Writing

Our Teaching Philosophy

The development of writing cannot be seen in isolation from reading, speaking and listening/drama. The best writers are the best readers - we read as writers and write as readers! Strategies for writing, speaking and listening/drama therefore form an integral part of our whole school approach to literacy. 

Writing is essentially a combination of many skills and has therefore, many different elements. These include handwriting, spelling, punctuation, grammar and an ability to compose for understanding and effect with a range of different audiences and for different purposes.

Children need to have developed a wide ranging vocabulary to be effective writers, to have creativity, imagination and good speaking and listening skills.

Life experience, exposure to ideas, books, places and events also contribute to a child's ability to become a good writer.

To find out how we teach writing, parents should visit each of the key strands of our English teaching within this Literacy section of our website.

The following is a broad outline of how we teach English at WJS:
 
Organisation of teaching
English is taught daily, usually during one of the morning sessions and at the same time across the whole school. This allows us to run a wide range of Read Write Inc teaching groups at the same time. It also is taught across the curriculum as an intrinsic part of the broad curriculum we offer.
 
We use a web based resource - Wordsmith - to source resources for teaching and initial curriculum plans that meet the requirements of Curricuum 2014. This is a text based curriculum which means it is based on rich and dynamic books or texts as a starting point and enables us to teach reading and writing longside each other.
 
Planning
The teaching syllabus for English is a ‘Text-Based Curriculum’ taught over a series of units in each term - these can be seen in the Literacy Long Term and unit plans. Units vary in length and cover a range of different genres or types of text. Teachers use the Wordsmith resources as a starting point for planning but adapt these to meet the learning needs of their class. We also include units of work that we have written ourselves to link with curriculum themes or simply because we know they inspire our children!
 
 
‘Read,Write Inc’ approach is used for the teaching of phonics, reading skills and spelling. The texts of ‘Read,Write Inc’ are used in lower groups in Lower School and ‘Freshstart’- part of ‘Read,Write Inc’ is used in lower groups in Upper School. The ‘Text- based ‘ cycle is adapted to these books.
 
We expect children to do at least one piece of extended writing each week either through the Literacy units or as part of the wider curriculum.
 
Objectives
 
We believe the following are crucial to effective English teaching:
  • a strong commitment to teaching literacy skills
  • regular consolidation and practice of fundamental skills and routines
  • opportunities for speaking and listening to develop understanding and confidence
  • opportunities to be engaged in a variety of language –based activities
  • the specific teaching of phonic skills and strategies to improve spelling, using the ‘Read,Write Inc’ strategies
  • enjoyment!
Teaching Strategies
We believe in a broad approach which works towards the achievement of our objectives:
  • whole class teaching, with teacher exposition to introduce new concepts at the start of the lesson, to model reading, to model a writing technique, and to assess and consolidate children’s learning
  • a variety of class teaching, partner work,small group work and individualised tasks and learning support
  • new topics and concepts should be introduced by clearly linking them to earlier existing knowledge and understanding
  • discussion about texts, written work, learning objectives.
  • teachers should use correct technical vocabulary and aim to encourage the children to adopt this for their own discussions.
  • oral presentation of practised readings eg. poems, dialogue
  • use of drama to explore situations and to develop inference skills, and to develop empathy with characters
  • word level work to extend either phonic knowledge and awareness or vocabulary
  • focus on text level work, including the work of established authors as well as pupils’ own writing. 
Marking and Feedback
 
The Feedback and Marking policy is applied to the marking of English.
 
Teachers aim to mark work or give feedback to children so that each pupil knows what they have done well and what they need to do next to improve their writing.
 
We do not mark every spelling or other error but use Sentence Menus to focus children on age or ability appopriate aspects of spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary. Children are expected to be involved in self assessment and peer assessment and be active participants in editing and improving their own work and that of others.
 

Things to Do at Home

  1. Build a climate of words at home. Go places and see things with your child, then talk about what has been seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched. The basis of good writing is good talk, and younger children especially grow into stronger control of language when loving adults -- particularly parents -- share experiences and rich talk about those experiences.

  2. Let children see you write often. You're both a model and a teacher. If children never see adults write, they gain an impression that writing occurs only at school. What you do is as important as what you say. Have children see you writing notes to friends, letters to business firms, perhaps stories to share with the children. From time to time, read aloud what you have written and ask your children their opinion of what you've said. If it's not perfect, so much the better. Making changes in what you write confirms for the child that revision is a natural part of writing -- which it is.

  3. Be as helpful as you can in helping children write. Talk through their ideas with them; help them discover what they want to say. When they ask for help with spelling, punctuation, and usage, supply that help. Your most effective role is not as a critic but as a helper. Rejoice in effort, delight in ideas, and resist the temptation to be critical.

  4. Provide a suitable place for children to write. A quiet corner is best, the child's own place, if possible. If not, any flat surface with elbow room, a comfortable chair, and a good light will do.

  5. Give the child, and encourage others to give, the gifts associated with writing: 

    • pens of several kinds

    • pencils of appropriate size and hardness

    • a desk lamp

    • pads of paper, stationery, envelopes -- even stamps

    • a booklet for a diary or daily journal (Make sure that the booklet is the child's private property; when children want to share, they will.)

    • a dictionary appropriate to the child's age and needs. Most dictionary use is for checking spelling, but a good dictionary contains fascinating information on word origins, synonyms, pronunciation, and so forth.

    • a thesaurus for older children. This will help in the search for the "right" word.

    • erasers or "white-out" liquid for correcting errors that the child wants to repair without rewriting. 

  6. Encourage (but do not demand) frequent writing. Be patient with reluctance to write. "I have nothing to say" is a perfect excuse. Recognize that the desire to write is a sometime thing. There will be times when a child "burns" to write; others, when the need is cool. But frequency of writing is important to develop the habit of writing.

  7. Praise the child's efforts at writing. Forget what happened to you in school and resist the tendency to focus on errors of spelling, punctuation, and other mechanical aspects of writing. Emphasize the child's successes. For every error the child makes, there are dozens of things he or she has done well.

  8. Share letters from friends and relatives. Treat such letters as special events. Urge relatives and friends to write notes and letters to the child, no matter how brief. Writing is especially rewarding when the child gets a response. When thank-you notes are in order, after a holiday especially, sit with the child and write your own notes at the same time. Writing ten letters (for ten gifts) is a heavy burden for the child; space the work and be supportive.

  9. Encourage the child to write for information, free samples, and travel brochures.

  10. Be alert to occasions when the child can be involved in writing, for example, helping with grocery lists, adding notes at the end of parents' letters, sending holiday and birthday cards, taking down telephone messages, writing notes to friends, helping plan trips by writing for information, drafting notes to school for parental signature, writing notes to letter carriers and other service persons, and preparing invitations to family get-togethers.

Writing for real purposes is rewarding, and the daily activities of families present many opportunities for purposeful writing. Involving your child may take some coaxing, but it will be worth your patient effort.

Things to Do for School Writing Programs

  1. Ask to see the child's writing, either the writing brought home or the writing kept in books at school. Encourage the use of writing folders or books, both at home and at school. Most writing should be kept, not thrown away. Books and folders are important means for helping both teachers and children see progress in writing skill.

  2. Be affirmative about the child's efforts in school writing. Recognize that for every error a child makes, he or she does many things right. Applaud the good things you see. The willingness to write is fragile. Your optimistic attitude toward the child's efforts is vital to strengthening his or her writing habit.

  3. Be primarily interested in the content, not the mechanics of expression. It's easy for many adults to spot misspellings, faulty word usage, and shaky punctuation. Perfection in these areas escapes most adults, so don't demand it of children. Sometimes teachers -- for the same reason -- will mark only a few mechanical errors, leaving others for another time. What matters most in writing is words, sentences, and ideas. Perfection in mechanics develops slowly. Be patient.

  4. Find out if children are given writing instruction and practice in writing on a regular basis. Daily writing is the ideal; once a week is not often enough. If classes are too large in your school, understand that it may not be possible for teachers to provide as much writing practice as they or you would like. Insist on smaller classes -- no more than 25 in elementary schools and no more than four classes of 25 for secondary school English teachers.

  5. Ask if every teacher is involved in helping youngsters write better. Worksheets, blank-filling exercises, multiple-choice tests, and similar materials are sometimes used to avoid having children write. If children and youth are not being asked to write sentences and paragraphs about science, history, geography, and the other school subjects, they are not being helped to become better writers. All teachers have responsibility to help children improve their writing skills.

  6. See if youngsters are being asked to write in a variety of forms (letters, essays, stories, etc.) for a variety of purposes (to inform, persuade, describe, etc.), and for a variety of audiences (other students, teachers, friends, strangers, relatives, business firms). Each form, purpose, and audience demands differences of style, tone, approach, and choice of words. A wide variety of writing experiences is critical to developing effective writing.

  7. Check to see if there is continuing contact with the imaginative writing of skilled authors. While it's true that we learn to write by writing, we also learn to write by reading. The works of talented authors should be studied not only for ideas but also for the writing skills involved. Good literature is an essential part of any effective writing program.

  8. Watch out for "the grammar trap." Some people may try to persuade you that a full understanding of English grammar is needed before students can express themselves well. Some knowledge of grammar is useful, but too much time spent on study of grammar steals time from the study of writing. Time is much better spent in writing and conferring with the teacher or other students about each attempt to communicate in writing.

  9. Encourage administrators to see that teachers of writing have plenty of supplies -- writing paper, teaching materials, duplicating and copying machines, dictionaries, books about writing, and classroom libraries of good books.

  10. Work through our PTFA and our Governing Body to support our expectation that writing is a high priority. Learn about writing and the ways youngsters learn to write. Encourage publication of good student writing in school newspapers, literary journals, local newspapers, and magazines.  Let everyone know that writing matters to you.

By becoming an active participant in your child's education as a writer, you will serve not only your child but other children and youth as well. You have an important role to play, and we encourage your involvement.