A Guide To Reading With Children

This year parents, assistant teachers, reading volunteers, teachers and even other young readers have asked us how to effectively read alongside children.

As a result, we created this guide to reading with children. It’s available to download below.

It is split up into a few sections and includes the following:

  1. Sharing and making explicit what it is good young readers do.
  2. Explaining what you should do when reading alongside children.
  3. Explaining your role as a ‘reader-thinker’.
  4. Outlining what the best things you can do when helping a child to read.
  5. Naming the worst things you can when helping a child to read.
  6. A short explanation about how readers go about decoding text.
  7. What to do before you start reading.
  8. What to do whilst you are reading.
  9. What to do after you’ve read.
  10. What sorts of things you can focus on when writing in reading records books.

We hope you find it useful!

A guide to reading with children

DOWNLOAD: A Guide To Reading With Children

If you liked this, you might also want to try:

  1. Creating A Community Of Readers: A Reading For Pleasure Article
  2. Creating A Community Of Readers: The Power Of DEAR
  3. The ‘Rights Of A Child Reader’ Guide.

Our other free resources:

  1. Writing Study: Lessons That Last Forever PACK
  2. A Functional Grammar Table: CPD Subject Knowledge With A Difference

Please support us by clicking on the ‘Follow’ button in the top-right corner (or if you’re on a tablet or smartphone at the bottom of the screen).

You can also follow us @litforpleasure

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Explicitly Teaching The Writing Processes And Writing For Pleasure

Explicitly Teaching The Writing Processes And Writing For Pleasure

This week’s #WritingRocks was about explicitly teaching the writing processes to children with a view to them creating and then using their own personalised process independently. This is because research has, for a long time, advocated for such an approach when teaching apprentice writers:

Chart

  • The first thing to state is that Writing For Pleasure teachers are likely to know that there isn’t really a single agreed upon writing process.
  • With this said, Writing For Pleasure teachers will also know that many children are unaware of typical processes involved in writing and they may not, at first, be able to control all aspects of the writing process at once. As a result, Writing For Pleasure teachers will likely teach children how to prioritise writing processes. This strategy can be modelled and involves showing children that when producing a piece of writing not all writing processes have to applied at the same time and in fact this can be too demanding (Locke, 2015, p.162)! Instead focus on one process at a time. For example, when drafting, children can focus on the composition of their manuscript and proof-read and edit it at another time.

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  • Writing For Pleasure teachers will therefore teach the writing processes and the vocabulary surrounding them (generating ideas, planning, drafting, revising, editing, publishing, sharing and performing) explicitly with a view to increasing children’s flexibly and independent use of them. Particular focus will be given to the recursive nature of these processes too (see below):

 

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Any writing classroom that fails to eventually recognise and promote the recursive nature of these processes and instead looks for children to undertake these processes in order and without socialising with other writers and on demand will ultimately run into difficulties.

  • Writing For Pleasure teachers will ensure that their writing environment, direct instruction, resources and displays are always looking to promote self-regulation, self-efficacy and a development and personalisation of these writing processes.

Processes

  • Direct instruction will involve children seeing writer-teachers using a range of practices (including: modelling, coaching, giving expert information and guidance, questioning, and explaining) with the goal being to lead children towards constructing high-quality texts.
  • Once experienced enough and as their repertoire of writing skills enlarges, children will automatically re-read and improve their work as they compose – in a recursive way. They may change their plans as they compose, they might revise as they draft and perhaps they undertake editing on a sentence they’ve just written automatically and unconsciously. Additionally, children will learn to be discerning about their writing and whether a project is worth perusing through to publication or not.
  • A number of studies have recognised the benefits of a process-oriented approach to writing instruction. The writing process approach, with its links to the writing-workshop movement (Graves, 1983; Calkins 1998; Atwell, 2014), focuses on writers and how to do the things that writers really do – just in a classroom. The process writing approach is best defined as being the marriage between the best of ‘writers’ workshop’ with direct instruction and the concept of ‘self-regulating strategy development‘.
  • Process writing ensures children engage in phases of idea generation, planning, drafting, revising, editing, and importantly, publishing, sharing and performing. Publishing will be a particular focus because of its connection with feeling a sense of satisfaction from producing a final written product.

Obvious Links To Other Writing For Pleasure Manifesto Principles:

The explicit teaching of the writing processes promotes Writing For Pleasure in a number of ways:

  1. It promotes the idea of self-efficacy because it helps apprentice writers to picture themselves realising their writing intentions.
  2. It promotes a feeling of agency. Once experienced enough with the different processes and what they involve, children can control their own writing process.
  3. It can increase children’s motivation. They can see where their writing is leading to and they will be better able to set themselves specific writing-process goals which they will know how to achieve.
  4. It massively supports children’s self-regulation. Over time, apprentice writers will certainly gain a feeling of independence from external intervention and scaffolding.
  5. It will increase their writer-identity. Developing writing processes alongside a feeling of belonging and having an affinity with writing, allows children to feel part of a community where they can talk, craft and undertake the behaviours of a writer in a feeling of safety and understanding.

As an approach, it also reflects other principles outlined in our Writing For Pleasure manifesto including:

  • Purposeful and authentic writing projects because these sorts of projects allow children to negotiate all the different writing processes over time.
  • Reading, sharing and talking about writing because children can begin talking about their own writerly behaviours and their ‘ways of writing’.
  • Building self-regulation because it encourages teachers to provide resources and scaffolds which help children negotiate the writing processes and ultimately shows apprentice writers how they can take an idea through to publishing largely on their own.
  • Personal writing projects allow children time and space to develop their own processes for writing, about things they are motivated to write about and largely at their own pace.
  • Setting writing goals allows children to feel a sense of achievement by completing specific process milestones towards the distant goal of publishing a writing product.
  • Balancing composition and transcription because it ensures you are teaching children how to compose with automaticity which frees them up to think about and attend to transcriptional issues.
  • Being a writer teacher because a writer-teacher will have a better understanding of how the writing processes work and how they deal with them themselves.
  • Pupil conferences because, as a writer-teacher, you’ll be better able to share feedback and advice about the writing processes from a position of expertise and understanding.
  • Literacy for pleasure: reading and writing coming together because when apprentice writers are afforded the opportunity to write authentically, through the writing processes, they begin to exhibit sophisticated reading behaviours. Being afforded such opportunities to write results in high levels of pleasure in reading, with children often seeking out texts that are likely to serve and support their needs as writers and lead them to better understanding these texts as a result.

Further Reading:

If you found this article interesting, you should also read:

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You can also follow us and contribute to the Writing For Pleasure teacher community @WritingRocks_17

References

  • Atwell, N., (2014), In the middle USA: Heinemann
  • Calkins, L. (1998) The art of teaching writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Corden, R. (2007) Developing reading–writing connections: The impact of explicit instruction of literary devices on the quality of children’s narrative writing. Journal of Research in Childhood Education 21: 269–289
  • Danoff, B., Harris, K. R. and Graham, S. (1993) Incorporating strategy instruction within the writing process in the regular classroom: Effects on the writing of students with and without learning disabilities. Journal of Reading Behavior 25: 295–322.
  • Englert, C. S., Raphael, T., Anderson, L. M., Anthony, H. M. and Stevens, D. D. (1991) Making strategies and self-talk visible: Writing instruction in regular and special education classrooms. American Educational Research Journal 28: 337–371
  • Freedman, A. (1993). Show and tell? The role of explicit teaching in the learning of new genres. Research in the Teaching of English, 27(3), 222–251.
  • Graham, S., Harris, K. & Chambers, A. (2016) Evidence-based practice and writing instruction: A review of reviews, in: C. MacArthur, S. Graham & J. Fitzgerald (Eds) Handbook of writing research (2nd edn) (New York, Guilford Press).
  • Graham, S. and Sandmel, K. (2011) The process writing approach: A metaanalysis. Journal of Educational Research. 104: 396–407
  • Graves, D., (1983), Writing: Teachers & Children At Work USA: Heinemann
  • Grossman, P. L., Loeb, S., Cohen, J., & Wyckoff, J. (2013). Measure for measure: The relationship between measures of instructional practice in middle school English Language Arts and teachers’ value-added scores. American Journal of Education, 119(3), 445–470.
  • Harris, K. R. and Graham, S. (1996) Making the Writing Process Work: Strategies for Composition and Self-Regulation. Brookline, Massachusetts: Brookline Books.
  • Harris, K. R., Graham, S. and Mason, L. H. (2006) Improving the writing, knowledge, and motivation of struggling young writers: Effects of self-regulated strategy development with and without peer support. American Educational Research Journal 43: 295–337
  • Hoewisch, A. (2001) “Do I have to have a princess in my story?”: Supporting children’s writing of fairytales. Reading and Writing Quarterly 17: 249–277
  • Jasmine, J., Weiner, W., (2007) The Effects of Writing Workshop on Abilities of First Grade Students to Become Confident and Independent Writers In Early Childhood Education Journal, 35, (2) pp. 131-139
  • Langer, J. A. (2001). Beating the odds: Teaching middle and high school students to read and write well. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 837–880.
  • Larson, J. and Maier, M. (2000) Co-authoring classroom texts: Shifting participant roles in writing activity. Research in the Teaching of English 34: 468–497.
  • Lipson, M., Mosenthal, J., Daniels, P., Woodside-Jiron, H., (2000) Process Writing in the Classrooms of Eleven Fifth-Grade Teachers with Different Orientations to Teaching and Learning In Elementary School Journal. 101, (2), pp. 209-231
  • Locke, T., (2015) Developing Writing Teachers London: Routledge
  • Goldstein, A., Carr, P., (1996) Can Students Benefit From Process Writing In NCES, 1, (3), p.96
  • Peterson, S. S. (2012) An analysis of discourses of writing and writing instruction in curricula across Canada. Curriculum Inquiry 42: 260–284
  • Rooke, J., (2013) Transforming Writing: Final Evaluation Report National Literacy Trust: London
  • Seban, D., Tavsanli, Ö., (2015) Children’s sense of being a writer: identity construction in second grade writers workshop In International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 7(2), 217-234
  • Sexton, M., Harris, K. R. and Graham, S. (1998) Self-regulated strategy development and the writing process: Effects on essay writing and attributions. Exceptional Children 64: 295–311
  • Taylor, M., (2000) Nancie Atwell’s “In the Middle” and the Ongoing Transformation of the Writing Workshop In The English Journal, 90,(1), pp. 46-52
  • Wyse, D., Torgerson, C., (2017) Experimental trials and ‘what works?’ In education: The case of grammar for writing In British Educational Research Journal, 43,(6), pp. 1019–1047

Using Example Texts – Writing With And For Children

Using Example Texts – Writing With And For Children

#WritingRocks Twitter chat with Carolyn from @Write_Example

  • 20:01 – First question posted.
  • 20:02 –  Oh dear – it’s just going to be me and the dog!
  • 20:04 – I should probably have posted my response to the first question…
  • 20:05 – Ooo hello, someone’s joining in…

And we’re off. So was the start to my first ever twitter chat. Never in my life has an hour passed so quickly: the discussion that followed was insightful, educational, challenging and inspiring.

When @Writing Rocks­­_17 asked me to host a #WritingRocks chat session about being a writer-teacher and getting the most out of example texts, I was thrilled and nervous in almost equal measure. Thrilled won: I jumped at the chance. #WritingRocks are a group of teachers interested in discussing all aspects of teaching writing in Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. At the heart of the Writing Rocks philosophy is their Writing for Pleasure Manifesto which is a brilliant read – highly recommended. If you’d like to find out more, check out the rest of this blog which is packed with great information for anyone teaching literacy. I owe a huge thanks to the guys at #Writing Rocks for their support and for the chance to get involved with a #WritingRocks session especially covering an area that I’m so enthusiastic about.

I was also lucky to have help – in the form of an excellent example – thanks to Nicola at @TheWritingWeb who had recently hosted a fantastic chat covering Planning Purposeful & Authentic Writing Projects. Nicola kindly shared her how she’d approached her chat, and the fab postcard she’d used to advertise it. I’d really enjoyed Nicola’s chat so was incredibly grateful for her advice and support.

So here’s how it all went down on the night…

Q1. What are the pros and cons of using example texts?

The pros of using example texts in the classroom weren’t a hot topic for debate in this chat– my guess is that most people participating were broadly in agreement.

Ideas shared:

  • Multiple bases can be covered at once – vocab, grammar, voice, style, purpose – providing a rounded learning experience.
  • Example texts provide an opportunity for children to imitate, innovate and invent.
  • Getting children immersed in a text can be a great way to inspire them write their own versions.
  • Examples chosen from excellent authors can open teacher’s and learner’s eyes to techniques and ideas they may never have otherwise thought of.

Looking at the cons of using example texts began with the comment that finding the right texts can be difficult, followed by the idea that it’s important for texts to be high quality; however, this quickly evolved to a much deeper discussion sparked by the brilliant questions of…do they though? Do example texts always need to be high quality? Or is being authentic enough?

Ideas shared:

  • Some of the most powerful were pieces were the ones that teachers had written from the heart.
  • There is a power in challenging pupils to deliberately write an appalling example – it’s fun, children love spotting other’s mistakes, and it can inspire some children to raise their game.
  • Modelling the rough drafts and edits – blind alleys, wrong turns and dead ends – is easy to forget but important to remember. On the flipside of this, are we brave enough to show how emotionally tough the process of drafting can be – how sometimes we must kill our ideas and start all over again?

For me, this was a great reminder that writing is a balance of processes and each process – including writing for pleasure – can be developed in many different ways, which bring us to…

Q2. How can an example text be used to model writing for pleasure?

I’m really enthused by the discussions around how to develop writing for pleasure going on at the moment. Most creative pursuits are, by nature, pleasurable but, with so much emphasis on other parts of the writing process in the curriculum, the pleasure of writing has been diminished for some children and teachers. I couldn’t wait to hear people’s ideas…

Several people thought that examples could model writing for pleasure:

  • if the example had come from someone writing for pleasure.
  • if combined with raising the profile of writers as inspiring people.
  • if writerly behaviours were modelled.
  • if a writing community was also being developed.

Another perspective shared was that writing for pleasure can’t be modelled from a text especially if a teacher has a specific expectation. This was followed up with the question of… ‘Maybe just modelling texts isn’t enough – maybe, we need to model the writer’s life too?’

The next great question raised was… ‘Do people only ever write if they have to write an example text for their class – or do they write for pleasure as well?’  Some responses were that daily writing of poems and memoirs brought a lot of joy, and that some of the writing process can simply take place in your head – long before you get a spare minute to put pen to paper or finger to smartphone. I liked the line ‘Using the notes app on my phone has changed my life. You can write anytime – anywhere!’.

Some teachers have found that a way to model writing for pleasure is to share their own writing notebook – great idea – but one brave teacher who’d done just this had some words of warning…double check it first for doodles, comments or snippets of eavesdropping which may give you reason to blush!

Q3. What makes an excellent example text?

I love a magic wand question. To summarise, it seemed that most folk are looking for texts which are written from the heart; inspire children and make them smile; are appropriately contextualised; and can be used to scaffold learning in terms of grammar, organisation, language and style. But, people had different ideas of which of these is most important, and so followed a discussion around the benefits of teachers writing their own example texts.

One argument for teachers writing their own texts was that teachers could then cover exactly what their class needed at that time. Also shared was that if teachers ‘write the write’ they’d understand children’s experience of writing processes more easily and so would also be in a better position to do pupil-conferences – there was some fab book recommendations shared regards pupil conferencing – ‘How’s It Going?’ by Carl Anderson and ‘In The Middle’ by Nancie Atwell.

I liked the ideas that ‘You wouldn’t teach maths without first working some problems out on the board – why should writing be any different?’ and ‘There is also the metaphor of you wouldn’t teach a pupil to play the tuba if you had never played it yourself – Donald Graves.

Some felt that writing with spirit and heart was the priority and that ‘crow-barring’ grammatical features into a text removed some of the pleasure from writing and had a less powerful effect on the children. This was generally agreed with, except for the point that having a strong grasp of grammar can be liberating for a writer as they try to communicate their message and what better way to help children learn grammar than seeing it in action?

Perhaps it’s always about balance and what the teacher is hoping to achieve by using a particular text. For me, a text needs to tick three boxes – be engaging and enjoyable; show purpose and help motivate writers; and inspire confidence by providing useful examples of language.  Here at @Write_Example Towers I’m currently working on a bank of differentiated example texts that model grammar-in-action, in a range of contexts, but are also engaging and fun to work with. The hope is that these texts will complement teacher’s own writings by ‘ticking the technical boxes’ thus allowing teachers more flexibility in creating their own examples for their particular class or a specific learning point

And, if you’d like to read more about teachers as writers, Teresa Cremin kindly supplied us with the following links…

Q4. If you had to choose – lots of similar texts vs one text studied in depth?

This made me smile: ‘I love diving really deep so we can see the writer’s craft at different levels. ‘That ‘oh look what they did there moments’ that you get when you really know something!’

And then from another a group of experts: ‘The apprentice writers in my class prefer lots of similar texts.’

Followed by the wise words, ‘Depth over breadth for close up – wider reading of examples for enrichment. We don’t have to choose.’ ‘All about balance in the end and thus hard to wrought and always in response to unique learners! No wonder supporting writers is hard!’

Thank goodness we don’t have to choose – like having to choose between cake or…cake! For me, I like the upside-down triangle of looking at lots of similar texts initially to get the brain juices flowing, and then into detail with a fit-for-purpose example.

And of course, there’s the ‘b’ word again: balance. As with many things, it’s the middle way that yields the best rewards, and whether you prefer using polished pieces or rough notes; a range of texts or a single text; examples full or grammar or examples full of deliberate errors; writing straight from the heart or all of the above – it comes down to what works for each class and each teacher.

Bit about the author Carolyn from @Write_Example

A teacher for 10 years, a writer for much longer. Recently, I’ve had to take a step back from the classroom due to some fairly major health challenges, but I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for teaching, learning, reading and writing. My mission now is to build a bank of excellent example texts which teachers can use to complement their own writings and methods of teaching writing processes. No launch date yet, but it’s getting closer all the time… watch this space!

For the full list of #WritingRocks summaries, go here.

Planning Purposeful & Authentic Writing Projects

Planning Purposeful & Authentic Writing Projects

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#WritingRocks  chat by  @thewritingweb

Have you heard of #WritingRocks, a truly welcoming special interest group open to anyone involved in any aspect of teaching writing in the Primary phase?  It is aligned to the Literacy for Pleasure blog, which explores how theoretical ideas and research might inform practical ways by which to potentially improve children’s motivation and outcomes in literacy. I love their Real-World Literacy approach to teaching writing, underpinned by the 14 interconnected principles of their Writing for Pleasure Manifesto.

Each of their regular #WritingRocks Twitter chats is focused on one of these principles.  As the founder of The Writing Web, I was incredibly flattered to be asked to host a chat earlier this month by Phil and Ross (the fabulous bodies behind for Literacy for Pleasure and #WritingRocks).

This blog post outlines what I learnt from the process and the key themes that arose from the chat on the 5th February 2018.

I drafted the questions in collaboration with Ross from Literacy for Pleasure.  He was instrumental in ensuring the order of the questions was coherent and that they were phrased in such a way that invited diverse and honest responses from potential contributors.

I toyed with the idea of selecting pertinent images to encapsulate each question, as I find this is an effective method of raising the profile of tweets. However, after wasting several hours I chose to create a ‘postcard’, which summarised the session and could be used for regular promotion in the run up to the chat.  I believe this was a successful approach, as was directing Twitter followers unfamiliar with Twitter chats to Literacy for Pleasure’s #WritingRocks Schedule and succinct How to Guide.  Huge thanks to everyone who retweeted promotional materials to their followers!

Having taken part in #WritingRocks chats before, I know that I find it incredibly difficult to ‘keep up’ with the conversation, especially as I’m prone to typos and generally draft Tweets and responses in a Word document first.  (There is simply nothing more cringeworthy as the notification that someone has liked a tweet that promotes a writing business revealing that said tweet is riddled with errors…)  So, in preparation for the chat, I drafted some responses to the four questions, including the #WritingRocks hashtag in the responses.  #WritingRocks kindly allowed me to take over their account but I was also keen to respond to contributors from my @thewritingweb account.  I was stumped.  But the Internet Explorer and Google Chrome short cut buttons at the bottom of my screen inspired a solution: run one account from each web browser and juggle these with the trusty ‘drafting space’ the Word document offered.  Finally, I felt, with the invaluable support of #WritingRocks, that I could make this work.

I felt completely prepared for the session, so put the kettle on ready to go.

Suddenly, it was three minutes until #WritingRocks was live and I was not ready!  I hadn’t even considered that each question would need to be ‘introduced’ with a brief preamble.  Cue, serious panic!  I rushed to draft some suitable words to accompany the ‘release’ of the first question and select an accompanying image to ensure it was high-profile; Monday night is a busy night for Twitter chats.  (Note to self: send this from the #WritingRocks account.)  And so, the heady sequence of juggling screens and ideas began in earnest.

At 8:05pm, no responses had been posted (with the exception of #WritingRocks) and I feared we were all alone!  The all-encompassing magnitude of my panic was crushing, so I posted some of my pre-prepared contributions as a distraction. (Note to self: send this from the @thewritingweb account.)  I refreshed the page and was overwhelmed by the response to the first question:

Q1) 8 to 8:15pm Is there a case for children choosing their own writing topics? What might be the benefits?

This question received the greatest response, I’m not sure whether this is the norm with Twitter chats.  However, I was so engrossed in the related conversations that I neglected to glance at the clock until it was 8:15pm.  Argh, time to release the second question (Note to self: send this from the #WritingRocks account.) and I hadn’t prepared a preamble!  I was inundated with simultaneous actions to complete: juggling screens and juggling conversations, whilst attempting to maintain a professional tone as my sense of panic amplified.  What an exhilarating, informative scenario!  I have collated responses to all four questions at the end of this blog post.

By the time, 8:45pm arrived, time to release the final question, I felt as if I might finally be getting into the swing of things.  Although, much of my time was still focused on threads related to the initial question and my cup of tea remained untouched.  It was only during the aftermath, when I spent nearly three hours ‘pulling apart’ the conversations, that I felt that I had the head space to sincerely engage with every valued contribution.  I searched for contributions using the #WritingRocks hashtag and copied these into a Word document.  It took like what felt forever, as if I was disappearing down the rabbit hole at times.  There must be any easier way!

Here is a summary of the conversation that took place on the night.  Thank you to everyone who contributed at the time and joined the conversation after the event, using the #WritingRocks hashtag.  I was encouraged to learn that those who participated in a Twitter chat for the very first time found it a valuable experience.

I have learnt that there is a real appetite for providing children with opportunities to write for their own audiences and purposes.  It was fascinating to learn about others’ approaches to realising this in their classrooms and the associated challenges.  Ultimately, the consensus appears to be that enabling children to choose the content of their own writing, increases their confidence, motivation and enjoyment.  Children have to know that their ideas are valued and we, as teachers, need to employ relevant strategies to support them in developing child-generated content.

* Plug Alert! *

Hosting the Twitter chat in collaboration with #WritingRocks proved to be an invaluable way of promoting The Writing Web, a newly-developed service that supports Year 6 and 7 students in writing for their own audiences and purposes.  Thank you #WritingRocks for the opportunity, I look forward to participating in your future Twitter chats!

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Q1) Is there a case for children choosing their own writing topics? What might be the benefits?

  • Several contributors highlighted the importance of children writing from a position of expertise. If children choose to write about a familiar topic they are passionate about / that matters to them, this will impact positively on their engagement levels and motivation, leading to better writing outcomes.
  • As educators, we must step aside, for children to understand that they have ‘permission’ to lead the learning. Encourage and acknowledge that they are experts or have a keen interest in a subject or topic and nurture this knowledge towards making good choices about writing
  • Writing is a tool of communication and content and form of authentic communication is determined by the writer.
  • Children who are already experts in a subject will have a lot to write about, making it easier for them to practise the skills they need to develop and refine to become better writers. This might be a more efficient method of teaching writing than having to ‘teach the stimulus’ so often.
  • Children in the EYFS are actively engaged with their learning, as they have a sense of ownership of it. Teachers suggest that this is harder to achieve in KS2.
  • Don’t teach children one Teach them how to use any book for writing. Many teachers ask children to create a bank of ideas, which they draw from in planning sessions, whilst this is not individual choice per se, there is benefit in sharing why certain ideas were selected.
  • One contributor invited children to share and display their interests on a class poster, demonstrating the fact that their ideas are valued and that they can write for and learn from each other.
  • Blogging with an active audience appears to be a solution to offering true freedom of choice and authentic opportunities to make connections. It is imperative that children know who they are writing for and why, as this sense of purpose will inform every subsequent choice they make as writers.
  • Giving children an insight to the different choices a writer has throughout the writing process is always powerful and should include making decisions about content. Some teachers create a ‘toolkit’ as they write, as authentic writing is an organic, creative process.
  • Like adults, children have got to be given the chance to find their spark if they are to achieve real independence as effective creative writers, so that their writing is imaginative not prescriptive. The children who find it most difficult to come up with ideas are the ones who are never asked to.  Perhaps therefore we as teachers can be disappointed with children’s outcomes when given choice at first, because they haven’t been taught how to do it and had enough practice.  Quality fiction and non-fiction texts, as well as practical and creative experiences can provide a possible impetus for children who find it difficult to generate their own ideas.
  • Having choice contributes to children’s enjoyment, motivation and confidence, which is a great baseline from which to create meaningful writing.
  • Some teachers have experience of initiatives such as Free Write Friday. They acknowledged that these can provide opportunities for children to write for pleasure and develop their writing fluency.  It is important that the stages of the retained writing process are employed in such instances, if children are to recognise the importance of editing and publishing.

Q2) How could we help children have confidence in self-choice? Would we as teachers feel a loss of control and would that be significant?

This question received a limited response, however:

  • @Rosemarycalm had a wonderful and positive perspective on teaching writing,suggesting that if you scaffold and model in the early stages the children will be more confident to innovate as the year goes on. Then teachers should feel proud to hand over control.
  • How often do we genuinely model generating and developing ideas, as opposed to presenting children with a bank of ‘fully formed’ resources from the outset?

Q3) How can we find safe and supportive audiences for children’s writing? 

  1. Build A Community Of Writers.
  2. Every Child Seen As A Writer.
  3. Reading, Sharing And Talking About Writing.
  • Build a community of writers by teaching children to give and receive constructive feedback to their peers; a supportive forum ultimately starts within your class.
  • Photocopying work and sending it home is often very appreciated. Spend time teaching the children how to critique each other’s work so it is supportive.
  • Children could create a micro publishing company in partnership with library: logo design, branding, publicity etc. Anthologies in library with info about methods/techniques for enabling kids to write There is lots of scope for purposeful writing and promoting the connections between reading (and libraries) and writing. As a bonus, there’s a receptive audience for their writing as part of the deal!

Q4) How can we successfully promote and value children’s Home Writing?  Do Class Writing and Home Writing ever merge and if so, how is this managed in class?

  • The potential of home writing can often be missed. It can reveal so much about a child’s interests, choice and motivation.
  • Blogs can work well as a crossover between Home writing and class writing. Many excellent teachers encourage blogging in their classes but they often decide what they want the students to write about, devising carefully thought out ‘invitations’ to blog. The Writing Web model demands students choose and develop their own blog content.
  • One school has set up an email account for parents to screen shot work and send it in.
  • Contributors emphasised the importance of providing children with the space and time to share their Home Writing, whilst acknowledging the associated timetabling constraints. Modelling our own home writing too.

If you liked this blog-post, you should also read: Teaching Writing: What Actually Is Authentic Writing?

Our response to: How ‘knowledge about language’ for schools could be so much better, by Michael Rosen

Response to: How ‘knowledge about language’ for schools could be so much better, by Michael Rosen

Michael is right when he says the government and the DfE should have spoken to practitioners like us. Phil and I, for example, are both in the very fortunate position of being applied linguists, teachers and two people who know about writing pedagogy.

Our passion for our work has resulted in our producing materials which we would argue begin to address the idea of teaching ‘knowledge about language.’ Our Real-World Literacy approach is built around the idea that children imitate, investigate, play and repeatedly practise writing and writerly behaviour alongside direct instruction from a sympathetic writer-teacher. We also agree that this kind of ‘knowledge about language’ teaching is helping and always has helped children to write well.

Michael’s first definition of ‘function’ is the one the DfE seem to advocate for. It is a fine description of ‘formal’ grammar teaching, which research tells us does not help improve children’s writing or their writerly behaviours. Michael’s second definition of function is completely in keeping with how we’ve always understood the term ‘functional’ in a Hallidayan sense – that the function of language is utterly related and connected to the social goals of the writing being produced. This is the side of functional grammar that seems neglected. Michael Halliday states that ‘the mastery of language…is not simply the ability to say what one means; rather, it is the ability to mean’.  This is what ‘function’ really means.

It was because of this realisation that Phil and I produced our Functional Grammar Table a few years ago. It was an attempt to persuade ourselves (and eventually other teachers) to move away from the temptations of teaching grammar in a formal way, which we felt was too far removed from the social decisions apprentice writers consider when using grammar for effect.

After considering grammar, we began reflecting on the same issue but on a genre level. From what we’ve observed, teachers, when teaching a form or genre, will often skip straight to the lexical features of a genre. They will focus on word-level items that might be an indicator of a certain type of writing. Sometimes these teachers will drift into some aspects of stylistics – for example types of sentences or sentence length – but it largely stops there.

Our Genre-Booklets are our attempt to counteract such teaching. Taking a top-down approach to teaching about forms/genres, our booklets start with the typical reasons someone might want to write in a certain form; what purpose the form can serve a writer like themselves; what enjoyment or satisfaction it might bring them and what are the potential audiences for such writing. It’s only after this kind of discussion that we even begin to consider what ‘fields’ (meaning topics/themes) can be placed in such a genre by us as a community of writers. Our focus on the tenor (the relationship between writer and reader) of typical genres touches lightly on Michael’s point about narratology, but certainly on reflection this is something we want to think deeper about and is quite an exciting idea. For example, when reading Michael’s reflections on narratology, it reminded me of a girl I taught last year:

She had many difficulties with writing. She found organising the sheer size of her ideas on the page really hard to do and her sentences were often jumbled and hard to follow. However, one day she asked to read the opening of a personal writing project she was working on and it was fascinating. She had decided to address us directly as a Native-American chief. He was speaking to us from beyond the grave and was reflecting on the events that were about to unfold in the story that followed – introducing the narrator at the end of what I can only really describe as a ‘preface’. This kind of understanding and play with narration – something I had certainly never explicitly taught – was a showstopper for the class when they received it.

Anyway, back to our work with our Genre-Booklets. An often justified criticism of genre-theory and the teaching of it is that it can be restrictive. That’s why we always encourage children to consider genre-hybridising and otherwise investigate and play with the genres they know and turn them on their heads. This includes encouraging intertextuality but also ideas like ‘faction‘, ‘fan fiction‘ and ‘metafiction‘.

 

We invite people to contribute to this discussion, and we thank Michael for extending our thinking – as he always does.

 

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You can find the article below amongst others in ‘Why Write? Why Read?

Original Article:

How ‘knowledge about language’ for schools could be so much better

By Michael Rosen

 

If you think of language as a whole, then ‘knowledge about language’ is made up of anything and everything that describes language or can explain why and how we use it in the ways that we do.

Over the last few years, ‘knowledge about language’ in the hands of the government, the DfE and Michael Gove has been reduced to ‘grammar’ and ‘grammar’ has been reduced to one model, one form of what ‘grammar’ might be – a so-called ‘structure and function’ model.

This single model of ‘grammar’ (treated as if it’s the only model) and enforced through the Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling test, then holds sway over primary education, and primary aged children.

First, to be clear, there are other models of grammar, which, say,  treat that word ‘function’, not as how words ‘function’ inside sentences (e.g. this noun is the subject of the sentence) but as social functions (e.g. why have so many of us started saying ‘So…’ at the beginning of our utterances).

For some reason, this form of grammar was not the one implemented and enforced.

There is, though, an even more important criticism to make. ‘Knowledge about language’ is a massive subject and can’t be reduced to ‘grammar’ of any kind. Since the time of Aristotle, linguists have tried to examine language, describe it and explain it. Aristotle was particularly interested in the ‘effects’ of particular uses of language and did a damned good job of it. We all know, for example, what ‘catharsis’ is, thanks to him, but he did more than that in his book ‘Poetics’.

Over the last 150 years, a huge amount of work has gone into examining how the many different uses of language work and have created disciplines such as narratology, stylistics, pragmatics and intertextuality. Though these are mostly written about in very academic ways, they can be broken down into very accessible (and enjoyable) ways for children and school students to use. To be clear: these are also ‘knowledge about language’, and because they are tied very closely to ‘language in specific uses’ and not ‘abstract ideals’, they are especially useful in helping children speak and write.

Narratology, for example, enables us to examine how stories (or any kind of writing) are ‘told’: e.g. who narrates? how does the narration change? what kind of narrator is narrating? what devices does the narrator use to ‘talk’ to us?

Narratology can help us look at how the narration enables us to know how characters think. There are several very different devices that have grown up, all the way from ‘she thought’ to the ‘free indirect discourse’ favoured by Jane Austen and many writers of children’s books.

Narratology can help us look at ‘foregrounding’ and ‘point of view’ – how these shift, favouring one or more characters and why?

Narratology is very useful at helping us with time frames which often change via flashback, flash forward and invocations of continuous time or continuous existence.

Stylistics can take us into how texts ‘sound’ (prosody) – showing us how repetition of structure and letter sounds make rhythms in texts.

Stylistics can draw attention to sentence length, sentence complexity or simplicity, how paragraphs are constructed across texts, why and how these change as the need to express different things change.

Stylistics can draw attention to ‘register’ – how informal/formal a text is? How much does it draw on modes of text from which sources – does the writing empty speech modes? Are there deliberate attempts to ‘borrow’ language from specific sources e.g. from a field different from the one in the text, e.g. from science in a novel?

Stylistics can draw attention to which class of words are repeated e.g. many adjectives, many adverbs – or none?

Pragmatics can draw attention to how dialogue is structured and where the narrator dialogues with the audience/readership. Dialogue can be structured in many different ways in fiction and pragmatics can help us make distinctions.

Intertextuality can help us with the matter of ‘borrowing’ that I mentioned earlier. In essence, all writing is borrowing in that it borrows the sounds, structures and meanings that have gone before in order to do whatever it does. However, some borrowings are more obvious than others and/or more significant. This can be at the level of a whole genre e.g. Hamlet as ‘revenge tragedy’ or at the level say of using literary motifs or tropes e.g. ‘the pathetic fallacy’. Or again allusion to writing or speech that comes before (as Dickens does in the opening pages of ‘A Christmas Carol’) and so on.

If the government and the DfE had been really interested in a holistic view of language and ‘knowledge about language’ it would have talked to applied linguists about all this, and then got hold of people who know about pedagogy and asked them to produce materials which applied this ‘knowledge about language’ in age-appropriate ways, using imitation, and practice and investigation as much as description and direct instruction, so that this ‘knowledge about language’ could have been applied directly to helping children write well.

But they didn’t.

The main reason why they didn’t is because the Bew Report of 2011 imposed the SPaG test instead. This was because Michael Gove told them to.

Teaching Writing: Research Summaries With Easy Access

As teachers and researchers, we now have a very clear, convincing and consistent understanding of what makes effective writing teaching.

Below are some excellent reports, papers and research summaries which are all free to access. I’ll keep adding to this list as further research begin to emerge. Incidentally, if you feel something is missing from this page – let us know and we can add it.

I hope you find them useful.

Murray Gadd: ‘What is critical in the effective teaching of writing?

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George Hillocks: Research on written composition: New directions for teaching

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Richard Ings: Writing Is Primary: Final research report

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Medwell, Wray, Poulson & Fox: ‘Effective teachers of literacy. A report commissioned by the UK Teacher Training Agency’

 

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Hall & Harding: A systematic review of effective literacy teaching in the 4 to14 age range of mainstream schooling

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Higgins: Improving Literacy In Key Stage Two

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Graham & Perin: Writing Next: Effective Strategies To Improve Writing Of Adolescents In Middle School & High Schools’

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Grace Morizawa: Nesting the Neglected “R” A Design Study: Writing Instruction within a Prescriptive Literacy Program’

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Centre For Literacy In Primary Education: ‘Writing In Primary Schools: What We Know Works’

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Department Of Education Australia: Writing Map Of Development’

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Jonathan Rooke: ‘Transforming Writing Report’

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Department For Education:What is the research evidence on writing?’

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What Works Clearinghouse: ‘Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers’

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Judith Langer: ‘Beating The Odds: Teaching Middle And High School Students To Read And Write Well

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Pam Grossman: ‘Measure for Measure: The Relationship between Measures of Instructional Practice in Middle School English Language Arts and Teachers’ Value-Added Scores’

 

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Department For Education: ‘Every Child A Writer’

 

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Gary Troia: ‘Evidence-Based Practices for Writing Instruction’

 

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Teresa Cremin, Debra Myhill, Ian Eyres, Tricia Nash, Anthony Wilson &
Lucy Oliver (in partnership with Arvon): ‘Teachers As Writers’

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Dockrell, Marshall & Wyse: ‘Talk for Writing Evaluation report and Executive summary’

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UKLA: Teaching Writing: What the evidence says (£5) *we’ve added this one due to its sheer quality*

 

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