Our aim, at Forge Wood Primary School, is to develop a love for writing ensuring that every child can write imaginatively for a variety of purposes. The tools used to teach this are ‘RWI Get Writing,’ “RWI Comprehension’, and Pie Corbett’s ‘Talk for Writing’.
In Reception – Year 2 as part of their phonics lessons, children take part in Get Writing and have writing books linked to their phonics level. The writing activities are closely linked to the story books and selected non-fiction books. The children’s writing is supported at every step from writing simple sentences to extended texts, including invitations, letters, descriptive texts and non-fiction texts. Longer comprehension activities contain lots of oral rehearsal and role play so children are full of ideas before they write. We show children how we build an idea into a sentence first. We then help them develop their ideas and vocabulary into their own sentences. Partners rehearse their sentence together until they can both say it. The children write these sentences. The writing activities build upon the children’s own experiences or develop ideas from the story they have just read. Check boxes throughout the books prompt children to proofread and review their writing, helping them to make sustained progress.
During Year 2, as part of RWI Comprehension, children develop their vocabulary. They learn to identify suitable adjectives to describe how the characters are feeling or to describe something that is happening in the text. Children also learn to identify and use synonyms. Together children think of words they’d like to use in their writing using ‘vocabulary catch’. In ‘build a picture’ activities, children learn to write sentences that show what is happening. Children practice their sentences orally before writing it down.
From Years 2 – 6, and to develop their oracy and story telling in Reception, children develop their composition using Pie Corbet’s Talk for Writing. The aim of Talk for Writing is to develop imaginative, creative and effective writers. The Talk for Writing approach enables children to read and write independently for a variety of audiences and purposes within different subjects. A key feature is that children internalise the language structures needed to write through ‘talking the text’, as well as close reading. The approach moves from dependence towards independence, with the teacher using shared and guided teaching to develop the ability in children to write creatively and powerfully. The key phases of the Talk for Writing process: cold write, imitate, innovate, invent and hot write, enable children to imitate orally the language they need for a particular topic, before reading and analysing it, and then writing their own version.
Teaching is focused by an initial assessment called a ‘cold write’. An interesting and rich starting point provides the stimulus and content but there is no initial teaching. The aim of this is to see what the children can do independently at the start of a unit, drawing on their prior learning. Assessment of the writing, helps the teacher to work out what to teach the whole class, different groups and adapt the model text and plan.
The Imitation Stage - The teaching begins with some sort of creative ‘hook’ which engages the pupils, often with a sense of enjoyment, audience and purpose. The model text is pitched well above the pupils’ level and has built into it the underlying, transferable structures and language patterns that students will need when they are writing. This is learned using a ‘text map’ and actions to strengthen memory and help students internalise the text. Activities such as drama are used to deepen understanding of the text.
Once students can ‘talk like the text’, the model, and other examples, are then read for vocabulary and comprehension, before being analysed for the basic text (boxing up) and language patterns, as well as writing techniques or toolkits. All of this first phase is underpinned by rehearsing key spellings and grammatical patterns. Short-burst writing is used to practise key focuses such as description, persuasion or scientific explanation.
The Innovation Stage – Once students are familiar with the model text, the teacher leads them into creating their own versions. A new subject is presented and the teacher leads students through their planning. With younger pupils, this is based on changing the basic map and retelling new versions. Older students use boxed-up planners and the teacher demonstrates how to create simple plans and orally develop ideas prior to writing. Shared and guided writing is then used to start writing over a number of days so that students are writing texts bit by bit, concentrating on bringing all the elements together, writing effectively and accurately. During the innovation stage a small change is made to the text. This could include substitution, addition or alteration. Feedback is given during lessons as well as looking closely at someone’s work together as a class. This is so students can be taught how to improve their writing, making it more accurate until they can increasingly edit in pairs or on their own.
The Invention Stage – Eventually, students move onto the third phase, which is when they apply independently what has been taught and practised. Students are guided through planning, drafting and revising their work independently. It is essential to provide a rich starting point that taps into what students know and what matters so that their writing is purposeful. Writing may be staged over a number of days. With non-fiction, students should apply what they have been taught across the curriculum.
It is important that at the innovation and independent application stages, the writing becomes increasingly independent of the original model rather than a pale copy. Whilst younger children may only make a few simple changes, older students should be adding, embellishing, altering and manipulating the original structure. From Key Stage 2 onwards, almost all children will be using the text structure and writing tools to write, drawing on the model, their wider reading and experience so that they are writing independently at a high level. This has to be modelled in shared writing.
By the end of the unit pupils complete a ‘hot write’ which is an independent task on a similar type of writing with an interesting stimulus. Progress should be evident which encourages pupils and helps school track the impact of teaching.
Handwriting is taught explicitly in each year group and children practice daily.