As I visit classrooms it heartens me when I hear how excited our students are about writing. The other day in a Reception class the children were all engaged in making their own books and were excited to share with me their books and the illustrator techniques they were trying out to ‘match their words.’ On another occasion, I heard the teacher tell the students that it was time for writing and a large number of the students were obviously excited and I heard many of them saying, ‘I love writing, yay- it’s writing time!’
This would not have been the case a few years ago. In fact, a few years ago when I questioned students about writing, they were very disengaged and many of them expressed a dislike for writing.
This all did not happen by chance. As a staff, we have worked hard at building a different culture around writing and to build the student dispositions and attitudes towards writing. We now have a consistent approach across the school that engages, excites and is explicit in how we support our learners to become Authors and Illustrators.
Following are some of the key practices and approaches we implement to support our students.
Read Lots Of Different Text Types (genres) - we discuss and point out craft, punctuation, layout, words/vocabulary that the author is using and how we could learn from this for our own writing.
Talk About The Purpose And Audience For Our Writing
Who are we writing for and why? What are we trying to do in our writing? It may be to entertain, convince the reader of your opinion or to do something or to inform or teach them something.
Expect All Children To Have A Go At Their Own Writing - not allowing them to copy or trace.
If we allow children to copy our writing the message we are really giving children is that you are not capable, we set up reliance on the teacher to do it for them and foster the belief that writing should be ‘perfect’ and all spelled correctly – which it should not! It is also not building a ‘growth mindset’ and supporting our children with the values of Persistence and Resilience. We love it when we hear children say, "I had a go at my writing" and they are excited to share their message with others.
Encourage Students To Be ‘Thoughtful’ Spellers
We don't expect children to spell every word correctly and in the younger years children will approximate their spelling using their letter/sound (phonics) knowledge and be at different stages. This means that for some early writers they may write random letters, others may write cat as ‘ct,’ other children will be able to spell the word correctly.
We do teach and expect that children will spell the most common sight words correctly and show them how to use word walls for many of the common words such as – they, was, the etc, as these words cannot be spelled by sounding out and children need to be taught to spell these correctly from a young age so they don't get into habits of spelling them incorrectly.
Use Interesting Words And Vocabulary
Linked with the above we want students to attempt to try words that they do not know how to spell and not fear or get hung up on spelling it incorrectly as this can lead to them using less interesting words.
An example of this was a child who talked about seeing an Dalmatian dog and how pretty it was with the spots, but when they read it back they had written about a pretty ‘dog’ with spots, because they knew how to spell dog, but did not take a risk and have a go at attempting the word Alsatian.
We want children to take risks with spelling, it helps us to know what else we need to help them learn and it leads to using more interesting vocabulary in their writing.
See Models Of Writing From Adults
Staff model and ‘think aloud’ to show students how to compose their writing and discuss the choices that they make as a writer in order to make the writing interesting and something that others will want to read.
Build A Writer’s Notebook With Ideas And Craft To Use For Their Own Writing
All students in Year 3-7 are provided with a Notebook and have time to add ideas, jottings, photos, pictures, quotes, ideas from authors that they can use for inspiration when it comes to their own writing. All teachers have their own Writers notebooks to model for students how to use them as a place to store ideas to use when asked to write, rather than sitting and staring at a blank page or screen.
Sharing Our Writing With Authentic Audiences
I am sure the parents who were able to visit the recent Holly and Stillwell Poetry celebrations would agree that the quality of writing and engagement of our children was obvious.
Please take the time to view the video and writing samples shared in the editorial and please ask your child about what they are learning and crafting in Writer’s Workshop.
Sally Slattery, Deputy Principal