Effective composition involves articulating and communicating ideas, and then organising them coherently for a reader. This requires clarity, awareness of the audience, purpose and context, and an increasingly wide knowledge of vocabulary and grammar. Writing also depends on fluent, legible and, eventually, speedy handwriting.
At The Spinney Primary School, we seek to provide a range of exciting and engaging opportunities for children to develop their writing skills. Carefully planned, regular writing opportunities are planned for using class texts or cross-curricular learning as an engaging stimulus. Each week our children write at length for a range of real purposes and audiences and are given many opportunities to write about the things that interest them. The pupils are taught how to plan their writing by exploring and collecting ideas, drafting and re-reading their writing as it flows. Each class has an interactive writing working wall where ideas for writing are gathered and displayed to support children with their own writing.
Talk for Writing
We use Pie Corbett’s Talk for Writing approaches to teach writing. It is a creative, yet rigorous approach developed by the author Pie Corbett.
IMITATION – INNOVATION – INVENTION
Talk for Writing enables children to imitate the key language patterns they need for a particular text type orally before they try reading and analysing it. Through fun activities that help them to rehearse the tune of the language they need, followed by shared writing to show them how to craft their writing, children are helped to write in the same style.
We begin the teaching and learning process with a ‘cold’ writing task. This means the children ‘have a go’ at writing in the text type they will learn about. Teachers use this piece of writing to identify strengths and set individual or class targets and it informs planning.
A text is introduced and read to the children. This is the model text. Together the class learn to tell the story or learn the non-fiction text.
To help the children remember a multi-sensory approach may be used particularly with KS1 children:
-A visual story map/ text map
-Using an animated, lively expression
The children learn the stories word for word, they develop the use of specific sentence structures and language patterns that suit the text type.
The principle is that if a child can tell a story, they will be able to write a story. During this first stage we also use a range of drama games to develop an understanding of the story and begin to build up a working wall and or a washing line in our classroom with posters reminding children of the learning journey so far.
The children explore different ways they could change aspects of the original text, for example changing characters, setting or writing from a different point of view. They then make changes to their story map and orally tell this new story.
Through shared and guided writing, the children write this new version in manageable sections. During this week, we teach spelling and grammar in the context of the story.
This stage is very supportive so children gain confidence and know what they need to do in order to get better.
In this final stage, the children use all the skills they have learnt so far to write an independent ‘hot’ piece. We call this the ‘Show what you know’ task.
There is a freedom to draw upon their own ideas, or they can ‘hug closely’ to the original shared text should they need to. Teachers use this task to assess how much progress the children have made.
The children present their work by either publishing, presenting or reading out loud to peers to celebrate their successes.
Punctuation, Grammar and Spelling
The teaching of spelling, punctuation and grammar is embedded within reading and writing lessons so that children learn these skills and use them in context, however where necessary, discrete sessions are taught. Explicit knowledge of grammar and punctuation is important to enable the pupils to have a more conscious control and choice of their language. Once the pupils are familiar with a grammatical concept or punctuation markings, our teachers encourage them to apply and explore this concept in their own speech and writing.
In Key Stage 1, spelling is a focus of phonics, which is taught using the Story Time Phonics programme. In Key Stage 2, children follow the Rising Stars Spelling programme.
Each week the pupils have a set of spellings to revise and practice at home. These spellings are linked to the spelling focus taught that week.
As a school, we know that writing down ideas fluently depends on effective transcription so handwriting is taught frequently in short handwriting lessons. We use a fully cursive style of handwriting from EYFS upwards, based on the ‘Letterjoin’ programme. This enables the children to communicate clearly and effectively.
Our teachers spend time explicitly teaching and modelling handwriting across the school and children are given regular opportunities to revise and practise correct letter formation. In the Early Years, our children begin this journey by mark making and drawing patterns, which develops their fine motor skills. This develops through our EYFS with ensuring correct pencil grip by the children when they begin to make letters and string letters together to make words. As soon as they can form letters securely with the correct orientation, we begin teaching continuous cursive script using the ‘Letterjoin’ programme. We continue to teach handwriting as the children progress from Key Stage 1 to 2 with the aim of increasing the fluency with which children are able to write down what they want to say.