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Writing

Success in any curriculum area depends upon good basic writing skills. It provides children with an important form of self-expression and creativity as well as making available to them the wealth of the written word. At St Michael’s, the children have daily English lessons teaching them vital skills such as planning their writing, drafting ideas as well as editing and improving what they have written.

 

In our lessons follow the Talk For Writing approach enabling our children to imitate the key language they need for a particular topic orally before they try reading and analysing it. Through fun activities that help them rehearse the tune of the language they need, followed by shared writing to show them how to craft their writing, our children are helped to write in the same style. Our teachers use outstanding books to teach a curriculum that is creative, engaging and develop a love for writing. The use of engaging, relevant and high quality texts is central to our writing curriculum. These act as stimuli for children to develop and explore their writing skills. Children write for purpose wherever possible, on a theme linked to the half termly topic.

 

Our lessons in key stage two also encapsulate the teaching of spelling, grammar and punctuation by giving it context.

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Talk for Writing

The teaching of writing follows this order.

 

Cold Write:

 

The children write a piece based on the genre they will be learning about. This is unaided and without input. This allows the teacher to plan the learning from the children’s starting points.

 

Stage 1: Imitation


Once the teacher has established a creative context and an engaging start, a typical Talk-for-Writing unit would begin with some engaging activities warming up the tune of the text, as well as the topic focused on, to help children internalise the pattern of the language required. This is often followed by talking an exemplar text, supported visually by a text map and physical movements to help the children recall the story or non-fiction piece. In this way the children hear the text, say it for themselves and enjoy it before seeing it written down. Once they have internalised the language of the text, they are in a position to read the text and start to think about the key ingredients that help to make it work.

This stage could include a range of reading as-a-reader and as-a-writer activities. Understanding the structure of the text is easy if you use the boxing-up technique and then help the children to analyse the features that have helped to make the text work. In this way the class starts to co-construct a toolkit for this type of text so that they can talk about the ingredients themselves – a key stage in internalising the toolkit in their heads.

 

Stage 2: Innovation

 

Once the children have internalised the text, they are then ready to start innovating on the pattern of the text. This could begin with more advanced activities to warm up the key words and phrases of the type of text focused on so the children can magpie ideas. Younger children and less confident writers alter their text maps and orally rehearse what they want to say, creating their own version. The key activity in this stage is shared writing, helping the children to write their own by “doing one together” first. This could begin with using a boxed-up grid to show how to plan the text and then turning the plan into writing. This allows the children to see how you can innovate on the exemplar text and select words and phrases that really work.

Demonstrating how to regularly read your work aloud to see if it works is important here. This process enables the children to write their own versions through developing their ability to generate good words and phrases and also, hopefully, develops the inner judge when they start to decide why one word or phrase is best. Words and phrases suggested can be put on the working wall alongside the shared writing so when the children come to write they have models and words and phrases to support them. Throughout the shared writing, the children should be strengthening the toolkit so they start to understand the type of ingredients that may help. Once they have finished their own paragraph/s children should be encouraged to swap their work with a response partner. The whole class can also discuss some of the more successful work. The children are given time to give their own work a polish in the light of these discussions.

 

Stage 3: Moving from innovation to independent application – the hot write

 

This stage begins with some activities focused on helping the children understand aspects that they were having difficulty with and should include time for the children to have a go at altering their work in the light of what they have just learnt so that they start to make progress. This stage will continue to focus on the next steps needed to support progress so the children can become independent speakers and writers of this type of text. Perhaps some more examples of the text are compared followed by more shared writing on a related topic and then the children can have a go themselves on a related topic of their own choosing. Again this section will end with response partner and whole class discussion about what features really worked, followed by an opportunity to polish your work. This process also helps the children internalise the toolkit for such writing so that it becomes a practical flexible toolkit in the head rather than a list to be looked at and blindly followed.
 

 
 

 

 

 

Talk for Writing story maps

Talk for Writing story maps 1
Talk for Writing story maps 2

Things to Do at Home

 

  1. Build a climate of words at home. Go places and see things with your child, then talk about what has been seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched. The basis of good writing is good talk, and younger children especially grow into stronger control of language when loving adults — particularly parents — share experiences and rich talk about those experiences.
  2. Let children see you write often. You’re both a model and a teacher. If children never see adults write, they gain an impression that writing occurs only at school. What you do is as important as what you say. Have children see you writing notes to friends, letters to business firms, perhaps stories to share with the children. From time to time, read aloud what you have written and ask your children their opinion of what you’ve said. If it’s not perfect, so much the better. Making changes in what you write confirms for the child that revision is a natural part of writing — which it is.
  3. Be as helpful as you can in helping children write. Talk through their ideas with them; help them discover what they want to say. When they ask for help with spelling, punctuation, and usage, supply that help. Your most effective role is not as a critic but as a helper. Rejoice in effort, delight in ideas, and resist the temptation to be critical.
  4. Provide a suitable place for children to write. A quiet corner is best, the child’s own place, if possible. If not, any flat surface with elbow room, a comfortable chair, and a good light will do.
    • Give the child, and encourage others to give, the gifts associated with writing:
    • pens of several kinds
    • pencils of appropriate size and hardness
    • a desk lamp
    • pads of paper, stationery, envelopes — even stamps
    • a booklet for a diary or daily journal (Make sure that the booklet is the child’s private property; when children want to share, they will.)
    • a dictionary appropriate to the child’s age and needs. Most dictionary use is for checking spelling, but a good dictionary contains fascinating information on word origins, synonyms, pronunciation, and so forth.
    • a thesaurus for older children. This will help in the search for the "right" word.
  5. Encourage (but do not demand) frequent writing. Be patient with reluctance to write. "I have nothing to say" is a perfect excuse. Recognise that the desire to write is a sometime thing. There will be times when a child "burns" to write; others, when the need is cool. But frequency of writing is important to develop the habit of writing.
  6. Praise the child’s efforts at writing. Forget what happened to you in school and resist the tendency to focus on errors of spelling, punctuation, and other mechanical aspects of writing. Emphasise the child’s successes. For every error the child makes, there are dozens of things he or she has done well.
  7. Share letters from friends and relatives. Treat such letters as special events. Urge relatives and friends to write notes and letters to the child, no matter how brief. Writing is especially rewarding when the child gets a response. When thank-you notes are in order, after a holiday especially, sit with the child and write your own notes at the same time. Writing ten letters (for ten gifts) is a heavy burden for the child; space the work and be supportive.
  8. Encourage the child to write for information, free samples, and travel brochures.
  9. Be alert to occasions when the child can be involved in writing, for example, helping with grocery lists, adding notes at the end of parents’ letters, sending holiday and birthday cards, taking down telephone messages, writing notes to friends, helping plan trips by writing for information, drafting notes to school for parental signature, writing notes to letter carriers and other service persons, and preparing invitations to family get-togethers.

 

Writing for real purposes is rewarding, and the daily activities of families present many opportunities for purposeful writing. Involving your child may take some coaxing, but it will be worth your patient effort.

 

Things to Do for School Writing

 

  1. Ask to see your child’s writing and see your child’s progress in writing.
  2. Be affirmative about your child’s efforts in school writing. Recognise that for every error a child makes, he or she does many things right. Applaud the good things you see. The willingness to write is fragile. Your optimistic attitude toward your child’s efforts is vital to strengthening his or her writing habit.
  3. Work with the PTA and your school to provide real writing opportunities. Can the children help write invitations or posters? Can they write a poem or story for an event?

 

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