Holding on to writing for pleasure in the drive to address gaps

    Published: 13 April 2021

    We have seen the long-term impact on motivation, engagement and attitudes when teachers focus on reading for pleasure and how these impact positively on attainment. An emphasis on writing for pleasure is likely to reap the same rewards. Inevitably, there is currently a focus on addressing missed learning and strengthening fragile learning. This isn’t about catch-up - we are not going to address the issues by cramming or rushing through missed content. Priority focuses identified as a result of diagnostic assessment will need to form the backbone of teaching plans this term and be woven in through the next academic year. Within the teaching of writing, the basic skills that most often form a barrier to children achieving age related expectations are those around accuracy and control of sentence structure and spelling/vocabulary. These crucial skills can be the hardest to teach and learn by remote methods and as such, deserve focus because of their importance in forming a foundation for later knowledge and skill development.

    As we look at strengthening key skills it is crucial that we maintain children’s interest and engagement, while developing their writing stamina through the use of stimulating contexts and creative application. High quality texts are vital to give children something to talk and write about. As well as tried and trusted favourites like Book Trust, there are many new authors and illustrators who will provide sources of inspiration. Try Love Reading 4 Kids for starters.

    We can use great texts to provide children with excellent models for them to learn from (or ‘magpie’ as Pie Corbett would say) and to innovate on as they begin to apply their skills and build their stamina - so much more engaging and rewarding than a grammar worksheet! Use sentence strips to model and explore effects of word order within a sentence. Make an explicit link between reading fluency skills, echo and performance reading with expression and intonation and text marking to support this and writing fluency. Remind children that all writing is for an audience and they need to keep their audiences in mind when writing themselves. What does their writing sound like? Build in time for children to read aloud their work to others and explore word substitution or re-ordering for effect. These approaches build a sense of individual ownership and control.

    The spelling curriculum absolutely encourages vocabulary development through etymology and the study of morphology. As well as helping spelling and pronunciation, exploring etymology can both reinforce children’s knowledge and reveal patterns of meaning in related words. Encourage the collection of words linked to your spelling programme of study or the use of post-it notes to harvest new vocabulary to investigate and, most importantly, reward the appropriate application of the vocabulary in context to enrich writing. There are several great etymological dictionaries – The Oxford School Dictionary of Word Origins, Once Upon a Word: A Word-Origin Dictionary for Kids and The Dictionary of Difficult Words – which will get children started as word ‘detectives’.

    Objects can be an excellent stimulus for writing. A manageable (in term of cost and storage space) version of the story sack idea can be a matchbox crammed with tiny objects, a coin, a scrap of fabric, a few random letters or numbers, a broken piece of jewellery, a shell, a ’worry’ doll, some ribbon. Initial modelling may be needed to show how a piece of ribbon could represent a path or a river or the missing colour from a rainbow. Children can furnish their own collections and they can be swapped for different activities. Literacy Shed is a great source of short films which also support composition.

    At the stage where children are composing and creating extended pieces of writing, look for opportunities to write for a genuine purpose and audience. Literacy Trust provide a range of suggestions and short videos by authors who perform poems and then provide a step-by-step guide to writing and performing your own. Schools can also build up a calendar of events to stimulate writing opportunities - book awards, national and local competitions, events on the school calendar, contributions to school websites - perhaps children could write letters about these to a local care home?

    A wonderful way of bringing a school together to celebrate as a community of writers is through the use of whole school texts. These encourage the school community to come together through the exploration of a wonderful book and form part of the approach of the Back on Track English resources. The plans are designed to rekindle a love of books and learning together across all year groups 1-6, as well as provide many opportunities for children to engage in a range of writing tasks, ensuring that stamina is enhanced and maintained. Whole school explore and engage plan extract (298kb/pdf)

    At its heart, whether fictional or non-fictional, writing is a creative process and it is important that we encourage children to collect new words and craft new sentences – with a deepening sense of confidence and exploration – as they develop pleasure in becoming effective writers.

    Whole-school explore and engage: Plan 1 featuring ‘And Tango Makes Three’ by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole.

    Thursday 1st July 2021 - course code: ENG/21/145/P

    Whole-school explore and engage: Plan 3 featuring ‘Lift’ by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat.

    Thursday 8th July 2021 - course code: ENG/21/147/P

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