John Stainer


A strong foundation in reading and writing underpins our children’s future success.

We aim for all pupils to leave John Stainer School as fully literate individuals, enjoying reading for pleasure and purpose, and able to communicate clearly and effectively through speaking and writing.

Join us at our regular poetry shows. Every class performs a poem that they have learned.

We love learning and performing favourite poems with our classmates.

Reading for pleasure is one of the most important indicators of your child’s future success.

We encourage children to read for pleasure as much as possible!

We love the library! Classes regularly visit our friends, the librarians at New Cross library to borrow more exciting books.

We were so excited to welcome Michael Rosen to John Stainer School. He inspired us with his poetry readings and workshops, and trained the teachers to teach poetry too.

What we teach

At John Stainer we teach to the new National Curriculum for English, and the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum.

We have developed our own teaching framework to enable our children to learn in a rich and progressive way. Every term children make progress with their speaking, reading and writing through carefully-planned teaching sequences. You can view our English Policy and Teaching framework here (later).

How we teach

All children start each term studying poetry to kick-start their curiosity and use of language.  Teachers then develop children’s skills through the study of stories and other types of writing.

We develop children’s speaking, reading and writing through two main techniques:

The ‘Talk for Writing’ approach developed by Pie Corbett, and teaching reading through the use of high-quality literature.

Talk for Writing centres on the belief that if children cannot say something, then they will not be able to write it. It enables children to imitate the language they need for a particular topic orally before reading it, analysing it, and then writing it down.

Story map.

Children learn and internalise a new story using a story map to help guide them. They imitate new language patterns, and learn the structure.

  •  Drama. We investigate the story using drama
  • Child’s story map. Under the guidance of the teacher, children change and develop the story to make their own version, which they practise telling orally.
  • Shared writing. The teacher demonstrates how to write down a new version of the story, exploring language and developing characters, settings and events, before the children have a go for themselves. They have lots of ideas!
  •  Non-fiction text map. We use the Talk for Writing approach in our non-fiction writing too. It lets us experiment with language patterns and ideas so that we can be really confident about writing in different genres.
  • Reading as a writer. Reading as a writer is a skill that we teach from the earliest years. What makes that sentence so effective? I think we could write something like that!
  • We put high-quality literature at the heart of children’s learning and encourage reading for pleasure.
  • Children’s journals and class reading journals allow children to record their thoughts, ideas and predictions as they explore the text together.
  • Writing – Engaging children in the text really improves their writing, as they care about the characters and events in the story.

Children also develop their reading enjoyment, stamina and skills through daily guided reading and read-aloud sessions.


Literacy starts in the earliest years.

We provide a rich Early Years curriculum to develop children’s communication skills, motor skills, and immerse them in the wonderful world of books.

Read aloud.

Home support is key to reading success and we ask that you read with your child every day.  Reading aloud should be the first thing you start and the last thing you give up with your children!

Aside from being a fantastic shared experience, it teaches the essential skills of prediction, inference and deduction. It is THE BEST way to develop your child’s language and love of learning. Do it every day, and don’t stop when your child is able to read.

Audio books.

Listening to stories together, in the car or at bedtime is a great way to enjoy literature without turning a single page.
Father Christmas loves to share stories!

Spelling, grammar and handwriting 

Spelling, grammar and handwriting are vital skills which enable children to become confident and proficient writers.

We teach these skills discretely and encourage children to apply their skills across the curriculum.
Our fantastic team of parent readers support our children with reading.

 In the Early Years and Year 1, we teach phonics using the Sounds-Write programme to give children the skills to read and spell unfamiliar words.

Special events:

  • Join us at our regular poetry shows. Every class performs a poem that they have learned. We love learning and performing favourite poems with our classmates.
  •  Poet – We love to welcome visiting poets and authors. 
  • We were so excited to welcome Michael Rosen to John Stainer School. He inspired us with his poetry readings and workshops, and trained the teachers to teach poetry too.
  • Empathy Oscars – We investigated how different book characters can teach empathy with our headteacher, Ms. Harte, and held a special awards ceremony for the characters. Do you recognise them?
  • World Book Day is so much fun at John Stainer. Do you recognise these book characters?
  •  Father Christmas loves sharing stories when he comes to visit!
  • Join us at our Book Swaps, where you can exchange books for free. Browsing and choosing new things to read is so much fun.
  • Class exhibitions – Our class exhibitions allow us to practise speaking to a real audience.

Spelling and grammar help

The National curriculum provides lists of reading and spelling words for each year. You can find these lists here.

The school subscribes to the Spellodrome website for Years 2-6, where your child can practise and improve their spelling skills in a fun way.  Please see your child's class teacher to obtain their Spellodrome password.

The school subscribes to the SPaG Online website, where children can practise their grammar skills and complete tasks set by their teacher. Please see your child’s class teacher to obtain their username and password.

Please click here

Help with phonics

The school subscribes to the phonicsplay website, which has a fantastic FAQ section for parents.

Children can also play games to practise their phonics skills.

Please use the username johnstainer and the password phonics1.

Handwriting help

Handwriting is an essential skill which we teach discretely at John Stainer.

We teach the printed alphabet in the Early Years, moving through pre-cursive (with ‘flicks’) in Year 1, aiming for fully joined cursive writing by the end of Year 2.

Encouraging correct grip and letter formation is essential, and we ask you to encourage this at home. As children learn new letters, we encourage them to form them correctly, as it is so much easier learn good habits early than correct poor habits later. You can find our handwriting policy here [Link to handwriting policy] and our school handwriting style and letter families here [Link to handwriting families]

Fun websites and apps such as Letter School can help children remember letter formation in a different way, and can be a fun treat.

Teach Handwriting is a website for parents about how to help your child with handwriting.