This blog builds upon those of the past two years that looked exclusively at the requirements for greater depth writing in year 6 and how we, as busy teachers with ever-so-slightly demanding statutory curricular requirements to satisfy, might go about meeting them. It introduces a new series of blogs and will serve as a home page of sorts: as new blogs are added to the series, the link will be added here so that each post is seen as part of a (developing) whole. To avoid repeating myself, I'll just briefly refer to last year's efforts. One blog set out the manifesto. What is expected; how might I do what is expected? A later blog - closer to the deadline for writing Teacher Assessment submissions - looked at the short term view: You're still not quite there? What might you do to get you there? Swiftly.
The good news is, these blogs are still relevant if you are looking for guidance on end of Year 6 statutory expectations. At long last, the teacher assessment frameworks have stabilised and, for the first time since levels were shredded and (in some cases) placed in the recycling bin, we have entered an academic year knowing the standards by which Year 6 reading, writing, and maths will be measured. Even so, I have still seen a number of references to the standards required in 2016 and/or 2017. Just to be clear, you no longer have to show that your GDS candidates can nip in and out of a formal register. Shifts of formality are no more. The formality of a piece - or a section of a piece - has to be suited to audience and purpose. If your young writers, need to shift, that's fine. If they just need to maintain a register across a piece, that is fine too. If you still feel unclear, do check out the blogs above, in conjunction with some excellent bogs on our Assessment Team's feed.
In the framing section of the first linked blog above, I explained that I would be moving on to write a series of blogs looking at the longer term view of developing great reader-writers. This is where we begin.
I am less concerned, as a teacher, with the notion of a prescribed sense of 'Greater Depth' than I am with fostering in children the skills and knowledge that allow them to function as agile, enthused writers. Writers with something to say; writers equipped to say it is so. Ideally writers with a burning desire to do so. It is possible with the right culture, environment, and provision. However, there is no getting away from the fact that there are a set of standards that specify and restrict the ways in which we might identify those young writers that are operating a more assured level of intention and control. What this series of blogs will set out to do is to take elements of writing and explore what they are, why they matter, and how they might be addressed in the primary classroom. Addressed in ways that are good for the burgeoning writer; addressed in ways that happen to allow you to say "yes, this child here is a very good writer and, handily, they meet your requirements fair and square." It's a have your cake, eat it, and sleep soundly, kind of proposition. I hope.
The other thing to say is that the past two year's have really been a site of firefighting in relation to this aspect of our work. Framework changes, delayed clarifications, cries and whispers and myth-making across the sector have added to the stresses of your typical Year 2 and 6 teacher. Our blogs sought to help time- and priority-pressed teachers to navigate some especially fraught academic years, but it often meant we were looking at things from a short term point of view. The intention now is to explore how we can develop greater depth writers in a truer sense and that means taking a long term view: the enacted curriculum (not the National Curriculum); literacy provision; writing development (and reading development) across the phases. Simply put - this is one of our core shared missions across primary. Truly splendid writing comes with time, practice, and crafting. In these blogs, we will consider great texts and supporting approaches across key stage 1 and 2, designed to provide stretch and challenge whilst keeping a squinty eye on the statutory goal of capital G/captial D Greater Depth.
I just want to round off with a list of proposed focus areas. It's partly a preview. More importantly it's an invitation to contribute and share. I would love to hear of any other areas that you feel might need to be covered. You can forward your thoughts to me using the email address at the foot of this blog, or on Twitter via either the @HertsEnglish account or my personal account @GalwayMr.
Here's the list:
Reading mileage: distance and destinations
This will look at ways in which we can promote plenty of varied reading so that children might encounter as many writers, voices, perspectives, and styles of writing as possible in their time at primary school.
The importance of oracy
Speaks for itself I think. Handily. This will look in particular at how we can support children to feel confident in articulating their thoughts as early as possible in the academic year. It will consider some of the recent commentary around oracy - much of it helpful; some of it somewhat problematic (do you ever really speak exclusively in full sentences?) Pointers will be given to sources of support and high quality ideas.
The Writer's Workshop: crafting and redrafting
This blog will look at how we can support children to be reflective, giving writers. Writers we learn from, to paraphrase Donald Graves and his seminal work on writing. Graves will certainly feature. In the search for the new, we invariably end up learning from, or leaning on, the past. Standing on the shoulders of giants. In this, we will also explore how to foster writers with agency and a point of view of their own. Writers prepared to take risks - and face the consequences...
Time is (it) on your side (?): making space to read, think and write
This blog will look at English from two perspectives: how we use time in class and how time is mapped across the curriculum. If time is pressed, how do we make best use of it to support high quality learning and production in English (and other subjects).
Different voices; different lives
Here we will move into thinking more directly about the things that we do within a writing lesson. The blog will consider how children can develop voice and register so that as writers they wind up as nimble shape-shifters by the time they are ready to leave us. This will feed into characterisation and the choices we make in populating our writing.
Do you see what I see?
This blog will take a look at a case study of a particular exciting young writer who exemplified an uncanny knack for bringing her inner world (not simply parroting those of the authors she had read) to vivid life through distinctive descriptive detail. We will explore whether there are any lessons to be learnt from her writing journey and how they might apply to the developing writers in our midst.
Cohesion - wherever (and whenever) we go
To wrap up (for now) the list of topics, we will look at the central importance of cohesion, and how a well-developed grasp of chronological writing supports not only clarity in writing, but the ability to reshape, reform and - where appropriate, and where we dare - bend and distort our writing for particular effect. I will no doubt mention verbs at some point. Graves will get a look in once more. As will Barrs and Cork's The Reader in the Writer. They're all rather handy.
So there we go. That's the intention. A series of shorter, more regular blogs aimed at both class teachers and subject leads keen to further develop a book-rich approach that fosters thought, talk, and - all being well - some really great writing. As set out in the intorduction above, this blog will serve as the anchor. As new posts (and, perhaps, further topics) are added, the associated links will be updated here so that there is a clear route to the series. Here's to a year (and years) of great writing.