Capturing attention, connection, and a sense of fun as the new school year begins

As we enter another academic year, teachers, pupils and parents bring all of the usual ‘newness’ nerves about new classes; new people; new rooms and even new routines. However, 2021-2022 brings with it another layer of worry about the impact of the pandemic on learning and concerns about further changes. Schools and their leaders are striving to begin the academic year with an air of ‘business as usual’ equipped with skills and strategies alongside endless risk assessments. ‘Hitting the ground running’ is a common mantra and in this blog I will outline five ways to do just that with your English curriculum.

1. Engage pupils with a high-quality text from day one

The Rising Stars 'Read into Writing' units have high-quality texts at the heart of the planning. Pupils are immersed in a picture book or novel that will engage their reading and inspire their writing. Both well-known favourites (Mr Wolf’s Pancakes; Where the Wild Things Are; Fantastic Mr Fox; Mary Poppins and Skellig) are read alongside new contemporary books (Oi Frog; Greta & the Giants; The Day I was Erased and The Boy at the Back of the Class). Pupils will be excited to read on and enthused to complete any tasks related to these books.


2. Teaching English skills in a context

Each unit’s overview identifies the skills that will be taught including grammar and punctuation. This year more than ever, pupils may have gaps in their grammar and punctuation knowledge due to the blended approach to teaching and school absences. The units promote reviewing grammar and punctuation from previous year groups as well as introducing new objectives. All the skills are taught in the context of the book studied and pupils are encouraged throughout to practise these skills and apply their knowledge through reasoning activities.

3. Bringing books to life in the classroom through active learning

 Speaking and Listening opportunities are built into each unit to ensure that pupils can bring the texts to life in the classroom. Each unit overview includes a section of ‘key questions’ which give pupils the opportunity to discuss broader issues within the context of a book, for example:


Year Group


Key Question


Be Brave Little Penguin, Giles Andrae

Are we all afraid of the same things? Does everyone get afraid sometimes?

Year 3

The Bear and the Piano, David Litchfield

How do we make decisions and how do these decisions impact others?

Year 4

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate DiCamillo

What is self-discovery? What causes us to change?

Year 6

Skellig, David Almond

What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?


Teaching Slides from The Bear and the Piano 

Teaching Slides from The Bear and the Piano


4. Developing a writer’s toolkit

All writing tasks identify the purpose and audience of the task. This means that younger pupils begin to understand that there are different registers to write in (informal and formal audiences) and there are different purposes to write for (for example instruct; entertain and report). Most writing tasks are embedded in the high-quality texts meaning that pupils have the confidence to write – they are scaffolded; supported and challenged. Pupils will have the opportunity to write different forms of writing too for example poetry; writing a chapter in the style of an author; leaflets; advice letters; formal letters and writing in role as a character.

5. Ownership and autonomy

Within the RS units, both teachers and their pupils are supported and challenged. The ready-made plans; powerpoints and pupil resources can be edited by teachers to match their pupils’ ability. Teachers can teach using the RS units and then apply the principles and pedagogy to planning other units in the same style. All of the resources support pupils – templates to plan with; answer stems in comprehension and vocabulary banks to enhance sentence structure. Pupils are often given choices in the writing tasks, for example in ‘The Queen’s Handbag,’ (Year 1) pupils can choose to write as an assertive swan or as a humble swan and in other units pupils can choose whose diary entry they would write. Just as staff are encouraged to develop ownership of their teaching, pupils are also encouraged to take ownership of their learning.

All the best capturing your pupils’ attention and igniting a love and passion for reading and writing…


Maddy is an experienced primary school teacher and senior leader who is currently a full-time English Consultant offering bespoke training to support schools locally, nationally and internationally. Maddy is the series editor for Read in to Writing.

To find out more about Read in to Writing, visit the series page here. You can also download the brochure which includes a full introduction and lists of the topics and themes covered.  


English, English and Literacy, English and Writing, Reading

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