"We have all done it... scrolled through the internet looking for concepts to inject some new ideas into our teaching methods. Our journey started about a year ago when as English Coordinator I started to look for a different approach to teaching English. We were looking for something that would create a buzz, kick start a passion for reading for pleasure, as well as giving our children a purpose to put pen to paper. We had heard of the Literacy Tree but did not know any local schools that had utilised it, so we bought a couple of stand-alone units together with the corresponding books and trialled them in years 3 and 4. The planning sequences were refreshingly straightforward and showed progression through the unit as well as engaging the children with the slow reveal process, which to this day we all love. We published their work in our school library and the children started to talk about these books. They wanted to read more by such authors as Neil Gaiman who they had not come across before. We knew then it was the right approach to bring into our school.
We contacted Lynn at The Literacy Tree and we were so excited to go and visit a flagship school in Cambridge who were well along the road on their Literacy Tree journey. We loved the work that the children were producing, having become inspired by the books they have been studying and the ethos it had created in the school. On our return, we discussed it with our Head teacher who jumped at the chance to revitalise English in our school. Together with support from the governors we had an amazing staff meeting in July 2019 where we all chose our books for the next academic year and downloaded the planning sequences. Already the excitement was palpable and the buzz that the book choices had created in us, as teachers, was so wonderful. Lynn and Donny came in and ran a staff INSET day last September. What a day! It was inspiring, exciting, fantastic fun and wonderful CPD! Never before had I heard teachers and TA’s at the start of September say that they could not wait to start and get going with teaching their first book.
The English teaching culture at our school has really progressed. The teachers have really enjoyed the sequences as they can clearly see the advantages of a thematic approach to teaching English and have seen the progress the children have made since September. Our Year 2 teachers were delighted to have so much evidence in English books so early on in the year and our Year 6 teachers have been so pleased with the enthusiasm from the children to write lengthy narratives based on their texts. The entire school has been united in this thematic approach and from Reception to Year 6 the feedback from both teachers and children has been incredibly positive. The children are now talking about English and you hear them discuss books in the playground and corridors. The book launches have been so creative and have hooked the children in with a slow reveal so they are disappointed when the book is shut for the lesson! The focus on grammar has also supported our children with their writing and our working walls are always full.
It has been such a pleasure to have Lynn from the Literacy Tree to visit us at Sheringham Community Primary School recently, to see our immersion into the Literacy Tree approach and the impact it has had in such a short space of time. She loved our displays and we both thoroughly enjoyed chatting to the children during their English lessons as they had so much fun writing and publishing their work for display. We are now using the Spelling Seeds linked to the books and we really hope in the future to dive into the Literary Leaves as well. As English Coordinator it has been so rewarding to see my dream come to fruition with happy, inspired teachers, wonderful English lessons, engaged students not wanting to put their pens down, and an increased passion in reading for pleasure. At Sheringham Community Primary School we could not be more delighted. So, a huge thank you to The Literacy Tree, as well as the team there, who always keep the teaching of English for both the children and teachers at the forefront of their minds."
Suzanne McCaig, English Lead Sheringham Community Primary School, Norfolk
Above are four of our many book-based displays