Talk for Writing
At St Joseph’s we teach writing through a curriculum called, ‘Talk for Writing’. This approach allows our children to imitate the language, patterns and structures of texts before they move on to reading, analysing and finally writing their own version independently.
It is our intention that children at St Joseph’s become confident writers and this comes alongside being able to speak their chosen words confidently. Talk 4 Writing is split in to three stages: Imitation, innovation and independent invention.
A typical Talk-for-Writing unit begins with an exciting hook into learning and some engaging activities to help children internalise the pattern of the language required. The focus is on children learning the chosen text and being able to retell it by the end of the stage.
A story map (created by the teacher) is accompanied by physical movements to help the children recall the story or non-fiction piece supports the oral retelling visually. In this way the children hear the text, say it for themselves and enjoy it before seeing it written down.
Once they have internalised the language of the text, they are in a position to read the text and start to think about the key ingredients that help to make it work. This stage includes a range of reading as-a-reader and as-a-writer activities which help the children to pull the text apart and explore the content and structure.
A boxing-up technique (splitting the text into sections) is then used and to help the children to analyse the features that have helped to make the text work. Once the boxing up is complete, the class starts to co-construct a toolkit for this type of text so that they can talk about the ingredients themselves – a key stage in internalising the toolkit in their heads.
The second stage is an exciting one for the children as they begin to explore their own ideas while sharing with the teacher. Once the children have internalised the text, they are then ready to start innovating on the pattern of the text. Younger children and less confident writers alter their text maps and orally rehearse what they want to say, creating their own version. The key focus in this stage is shared writing with the teacher that then helps the children to move away slightly from the teacher and write their own. It’s during this time that the teacher will identify specific areas for learning and give the children the opportunity to explore different skills before they are expected to do it independently. The teacher will also explore and model how to accurately use ambitious vocabulary and sentence structures that the children can then apply to their own writing. Demonstrating how to regularly read their work aloud to see if it works is important here. This process enables the children to write their own versions through developing their ability to generate good words and phrases and also develops the inner judge when they start to decide why one word or phrase is best. Good ideas and examples will be hung on the washing line alongside the shared writing so when the children come to write they have models and words and phrases to support them. Throughout the shared writing, the children will be strengthening the toolkit so they start to understand the type of ingredients that may help. Once they have finished their own paragraph/s children should be encouraged to swap their work with a response partner. Then either with the aid of a visualizer or from peer/teacher feedback, the whole class can also discuss some of the more successful work and identify what made it successful. Time will be given at the end of each writing session for the teacher to provide feedback for the children to read and improve on the following day.
In the final stage of the unit, children are able to develop their own ideas into a finished piece. Teachers will assess what the children are able to do and adapt their planning to suit these areas.
This stage will begin with the teaching of an area that the teacher has identified as needing further work prior to the children writing their own piece. More examples of the text are introduced, analysed and compared before the children can have a go themselves on a related topic of their own choosing. The teachers will work with the children to set targets which focus on aspects that they need to focus on.
At the end of the stage, children will share their work with response partners and class discussions around which features they have included. Editing and improving are a large part of the National Curriculum and children will be given this time to edit their writing. This process also helps the children internalise the toolkit so this becomes a practical, flexible toolkit in the internal memory rather than a list to be looked at and blindly followed.