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Spelling and phonics

Take One Book: Christmas Special!

It might feel a little early still, but Penny Slater has some – somewhat untypical – “festive” ideas based on ‘The Santa Trap’ by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Poly Bernatene. We wanted to give sufficient notice in case you decide that you would like to invest in this darkly charming book. 

Christmas is coming, and it is time to dig out the usual array of Christmassy texts to inspire a seasonal unit of reading and writing.

If it is a charming, heart-warming and whimsical Christmas tale that you are after, you may have come to the wrong blog!

This year, we urge you to try something a bit different: something a bit edgier; a bit darker….

Our recommendation for a fresh and feisty festive treat is ‘The Santa Trap’ by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Poly Bernatene.

Welcome Bradley Bartleby…

Conf 1

Everything that you need to know about this charmless character is conveyed on the first double-page spread:

‘Bradley Bartleby was bad.

He’d been born bad….

And the older Bradley got, the badder he became.’

The tale goes on to outline Bradley’s rapid descent from spoilt child to revenge-seeking Santa hunter!

Beyond its obvious anarchic appeal, this text provides so many opportunities for children to improve their writing skills. In the resource linked here – Santa Trap Planning Ideas  – you will find our suggestions for how this text could be used creatively to develop children’s writing skills in line with the Vocabulary, Grammar and Punctuation Programme of Study for each year group.

santa trap final

We hope that this fun and feisty text will help to spread a little Christmas cheer throughout your classroom this year. The question is: who will be brave enough to present each of their children with a lovely end of term Christmas gift this year?

A nice new pair of socks should do it!

Jonathan Emmett will be joining us for our spring writing conference: Write Here, Write Now.

Please join us if you can to discover more of Jonathan’s great texts, and to hear his thoughts about how to inspire young readers and writers.

Click on the link below to book your place at the conference:

17ENG/076P Write Here, Right Now – HfL Annual Primary English Conference BOOK 25 Jan 2018


Find out more about Jonathan and his work here:

With special thanks to Poly Bernatene for giving permission to use his images in this blog. Explore more of Poly’s work here:


Primary writing ITAFs: what’s new; what’s changed; what’s gone.

Another new school year, another assessment framework – but just how different is it? Kirsten Snook succinctly maps where things have gone, stayed the same or been subtly changed, following the government’s consultation with schools. Click on the links for an extremely helpful shortcut to an outline of  the new expectations.

Continue reading “Primary writing ITAFs: what’s new; what’s changed; what’s gone.”

researchED 2017 workshop 2: primary grammar – what really matters in transition

Martin Galway outlines his presentation at this year’s researchEd conference on primary grammar and the transition to key stage 3.

Continue reading “researchED 2017 workshop 2: primary grammar – what really matters in transition”

Supersonic Phonics

We are pleased to welcome a guest blog from one of our Early Years colleagues:

Rose Blair, Early Years Adviser and course trainer for ‘Funky Phonics’, shares the concept and principles behind the new HfL phonic resource ‘Supersonic Phonics’.  Drawing on themes that are threaded throughout the resource, she shares some top tips to help practitioners create lively and exciting phonics sessions for all of their children.   Engaging children in phonic activities will have a hugely positive impact on their learning of these all-important early literacy skills.

Continue reading “Supersonic Phonics”

Come aboard the Hogwarts Express!

Monday 26th June 2017 marks twenty years since the first publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.  In this blog, Michelle Nicholson celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the release of JK Rowling’s fabulous book, with some ideas for bringing the story to life in the classroom.

Continue reading “Come aboard the Hogwarts Express!”

Modelling early literacy

Kirsten Snook is a Teaching and Learning Adviser for English at Herts for Learning

We tend to think that children are intrinsically motivated to write much later than they are to read. But why? It has, however, been suggested that very young children are more motivated by a shared writing episode than a shared reading one, due to an emerging sense of self and place in the world.

Continue reading “Modelling early literacy”

The Key to Successful Shared Writing: Perfectly Pitched Models

Penny Slater is Deputy Lead Adviser for primary English at Herts for Learning.

Shared writing scaffolds the writing task, and when done well, leads a child towards becoming a more reflective, confident and skilled writer. When done very well, we engender more engaged writers who feel empowered and inspired to put pen to paper.

Continue reading “The Key to Successful Shared Writing: Perfectly Pitched Models”

Spelling at ARE: Chopping, Changing and Doubling – one of the secrets to spelling success!

Penny Slater is Deputy lead adviser for Primary English at Herts for Learning.

Spelling remains a high stakes aspect of the ITAFs for 2017. As in 2016, children cannot be judged as ‘working at the expected standard’ if they have not first met ALL of the statements from the ‘working towards the expected standard’ list (with the exception of the statement relating to handwriting). One statement that I know has caused many Y6 teachers more than a moment of anxiety relates to the correct application of spelling knowledge learnt in previous year groups.

Continue reading “Spelling at ARE: Chopping, Changing and Doubling – one of the secrets to spelling success!”

Wading through the treacle: unpicking KS1 writing guidance.

Sabrina Wright is a Teaching and Learning Adviser for English at Herts for Learning

After reading my colleague’s recent blog (Writing at ARE might be Simpler than you thought!), I found myself tempted to unpick the KS1 ARE exemplification materials in the same way.

Continue reading “Wading through the treacle: unpicking KS1 writing guidance.”

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