Fixing Full Stops: a glimmer of hope

    Published: 15 March 2019

    “How do you feel about moving up with your class and going to Year 3 in September?”

    The loaded question!

    There was one positive: I knew exactly where the children were. Yet, the challenge was conversely the same: I knew exactly where the children were!

    We were all bored of me writing ‘read through and add full stops / there are some full stops missing in this paragraph/ self-correct punctuation.’

    The pointless next steps myself and the children knew would never be completed accurately unless an adult supported. Cue jumping onto the Herts for Learning website and searching for courses to support teaching in Year Three. ‘Fixing Full Stops’ shone out like a glimmer of hope and I signed up, laughing with colleagues that I had found the holy grail for solving my punctuation predicament, though truthfully none of us believing it.

    I arrived at the course and flicked through the pack. The suggestions of getting the whole class to walk around the classroom reading, holding a partner’s hand and punching the air and using alien games (phonics, year one?) received a few eye rolls from around the room. However, I was there because I was out of successful ideas myself. By the end of the session, I was at the very least excited by a new text that I knew my children would engage with (The Spider and The Fly by Mary Howitt, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi), and I was clutching the basic template of a plan and ideas for teaching over the next two weeks.

    As a school, we decided I would plan for the year 3 and 4 classes using the Fixing Full Stops programme. I adapted the planning to suit our classes and made lots of visual resources. For the first week, the children were all given their own plain copy of the text, with no visual clues from the actual storybook. We began with echo reading.  The trepidation of allowing all children to read at the same time quickly went away as the enthusiasm and engagement the majority of the class felt in echoing my phrasing and tone was amazing. From this, the discussion about the use of antiquated language and the PSHE aspects of the story were of a deeper level than that which I had with my class before. This was all achieved before we had actually focused on the main skill of fixing the full stops.

    Whilst planning, I was concerned that the pace of the different activities was going to be too slow and repetitive for the children, as well as ending up with very generic final pieces of writing. What I actually discovered was that the lower attaining children were able to keep up with the pace of the activities and the higher attaining children naturally challenged themselves through my ambitious model of shared writing and the challenging pitch of the text.

    The long, shared write allowed the children to focus on ideas without having to think independently about sentence structure or punctuation. The mixed ability group shared writes (also called ‘collaborative writing’) allowed children to experiment and develop ideas without pressure of ‘making it perfect’ in their books, and then finally allowing the children the freedom of using a visual clue where full stops are needed (rainbow writing) whilst independently writing gave them ownership of their work.

    One stand out memory of delivering the unit was during a mini plenary when one child was reading his work to the class. The content of his writing was superb but there was a problem. I asked him to reread his work whilst walking around the classroom so we could identify where he had put his full stops (the Walky Talky sentence technique). As he did this activity, constantly walking in a clockwise fashion, he stopped in his tracks. I asked him what was wrong and he replied, “I’ve been walking for too long: I forgot my full stops.” Without any adult input he was able to add the full stops by continuously referring back to walking whilst he read his work.

    Not everyone in the class needed rainbow pens (a technique recommended on the training) but those who were given them took the responsibility seriously and visually could see when they had used a colour for too long. They were then able to try to self-correct more accurately where full stops should be.

    I knew the activities had had a positive effect on the children’s work, however when I was looking at children’s examples to show Penny Slater, our allocated HfL adviser, I began to doubt the success I thought we had achieved due to being blinded by poor handwriting and incorrect spellings. During Penny’s visit she showed me how to look at quantitative data based purely on accurate use of full stops. The results were astounding.

    Accurate use of full stops within writing

     

    Before fixing full stops

    After fixing full stops (2 weeks later)
    Child A 60% 100%
    Child B 48% 80%
    Child C 47% 86%

     

    We have since applied the techniques to two more units of work including non-fiction writing. I have also rolled out the programme to the whole of Key Stage Two and adapted it to create an intervention for small groups of children in Year 5 and 6. Some children benefit from following the whole structure, others use just one or two techniques. Key Stage 2 books are now filled with colourful writing which we are proud to show as they are accurately punctuated. Not all activities worked for each class: mine loved walking around the classroom to edit, but cannot hold partners’ hands and jump up to signify a full stop (the Jump Up Full Stop technique). Other classes cannot walk around the room but engage with stand up and sit down.

    Accurate use of full stops within writing

     

    Before fixing full stops

    After fixing full stops (2 weeks later)

    12 weeks later

    Child A 60% 100% 100%
    Child B 48% 80% 92%
    Child C 47% 86% 91%

     

    Fixing Full Stops has given writing in our school a new boost, as well as reminding us as teachers that it can be worthwhile to slow the pace of lessons. We now challenge the children through higher pitched texts for reading and discussion whilst ensuring our shared writes reflect the writing quality we expect from the children. Now for spelling…


    Guest blog written by Danielle Hassell

    Reading, Phonics & Handwriting Co-ordinator

    Lower Key Stage Two Phase Leader

    Holy Rood Catholic Primary School, Hertfordshire

    It may also be possible for us to deliver this training as an INSET session. Please contact training@hertsforlearning.co.uk for more details.

    In autumn 2019, we will be launching a new training offer: Fixing Full Stops in KS1. Please contact training@hertsforlearning.co.uk to register your interest in this offer.

    If you too are moving on to think about spelling, look no further than HfL’s Spelling SOS project. Read more about it on our project page.

    Spelling SOS KS2 project

    With many thanks to Danielle, and the excellent teaching team at Holyrood Catholic Primary, for the submission of this blog.

    Danielle Hassell (teacher at Holyrood Catholic Primary School)

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