Waterside is an SEMH primary school and as such, many of our children join us after a tricky time in a mainstream school. They often arrive feeling as though school isn’t somewhere they can be successful and with unusual gaps in their learning. Although we are an SEN provision, all our children access the National Curriculum and our aspirations for them are at least as high as the aspirations mainstream schools have for their pupils so we do a lot of work to build their self-confidence and belief in themselves as learners.
We trialled the use of Literacy Tree sequences last year and they were such a success that we redesigned our 3-year curriculum map to build on this; the sequences are now used as the basis for all our English teaching. Across the school, the children’s attitude towards writing has been transformed thanks to the engaging ‘hooks’ which our teachers (and support staff) have thrown themselves into with gusto. We’ve received letters from a wolf who later visited in person(wolf?), job adverts for tea tasters have been spotted days before the arrival of the Royal Tea Taster, office staff have interrupted lessons to deliver large boxes wrapped in ‘FRAGILE’ tape. Teachers attribute much of the transformation to the suspense and hands-on nature of the ‘hooks’ explaining that their attention is, “grabbed straight away and leads to them asking thought-provoking questions”. Another element of the Literacy Tree approach that we feel has had a particularly strong impact is the use of low stakes writing tasks in the early sessions of each sequence. Using sticky notes and luggage labels works well for children who may feel overwhelmed by the permanence of writing into an exercise book. Recognising the value of this, we often adapt writing tasks by asking children to write onto postcards, diary pages or other shapes related to the text.
Whilst mainstream schools are closed to most children, most of ours have continued to come to school. Those who are learning from home are having daily 1:1 English lessons, delivered remotely by our Outreach team. To do this, we had to re-jig the English curriculum at a moment’s notice to ensure children in school and those at home are able to access the same texts so the Learning Log videos have been something of a sanity-saver! Whilst our Outreach team tend to replicate the Learning Log videos live, some of our most anxious children are benefitting from being able to access the video recordings independently, using the daily live lessons for support with the independent task instead. Knowing that the hands-on activities, sticky notes and writing props are a key ingredient of writing success in school, we produce resource packs (and deliver them to the children’s homes) to be used alongside the Learning Log sessions so home learners can join in with sorting and ranking activities just as they would if they were in school. The engagement from our home learners is high, the work they are producing is excellent and the highlight of this half-term has been delivering their newly published books to two of them.
Thanks to Literacy Tree, we’ve now got once-reluctant writers whose first question on arriving in the morning is, “are we looking at our book today?” and cheering when the answer is yes.
Neal Collard, Head of School, Waterside Primary, Greenwich
KS: Upper KS2
Year Group: Year 5
KS: R & KS1
Year Group: Reception
KS: R & KS1
Year Group: Year 2