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Elmhurst School

An Academy of the Great Learners Trust



The English Curriculum

At Elmhurst English is embedded throughout the entire curriculum.  Learners participate in dedicated daily phonics sessions in EYFS & Year 1, English lessons, Whole Class Guided Reading sessions, spelling sessions form Year 2 upwards and in story time/class reader sessions. 


Phonics - Letters & Sounds

The systematic teaching of Phonics through 'Letters and Sounds' provides a solid development of our children's reading and writing skills.  For children to be able to decode new and unfamiliar words they need to be able to segment and blend the sounds (phonemes) in the words.  These skills are taught in phonics sessions throughout Early Years and in KS1.  They are also taught through other lessons in school where the children are encouraged to read independently or with a group.  During the daily phonics sessions, letters and their sounds are practiced and applied, segmenting and blending skills for reading are taught and modelled. 

The teaching of phonics is fast-paced, and filled with fun activities, such as singing, rapping, word hunting and phonics games.  Pupils also have daily Whole Class Guided Reading sessions which are planned and structured to develop all areas of reading.  A range of books are used to provide pupils with the necessary breadth of text to engage readers of all ages and abilities.  Whole Class Guided Reading is an important part of the curriculum and is used in conjunction with other approaches (such as shared reading, class texts, phonics and independent reading), and enables teachers to provide very effective support for pupil progress in reading. 

Reading Scheme - Big Cat Collins

Individually, our children are involved in reading activities with their teachers and learning support assistants.  Every child chooses reading books from our banded scheme (Big Cat Collins) each week to share at home.  Parents and children are actively encouraged to share these books together every evening, alongside their weekly library book.  Our home learning activities, linked to each Key Stage topic, also give them cross-curricular reading opportunities at home. 

Our school library is also available to pupils at break and lunchtime so that children can choose a library book to take and read at home.  The library is regularly updated through the Buckinghamshire Schools Library Service to ensure books are up-to-date and appropriate to our learners. 

At Elmhurst we celebrate and value our reading achievement at every level, and aim to provide a stimulating reading environment in which our children make good progress and develop a lifelong love of reading.   


At Elmhurst School we teach writing through the Talk for Writing approach. Talk for Writing is powerful because it enables children to imitate the language they need for a particular topic orally before reading and analysing it and then writing their own version. 
‘Talk for Writing’ was developed by the author Pie Corbett. It is a fun, creative yet also rigorous approach to develop writers.
There are 3 key stages to the Talk for Writing approach:


A text is introduced and read to the children; together the class learn to tell the story. To help the children remember the text a multi-sensory approach is used:

  • A visual story map

  • Actions

  • A focus on lively, animated expression


As children learn the stories word for word, they develop the use of specific sentence structures, which they can then use in their own writing. The principle is that if a child can tell a story, they will be able to write a story. changing the characters or the setting. You may have heard the children talking about the key stages: imitation, innovation and invention. 


In this stage the original text is adapted by the children. This could start with a simple change of character or for the older children it may involve telling the story from a different view point. Children will make changes to their story map and rehearse retelling their innovated story orally . Children then write out the innovated story in manageable sections. Pupils then receive feedback from their teacher and have an opportunity to respond to this before writing the next section. It is a very supportive and structured approach so children gain confidence and know what they need to do in order to get better.


The final stage is the invention stage where the children use all the skills they have learnt to write an independent piece. There is the freedom to draw upon their own ideas and experiences, or they can ‘hug closely’ to the shared text should they need to.