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

From The Victorian To Gove 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.


  • 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, 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,, 16th September 2008.

Writing Study: Lessons That Will Last A Lifetime 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.


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

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.


Writing Study: Lessons That Will Last A Lifetime



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*


  • 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


What Can Cause Poor Writing Outcomes? The ‘Writing Is Primary’ Research Findings

I had thought writing was just something that we all had to do in school and a few special people loved doing. How amazing to learn that everyone seems to harbour the wish [to write]. Of course most people have had bad experiences writing. – Peter Elbow (1998)

This article is based on, and written in relation to, the findings of the Writing Is Primary  (2009) action research project. The tenor of this article 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.

  • Teachers not being clear about what they want from their students.
  • Teachers not demonstrating what they want by writing with or for their pupils.
  • Failure to convince pupils that the writing they are undertaking will be authentic and serve a legitimate purpose.
  • Failure to bring genres of schooling closer to the genres of the wider social world.
  • There is a stronger need for teachers to do their own writing.
  • Too many genres being taught.
  • Not enough time spent on each genre.
  • Not enough time spent on extended writing.
  • Not enough ‘writing study’ lessons. Lessons that ‘put things together’.
  • Children not seeing their teachers enacting in the same activities as them.
  • Pupil’s work will improve when their teachers regard themselves as writers.
  • Modelling is too often through a pre-prepared text.

Schools that focused on developing teacher’s own writing skills identified increased numbers of children who:

  1. Perceived themselves as ‘being good at writing’ (up by over 10%)
  2. Have parents claiming their children ‘write for pleasure outside school’ (up by 24%)
  3. Say that they enjoy writing (up by 22%) – especially when they are given choice in what they write and/or which genre they can write in.

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

**Please note that the views expressed on this blog are informed by educational research and writings but may not represent our employer.**



Time For Reflection: The Major Approaches Teachers Take To Teaching Writing & Their Limitations.

This article is written with the intention to inform and provide interested parties with the opportunity for reflection. All approaches to the teaching of writing come with their own advantages and disadvantages. It should also be said that these advantages and disadvantages depend on what it is that is being measured.

In his book Growth Through English, John Dixon (1967) discusses the three common ‘types’ of writing teaching: skills, book planning/novel study and personal and community growth. 


A skills approach to teaching writing focuses on the learning of:

  • correct spelling,
  • cursive handwriting,
  • vocabulary,
  • correct grammar usage,
  • comprehending the use of longer and more complex sentence structures.

What Britton found in his research (1975) was that this type of writing made up 63% of the total writing undertaken by children in schools. We may recognise this as matching the current requirements of the National Curriculum – where there is a huge emphasis on transcription. You may of course find this ironic when you consider the argument for more skills is usually so that children can communicate better for unimpeded sharing. The teacher will give out writing assignments and tasks, ‘correct’ the class’ work and organise recurrent skills tests for grammar and spelling. The class will be disciplined in carrying out the exact task set by the teacher, and to work on whatever aspects they have ‘failed’ in the last time.

Limitations Of Such An Approach

  • The main limitation of the skills approach is not so much what it focuses on but rather the vast amount is chooses to ignore.
  • Whenever the so-called skill elements of language are divorced from the rest of writing learning (like composition, purpose, audience, agency, writing voice, identity-building), the means simply become the ends.
  • It invites teachers to make children produce writing along the lines of ‘drill’ exercises.

2. Book Planning / Novel Study

According to Dixon, this approach is some people’s response to the skills agenda and again Britton (1975) found that 18% of the total writing undertaken by students was in keeping with this type of writing. It looks to fill the vacuum left by the skills model. The concept is that teachers can be the gatekeepers of what is best in terms of literature and hand this down to a generation. They see that these ‘supposed’ great writers or great books for ‘topic’ offer a variety of models on which pupils’ writing could be hung. However, Dixon argues that this turns language into a one-way process: pupils are readers, receivers of the ‘master’s voice’. He asked how does such activity like novel study relate to the stream of public interaction through writing in which we are all involved every day? Can we agree then that this has in the past (and present) misled practitioners into focusing on the teaching of ‘the body of knowledge’ (the stimuli itself) at the expense of teaching the actual generalities of writing or indeed reading? This misconception has had very far-reaching consequences. By concentrating on the stimuli (the book), the teacher can either assume the relevance of what they are handing over – or more honestly, the question of relevance (for the children) never enters their head. Instead the tradition is accepted.

Limitations Of Such An Approach

  • The main limitation of course concerns ‘culture’. This model stresses culture as a given and is a given culture chosen by the teacher(s). Therefore, there is the constant and systematic ignoring of ‘culture’ as the pupils in the class may know it. A network of attitudes, experiences and personal reflections that children bring to the classroom are therefore largely ignored.
  • It perpetuates the concept that literature itself is a given, a ready made structure which children are simply asked to imitate and a content chosen as noble and rich enough by the teacher as being worthy of attention. Writing/reading is a product handed over by the teacher for copying.
  • This approach denies children exposure to compositional processes which are used throughout life. For example: generating and publishing original thoughts, ideas and concepts, reflecting on lived experiences, reactions to one’s own reading material, wanting to share something we know a lot about and wanting to make changes to the world. In other words, strategies which could show children how writing/reading can and will relate to their own life and experiences are largely underdeveloped.
  • It therefore neglects the most fundamental aim of writing/reading teaching – to promote interaction with one’s self (through reflection) or between people.
  • As a result, writing has been interpreted as the study of texts and ‘imitating’ them out. It deals largely in pre-formatted activities and writing-tasks.

3. Personal & Community Growth

The third type, personal and community growth, argues that teaching writing should be based on language ‘in operation’. Children who learn how to use language for their own purposes and on the behalf of other people. Learning through writing and learning that they have something worth sharing. Britton’s study (1975) found that this only made up 6% of the writing undertaken by children. According to Dixon, writing is about being in operation, not writing ‘dummy runs’ chosen by the teacher. It is the teacher’s responsibility to prepare and allow opportunity for children to have such opportunities. Therefore, it is argued by Dixon that, the teacher needs to create an environment where differing voices, literature and experiences are stored. Each pupil can then take from the store what they can and what they need. It provides a liberation for pupils from the limits of their teachers’ vision.

Limitations Of Such An Approach

Though the personal and community growth model sounds reasonable it isn’t without its limitations. Limitations which need careful reflection:

  • If conventions and systems of written language aren’t central – where do they come? We simply can’t ignore them.
  • Children might remove themselves from classroom interactions (like sharing and publishing) because they feel they have ‘no friends’ there and their writing voice isn’t legitimate when compared to their peers.
  • Children choose writing subjects which may cause tensions or offence within the class ‘community’.
  • The tension between children expressing themselves and teachers being required to critique content.

In conclusion, being aware of certain limitations in some pedagogies is not to dismiss certain practices in schools nor those employed by teachers. Rather, this article is only looking to seek a clearer definition of the circumstances in which learning to write is likely to arise in classrooms.

In his book Research On Composition (1983), Hillocks describes what he considers to be the three dominant writing approaches used within the USA.

  1. Presentational

The presentational approach to writing is concerned with teachers imparting content knowledge prior to writing. Topics are assigned by the teacher and the teaching strategies employed are largely based on the setting of tasks and on marking outcomes.

The Limitations Of Such An Approach

It involves telling pupils what is strong and weak in writing performance, but it does not provide opportunities for pupils to learn procedures for putting this knowledge to work, e.g. showing pupils an information text and fastidiously marking pupil errors, but not teaching procedures to help pupils write information texts.

2. Natural Process

This involves engaging children in writing and fostering positive dispositions. Writing topics are chosen by the pupils and the key teaching strategies include providing general procedures e.g. revision of drafts and peer comments.

The Limitations Of Such An Approach

It prompts ideas and plans for incorporation in particular pieces of writing, but it does not ensure that pupils develop their own ideas and plans autonomously. This is especially so in the organisation of different kinds of writing. E.g. encouraging pupils to draft, discuss and receive feedback on information texts, but not procedures for correcting or avoiding problems – particularly conventions and transcription.

3. Environmental Approach

Involves inducing and supporting active learning of complex strategies that pupils are not capable of using on their own. Writing topics are negotiated between the teacher and children. The particular teaching strategies employed are the developing of materials and procedures to engage children in writing processes.

Hillock’s report on the meta-analysis of 73 studies was that the environmental approach was two to three times more effective than natural process and over four times more effective than the presentational approach. The environmental approach presents new forms, models and criteria and facilitates their use in all writing tasks. Problems are tackled in a spirit of inquiry and problem-solving e.g. drawing pupils’ attention to information texts, helping them to identify the features of such texts and provide writing opportunities in which they can apply this knowledge in their own writing.

If you’d like to read more about how the children writing independently in our class, you can go here.

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

**Please note that the views expressed on this blog are informed by educational research and writings but may not represent our employer.*

  • Britton, J., et al (1975) The Development Of Writing Abilities (11-18) Basingstoke: Macmillan
  • Dixon, J., (1967) Growth In English Oxford University Press: London

Our Most Popular Blog-Posts All In One Place

We appreciate your feedback about the website. Some of you have said it is quite hard to find what you are looking for. Therefore we have placed all our most popular blog posts here. Enjoy!


  1. Why Children Should Be Encouraged To Only Ever Use Phonics As A Helpful Friend.
  2. Creating A Community Of Readers: A Reading For Pleasure Article
  3. Creating A Community Of Readers: The Power Of DEAR
  4. Parent & TA Guide To Listening To Reading & Making Comments
  5. The Four Week Reading Programme
  6. The Year 5 ‘Rights Of A Child Reader’ Guide.

Teaching Writing:

  1. Our Real-World Literacy Approach To Writing
  2. Introducing Our Genre Booklets To The Class & Their Impact.
  3. Writing Study: Lessons That Last Forever PACK
  4. #WritingRocks_17
  5. How To Have Children Writing Independent ‘Assessable’ Pieces Everyday
  6. Teaching Writing: Research Summaries With Easy Access
  7. What If Almost Everything We Thought About The Teaching Of Writing Was Wrong?
  8. What Can Cause Poor Writing Outcomes? The Writing Is Primary Research Findings
  9. Meeting Children Where They Are: Using Pupil Conferencing
  10. A Functional Grammar Table: CPD Subject Knowledge With A Difference
  11. Why The Over Use Of Writing Stimuli & Book Planning Could Be Damaging Children’s Writing Potential.
  12. How We Created Self-Regulating Writers & The Improvements We Have Seen
  13. The Sea Of Writing Ideas: 10 Ways We Got Children Choosing Their Own Topics.
  14. If In Doubt, Circle It Out! How To Create A Class Of Independent Spellers
  15. Teaching The Writing Process Is The Best Way To Improve Children’s Writing
  16. Murray Gadd: What Is Critical In The Effective Teaching Of Writing?
  17. What The Research Says: The 13 Most Effective Ways To Improve Children’s Writing
  18. They Won’t Have Anything To Write About: The Dangers Of Believing Pupils Are ‘Culturally Deprived’
  19. Talk-For-Writing Is Excellent But Does It Go Far Enough?
  20. The 29 Rights Of The Child Writer
  21. Is The Trick In The Publishing? Reflecting On Why The Children Are Writing With Such Care & Attention
  22. What The EEF’s ‘Improving Literacy in Key Stage Two’ Report Tells Us About Teaching Writing Effectively.
  23. Time For Reflection: The Major Approaches To Teaching Writing And Their Limitations
  24. What Is Writing? Why Do We Write?

Writing Topics

  1. Give A Class ‘One’ Book To Write Through And You’ve Taught Them For A Day. Teach Them How To Use ‘Any’ Book And You’ve Taught Them For A Lifetime
  2. Children Writing Memoir : A Great Literacy Topic
  3. Bored With Your Pretend Journalism Topic? Have Children Writing Real Advocacy Journalism Instead!


  1. Books That Change Writing-Teachers
  2. In Teaching Writing – How Important Is It That Teachers Be Writers Too?
  3. ‘All Children Can Write’ A Tribute To Donald Graves
  4. Are You A ‘Teacher Writer’ Or A ‘Writer Teacher’ And Why Does It Matter?

How We Created Self-Regulating Writers & The Improvements We Have Seen.

This article is written with the intention to inform and provide interested parties with the opportunity for reflection. All approaches to the teaching of writing come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Being aware of certain limitations in some pedagogies is not to dismiss certain practices in schools nor those employed by teachers. Rather, this article is only looking to seek a clearer definition of the circumstances in which learning to write is likely to arise in classrooms.

The Self-Regulated Strategy Development model can help teachers incorporate self-regulatory training into their writing pedagogy.

I think teachers learn to be more useful when it is clearer that they are not [always] necessary – Peter Elbow (1998)

Many children struggle to coordinate the multiple cognitive and self-regulatory demands of the writing process. Here we describe how the Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) model of instruction, which combines the explicit teaching of writing strategies with instruction in self-regulatory skills has aided the children in our class.

The first thing to know is that self-regulation can be learned:

  • directly through instruction,
  • indirectly through sheer experience and practice.

What Has Been Given ‘Self-Regulated Strategy Instruction’ In Our Writing Classroom:

We teach children how to generate their own ideas for writing because if we didn’t we may inadvertently train the children in our class to be dependent rather than independent writers. Writing prompts, story starters and stimuli are just a few ways we may communicate to children that they are not capable of writing and thinking on their own. It could be argued that they are also incredibly inefficient ways of getting children to write. According to Jacobson (2000), they can waste valuable writing time.

How The ‘Self-Regulated Strategy Instruction’ Is Delivered

  • Discuss It (explain why authors use these techniques)
  • Model It (show them how it is done)
  • Support It (through Pupil-Conferencing)
  • Independent Performance (give children the resources to carry it out on their own for the whole year)
  • ‘Held’ understanding – adapt these resources in future year groups to make children’s transitions even easier. E.g. have ‘Boxing-Ups’, ‘The Vomit Draft Rules’, ‘Revision Tips Sheets’, ‘Editing Checklists’ ‘Writing Tricks Books’ and ‘Cursive Script Exemplars’ for every year group.

If you consider Malcolm Gladwell’s (2009) 10,000 hours rule, you can see how important it is that children get to repeatedly practise the acts of the writing process. Because, as Ron Berger (2003) has shown, when children have multiple opportunities to revisit the same area of learning, they do so at a more advanced, developed level – until they are at mastery.

Chamberlain (2016) makes it quite clear, the less time children are afforded to write ‘properly’, the less developed or finished their writing will be. This must therefore have some implications. Chamberlain (2016) may argue that one draft and one polishing session are sufficient may get some children to write, but where is the pursuit of excellence in this model? For mastery?

A great example is the story of Austin’s butterfly:

According to Jacobson (2000), the following can cause dependency in writing:

Creates Dependence

  • Teacher selects writing prompt.
  • Teacher is ‘keeper of supplies’
  • Teacher provides the spelling of words
  • Because writing is assigned, students brainstorm their ‘funds of knowledge’ – whatever comes to mind in the time allowed for planning and will just re-write whatever came to mind at the moment. They will then exclaim ‘I’ve finished‘.
  • Writing lasts as long as the sessions lasts.
  • The children are often minimally engaged in the writing task and therefore resist revision and editing.
  • All students ‘finish’ their work at the same time – regardless of whether they have finished or not.

Jacobson (2000) claims the following can promote independence in writing:

Fosters Independence

  • Children select the writing topic, genre or both.
  • Materials are freely available.
  • Students that they can attend to any ‘unsure’ spellings after they have finished drafting.
  • Children can work on a piece over more than one writing session.
  • In anticipation of sharing and publishing, children willingly and carefully revise and edit.
  • Students publish only when they feel they have written something worth sharing.

Therefore there is no such thing as ‘being done’.


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**Please note that the views expressed on this blog are informed by educational research and writings but may not represent our employer.**

Self-Regulated Strategy Instruction For Writing Development

  • Berger, R., (2003) An Ethic Of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. London: Heinemann
  • Chamberlain, L., (2016) Inspiring Writing in Primary School London: SAGE
  • Gladwell, M., (2009) The Outliers: A Story of Success
  • Graham, S., Harris, K., Mason, L., (2011) Self-Regulated Strategy Development for Students With Writing Difficulties.Theory Into Practice. Vol. 50 Issue 1, p20-27
  • 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
  • Johnson, E., Hancock, C., Carter, D, Pool, J., (2012) Self-Regulated Strategy Development as a Tier 2 Writing Intervention Intervention in School and Clinic Vol 48, Issue 4, pp. 218 – 222
  • Lane, K., Graham, S., Harris, K., Little, M., Sandmel, K., Brindle, M., (2010) The Effects of Self-Regulated Strategy Development for Second-Grade Students With Writing and Behavioral Difficulties The Journal of Special Education Vol 44, Issue 2, pp. 107 – 128
  • Zumbrunn, S,Bruning, R., (2013) Improving the Writing and Knowledge of Emergent Writers: The Effects of Self-Regulated Strategy Development Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol.26(1), p.91-110