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. Furthermore, life experience, exposure to ideas, books, places and events also contribute to a child's ability to become a good writer.
Children need to have developed a wide-ranging vocabulary to be effective writers, to have creativity, imagination and good speaking and listening skills. To encourage the learning and use of a wonderful array of vocabulary, we use Ninja Vocab!
Rather than being a scheme of work, Ninja Vocab is just a way of focussing the children on different, more precise vocabulary, for example instead of using words such a red, they might consider crimson or burnt-amber.
As the English language is rich and vibrant when used well, we really want the children to be able to master its intricacies from as young an age as possible. To help with this, we use many resources in class to put a spotlight on great vocabulary including ninja wall displays, word of the week displays, and focused word banks.
English is taught daily, usually during one of the morning sessions, and when required at the same time across year groups which 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.
The ‘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.
Opportunities for writing
Over the last few years, we have put a whole school focus on ensuring that the children are provided with plenty of opportunities for writing at length. 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. As you move through the school, the progress in both length and penmanship is evident in all books.
Not only do we encourage writing based on the wonderful texts that we read in Literacy lessons, but we also use a range of stimuli including outdoor learning experiences, school trips, film, and music.
As Literacy is an intrinsic part of the school curriculum, wherever possible we link our teaching of Literacy to the topics being studied in other areas. It is immensely important that the children flex their writing muscles in all subjects to ready them for their continued education.
Our Approach to teaching writing
Needless to say, writing is an incredibly important part of our curriculum and, as such, we have some methods of teaching that we expect to be consistent in all of our classrooms.
We encourage the use of Talk Partners (TTYP – talk to your partner) to share ideas for writing and orally rehearse sentences. At WJS, we firmly believe that being able to share and discuss before putting pen to paper significantly improves the quality of work produced. Throughout all of our lessons, it is a key feature.
Shared writing is used to model writing and develop compositional and grammar skills together before the children go on to work independently. You will find examples of these displayed on our working walls. These are built up over the course of a week or more and ultimately to support the children with ideas and examples for them to use when completing their own tasks.
Children are also encouraged to edit their work, either independently, with a partner or teacher. They use a green pen to show where they have corrected or improved their work.
Alongside examples of long writing, you will see various steps sheets. These are used to help the children really consider the skills they are able to use well and which they need to work on, as well as show progress and progression across the year groups. Teachers also use a target stamper to pick out specific areas which each child needs to focus on in their next piece of writing.
Encouraging talented writers
Over the years, we have taken part in many able-writer days, offering a chance for those with great skill to really hone their talent, sometimes with fantastic authors.
Additionally, in class, we use several methods to help encourage those with a natural talent for writing:
- Show don’t tell – It is rare that a great writer will tell you their character is freezing, instead they will weave a wonderful web of imagery to describe the feeling; this is something we encourage the children to do from the start of their time with us at WJS.
- Use of precise, adventurous vocabulary – For those children who are aiming for greater depth in the subject, we constantly encourage and expect them to be using the most ambitious vocabulary they can accurately in their work. To do this, we focus a lot of time on teaching them new and interesting words to use (see Ninja Vocab).
- Developing their use of humour – To be funny is quite a complex skill but one when used effectively, is perfect for creating a vivid, nuanced piece of writing. We really try to teach the children how to include humour, and break the fourth wall, appropriately in their work.
- Sharing wonderful examples – As I have mentioned previously, the best writers are generally avid readers, and so we always ensure that we are giving the children opportunities to choose from the most exciting and interesting books that are available to them. That may be through the school library or our class libraries. To encourage the children to expand their knowledge of literature, we display two genres in our classrooms every few weeks. These might be related to the time of year or just an exciting genre that we think will inspire the children.