Having been a Literacy specialist and teacher for too many years I am fully aware of the pressures on schools and teachers to make children’s writing better. The goal posts move and so do expectations. Some classes have children who speak little or no English. Some have pupils who have poor literacy just because it isn’t modelled well at home. Some have very able children who are verbally bright, but have no desire to write. Yes, it is a continually tricky problem that I am constantly trying to find ways to solve…
I have had some successes and I will share what has worked so far…
The curriculum is key – I linked all our topics to quality texts, making them visual where possible. I try to keep my knowledge of children’s books as up to date as possible and keep a running list on my Pinterest board –
I ensured that story time was timetabled throughout school several times per week (daily if possible) and that ‘Guided Reading’ schemes were thrown away and real books used in their place (this costs lots of money and probably needs doing gradually – I am still adding to ours). I know this is all reading based so far, but our children didn’t have internal stories to call upon to use as models or inspiration for writing, they had little experience of fantasy worlds or far-away place, magic, dreams, dragons, King Arthur, fairy-stories, folk tales, adventures, love stories, tragic tales…It was our job to give them these internal structures.
Talk 4 Writing was next. It allowed our EAL children to rehearse and internalise sentences and text. It allowed boys and very kinaesthetic children to move in their learning and be very physical. We base everything on the idea that if you can’t say it you can’t write it! If you want to know more about T4W then take at look at this website –
We focus on grammar and make sure that specific sessions are timetabled daily. It is always linked to the text type we teach (context is really important for our pupils) and we all use Alan Peat resources so we call the sentence types the same name and year by year are building on prior knowledge. They are fabulous resources because you can download them as apps for your IPads plus they are ridiculously easy to understand! Alan is a genius…
If you use the TES website for resources there are a few people who have made posters for each of Alan’s sentences which are really handy to put up on your working wall when you are teaching them.
Using ICT is vital too. Films are fabulous for engagement and questioning at a high level. Websites like ‘The Literacy Shed’ are invaluable. It is full of fantastic videos and brilliant ideas to stimulate writing, all free to use!! It is organised into ‘Sheds’ which cover particular topics e.g. ‘The Fantasy Shed’, ‘The Inspiration Shed’..
I also find using talking post cards or EasySpeak microphones as an essential step to make the link between speaking and writing. Children can rehearse their sentences, listen to them and then have a go at writing them.
Our children love blogging and Tweeting – often a brilliant incentive for boys who don’t see it as ‘writing’ and gives them a real purpose and an audience that is potentially world-wide.
Other things to consider are consistent use of models and images on working walls, beautiful book corners, text rich environments, effective use of feedback (I like using ‘Marking ladders’) and revisiting whole school approaches on a constant cycle so everyone knows what they are doing!