Being a Writer
“The way we communicate with others and ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives. “(Tony Robbins, Life Coach)
A writer at The Weald uses their knowledge of sentence structure and punctuation, spelling rules (including phonics), fluency, vocabulary and comprehension when writing for all purposes across the curriculum. They have good understanding of the features and style of different genres and how these correlate to the purpose and audience of different texts. Children understand the creative process of being a writer (plan, write, edit and redraft) and become confident and competent life-long writers by using their imagination as they work towards developing an authorial voice of their own.
Writing is a way of communicating our thinking to others. In school this can be through fiction, poetry and non-fiction, across all areas of the curriculum. In life this can be through email, letters, reports, lists, etc. It is imperative that children learn to write and communicate effectively, as this is an important life skill. Therefore, at the Weald we believe that it is equally important to teach the secretarial skills alongside the more creative skills, incorporating rich vocabulary and creative techniques. We also recognise that there is a direct link between reading and writing: that an author needs to read broadly and often, in order that they can develop their writing skills.
How we plan for being an author
At The Weald we have adopted “The Write Stuff” by Jane Constantine to bring clarity to the mechanics of writing. ‘The Write Stuff’ follows a method called ‘Sentence Stacking’ which refers to the fact that sentences are stacked together and organised to engage children with short, intensive moments of learning that they can then immediately apply to their own writing. This approach makes sure that all of our children are exposed to high quality texts that stimulate quality responses to reading, high quality writing and purposeful speaking and listening opportunities. Our curriculum ensures that all children have plenty of opportunities to write for different purposes. We encourage writing through all curriculum areas and use quality reading texts to model examples of good writing. Writing is taught through a number of different strategies. We believe that children need lots of rich speaking and drama activities to give them the imagination and the experiences that will equip them to become good writers. Through experience days, sentence stack lessons and independent writing opportunities, our children develop the writing skills that they need to be effective authors.
An individual sentence stacking lesson is based on a sentence model, broken in to three chunks:
● Initiate section – a stimulus to capture the children’s imagination and set up a sentence.
● Model section – the teacher close models a sentence that outlines clear writing features and techniques.
● Enable section – the children write their sentence, following the model.
Children are challenged to ‘Deepen the Moment’ which requires them to draw upon previously learnt skills and apply them to their writing during that chunk.
“The Write Stuff” also reinforces grammar through the use of:
● The FANTASTICs which are an acronym that summarise the ideas of writing
● The GRAMMARISTIC is a classroom tool that enables the teacher to drive key grammar messages.
● The BOMBASTICs which helps children capture 10 ways of adding drama and poetic devices to writing in a vivid visual
Phonics and Spelling
At The Weald, we teach phonics and spelling rules as part of daily spelling lessons. For those children who have not mastered the building blocks of phonics as they enter year 3, we will undertake diagnostic assessment focusing on synthetic phonics and blending sounds to make words. At The Weald, we use Letters and Sounds supported by Phonics Play to close the Phonics gap. Where appropriate, children will continue daily to receive high quality, small group phonics teaching based on the phase they need to consolidate. They will receive extra support to learn the phonemes. We will also send home phonemes which the child needs extra support with, so that they can practise at home. At The Weald, we use Spelling Shed resources and planning to support our teaching of spelling through key stage 2. Our teaching of spelling fully meets the requirements of the National Curriculum. Alongside the lessons, children are given spelling homework. Spelling is a key focus within English lessons and enquiry lessons; children are expected to spell key vocabulary correctly. Over key stage 2 children are taught how to use a dictionary effectively and for those who find spelling a challenge, electronic spell checks are used alongside other support strategies.
By the time the children leave The Weald, at the end of Year 6, all the children in the school should be able to write legibly, fluently and neatly with speed. The expectation is that their handwriting will be joined and that they will have developed their own distinct handwriting style. To achieve this, the children are systematically taught cursive handwriting at least once a week, following the Nelson Handwriting Scheme.
How we evaluate our learning as authors
We know that we have developed effective authors if children:
• can confidently apply fluency, vocabulary and comprehension skills across all their writing (across the curriculum).
• have an enthusiasm for writing and an understanding that writing is a life skill (where a certain level of spelling and handwriting is essential).
Teachers make assessment judgements during every writing lesson to gauge how pupils are accessing their learning. They can then amend lessons accordingly to ensure children progress through the Writing Curriculum.
Children are also asked to write independently at the end of every Write Stuff unit and then this is used for assessment purposes. A grid listing all end of year expectations is displayed in the front of each Independent Writing book which is completed by class teachers showing which elements of writing is displayed in their writing. Regular moderation between classes within school and between local and hub schools ensures that judgements are sound. When necessary, intervention programs will ensure that wherever possible, children ‘keep up, rather than catch up.’
Supporting your author at home