Tag Archives: Writing

The perils of greater depth…

During our most recent Year 6 cross-trust moderation there was one common sticking point….one little statement on the ‘interim’ framework that even those of us who have been teaching for longer than they care to remember (where did 20 years go – wasn’t that long ago I was the cool-kid on the block?!) struggled to find evidence of or even know how to effectively plan for it:

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Luckily, I work with some amazing teachers where the true joy of collaborative working is experienced regularly and fabulous ideas and resources were pooled and shared.  I will share some of the more useful approaches below as I am pretty sure many more of you are struggling too…!

Firstly, if you have the financial means, a subscription to ‘Grammarsaurus’ is invaluable. New resources are added regularly and they often tackle meaty EGPS issues in child-friendly, easily accessible ways.

https://grammarsaurus.co.uk/portal/category/key-stage-two/ks2-writing/

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One of the most inspiring CPD events you can attend is any run by Alan Peat.  The man is a font of knowledge plus he is extremely interesting and a brilliant teller of stories.  He is running events which focus on writing at greater depth…

http://www.alanpeat.com/conferences/

He is also well worth a follow on twitter or Facebook as he has shared super ideas on shifts in formality…

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Remember it is about managing several shifts within one piece of writing and also across a range of texts…

Here are some features to identify in reading and use in writing:

  • the subjunctive – I wish I were… If I were you…
  • passive constructions – It is widely believed that…
  • use of ‘one’ – One should consider…
  • technical vocab
  • Nominalisation – The arrival of the VIP caused much excitement. (use nouns rather than verbs or adjectives)
  • Abstract nouns – Darkness crept in
  • Stack your verbs – I propose to change….I demand to see
  • Avoid contractions
  • Avoid slang
  • Use colons to add detail to an independent clause (use it to summarise or detail why)

Opportunities in writing:

  • Newspaper Reports can provide great opportunities for these shifts.  Formal statements can set the tone for the report which can then be contrasted against the informality of a direct quotation from a witness.
  • Diaries are another useful text type for shifts.  Reflection can add an element of formality to an otherwise personal, chatty and immediate piece of writing.
  • In letter writing personal reflection can also add formality and contrast.
  • In narrative the contrast between informal direct speech from characters and the narrators more formal tone can be effective.

I am sure more ideas and inspiration will occur to me, feel free to share your thoughts below.

 

 

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Fi Fi Fo Fum

 

Inspired by the creative potential of the new BFG film (I will let you in to a secret…I could not stand the animated version, his voice grated…!) I have put together a Key Stage 2 topic ‘Fi Fi Fo Fum’ ready to use when we return to school for a new term.

 

I have used some of these stories already in a ‘Heroes and Monsters’ topic in Year 5/6 and it went down a storm. I have even used some texts with KS1 and EYFS because there are giants everywhere in literature – ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, ‘The Selfish Giant’ and ‘Harry Potter’ – and across all cultures so they are a concept all children very easily relate to no matter what their age or background.

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These are just some of the books that I used.  My absolute favourite has to be ‘The Giant book of Giants’ which is a beautiful collection of giant stories from around the world, but the very, very best bit is the enormous 3D poster of a giant that comes with it.

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The children love interacting with it…particularly looking up his kilt!!! I have him as a stimulus for writing character descriptions in Year 2 and as a story stimulus for KS2. Children have drawn and labelled their own giant and created stories for the strange objects he carries.

 

 

I have used picture like these above, which have led to fantastic discussions on the existence of giants. This can be the stimulus needed for a newspaper article or a persuasive argument.

It also reminded me of an old unit of work from the original Literacy Strategy based around the story ‘The Giant’s Necklace’.  It had some super ideas for teaching a full unit of work, which over time I had forgotten about.  I discovered the originals on-line the other day…well worth taking a look at!

http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/4825/4/nls_y6t2exunits075202narr2.pdf

 

Literacy difficulties…

I am very lucky to teach a small group of lower KS2 children a few times a week for an hour.  We have an absolute ball!!  These children really struggle to access the curriculum in class as they have a variety of issues that means literacy is a huge struggle.  They are working way below their age related expectations and sometimes find focusing on tasks for an extended period challenging.

I say I am lucky because these children are full of joy, enthusiasm and awe.  They make me smile, they make me laugh and sometimes they make me cry….

Homemade Moon Sand Recipe:

I have learned so much from them in the brief time I have spent with them.  I have had to be creative in ways I was not familiar.  I have spent more time harassing my EYFS leader for resources and ideas than she is comfortable with….and I am now a playdough queen. For someone who was firmly rooted in Year 6 this has been a glorious revelation!

The key problems they all have are letter formation, pencil grip, spelling and stamina.  This means that I do lots and lots of fine motor development activities. I set my room up with focused areas of provision.  When I first watched these children use playdough I realised some could not roll it or ball it and did not have strength or dexterity in their fingers.  I now challenge them daily with doughs of different textures and watch them carefully to see the precise movements they struggle with adapting my planning accordingly.

How to add color and scent to water beads for seasonal and themed sensory play:

My current favourite finger gym activity is using water beads and tweezers…the frog spawn needs putting back in the pond.  I have to use EYFS activites with a KS2 slant…really challenging!

As a result of my discoveries working with this group we have now developed finger gym activities throughout KS1 and lower KS2 – we keep them in special boxes and they can be taken out and used as a challenge at any time.  Handwriting has always been a big issue in school but we had not worked out an effective way to tackle it – I think we had taken the approach of do more writing to get better at it (this never worked for some), but we hadn’t realised the extent of their fine motor issues, even into upper KS2.

Peg board fine motor control.:

I have also built in purposeful cutting and colouring activities.  We made card jungle creatures before we labelled them, we cut out paper plate frogs before we drew their life cycle….I found that they really struggle with using scissors so we use them as often as possible, talking about they best way to hold them.  We draw things or make models (Lego is good and fiddly) before we write about them. Practise makes perfect.

AWESOME Frog craft idea for an F is frog lesson to use with your preschoolers.:

http://www.littlelettercompany.co.uk

I teach spelling through multi-sensory approaches – glitter trays with fine paint brushes, pipe-cleaners, dough, silver foil….We learn key words and vocabulary that will help with topic work back in class. Through assessments I realised that the children did not know all the letter sounds or names and were not clear which was which.  We use alphabet arcs daily for ten minutes to teach the alphabetic order and letter names and sounds.  Doing these kinds of challenges against the clock seems to really motivate.

Magnetic Rainbow Arc

http://www.crossboweducation.com/shop-now/spelling-teaching-resources/spelling-teaching-resources-magnetic-resources/magnetic-rainbow-arc

Crossbow education have lots of lovely resources to support literacy difficulties.

Here is a brief explanation of the basic activity – this can be built on and challenge added.

http://www.fcrr.org/studentactivities/F_001a.pdf

I have also focused on whole word recognition and knowledge of high frequency words – phonics often does not work for these children.  They can’t blend as they struggle to remember or hear beyond initial and final sounds.  We are working on ‘crashing’ sounds together.

Talk for Writing works beautifully as it gives these children the internal structures of stories and various non-fiction text types.  They tend to take longer to learn a text, but once they have they love to retell it, playing and over emphasising their favourite words and phrases.

Our latest text was ‘The Tadpole’s Promise’.

Brilliant for life cycles and explanations.  The ending made them laugh and was their favourite bit to retell.  We did the whole story in a very dramatic fashion, pretending to sob when the tadpole breaks the caterpillar’s heart, with hilarious results….but they did not forget the story!!!

We don’t have a written outcome everyday.  It is too difficult.  We work up to writing with talking, oral retelling, learning key words, organising texts, labelling, writing sentence strips and finally using graphic organisers to support their final piece of writing.  I always display their work.  Their pride at seeing it on the wall is tangible.

The graphic organiser will contain images and key words plus explicit instructions and objectives.  I always give them lines to write on in the organiser too.  You can see lots of examples on pinterest but it does not take long to create one and you can then adapt them very easily each time you use it.

Finally,  I have learned to be as precise with my language as possible..and to never assume! Whilst revising the key information about an elephant’s diet I reminded them about eating the outside part of tree branches (bark) ‘Remember, it is like the noise a dog makes,’ to which the response was resoundingly ‘Woof!’….I have lots to learn!

 

 

 

Grammar and spelling ideas to wake up writing…

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I recently delivered some SPaG training (Spelling, punctuation and grammar) for both NQTs and experienced staff, which was all too necessary due to the fact that in the UK the KS2 SPaG test has changed AGAIN to include far more complex objectives.  In fact, as a child of the 70s grammar was something of a mystery to me…I seem to remember school was somewhere I enjoyed going to play, sing and make things.  Recently I find myself constantly have to ‘up-skill’ just so I can keep teachers updated.

I am becoming more concerned that instead of us teaching grammar and punctuation to allow children to write more effectively we are simply preparing them for tests.  This is really rather unavoidable when the subjunctive is on the list of things to learn….!!!!!  So instead of delighting in the beauty of the language and playing and experimenting with words and phrases grammar can become dull, dry and time to turn off.

Some of the ideas I shared in my training sessions are, hopefully, a way to shake things up and embed and excite.

Image from http://properenglishusage.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/36a1e67c169cc8f7fcd0879a0e73e180.jpg?w=300&h=210.:

Would you pass your SATs in 2016?

http://www.sats2016.co.uk/think-youd-pass-your-sats-in-2016/

Go on, try it.  The staff were shocked.  Especially those who do not teach the top end of KS2.

Multi-sensory spelling…

When it comes to spelling make it multi-sensory. I have a box full of pipe-cleaners, glitter trays, play-dough, silver foil…anything that can be used to make or feel words. Repetition is also key.

 

  • Create a rainbow (use a different colour for each letter)
  • Drill across the page
  • Fill the page
  • Beat the clock

Always make the children say the letter name or sound as they write it out.  Find words in words, emphasise it Wed -nes – day…use magnetic letters.  The more active the more effective.

Investigate words…

word Alan Peat’s Word Games is really useful.

wordsTry ‘Teachers pay Teachers’ for some fantastic word investigation mats.  They are free and created by Jen Bengel.

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Vocabulary-Placemat-Printable-Graphic-Organizer-for-Learning-New-Words-329865

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What about creating a display were children can place their spellings in the box that reflects their knowledge of the words….over the week they should gradually all move into the green zone!

I always find that the Babcock Consultants’ website has really good ideas for what spellings to teach, when to teach them and how.  They also have links to old National Strategy resources such as Spelling Bank, that are really useful.

http://www.babcock-education.co.uk/ldp/v.asp?rootid=17&depth=3&level1=17&level2=391&level3=872&folderid=872&level2id=391

Grammar…

As a school we use Alan Peat’s ‘Exciting Sentences’ app and books.  They are fantastically simple sentence types to introduce throughout school.  It ensures that year after year there is consistency in language used to describe sentence types and that there is progress across the key stages.  If you ever get chance to attend any of Alan’s training grab it with both hands.  The man is hugely relevant and is a brilliant presenter.

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There are Alan Peat sentence type posters on TES and videos on Youtube.  His punctuation app is brilliant too.

I love using film extracts as a stimulus to model sentences.  I always use The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to support teaching quest myths.  I have used this clip for fronted adverbial sentences…’Gently cradling the ring, Bilbo wept.’

Again, I highly recommend using The Literacy Shed for hundreds of fantastic film clips.

http://www.literacyshed.com/

Pobble is another fantastic resource that has daily grammar activities to go with exciting pictures.  The story ideas are brilliant for writing too.

http://pobble365.com/flying/

Grammar Puss for Parents has lovely explanations to support home learning, with some super activities.

http://grammarpussforparents.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/happy-families-present-and-past.html

The one above addresses the past progressive verb form.

I like to use music wherever possible…

This is a fun figurative language song.

Lots of songs have figurative language in them the fun is getting the children to listen and spot it!  The one above contains hyperbole.

I also enjoy using TESSpag.  This resource costs £9.99 for a year and has loads of interactive quizzes (great for up-skilling adults as it goes right up to Secondary level), plus explanatory powerpoints.

 

On the theme of tough concepts this is the best way I have found to explain the subjunctive.  Basically, Skee-Lo got it wrong but Beyonce got it right…it should be ‘If I were…’ not ‘If I was…’!!!

The most important points I want to make are that grammar should be embedded and it should be exciting and playful…Enjoy!!

 

 

Stuff to write about…

Another link to help last minute new term panics.  Thousands (yes literally…need to get a life!) of stimulus for creative writing.  Each could last 10 minutes or be worthy of a week or more teaching.  Have fun.

Build Your Wild Self!

New York Zoo have a brilliant activity on their website called ‘Build Your Wild Self’.  A super-fun and interactive way for children to create a wild creature made up of lots of parts of real animals.

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This would be a great starting point for information text writing or for creating a fact file.  If you use Talk 4 Writing approaches this would work well at the third stage of invention or as a wacky way of introducing the features of information texts before you apply them to a real animal.

The finished animal is given a very technical name based on all its parts and the final picture can be printed off or emailed.  These images could even be turned into trading cards or top trumps by using various free websites or apps.

http://www.buildyourwildself.com/

 

Boxing Clever.

Are you looking for a new and effective way to teach children how to tell and write interesting, well structured stories?  I came across this idea by Alan Peat many years ago, but recently discovered this really clear video of him explaining the concept.  The best thing is it costs nothing (well a handful of gift bags, but you could use leftover Christmas ones) and can be used as on oral approach for children as young as Early Years.

Enjoy!

Doctor Who?? Raggedy Man, goodnight.

I realised recently what an amazing programme Dr Who is when my seven year old son came sobbing from his room after watching a clip on Youtube where Matt Smith regenerates into Peter Capaldi.

‘It was the bit when Amy Pond said ‘Raggedy man goodnight’, that made me feel sad,’ he cried.  I had to admit that I too had become a snivelling wreck and I was already sobbing when Matt Smith delivered the deadly line ‘I will never forget when the Doctor was me’.

Something that moves a seven year old boy to such an extent is powerful stuff!  I had to use it in the classroom.

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There are hundreds and hundreds of ways Dr Who can be used effectively in the classroom…the geek in me got a bit giddy.

The BBC ran a competition to write a script a few years ago but the resources are still there on-line. They have brilliant video clips and ideas to create aliens, develop characters, settings and scripts with lesson notes and printable resources.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/teachers/doctorwhocompetition/resources.shtml

This fits in brilliantly with my Year 5/6 topic on Space this term – hurray!

What about teaching art and art history through the really moving episode that features Van Gogh, his paintings and tragic life.  Another one that I blubbed at!! There is also the episode where they visit Pompeii in time for the towns volcanic destruction – great for a Roman topic.

Anatomy of a Dalek Now, what would be an awesome idea is if we could develop an "Operation" styled board game with a Dalek instead of a human that screams "exterminate" whenever you screw up.:

What about an explanation or instructions on how a Dalek works?  Or a balanced discussion on whether the Doctor should wipe out the Daleks??

What about creating aliens and planets to feature in a new story…?

The children could write a travel brochure for their newly created planet or a fact file on their alien or monster.

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Now that Clara Oswald is no more the Doctor is in need of a companion – get the children to create one.  Look at past companions and list the key skills needed to travel through space and time.

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Amy Pond was my favourite…

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And what if the Doctor regenerated again…what would he look like…who is your favourite Doctor so far?  I struggle with that one…I am caught between David Tennant and Matt Smith (for died-hard Whovians I am sure that that is some form of blasphemy and that I should really appreciate the older, darker models!).

The BBC has a beautiful Doctor Who section on their website with fantastic info on characters and monsters – a brilliant resource for story writing.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4tDN85fyxYXTtVPrCql8jB/monsters

Borrowed TimeThe Dust of Ages

There are lots of Doctor Who books that could be used as a model text for Sci-Fi story writing.  They can be picked up on Amazon second hand for a couple of pounds.

And finally, totally indulgently, when the Doctor says goodbye to Donna and wipes her memories…also makes me cry (it seems there is a common theme here!!)…

 

 

 

Playing with words.

I have started to collect together lots of different ideas for warming up words.  My children have very limited vocabulary so it essential that new words are introduced and played with on a regular basis.  Pie Corbett suggests 5 new words are introduced weekly.  Even though my children mainly speak English as a second language I never set a ceiling on the words used as I want my children to become familiar with the nuances of the language.

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See the Picture

This is an imaging game, designed to help children use the images in their own minds and attach words to them.

Ask all children to create an image in their heads.  This might be a setting in a story they are writing, something that they are writing a poem about or an experience that the whole class have had on a trip.  Ask them to hold the image in their head and then ask:

  • What can you see?
  • What colours stand out most?
  • How does it feel?
  • Walk around your image.  What other things do you see?

Children then share with a partner their image and things that they noticed.  Finally jot down a list of words and phrases form their image.

When children start this keep the walk around the image short and build up what they do over time.

How does it go together?

With the children generate a list of nouns and then a separate list of verbs and to put a noun and verb together in an unusual way.  Looking out of my window I can see tree, grasses, street light, road sign and a randomly selected list of verbs rushed, slithered, dreamed, sat, wheeled…

Now I can start to put them together:

the streetlight dreamed, the grasses rushed etc.

The children can then go on to create sentences  choosing the ones that most appeal to them.  The sentences could be collected and made into poems.

You could play the same game with adjectives and nouns.

Chain Link

This game is based around vocabulary generation and using the vocabulary.  It is a game that I first read about in  What Rhymes with Secret by Sandy Brownjohn printed in 1982..  Start the children off with a statement such as:

The birds swooping in the clear blue sky.

Sky like an azure gem.

Gem of an idea in the air

Here, the children must take the last word and start off the next line/statement with it.  It  demands that children think and use words flexibly.

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Using paint colour samples (just ask nicely at your local DIY store) children can write shades of meaning below a key word.

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Clines is another activity where shades of meaning can be discussed and then ordered from least to most e.g. sad, morbid, gloomy, depressed…

A really handy list of feeling words can be downloaded from the Primary Resources website:

http://www.primaryresources.co.uk/pshe/pshe.htm

Random words

Choose a book. Ask for a number – this gives you a page to turn to. Now ask for a number – this gives you the line. Then ask for a small number – this will select a word. The children then have 15 seconds to write a sentence using the selected word. Then use the same sort of process to randomly select two or three words – can they make a sentence using the words… Be ruthless on capital letter, sense and full stop.

Alliterate

Use the animal list to create alliterative sentences – one per animal, e.g. the tiny tiger tickled the terrified terrapin’s two toes with torn tinsel.

Ink Waster

To warm up the brain and get into a creative mood – give the children a topic and ask them to write as much as they can in say, one minute. Time them and ask them to count the number of words then try again with another topic. They should write as rapidly as possible. This limbers up and frees up the mind.

Poems and reading poetry is one of the best ways to play with words.  Lots of ideas for playing with poems in the next blog!

Remember, remember the 5th of November.

I really enjoy this time of year and I still find fireworks a huge thrill.  I have collected together some quick teaching ideas if Bonfire Night is something that you want to celebrate with your class.  The ideas range from poems and information texts to crafts and art – the best bits are edible of course!

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For story inspiration you could share the fantastic Philip Pullman book ‘The Firework Maker’s Daughter’ – if you Google it there are loads of ideas for sharing it with your pupils or – if you can get your hands on a copy – George Layton’s ‘The Fib and other stories’ has a short story called ‘The Firework Display’ set in 1950s England.  Here is a link that contains an extract as well as other ideas from the Lancashire Grid for Learning:

http://www.lancsngfl.ac.uk/curriculum/literacy/lit_site/html/teachers/bonfire.htm