The Writing Framework: How It Is Possible To Assess Writers And Not Just The Writing.

There has been a lot of talk around assessing children’s writing for a long time now.

Anxiety has been caused as a result of what constitutes independent writing. People are talking about the merits and disadvantages of comparative judgement but I think we are missing the point here. My instinct is that, in all likelihood, we shouldn’t be marking individual writing at all. We should be assessing the development of the writer over time. I trialled this in my class last year.

To ensure children could produce writing topics independently, over the course of the year, I taught the children the following self-regulatory strategies:

  • How to generate ideas for writing independently,
  • How to plan independently,
  • Once they had written a draft, how to revise their pieces independently (including looking for opportunities to insert certain linguistic features required by the writing framework – if they saw an appropriate opportunity to do so).
  • How to proof-read and edit their work.
  • How to publish their work, focusing on their handwriting.

By teaching these things, when children had finished working on their class-writing project for the day, they were given opportunity to undertake personal projects. This was writing undertaken largely independently (apart from pupil-conferences) using the self-regulating strategies taught above.

I would use these personal writing projects alongside their class projects to make a judgement on how they were developing as an independent writer. To do this, I adapted the CLPE’s wonderful, fantastic Writing Scales.

My scales do differ from the CLPE’s as I also included:

  • The typical writerly behaviours you’d expect to see of a child applying at different stages of the writing process.

 

Untitled

Untitled

  • The grammatical, handwriting, spelling and punctuation features the framework asks to see from writers at a certain age.

 

Untitled

  • I also included more compositional and ‘writer behaviour’ aspects too. (These proved particularly useful when reporting to parents during parents evening and when writing school reports).

 

Untitled2

As you can see, they encourage you to look at the child as a writer and at a body of their work when making a judgement on their current development. From this, I was able to state whether I thought a child was emerging, met or exceeding the framework’s expectations.

If you’d like to view the writing scales, you are welcome, just send an email to literacyforpleasure@gmail.com

If you’d like to find out more about how to set your children up to write independently you can view our blog post here.

If you’d like to read about our approach to teaching writing called ‘Real-World Literacy’, you can go here.

Please note: the views expressed on this blog are my own and may not represent my employer. The tenor of this article is to allow the reader to reflect on the assessment of children’s writing but is in no way a criticism of any school(s) policy or teachers’ practice.

Advertisements

Building Communities Of Writers: Creating Rich Writing Environments

As part of our ongoing work on building a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy, we have been reflecting on the first principle of our Writing For Pleasure manifesto:

Creating A Community Of Writers (1)

When writers see their teachers as positive, caring and interested in pupils’ lives, they are more likely to engage in writing at a high level of achievement. The aim is to create a community of writers, in which teachers write alongside children and share their own writing practices, and children are shown how to talk about their own and their peers’ writing in a positive and constructive way.

What needs attention when trying to build a community of writers in your class or school? This obviously means creating an environment where writers can flourish.

Below, we have offered some questions that might be worth reflecting on. If you’ve written about writing environments yourself or would like to contribute, you’re welcome to use the comments section below.

Finally, at the end, we have provided a small list of books which are great reading if building a community of writers sounds like something you’d like to learn more about.

What do you do, teach, or provide to create a rich writing environment?

  • Do children have sufficient time to write?
  • Are they encouraged to write at home and use this in class?
  • Do they have access to rich literature and other modalities of writing?
  • Do the children get time to learn from and share their writing with each other?
  • Does your discourse sound like writers talking to each other?
  • Does the environment encourage publication?

How do high-quality writing environments help children’s learning and your teaching?

  • Children become engaged writers
  • Children become self-sufficient and self-regulating
  • Children see links between reading and writing
  • Children see links between writing and the outside world

How would you like to develop your community/family of writers further?

  • Access to high quality school/home writing notebooks.
  • Invite parents and the wider-community into our writing environment more often.
  • Have some parent helpers – publish some of the children’s pieces of their behalf for the class book-stock.
  • Create greater opportunities for children to publish to a wider audience.

What can people read to find out more about creating rich writing environments?

Writing Voices: Creating Communities of Writers by Teresa Cremin & Debra Myhill

An absolute must read for anyone interested in creating communities and rich environments for writing to take place.

Build a Literate Classroom by Donald Graves 

The gold standard of creating writers and writers’ classroom! Only £1.17 on Amazon!

In The Middle by Nancie Atwell

A seminal text on creating a climate for writers to flourish – perfect for KS2 and KS3.

No More ‘I’m Done’ Fostering Independent Writers In The Primary Grades by Jennifer Jacobson

A perfect text for creating communities of writers in KS1/LKS2 – really accessible read.

Joining the Literacy Club: Further Essays into Education by Frank Smith

This text is a bit more heavy going but is infinitely fascinating and thought provoking

The Things That Matter: Writing Memoir

The Things That Matter: Writing Memoir

A few Saturdays ago,we were lucky enough to attend the Oxford Writing Spree, a day conference organised by teacher Ed Finch (@MrEFinch) in his own primary school, Larkrise, on the outskirts of the town. We were in the company of some excellent speakers and a large group of teachers, all interested in thinking and talking about children writing at home and in school.

We were there to run a workshop in which we would ask teachers to write a short memoir of an experience from their own lives. We had found in our Year 5 class that personal memoir was a much enjoyed and successful writing project, and we had decided to give participants the same kind of teaching and resources we had used with our pupils. We described techniques for the generation of an idea and how to find the ‘pebble moment’ (the one metaphorical pebble on the whole beach which would be the specific intense focus for the piece), talked about planning and drafting, and offered support in the form of conferencing as the teachers wrote. At the outset we expressed the hope that everyone would gain a little, both personally and professionally, from the writing experience. It has to be said that there was a little noticeable consternation at the prospect of putting something on the blank page, but most of the writers were happy to work in pairs talking over possible ideas and obviously gained confidence this way. During conferencing, one pair said rather plaintively that they both led very boring lives and so could think of no subject for writing. A little later, however, one of them had settled on a memory which she described as ‘banal’ – but had realised, as she said, that ‘banal is fine!’ In fact, her memoir of a first sleepover at a friend’s was one that reflected on the feelings of a child encountering for the first time an unfamiliar domestic routine, and learning that people do things differently –  an important life-lesson.

One teacher, Gemma (@MissBPrimary), wrote alone and intently for thirty minutes. She was persuaded at the end of the session to share her writing, and with her permission we include her piece here:

Four words.
Who knew that four words could prompt an existential crisis in a 7-year old? Who knew that a 7-year old could even have an existential crisis?
I do.
I did.
“You’re a gypsy Gemma”
Reflecting now, it is almost impossible not to draw parallels with a similar set of 4 words which have changed the lives and journeys of countless children around the world.
“You’re a wizard Harry.”
Just as those words prompted a journey into the magical unknown for Harry himself, and for the endless army of children whose lives have been transformed by the words of J.K.Rowling; mine was transformed, reshaped and turned upside down by those very similar set of words, spoken by my dad.
If he had been able to read, one could be forgiven for believing that he had been inspired by Rowling’s words too, but in this instance, it appears only to be a happy accident.
From the moment I walked into a classroom for the first time, I knew that things in my life were about to change. Brought up outside with no walls to confine me, this room, full of garlands and banners and words and numbers and people and furniture was far from what I was used to and the apple tree painted clumsily on the wall looked very different from the ones in the orchard where I had spent my summer. Those trees had been covered in hundreds of leaves, each one a slightly different shade of green and all of them hiding what seemed like hundreds of apples that would thud down onto the rooves of the caravans below if only you shook the branches hard enough. This tree was too straight, the apples too round and the leaves one big cloud-like mass of a single tone of green. But that is not to say that I did not like that classroom. I did.
In fact, I loved it: the things to discover, the stories to hear and the children to play with, children who spoke a language which sounded strange to me – somehow familiar yet somehow so different to the words I heard at home. I could not wait to enter that room each morning and keep on discovering this strange, new world of walls and windows and words and colours.
Friends. I had friends. Friends from outside of the orchard walls and from beyond the country lane on which we were staying. As time wore on, their cadence felt less strange and their language less foreign. I began to share their ideas, understand their questions and use their words.
“Rain” was my favourite word. I would mumble it under my breath over and over again as I watched water droplets race down the caravan windows. I loved the way it sounded in my mouth, its shortness and the way it ended with an ‘n’ sound, not an ‘ee’ sound like the word I had always used to describe the water which fell from the sky – ‘parni.’
“Ark at that parni, God’s a drumming,” my grandmother would remark as she stoked the fire, whilst in my head, I was repeating the new ditty I had learnt at school. ‘Rain, rain, go away, come again another day…’ silent to the world outside and almost feeling mischievous for using a word that was not our own. But ‘rain’ sounded more definite, more final, like the water itself as it dropped from the bottom of the window and was swallowed by the earth below.
I loved their words; strange and dissonant sounding and much less lilting than the cadence I was used to.
It wasn’t long before I learnt another one.
“Gypsy.”
I didn’t quite know what it meant but it knew it was a bad thing to be. If someone took your crayon you called them a gypsy. If they pushed in front in the line. If they were mean or if you really wanted them to know you did not like them, then this was the word to use. I certainly did not want to be one. It meant you were horrible, dirty and mean; someone to keep away from. I never really had any enemies in class but I stored up the word in my arsenal just in case I ever did.
“Defend yourself if you need t’,” my Dad had always said, “don’t let no one mess ya round.”
So, when my older brother, only a few weeks later, gave me much more than a light nudge that ended with me face down in the mud, my dungarees torn and my knee cut open by a stone, I had the perfect insult up my, now ringing wet, sleeve.
“You stupid gypsy,” I sneered, “what’cha do that for?”
At that very second, my dad, who had been bent over the open bonnet of his latest project, stood up straight and looked me straight in the eye, with a strange look I had never seen from him before; somewhere between shock, confusion and disgust. It was during the following conversation, with him lent on the bonnet of the car and me sat on the steps to our caravan, in which he uttered those four words which would change my life and make me question everything. Maybe I was not like the other children in my class after all. Maybe I would never be like them. I was the thing they were so afraid of, so hateful towards, so cruel about and I never even knew. Did they know? What if they found out?
I was a gypsy.
But I still had no clue what that really meant.
It does seems important to note here, that whilst working that out would completely change my life and the way I view the world, it never did lead me to Hogwarts…

 

This memoir hardly needs any comment. It speaks for itself as a very accomplished piece of writing in which the feelings still seem raw. The audience was silent after the reading, then there was spontaneous applause. Gemma said she didn’t write regularly, but that she would like to and probably would from now on. She wrote to us a few weeks later to say that she had posted her piece on Twitter and had a great response. She also mentioned that her class had started to write memoir and told us about one boy in particular:

‘He came to me at the start of last academic year (start of Y3) as aY1 emerging reader and working towards Early Learning goals in writing. Now he is a fluent reader and writer, secure Y4. He just flew – not even sure what made the change so dramatic.  He chose to write about the time he felt the happiest, which was when he stood in front of the class last Nov.and read ‘In Flanders Fields’ perfectly. None of his friends knew he could now read as we had been working together before school every day and he was too nervous to read aloud. It was the most amazing piece of writing! One of the others has written about a particularly great meal at Wetherspoons, which I also love! The things that matter!’

 

And that’s the point. It’s the things that matter, whatever they may be, that fuel the writing and not just for memoir either but for all kinds of texts…  

A Writing For Pleasure Manifesto

A Writing For Pleasure Manifesto

This weekend we were fortunate enough to attend and talk at The Oxford Writing Spree. It was a meeting of teachers, writers and writer-teachers who are passionate about the potential for a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy.

There was a fantastic range of people who spoke on this subject. These included, amongst others:

  • Nikki Gamble @nikkigamble
  • Teresa Cremin @TeresaCremin
  • Liz Chamberlin @liz_loch
  • CLPE (Louise Johns-Shepherd & Charlotte Hacking) @clpe1 @Loujs @charliehacking
  • Claire Williams @_borntosparkle
  • Martin Galway @GalwayMr
  • Tim Roach @MrTRoach
  • Ed Finch @MrEFinch
  • Avron (Alicia Stubberfield) @arvonfoundation
  • Adam Guillain @aguillain
  • Pie Corbett @PieCorbett

To take this meeting further, we have produced a Writing For Pleasure manifesto. We would like to invite the community to respond to it. To stretch, expand, critique, question and champion the different aspects that have been included. This is so we can start conversations and build on the consensus that was beginning to form at the Spree. 

  • If you’d like to give an informal response to the manifesto, please leave a comment below.
  • Alternatively, please tweet @WritingRocks_17 to begin conversations on Twitter.
  • Finally, if you’d like a formal response to the manifesto to appear on this post please email us at literacyforpleasure@gmail.com This can be in the form of a document or a link to a blog post. We will make this response available here.

Please find the manifesto available to download below:

DOWNLOAD HERE —-> A Writing For Pleasure Manifesto

Happy Writing!

 

 

From The Victorian To Gove To Greening: How Far Has The English Curriculum Really Come?

From Forster to Greening: How Far Has The English Curriculum Really Come?

“We must not delay! Upon the speedy provision of elementary education depends our industrial prosperity. It is of no use trying to give technical teaching to our artizans without elementary education….If we leave our workfolk any longer unskilled, notwithstanding their strong sinews and determined energy, they will become over-matched in the competition of the world. If we are to hold our position among men of our own race or among the nations of the world we must make up the smallness of our numbers by increasing the intellectual force of the individual.”

In 1870, an Education Act was passed which paved the way for the achievement by the end of the century of compulsory free state education for children between the ages of five and thirteen. The driving force behind the Act was clearly articulated above by W.E. Forster in his speech to the House in February of that year. The education of the masses came also to be seen as a possible and desirable solution to problems of social unrest and rising crime, and to carry the important function of socialization, to be achieved through the inculcation of such moral values as piety, honesty, industry and, significantly, obedience. These principles are surely held good in schools today, though promoted in a different vocabulary.

What has changed, and what remains the same? It’s hardly necessary to point to the similarity between the annual testing carried out by the Victorian inspectorate to enable children to progress through a series of narrowly defined Standards in literacy and numeracy, and today’s high-stakes SATS testing, in both cases linked to payment by results and indicative of political control. This blog post will focus on the state of literacy teaching in the newly established Board Schools of the 1870s, and what primary schools are directed to do in this field a century and a half later.

There is no doubt that the literacy curriculum at the beginning of the 1870s was essentially utilitarian and limited, as defined by the Revised Code of 1861. The Code had set up benchmarks in reading which are depressingly reductionist in nature.

  • Standard 2: Read a short paragraph from an elementary reading book.
  • Standard 4: Read a few lines of poetry or prose (chosen by the Inspector)
  • Standard 5: Read a short paragraph in a newspaper or other modern narrative.
  • Standard 6: Read with fluency and expression.

However, as the decade progressed, the Inspectorate began to complain about the mechanical nature of children’s reading (the legacy of payment by results), and so the Standards were modified to include the phrase ‘read with intelligence’. What I found surprising is that, in a popular series of reading textbooks called the’ Royal Readers’, written for a highly specific audience, mention is made of reading for pleasure:

The lessons are designed so to interest young people as to induce them to read, not as task-work merely, but for the pleasure of the thing. The pieces are calculated to allure the children to read, and to make them delight in the power of reading.

The use of the word ‘allure’ is significant here, and demonstrates a degree of awareness absent from the updated National Curriculum of 2014, which refers (for the first time in its history) to reading for pleasure, but states that it should be taught. How do you teach children to enjoy reading? Creating the conditions for children to realise the ‘allure’ and ‘delight’ of reading is far more to the point. And that is best achieved through the kind of reciprocal relationships which can be established between pupils as readers and teachers as readers themselves, described in ‘Building Communities of Engaged Readers’ (Cremin et al, 2014).

You can read our article on creating a Reading for Pleasure pedagogy here. Incidentally, the requirement in the National Curriculum that children should read ‘fluently and with confidence’ by the end of KS2 ‘in preparation for reading in secondary school subjects’  is very close linguistically to the reductionist Standard 6 quoted above. One might also draw attention to the fact that the Reading Programme of Study for 2014 identifies only two ‘dimensions’ of reading –  comprehension and word-reading.

It is worth mentioning here an article in the Guardian by Michael Rosen, in which he expresses concern that reading “has come to mean something narrow and functional, no more than evidence that a child can read”.  He points to the SATS as “producing a way of reading that is dominated by the ‘facts’ of a piece of writing and knowing the ‘right ’order of events in a story”. Some classroom materials which purport to ‘teach’ and ‘test’ reading comprehension surely contribute to this effect. They use as their tools short extracts or excerpts, albeit from well-known stories, which may well not give encouragement to the reading of whole books. The reading anthologies of the 1870s used widely in Board schools are comprised precisely of such extracts, and are sometimes similarly followed by questions to ascertain the extent of comprehension.   

The Standards for writing in 1870 are equally pared-down and are directed towards what might be strictly useful to the young working-class male, such as, perhaps, composing a letter of application for employment:

  • Standard 1: Copy in manuscript character a line of print; write a few dictated words.
  • Standard 2 : A sentence from an elementary reading book, slowly read once and then dictated in single words.
  • Standard 5: A short paragraph from a newspaper…slowly dictated once, a few words at a time.
  • Standard 6: A short theme or letter, or an easy paraphrase.

The criteria for assessment included correct spelling and punctuation, exemplary handwriting and a demonstration of some knowledge of grammatical terms. My own grandmother, a later beneficiary of the 1870 Act, recalled ‘parsing ‘ in her lessons – the ‘taking apart’ of a sentence and the naming of the constituent parts. The emphasis of the literacy lessons was on transcription, grammatical terminology and a simplistic description of grammatical functions. Despite there being no research to support the view that this kind of formal, terminology-driven teaching of grammar has a positive impact on the quality of children’s writing, and with some research claiming it has a negative impact (Graham & Perin, 2007), the English curriculum of today demonstrates a marked similarity to nineteenth century thinking. In connection with the focus on transcription in the modern curriculum, in 1967 John Dixon made the point, so resonant of today’s practice, that ‘a sense of the social system of writing has so inhibited and overawed many teachers that they have never given a pupil the feeling that what he writes is his own’. Original composition did not feature at all in the Board School conception of writing. It doesn’t feature in today’s  National Curriculum either. Generating an original idea gets no mention at all. In the Programmes of Study for Key Stage 2, transcription takes precedence over composition, and the teacher’s main job is to “consolidate writing skills, vocabulary, grasp of sentence structure and knowledge of linguistic terminology” and to insist on joined cursive handwriting.

Within the context of Empire in the late 19th century, roles needed to be defined for all levels of society. Cecil Reddie, headmaster of Abbotsholme (public) School, linked them to the objectives of  a class-based three-level education system. There should be, he asserted,

  1. The school for the Briton who will be one of the muscle-workers…
  2. The school for the Briton whose work requires knowledge of the modern world…
  3. The school for the Briton who… is to be a leader…’.

We can discern strong elements of this structure alive today, in both our cultural and political life. The authoritarian class-based stance typical of the Victorian educators is still very much in evidence in our own time, as the observations in the next paragraph will show.

In the area of school literacy in 1870, the prevailing belief was that working-class children were not able to comprehend ‘literature’, hence the absence from school textbooks of the work of established writers of fiction. Dickens, one of the most popular writers of the time, is not included in the’ Royal Readers’, even in extract form. Perhaps he was considered subversive by the editors of the series because of his championing of the poor? Thus, these school-children were effectively denied a place at the literature table. In our blog ‘They won’t have anything to write about’, which we recommend you to read here, we reveal similar assumptions about class in our own day and age. We believe that those children deemed to be at a social and cultural disadvantage are more likely than others to be deprived of the chance to choose their own writing topics and have them validated as legitimate subjects for writing in school. By denying the validity of the cultural reference points of these twenty-first century children and assigning to them teacher-chosen subjects for writing, we as teachers effectively withhold from them, now and in the future, the possibility of having the agency and empowerment to express their own concerns, passions and preoccupations, and of making changes for themselves and others through the writing of their own texts. We as teachers are also under-valuing the importance of children’s own lives and experiences. This is morally and socially dangerous. Current pedagogy is producing writers as consumers (or at best imitators) of other people’s ideas, when we as teachers should really be producing a generation of writers of original content who come to realise early on that they have a  writing voice and a script of their own and how to use it. That we are not doing this is part of an ideology of the teacher as the controller and regulator of production. It is the main indicator that we have not, in one hundred and fifty years, come anything like as far in our thinking about the function of writing and reading in school (and after) as we would like to believe.

 

References

  • Cremin,T., Mottram, M., Collins, F.M., Powell, S., Safford, K., (2014) Building Communities of Engaged Readers, London: Routledge.
  • Dixon, J.(1969) Growth through English, NATE,Oxford.
  • Ferguson, F. (2005) Learning to Know their Place, M.A. dissertation, pub.in Children’s Literature in Education, Sept. 2006, Vol.37, No.3.
  • Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007) Writing Next: Effective Strategies To Improve Writing Of Adolescents In Middle School & High Schools Alliance For Excellent Education
  • Loane, G., (2010, revised 2017) Developing Young Writers in the Classroom, Routledge.
  • Rosen, M., (2008)  Death of the Bookworm, guardian.co.uk, 16th September 2008.

Writing Study: Lessons That Last Forever PACK.

This article is based on, and written in relation to, findings of educational research and writings. The tenor of this article and associated resource is to allow the reader to reflect on children’s writing and is in no way a criticism of any school(s) policy or teachers’ practice.

Introduction

This document is produced with the intention of being used alongside our Real-World Literacy approach to teaching writing. To find out more about to teach writing through this approach, go here.

Talking About Writing: Writing Study

Writing Study mini-lessons are a forum for demonstrating writing strategies that can last forever. Research into the teaching of writing (Graham & Perin, 2007, DfE, 2012, Education Endowment Fund, 2017 & Gadd, 2014) consistently places writing-strategy instruction as the single most effective strategy for improving writing outcomes. It is therefore right to spend time helping children deepen their understanding of writing and what is in it for them. Writing strategies are vital because ultimately, they save children time. They allow children to get down to the act of writing quickly and confidently. Children often know what they want to do but not how to do it. This is where Writing Study Lessons like the ones outlined in this document come in.

The sessions outlined below are about teaching the ‘generalities’ of writing. That is why we call them Lessons That Last Forever. They encourage children to be self-regulating when writing – a strategy which research shows is of huge benefit to children’s writing outcomes – we have written about self-regulating writing techniques here. These higher-level objectives all involve imparting to the students the kinds of competence that has previously been reserved for teachers or professional authors from a range of disciplines.

Children developing their writing in such ways is a major intellectual achievement. It is an achievement which requires more than just a rich diet of relatively unrestricted writing experiences. Research also suggests the following as additional elements that must be present for writing instruction to be successful:

  • Children must be made aware of the full extent of the writing process and this why we have attached the common writing process in our pack.
  • By having this process explicitly taught to them and by having it on display in all classrooms, children can work towards independence in managing this whole process.
  • The thinking that is involved in generating an idea, drafting, revising, editing and publishing need to be modelled by the teacher – ideally a writing-teacher, who can thereby show the problem-solving and planning processes that children are often unaware of as apprentice writers.

Please note that what we suggest in our document are only suggestions. When thinking of what your pupils need, teachers should ask questions like: what are my children trying to do in their drafts? What is their image of good writing? What can I tell them in a minilesson that might help and be long-lasting? We hope you find the following lessons useful not only for your pupils but maybe for your own writing too!

As part of this pack, we give many strategies for generating original writing ideas – just the sorts of strategies real authors use. As teachers, it’s important that we remind ourselves that mature writers are able to make writing tasks meaningful for themselves and that this is part of their competence. What we (as teachers) have to do is consider how do authors do it and how can we bring these sorts of practices into the classroom? A child making a writing task meaningful is a matter of creating a learning goal which can take account of external requirements which the teacher needs to see done but it also has a far more powerful goal of bringing personal significance to the writing too.

Finally, we would like to ask that if you have any lessons that you think would complement our pack please leave a comment below. Alternatively, you can email us at literacyforpleasure@gmail.com

If you would like to receive updates from our blog, you can click the follow button in the top right-hand-corner of the page. Alternatively, you can follow us on twitter at @lit4pleasure

To find out more about our approach to teaching writing, called Real-World Literacy, you can follow this link.

DOWNLOAD OUR PACK HERE- Writing Study Lessons That Last Forever

writing study lessons that last forever

 

Murray Gadd: What Is Critical In The Effective Teaching Of Writing?

This article is based on, and written in relation to, findings of educational research (see article). The tenor of this article is to allow the reader to reflect on the teaching of writing and is in no way a criticism of any school(s) policy or teachers’ practice.

At a recent UKLA conference, I was fortunate enough to meet Dr Murray Gadd, a writing teacher and educational researcher from New Zealand. A few years ago, he published What is critical in the effective teaching of writing? This is a fantastic addition to the growing picture of what is considered in research as effective teaching of writing. There is now a core of consistency to be found across a variety of studies in several different countries. From critically reading research literature on effective writing instruction, Gadd (2014) defines eight dimensions of effective practice and instructional strategies. They can be read in more detail in his original thesis here.

  • Learning Tasks
    • Select or construct writing topics that students can identify as purposeful.
    • Involve students in selecting and/or constructing their own writing topics.
    • Devise open-ended learning tasks that can be undertaken over an extended time period.
    • Promote the purposefulness of the writing topic at the beginning of lessons.
  • Lesson Learning Goals
    • Involve students in the development of future lesson learning goals.
    • Set a clear learning goal for the lesson that is generally related to a stage of the writing process.
  • Expectations

Have a clear vision of what most students can reasonably be expected to achieve within the lesson. Communicate expectations clearly through displays and resources.

  • Direct Instruction
    • Demonstrate clearly what students are expected to do. Either through ‘active demonstrating’ (constructing an exemplar or part of an example live) or ‘receptive demonstration’ (provided a pre-written exemplar). Active demonstration is said to be far more effective however.
    •  Build on what the students have practised already.
    • Look out for and take advantage of ‘teachable moments’ during the lesson to provide instruction that is clearly linked to the learning goal.
  • Responding to Learners
    • Ask high-level, meta-cognitive and text-related questions of the children whilst they write.
    • Indicate ‘next steps’ to students when commenting (verbally or written-feedback) on their writing.
    • Get children to address any verbal feedback there and then.
    • Use a range of ways to respond to students’ efforts.
  • Engagement and Challenge

Attend to learning needs through individualised or small group instruction. Ensure students understand how their current lesson links to the future lesson(s).

  • Organisation and Management
    • Break writing into easily identifiable stages.
    • Set manageable time allocations during lessons.
    • Provide sufficient opportunities for students to practise writing during lessons (on average 2.5 hours a week).
    • Make contact with as many children as possible during the lesson.
    • Ensure that the classroom operates to regularly repeated routines and clear behavioural expectations.
  • Self-regulation
    • Encourage students to use resources to plan, write, revise, edit and present texts independently.
    • Give time and opportunities for students to write on self-selected topics.
    • Encourage students to write outside writing time (through a home/school writing notebook).
    • Provide opportunities for students to look at their writing collaboratively.
    • Students to set personal learning goals after each piece they complete.

Analysis from Gadd (2014) suggests that effective teachers of writing employ all dimensions in strategic combination with each other. The effectiveness of each dimension is contingent on its inter-connectedness to other dimensions within the same pedagogical context. We’d like to add that it is not only Gadd’s work which acknowledges this either – see our references at the bottom for others.

This research makes clear that instructional writing actions and activities are effective if regarded as purposeful by learners and if they include meaningful opportunities for learner involvedness (Behizadeh, 2014, Cremin, 2011, Grainger et al, 2005, Myhill, 2005).

Through his research, Gadd (2014) makes it evident that what is suggested here as effective pedagogy for all learners is a particularly effective pedagogy for low-achievers. What is good for some is infact good for all.

If you would like to receive updates from our blog, you can click the follow button in the top right-hand-corner of the page. Alternatively, you can follow us on twitter at @lit4pleasure

*This article is based on research; may not represent our employer*

References:

  • Behizadeh, N. (2014). Adolescent perspectives on authentic writing instruction. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 10(1), 27-44
  • Cremin, T., (2011) Writing Voices: Creating Communities Of Writers London: Routledge
  • DfE (2012) What is the research evidence on writing? Education Standards Research Team, Department for Education: London
  • Education Endowment Fund (2014) Using Self-Regulation To Improve Writing EEF: London
  • Education Endowment Fund (2017) Improving Literacy In Key Stage Two EEF: London
  • Gadd, M., (2014) ‘What is critical in the effective teaching of writing?‘ The University Of Auckland
  • Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). What We Know, What We Still Need to Know: Teaching Adolescents to Write In Scientific Studies of Reading, 11(4), 313-335.
  • Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007) Writing Next: Effective Strategies To Improve Writing Of Adolescents In Middle School & High Schools Alliance For Excellent Education
  • Graham, S., Harris, K., Mason, L., (2014) Improving the writing performance, knowledge, and self-efficacy of struggling young writers: The effects of self-regulated strategy development Contemporary Educational Psychology Volume 30, Issue 2, p. 207–241
  • Grainger, T., Goouch, K., Lambirth, A., (2005) Creativity and Writing: developing voice and verse in the classroom London: Routledge.
  • Ings, R., (2009) Writing Is Primary Esmee Fairbairm: London
  • Ofsted (2011) Removing barriers to literacy (reference no: 090237).
  • Myhill, D., (2005) Testing times: the impact of prior knowledge on written genres produced in examination settings, Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 12:3, 289-300