing that pupils are completing and is taught discretely as part of the writing unit to ensure pupils have the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a real-life context. Ongoing assessment and revisiting of prior learning ensures that teachers give the pupils the opportunity to close any gaps and to move on to the next skill securely.

To ensure we equip pupils with the skills and strategies they need to become fluent and engaging writers, we adopt a wide range of strategies. These include:

  1. Read Write Inc. Phonics – Read Write Inc. Phonics is taught from the moment the pupils enter Elm Academy, starting at Nursery. As soon as pupils start school in Early Years and Key Stage 1, they are taught the systematic, synthetic phonics scheme Read Write Inc. It is a phonics-based approach to reading and writing which allows children to progress at a rate individual to them. By learning the smallest sounds, children can break down unknown words to read and write fluently, as well as, learning words that cannot be sounded out. Pupils have daily phonics lessons which are taught as soon as all the children are in school and are regularly assessed to ensure staff can address any gaps swiftly, supporting our pupils to make progress with their reading and writing abilities. Pupils are assessed every half term on their knowledge of the sounds they have learnt and their ability to apply these independently. If they are unable to do this, targeted interventions are offered to ensure specific gaps are quickly filled. The RWI Phonics scheme is sequential; and ensures pupils are consistently building upon prior knowledge when learning to read and write. Pupils continue their phonics learning as they progress through the school until they are secure with their phonetic knowledge and can apply this confidently to independent reading. All staff across the school have had appropriate RWI Training which is then followed up and consolidated by the Phonics Lead and Vice Principal for Teaching & Learning to ensure the effective teaching of phonics is embedded. Recap sessions and Drop-In Question sessions are continually offered over the course of each academic year to ensure training is fresh and kept up to date.
  2. Developing Speaking & Listening Skills – As a school Communication and Interaction is often, throughout the academic year the highest area of need for our children on SEND Support, therefore we adopt a total communication approach wherever possible this includes sign, speech and symbols. Staff use Signing and gesture wherever possible and a consistent set of symbols to ensure we enable children to be able to speak ad listen effectively. We truly believe that language provides the foundation of thinking and learning and should be prioritised to give pupils the foundational skills they need to move on to become effective writers. Pupils Communication & Language abilities are assessed throughout Early Years, with high quality interventions being put in place for pupils who are not at the expected stage of development. These interventions include WellComm, Mr Tongue and NELI. As pupils progress into Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, speaking and listening opportunities are carefully woven into the Writing Medium Term Plans through activities such as role play, hot seating and recitals. All these activities are linked to the learning the pupils are currently working on and not only develop their speaking and listening skills, but also their confidence.
  3. Vocabulary Development – Across the school, pupils’ vocabulary range is consistently development through daily teaching of new, Tier 2, vocabulary (Tier 1 where necessary in Early Years). In Early Years, colourful semantics is used to link a new piece of vocabulary with an image, this supports pupils’ independence in being able to remember the vocabulary and then use it in their child-initiated play. Where appropriate, vocabulary linked to the learning the pupils are focused on, is weaved into their learning environment to consistently reinforce the new words they have learnt. Throughout Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, every year group has focus vocabulary which is taken from the Whole Class Reading books the pupils are currently enjoying. After learning the meaning of new words, looking at the etymology of them, researching synonyms and antonyms, pupils are then challenged to include this new vocabulary within their writing in an accurate context, therefore embedding their knowledge further.
  4. Planning, Monitoring and Evaluating Writing – Pupils are taught to plan and evaluate their writing from very early stages, it is a skill that is taught as part of their RWI Phonics sessions with high leels of scaffolds which are then reduced as the pupils progress through the school (depending on the pupils’ abilities). Pupils are taught early on to plan their writing verbally which then progresses to formal formal planning which is structured appropriately by teachers. Modelling how to evaluate writing effectively is something that is planned into the Writing Medium Term Plans and strategies such as drafting, editing and sharing work are used across the school. Different strategies may be used for differen pupils depending on their level of comprehension and skill. As part of the planning process, all pupils consider the Purpose and Audience of their writing to ensure they can choose the correct literary features to include in their writing and to ensure they know their reason for writing and who they are writing for. When pupils are ready to publish their work, we encourage them to consider how it would look if it were in a book in the local library; makig their work look engaging and inviting to the audience. In Key Stage 2, pupils produce ‘Double Page Spreads’ when publishing to ensure this objective is met. Here are some examples:
  5. Read Write Inc. Spelling – Transcription is a set of skills that we believe can contribute a large amount to the quality of pupils’ writing and spelling plays a huge part in this. Spelling is taught explicitly using the RWI Spelling scheme as this transitions smoothly from the RWI Phoncis scheme and supports pupil understanding with consistency of key terms and vocabulary. Pupils from Year 2 onwards receive explicit spelling lessons with pupils who still receive phonics lessons learning to spell ‘red words’ (High Frequency words that can’t be sounded out) as part of these sessions. Our aim is for pupils to develop fluency is spelling and to be able to apply these skills seemlessly to their writing which is why we ensure all pupils receive daily spelling lessons. The age appropriate resources and videos lead to high levels of engagement from all pupils which supports rapid progress. The focus words of the week from the spellnig scheme are displayed in all classrooms for pupils to refer to during their independent work.
  6. Handwriting – As this also plays a vital role in developing fluency with transcription, we ensure that all pupils are taught the skills they need to be able to form and then join letters accurately. Across the school pupils receive regular handwriting lessons to ensure they get to the point where it becomes automated and then can focus more on the quality of their work than on the transcription of their ideas. Pupils are taught handwriting progressively, first being taught to form letters accurately before moving onto diagonal/horizontal strokes and then letter families to join. We promote hgih quality handwriting through handwriting rewards across the school. Pupils can aim to earn their handwriting pen before moving onto bronze, silver and gold handwriting awards which are shared in our weekly Celebration Assemblies.
  7. Assessment & Interventions – Teachers use their ongoing Assessment for Learning (AfL) to change and adapt any lessons necessary to meet the needs of the pupils and to ensure any gaps in their knowledge are addressed swiftly. The use of online assessment monitoring tools such as DC Pro and NFER Analysis ensures that teachers are consistently tracking pupil progress and monitoring any gaps in learning to then inform interventions. Formative AfL is used within lessons with a mixture of verbal and written feedback given throughout writing sessions to ensure learning is moved forward in all lessons. Formative and summative data informs not only how lessons progress, but also more structed interventions such as extended school sessions which are invite only to target pupils with specific gaps in knowledge. Through ongoing AfL, teachers can put in place accurate levels of scaffolding and support that enables pupils to be successful and make progress. Staff then monitor this carefully, slowly reducing the level of scaffolding provided to support pupils with applying their skills independently. Colourful semantics is used across the school to support specific pupils with further scaffolding.
  8. Reading & Writing – At Elm Academy, we fully believe that the correlation between reading and writing is vital to creating successful writers. We have designed our Reading Strategy to ensure that pupils reading abilities are consistently challenged which then broadens their experiences of different writing styles and also widens their vocabulary. By ensuring that what the pupils are writing about, links to their topic and their whole class reading text, pupils are fully immersed and are able to use more ambitious vocabulary and writing styles. By planning carefully the books that pupils are exposed to across the school, we can then ensure that pupils have experienced a range of purposes for writing before having the chance to then write them independently.

Writing Skills Progression

By ensuring that there is a purpose for writing, our pupils are consistently engaged and eager to ensure they are producing work to the best standard possible.

We believe pupils should have the chance to research information themselves when writing informative pieces of work and therefore try to provide as many opportunities as possible for pupils to use the school laptops to research a topic before writing about it.