“Quality talk is essential to the writing process” – Mark Hartley
Children will not be able to write well unless they can speak well. Mark emphasised that we need to teach children how to express themselves through dialogic talk in the classroom and having the chance to talk in order to plan their writing (Talk is writing rehearsal). He also emphasised that talking was a way of extending the pupil’s vocabulary – this could be done using word of the day or week and dropping in ambitious vocabulary to your lessons.
Pupils have been asked to write too soon, too often and for too long. This has to stop (short sentence for dramatic effect). A more effective way to produce high quality pieces of work is to allow children to speak at length, deconstruct an exemplar text, participate in shared writing and finally write using the process of chunking – creating short pieces of high quality writing focusing on quality rather than quantity.
Mark emphasised the importance of providing writing scaffolds for the children such as: word mats, synonyms, sentence starters around the board and the working wall. One suggestion was using R.I.P words – words that are no longer useful e.g. said, big, small – and replacing them with more adventurous and ambitious vocabulary. Although not all of the children will have heard of some of these words, it is important that they are exposed to new language especially for children with English as an additional language. These words are also embedded within the current unit of work, current class reading book and used in sentence level work to ensure a clear understanding of them and that they can be used in independent writing.
“Bombard with quality” – Mark Hartley
In the writing process, children should be introduced to an exemplary text (this could be written by the teacher or a past student) in order to identify the success criteria and provide other examples for using them. Next, they should have the opportunity to practise using some of these features themselves, working at sentence level. After this, they would then participate in shared writing with the teacher. This should involve:
- The teacher writes their own without any input
- Next, the teacher scribes the pupils’ ideas (which they have formulated orally)
- The children write the next sentence with a partner on a whiteboard
- The children share their ideas by swapping whiteboards, then they contribute these to the class shared write
- These ideas can be ‘magpied’ when they are composing their own piece of writing
- Lower attaining pupils may require further teaching input
- The teacher should be working with a guided group during the independent writing (to repeat this process)
“Writing is a process; not an event.” – Mark Hartley
Key features for shared writing:
- Rehearse sentences
- Refer constantly to the success criteria
- Occasionally make deliberate errors
- Encourage the automatic use of basic elements (capital letters and full stops)
- Explain why one decision is preferable over another
Every unit should be based around a high quality book – this can include a high quality picture book. The unit will normally last 3 or 4 weeks to allow the children to fully immerse themselves and create their best piece of writing.
“Why are we assessing?” – Mark Hartley
Mark explained that marking must have an impact. Importantly, they need to have time to engage with their feedback and opportunities for reflection/editing. He suggested that this process of responding to marking on an extended piece could take as long as half an hour.
Recommended reading – John Hattie – Visible Learning… can be found in Anna’s office.
Catherine, Finley and Andrew (The writing gurus)