The subject lead for English at Darwen St James is Mrs Gonzalez.

Learning to read, write and communicate effectively are the most important things children will learn at primary school. At Darwen St James' we have the highest expectations for all our pupils.

English is taught through whole-class English lessons, small group work and individual work with an adult. We aim to regularly apply our English skills throughout the curriculum and beyond.

Snapshot of English


Reading is an integral part of the process of learning and also an essential life skill. We are always looking at ways to feature reading in everything that we do. With this in mind, we have quality texts and reading material that we use in our English lessons, Guided Reading and the wider curriculum. We have exciting reading areas in the classrooms and around school as well as our school library. Children get the opportunity to read in all areas of the curriculum, in worship and also for pleasure.



Writing is a really important skill and one that we are concentrating on not only in our English lessons, SPAG lessons, handwriting sessions but also across the wider curriculum. We encourage, through our Growth Mindset approach, children editing their own work to identify areas within their writing that they could further develop and improve. This is a modelled process that is detailed in our marking and feedback policy. 



Being articulate and speaking confidently in public (be that 1 person or 100) is a key life skill and one that we are working hard on in school. It is also one of the essential skills that we are teaching through Skills Builder and that runs alongside the National Curriculum requirements. From speaking to their partner or teacher to performing in a whole class production, we are constantly looking for ways to promote this, this includes whole school performances like, nativities, Easter performance, end of the school year, KS 2 carol service, assemblies, reading and saying prayers and our welcome/closing words in worship, feeding back in the classroom, meeting visitors to school, peer and group work, The James' Factor, oracy competitions with other local schools and more. 

English Curriculum

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The subject lead for phonics at Darwen St James is Miss Sears.

Phonics is one of the most important building blocks when learning how to read. It is the simple matching of written letters (graphemes) to sounds (phonemes). These are then blended together to read words and, later on, captions and sentences.


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We use Bug Club Phonics as our synthetic phonics scheme. This enables us to create able readers and writers. 

Bug Club Phonics provides;

  • A solid foundation in reading for all: Written by the same authors of the Clackmannanshire study, Bug Club Phonics uses the systematic synthetic phonics approach. This heavily influenced current government policy as it was shown to give the best foundation in reading for all children regardless of social and economic background. DfE approved scheme.
  • 180 fully decodable readers: With fiction and non-fiction titles from Phases 1 to 5 ensuring children read from books with the sounds they know as they are learning to read.
  • Accessible and inclusive phonics teaching: Evidence shows keeping the children together fosters a sense of social inclusion and boosts the performance of children progressing more slowly.
  • Meet the requirements for the new Ofsted framework: A detailed analysis so you may be confident in Bug Club Phonics’ ability to support your school in meeting the new requirements. 
  • Comfortable and confident learners: Videos of well-known CBeebies characters are weaved into lessons and characters, such as the Alphablocks, appear in the books helping to link the children’s home environment with the school.
  • A rich and varied reading experience: As part of the Bug Club family you can choose when to weave in readers that aren’t fully decodable to ensure enthusiasm for reading is nurtured.
  • Frequent and detailed assessment: In addition to the end of unit and phase summative assessments, appropriate and informal assessment opportunities are offered in the daily lessons and through fun games in the online world.
  • Extra help for those who fall behind: Guidance on how to support those who fall behind is provided throughout.

Children at Darwen St James' have daily phonics lessons, which last for 20 - 30 minutes.

KS2 children do receive phonics teaching as part of their catch-up, this could be whole class direct teaching and/or intervention groups.


Phonics Parent Guide

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Friday Fun Phonics!

Year 1 held Friday Fun Phonics for the children and parents in Y1 and 2. It was a great opportunity for them to see how phonics is delivered in a fun and inviting way through games and activities. The parents got to find out more information about the Phonics Screening Test and where they can access games and activities at home.




Reading for Pleasure

Reading is central to every child’s development

Darwen St James' believes that reading is central to a child’s understanding of the school curriculum and is of vital importance in life. Fluent readers can access a full range of life experiences and can enjoy an amazing breadth of genres and writers.

At Darwen St James', we aim to develop a love and appreciation of reading which will stay with children for life. We hope to achieve this through careful planning and teaching using up-to-date strategies. We aim to use quality reading materials and resources within English lessons and Book Talk sessions and to provide a breadth and range of reading material across school.



It is our aim to allow children the opportunity:

  • To experience reading in a variety of situations so that it becomes a pleasurable & productive experience.

  • To access a wide range of print materials, including all genres of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, plays & pupils own writing.

  • To progress to becoming selective in their choice of reading materials.

  • To be knowledgeable about the purpose and organisation of books.

  • To nurture a love of reading.

  • To learn to read through a variety of methods.

  • To read to themselves or to others (peers and adults)

  • To read to a variety of audiences and to hear adults and children read to them.

  • To read regularly and to develop a respect for books.

  • To receive reading provision and support appropriate to individual ability.

  • To become aware of the link between reading and writing.

  • To use ICT to further the development and love of reading.


The classroom environment

Each class has a dedicated reading area which includes a variety of class books (Fiction and non-Fiction) which the children can choose and read for pleasure. These appeal to different genders and also reluctant readers. The books in these areas are changed every term so that the children can read fresh and exciting books. We also supplement our reading areas with books from our school and local library. 

The teaching of reading

There are two distinct but related processes involved in teaching children to read: learning to read words and developing language comprehension. Both are essential for learning to read.

Developing word recognition and language comprehension skills

In the Foundation Stage and KS1 the priority is given to securing the development of word recognition skills

Children are taught:

  • grapheme-phoneme (letter/sound) correspondences (the alphabetic principle) in a clearly defined, incremental sequence.

  • to apply the highly important skill of blending (synthesising) phonemes in order, all through a word to read it.

  • to apply the skills of segmenting words into their constituent phonemes to spell them.

  • that blending and segmenting are reversible processes.

  • to achieve this there is high quality teaching of Phonics.

  • Children continue phonics in Year 3 and beyond if they need too, this is carried out as intervention groups in addition to their spellings.
  • Children have daily Book Talk sessions
  • Children have the matched texts to their reading age/phonics stage for home reading, which are regularly changed
  • Children have a weekly visit to the school library to take a book of their choice home for enjoyment.
  • Weekly comprehension lessons are taught from Year 2 to develop understanding of the text.
  • Each class enjoy regular class novel time with their teacher. 
  • Independent reading is encouraged daily .
  • 1-1 reading is a key priority in EYFS and KS1, and continued in KS2 for children who need it.
  • The use of quality texts/reading materials throughout the wider curriculum is vital for children to apply their reading skills. This is enabled through offering many opportunities for reading through out the whole curriculum.
  • Children will be encouraged to read texts which reflect their own heritage and that of other cultural groups.  Children should be allowed to explore and engage with texts in their native language.
  • Children will have the opportunity to experience whole books to support them in their understanding of literary structures and allow them to become absorbed in the story itself.

Hooked on Books: Transforming the Teaching of Reading by Jane Considine

Hooked on Books    


Early Reading From the beginning of Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), children are taught using the Bug Club Phonics Programme. Children also take part in 1-1 reading.

Establishing and Practising Fluency During reading lessons, a range of strategies are adopted to fit the purpose of the lesson. Children may engage in choral reading (teacher and pupils reading simultaneously), paired reading (alternating after each paragraph), repeated reading (reading a section multiple times), teacher modelling or reading independently. Once children have achieved fluency, silent reading is also encouraged. Evidence suggests that individual silent reading allows fluent readers to cover more text and allows them to employ strategies such as rereading an unclear section of the text which cannot be utilised when reading as a whole class. As children progress through school, the strategies used within reading sessions will adapt to suit the purpose of the lesson and confidence of the reader. ‘

Reading comprehension skills are taught verbally through book talk and then written, through a weekly discrete comprehension lesson from Year 2 -6.

The Reading Rainbow

Lenses from Jane Considine’s Reading Rainbow are used within lessons which provide further direction to pupils as they read for meaning and become ‘reading detectives’ within all areas of the curriculum. 

'Hooked on Books’

To ensure children receive a balance of guided teaching, independent comprehension and dialogic approaches to the teaching of reading, we use Jane Considine’s ‘Hooked on Books’ across Key Stage One and Key Stage Two. Through this approach, our pupils are exposed to a wide range of high-quality texts and given daily opportunities to practise both fluency and reading comprehension skills in a range of contexts. ‘Hooked on Books’ consists of 4 different reading approaches which are intertwined within our reading curriculum: demonstration reading, book talk, demonstration comprehension and independent comprehension.

 Demonstration Reading

It is important that our pupils develop a love of reading and our daily reading for pleasure sessions allow both teachers and pupils to share a class reader for enjoyment. Teachers ensure that reading is modelled effectively with pace, expression and enthusiasm and this is very much a part of the day that staff and children look forward to. Within this modelled session, teachers choose one sentence to ‘wring for meaning’ by orally deconstructing the sentence and drawing emphasis upon vocabulary and sentence structure.

 Book Talk

Our reading timetable also consists of Book Talk sessions which focus on pupils’ ability to form answers orally. Pupils practise fluency within small groups, reading through lenses of the Reading Rainbow, then work together to create answers to comprehension questions using sentence stems and high utility tier two language. This oral approach develops confidence and fluency when reading aloud, allows pupils the opportunity to support each other in developing use of tier two language and creates a bridge from guided teacher modelling to independent written work.

It is a systematic way to teach reading strategies across the whole school. It is underpinned by certain guiding principles: 

  • Pupils are organised into reading attainment groups and share a set of the ‘same’ books pitched at their level with appropriate challenge. 

  • All pupils in the classroom will be accessing narrative, non-fiction or poetry at the same time. 

  • Pupils will receive a daily 30 minute ‘Book Talk’ session and once a week will intensively work with the class teacher on reading strategies and comprehension skills. 

  • Each Book Talk session is layered with open-ended whole class questions to tackle the three layers of the reading rainbow. 

  • Book Talk is structured with three reasons to read. The reasons to read are taken from ‘The Reading Rainbow’. One reason is taken from the top layer of the rainbow under FANTASTIC. The second reason is taken from the STYLISTIC layer. The third reason is taken from the ANALYTICS layer. These are introduced to the pupils in chunks and it is through these generic lenses they think and discuss their reading material.

KS2 Interactive Reading Rainbow - The Training Space

  • Informal Book Talk encourages children to share their own reading for pleasure in our wonderful library, class or outdoor reading areas. 

 Demonstration Comprehension

Whole class demonstration comprehension sessions provide pupils with high-quality modelling of comprehension skills and enable teachers to showcase an outward thinking process in demonstrating how to create in-depth answers. In Key Stage Two, pupils engage in various linked texts (fiction, non-fiction and poetry) which explore themes and provide children with a wide range of text types and genres to interrogate. In Key Stage One, children use their class reader within whole class sessions to ensure context is familiar; however, teachers may choose to include linked texts from other genres to include non-fiction and poetry.

 Independent Comprehension

Each week, pupils participate in an independent comprehension lesson which allows them to practise skills they have learnt through Book Talk and Whole Class Reading. Pupils complete written tasks independently to ensure skills are embedded and misconceptions are addressed effectively in marking and feedback.

Reading at Home

At St. James' each child is expected to read at home daily, whether that is to an adult (for developing readers) or independently (for fluent readers). This should be recorded in reading journals and evidenced with a signed comment from an adult. At St. James', we know how important it is for teachers and parents to work together to give a child the best start. Reading together at home is one of the easiest but most important ways in which parents and carers can support their children.

From EYFS, children work progressively through the Bug Club Book scheme. They begin using picture books then move onto phonics books which closely match their phonics learning – allowing them to feel confident when practising their early reading skills. Early readers are encouraged to re-read books to develop fluency and confidence and also take home a book of their choice to share with their family to promote a love of reading. Our reading scheme ensures good coverage of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books to expose children to a range of text types. Children continue to use the Bug Club scheme in Lower Key Stage 2 and we would expect that children become ‘free readers’ as they progress through Upper Key Stage 2. When children are confident and competent readers, they select their reading material from a range of age-appropriate books within their class library, guided by their teacher if necessary. Reading records are monitored regularly and books changed accordingly.

         The Write Stuff: Considine, Jane: 9781907581939: Books

The Write Stuff Approach

As a school we have adopted “The Write Stuff” by Jane Considine to bring clarity to the mechanics of writing. ‘The Write Stuff’ follows a method called ‘Sentence Stacking’ which refers to the fact that sentences are stacked together and organised to engage children with short, intensive moments of learning that they can then immediately apply to their own writing.

This approach makes sure that all of our children are exposed to high quality texts that stimulate quality responses to reading, high quality writing and purposeful speaking and listening opportunities. Our curriculum ensures that all children have plenty of opportunities to write for different purposes. We encourage writing through all curriculum areas and use quality reading texts to model examples of good writing. Writing is taught through a number of different strategies. We believe that children need lots of rich speaking and drama activities to give them the imagination and the experiences that will equip them to become good writers.

An individual lesson is based on a sentence model, broken in to three chunks: The Write Stuff is based on two guiding principles; teaching sequences that slide between experience days and sentence stacking lessons. With modelling at the heart of them, the sentence stacking lessons are broken into bite-sized chunks and taught under the structural framework of The Writing Rainbow. Teachers prepare children for writing by modelling the ideas, grammar or techniques of writing.

● Initiate section – a stimulus to capture the children’s imagination and set up a sentence.

● Model section – the teacher close models a sentence that outlines clear writing features and techniques.

● Enable section – the children write their sentence, following the model.

“The Write Stuff” also reinforces grammar through the use of:

● The FANTASTICs which are an acronym that summarise the ideas of writing

● The GRAMMARISTIC is a classroom tool that enables the teacher to drive key grammar messages.

● The BOMBASTICs which helps children capture 10 ways of adding drama and poetic devices to writing in a vivid visual

Key benefits of The Write Stuff:

● Support for teachers so that they have a deeper and more flexible knowledge of sentence structure.

● Pupils who understand how to apply sentence scaffolds to their independent writing as they develop their expertise.

● Standards improve because many worked examples are provided over the year that extend understanding through a wide range of genres and non-fiction text types.

● Children have a clear view of what high quality writing looks like and their learning is structured clearly and misconceptions dealt with.

● Pupils know how to improve their writing and make it more focussed and actionable feedback is provided to guide their learning.

● Children have a concept of how to build, plan and complete a piece of writing due to narrative maps and non-fiction shapes.

● Teachers have clear pathways of how to guide pupils in weak areas such as cohesion and paragraphs.

How does it improve outcomes for disadvantaged children?

As a school, we have decided that implementing one strategy well (linked to teaching as opposed to intervention) will be more effective in helping improve the outcomes of our disadvantaged and lower attaining pupils. The Write Stuff uses effective approaches for tackling disadvantage which is heavily supported by the EEF. Wider research shows us that disadvantaged children have lower self esteem and feel less successful; they have a reduced vocabulary; less or different life experiences and we know relationships really matter to these pupils. We make it our job to help these children with these particular areas so that they become confident and independent writers.

How will an effective implementation of The Write Stuff Approach support our most vulnerable learners?

1. Experiences - every unit ensures that all children have experiences to build ideas on which to write. There are no assumptions, the experience days are varied and provide an opportunity to talk and build up a vocabulary bank which is meaningful. The experience has a direct link to the learning.

2. The Writing Rainbow scaffolds learning providing clear ideas, tools and techniques for writing.

3. Vocabulary and words are integral to every lesson. This provides opportunities for children to be exposed to a growing number of words and begin to identify the effect and nuance they bring to the meaning of the writing.

4. High expectations on all children. A strong, high quality model will direct the children to craft high quality sentences themselves.

5. Success drives motivation and working in sentences with clear goals sets an achievable target. Building writing over time in a directed way provides the support needed to deliver independent writing at a later date.

6. The structure of the lessons into chunks prevents the working memory being overloaded and therefore offers a higher chance of success, building self esteem and motivation.

7. Relationships are developed through the approach; talking partners, kind calling out and sentence selection and appreciation all provide a positive respectful learning relationship to evolve between pupils and adults.

8. All children have a voice within the this approach, which is valued.

9. Feedback through sentence stacking wall appreciation and editing stations promote independence and a sense of ownership. The feedback is more likely to be well received due to the positive relationships and the sense of success and ownership.

The Spelling Book by Jane Considine

The Spelling Book

At Darwen St James', we have enhanced our teaching of spelling from Year 2, by introducing 'The Spelling Book' By Jane Considine. The Spelling Book is not a scheme, it’s more a way of teaching spelling that relies on teachers to bring the ‘wonder of words’ to life. The Spelling Books provide structure and support to teachers whilst allowing enough room for creativity, ensuring that all National Curriculum fundamentals are covered. The Spelling Book system exceeds all expectations around making the teaching of spelling effective, and ‘stick-able', for children.

All of the concepts, activities and tasks within the books have been designed to increase ‘stickability’ and retention of vocabulary. The system is built on strong phonic foundations and includes a range of deep exploratory investigations, alongside short-burst ‘chunked’ revision activities.

The year view of detailed provision for each year group ensures pupils have a good understanding of the wealth of content within the books and they are able to self assess and monitor their own strengths and weaknesses in spelling. Through using the quality materials and comprehensive guidance within The Spelling Book, children will develop expertise and fluency. 

The Spelling book - Intended design and Impact

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Spelling overviews

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Common Exception Word Lists

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Year 1 have been learning about a poem called ‘When I Am By Myself’.

We have learned how to include descriptive words about things, sounds and movements.  At the end of the unit we published our own poems using this structure.

In Year 2 this term, we completed a poetry unit based on the poem ‘If I ruled the World’. We used the thesaurus to find interesting adjectives and thought of things that we would keep and cancel. Some children chose to keep PE but lose Maths, keep singing practise but lose wet playtimes. We also thought of something ludicrous we would like to happen, like having chocolate for tables or Spiderman as the class teacher. We then created our own poem called ‘If I ruled the classroom’


In order to be inspired for our non chronological report writing on the Stone Age, Year 3  had an experience day. The children became Stone Age people and created cave paintings. The children had so much fun. They then used the programme to animate to create the illusion that the cave paintings could move.

Year 4

Year 5 have been looking at The Highwayman in their poetry unit this half term. They have explored the role of a highwayman and the language used throughout the poem. They then used all of their new found knowledge to write their own shorter version of the poem. They did a great job!

Year 6 have been reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman this year.  We read up to the end of Chapter 4, where Bod meets a witch ghost from an unmarked grave.  Then we wrote our independent texts about what might happen next, and how Bod might have made sure the witch had a headstone on her grave!


In Pre School we have been exploring the story of We’re going on a bear hunt this half term. The children have recalled the story, made a bear cave, created marks using twigs and grass. Experienced warm and cold water, what happened then our clothes get wet and what they feel like. We even made a snack for the bear to enjoy in his bear cave.

Reception commenced their first Jane Considine unit this half term, Ruby’s Worry.

The children have met Grandma Fantastic and explored lots of words in her basket. 

They have been learning about the FANTASTIC lenses and how a story is broken down into Plot Points.

It has been a successful half term!

Year 1 have been reading the story ‘Grandad’s Island’ and learning about Grandad’s and Syd’s adventures. They have a very good understanding of the story and thoroughly enjoyed our 4 experience days where they explored the importance of Grandad’s objects, experienced being on a ship, explored the jungle and experienced the busy and beautiful forest.

Year 2 have been reading the story of Little Red Riding Hood by Lucy Rowland. We started putting together our ideas for writing our own stories by going on a woodland walk. We then wrote some stories of our own changing the name of some of the characters.

Year 3 have really enjoyed reading the story ‘The Secret of Black Rock’. The children then wrote some amazing stories of their own changing the names of the characters, the sea vessel and Black Rock itself - they had Black Coral, Black Pearl, Black Seaweed, Black Mountain to name but a few.

In English we have been exploring the amazing Picture book ‘The Whale’ by Ethan and Vita Murrow and exploring many writing features to construct our own Narrative. We have now started to build upon this knowledge by starting a newspaper report with the underlying message to raise awareness of plastic pollution.

This half term in English Year 5 started with a fiction unit of work.  This unit was based upon the book - Th Nowhere Emporium. The children learnt many skills which then enabled them to write their own independent piece of writing at the end of the unit. After that Year 5 have started their first non-fiction unit all around the Antarctic.

In English we are reading and exploring the book ‘Letters from the Lighthouse’ by Emma Carroll, which is set during World War 2 and is about children who are evacuees from London who go to live in a lighthouse in Devon.  As part of our Experience Day for this book, we constructed a ‘conscience alley’.  Mrs Thompson played Olive, the main character in the story.  The children prepared arguments for and against staying in London or being evacuated to the country, after being bombed.  Then they lined up and tried to persuade Olive one way or another.