Emilie Martin and Janet Thompson are both experienced Primary School teachers who now advise schools on improvement. They joined our team here at York Notes in Summer 2017 to help us devise our brand new York Notes Primary series for Key Stage 2 English.
Here you can find out a bit more about them, what they find inspiring in their work, and what insights they have into the wonderful world of Key Stage 2!
1) Emilie and Janet, could you tell us a little bit about your teaching experience?
EM: Ever since I first stepped into the classroom as a teacher, I have loved teaching English. Getting children enthused about writing and literature and supporting them in their journey to become confident writers and keen readers is something I feel passionately about. I have been an English Subject Leader at both KS1 and KS2 and support schools in improving teaching and learning in English.
JT: As an experienced advanced skills teacher (AST) and reading leader, I not only teach, but also provide support and advice for other schools. I have taught in many different schools and all age groups, and have built a reputation as a dynamic and creative teacher who inspires children so that learning is fun, active and has purpose. I love nothing more than equipping children with the tools, words and enthusiasm to become skilled writers and confident readers.
2) What were your highlights as Primary teachers?
EM: Most teachers will relate to that ‘lightbulb moment’ when a child achieves something or understands a concept for the first time. It’s hugely rewarding being part of that process. I’ve always valued the variety of experiences that come with primary teaching – getting cheered around a high ropes course by one of my classes, teaching Bollywood dancing and learning about beekeeping alongside the children are just a few stand-out moments!
JT: Where do I start? I absolutely love the ‘buzz’ of when children ‘show what they know’! After one drama session, when we went on a rescue mission, the children were so engrossed they were still in role as a character the entire afternoon! They would not stop writing and their stories were amazing! Recently my class had a French café, with drama, making lots of menus, flags, fact-files and maps. Our fantastic finisher – a scooter race in the playground for the Tour De France – was also another highlight!
3) How has your teaching experience informed your new roles in the classroom?
EM: For me, really getting under the skin of how children learn has helped me identify ways to improve teaching and learning at a school level. As adults, it’s easy to forget just how challenging learning new skills can be – writing, in particular, is a very complex process. Guiding children though this and identifying the elements of my own practice that contribute to children’s progress has helped me develop a clear sense of how teaching can be structured so that it makes sense to children.
JT: I continually refine and reflect on what works well and how children actually learn and retain their learning. I thoroughly enjoy making resources to match the exact needs of the children so learning is exciting, chunked, progressive and actually makes sense to them. From hands-on learning in the early years and KS1 to more comprehension and grammar for writing in KS2, knowing what ‘outstanding’ looks like across all phases informs everything I do for the highest impact!
4) What experience did you bring to bear in helping to devise the new York Notes Primary KS2 English series?
EM: Since the introduction of the revised National Curriculum, a big part of my role in schools has been to look at how to break down the requirements for spelling, punctuation, grammar and reading comprehension so that they can be taught in a way that is both systematic and accessible to children. This has helped me contribute to decisions about the way the books are structured and how concepts that are often quite complex are presented to children.
JT: My experience working as a moderator for SATs at county level and delivering training and support to schools means I am familiar with the National Curriculum and assessment requirements. Consultancy work in schools to deliver spelling, grammar and comprehension for reading, has given me a high level of subject knowledge. This has enabled me to refine and master what is effective practice and how to organise content to ensure concepts are clear, engaging and progressive while meeting the National Curriculum expectations. As an avid designer of resources, I thrive in putting lessons and concepts across to children!
5) What do you think are the biggest challenges facing teachers and parents in supporting children through Key Stage 2 – and how can York Notes help?
EM: The increased focus on spelling, punctuation, grammar and advanced reading comprehension skills in recent years means there are more skills than ever before that children need to acquire at this point in their schooling. Breaking these down into manageable chunks, with opportunities to practise and consolidate new skills both at home and in the classroom is important to support children’s learning.
JT: I agree. The strong focus on spelling, punctuation, grammar and advanced reading comprehension skills means the demands on subject knowledge are greater than ever! I am an advocate of ‘little and often’: short sessions that target the key skills which can often hold children back. York Notes removes these barriers so children can overcome exactly what they find tricky. In addition, we reinforce school learning, providing children with more confidence to ‘have a go’ at school and be more prepared for SATs.
The York Notes KS2 series provides a building blocks approach, allowing children to deepen and properly understand new skills both at home and in the classroom. A valuable tool for boosting children’s achievement.
Emilie Martin is a Primary English specialist who has led improvement in the teaching and learning of English in schools across both KS1 and KS2. She holds an NPQML qualification for middle leadership in education.
Janet Thompson is a Primary School teacher who leads the teaching of English, while delivering advice and training for other schools across both KS1 and KS2. Her specialism is phonics and spelling. A former Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) and currently a Specialist Leader (SLE) in English.