At Westfield Junior School, we use the Talk for Writing approach. Talk for Writing is an engaging teaching framework developed by Pie Corbett, supported by Julia Strong.
The key phases of the Talk for Writing process enable children to imitate orally the language they need for a particular topic, before reading and analysing it, and then writing their own version.
Baseline assessment and planning - 'cold task'
Teaching is focused by initial assessment. Teachers use what is known as a ‘cold’ task. An interesting and rich starting point provides the stimulus and content but there is no initial teaching. The aim of this is to see what the children can do independently at the start of a unit, drawing on their prior learning. Assessment of their writing helps the teacher work out what to teach the whole class, different groups and adapt the model text and plan. Targets can then be set for individuals. By the end of the unit, pupils complete a ‘hot’ task which is an independent task on a similar type of writing with an interesting stimulus. Progress should be evident which encourages pupils and helps schools track the impact of teaching.
1. The imitation phase
The teaching begins with some sort of creative ‘hook’ which engages the pupils, often with a sense of enjoyment, audience and purpose. Writing challenges provide a sense of purpose. The model text is pitched well above the pupils’ level and has built into it the underlying, transferable structures and language patterns that pupils will need when they are writing. This is learned using a ‘text map’ and actions to strengthen memory and help pupils internalise the text. Activities such as drama are used to deepen understanding of the text.
Once pupils can ‘talk like the text’, the model, and other examples, are then read for vocabulary and comprehension, before being analysed for the basic text (boxing up) and language patterns, as well as writing techniques or toolkits. All of this phase is underpinned by rehearsing key spellings and grammatical patterns. Short-burst writing is used to practise key focuses such as description, persuasion or scientific explanation.
2. The innovation phase
Once pupils are familiar with the model text, then the teacher leads them into creating their own versions. A new subject is presented and the teacher leads pupils through planning. With younger pupils, this is based on changing the basic map and retelling new versions. Older pupils use boxed-up planners and the teacher demonstrates how to create simple plans and orally develop ideas prior to writing. Ideas may need to be generated and organised or information researched and added to a planner. Shared and guided writing is then used to stage writing over a number of days so that pupils are writing texts bit by bit, concentrating on bringing all the elements together, writing effectively and accurately. Feedback is given during the lessons, as well as using some form of visualiser on a daily basis, so that pupils can be taught how to improve their writing, make it more accurate, until they can increasingly edit in pairs or on their own.
3. Independent application and invention - 'hot task'
Eventually, pupils move on to the third phase, which is when they apply independently what has been taught and practised. Before this happens, the teacher may decide to give further input and rehearsal. Pupils are guided through planning, drafting and revising their work independently. It is essential to provide a rich starting point that taps into what pupils know and what matters so that their writing is purposeful. Writing may be staged over a number of days and there may be time for several independent pieces to be written. With non-fiction, pupils should apply what they have been taught across the curriculum. The final piece is used as the ‘hot’ task, which clearly shows progress across the unit.
At Westfield Junior School, we use the Spelling Shed Programme to teach spelling which is based on orthography morphology and etymology.
Pupils will continue to build on the firm foundations built whilst studying phonics in their early years of education. They will continue to break down spellings into the smallest units of sound and cluster them into syllables in order to read and write words efficiently.
Children will study words; word parts; their meanings and how this affects spelling. There are lessons throughout the scheme that consolidate children’s knowledge of common morphemes such as root formations, prefixes and suffixes.
Children will be able to see how the English language has, over time, borrowed and integrated words and spellings from a range of source languages. For example, the latinate verbs which follow Latin prepositions in English words such as: -act (do), -pute (think) or -opt (choose).
Westfield Road, Hinckley, Leicestershire LE10 0LT