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    Using Talk for Writing strategies to improve writingstandardsJo Yardley16/03/2011




    What were your reasons for doing this type of development work?

    I am a leading teacher for ECaW (Every Child a Writer) which means Isupport in my own school and also 2 other schools helping them toachieve greater results in their writing. This is aimed at year 3 and 4children. I was also involved in the Nottinghamshire Talk For Writingproject which entailed 6 teachers trying out the materials after CPD andthen cascading these materials to our school and also through INSET andCPD in other schools. We also presented our case studies atco-ordinator training. My ECaW schools embraced the Talk for Writingstrategies and I worked alongside them for a year helping them toimplement these strategies, plan units which developed these techniquesthrough the whole teaching sequence and also looking at their data forthe children.

    Standards in my school and my ECaW (Every Child a Writer) schoolswere below age related in writing. We all had a particular difficulty inengaging and developing boys in their writing. I wanted to makechildren more excited about their work and also find writing differentgenres more rewarding and easier to do. I wanted them to have ideas, tobe able to structure their work and to be able to craft bettersentences. Ultimately I wanted to have an impact on overall standards.

    Who might find this case study useful?


    Published on 16-Mar-2011

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  • Teacher


    Author: Jo Yardley Jo Yardley

    School or setting

    School: Bishop Alexander Primary SchoolType of school: PrimaryType of setting (if Early Years): LA maintained schoolLocal Authority: NottinghamshireRegion: East MidlandsFree school meals: 35 - 50%


    Year groups: Early Years, Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, Year 4, Year 5, Year 6Gender: BothPerformance: Below age-related expectationWhole school: YesPeople involved: LA adviser, Middle leader, Parent, Phase leader, Support staff, TeacherNumber of classes: 12Number of adult learners: 12


    What specific curriculum area, subject or aspect did you intend to haveimpact on?

    Communication, language and literacy English - writing

    How did you intend to impact on pupil learning?

    By engaging pupils in their learning. By teaching the children what skills they need to develop their writing. To help the children to understand what text structure is and how to plan their own writing. To get the children to use a wider variety of vocabulary and to be able to talk it, then use it in their writing. To use a wider variety of vocabulary that they have identified and 'magpied' from other quality texts. To plan in greater quality and to actually use their planning in their writing. To use paragraphs effectively and to increase cohesion between paragraphs. To use guided writing to teach the children their next steps in learning.

    What were your success criteria?

    Can the children improve in their writing by using a more structured approach? Can the children write in different sentences to shape their text in a more interesting way? Can the children use a wider variety of vocabulary in their talking and their writing? Can my own school achieve their floor target of 65%+ Age related expectations? Can my supported schools increase their writing targets to 70%+ age related expectations?

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  • PLEASE NOTE this page has three tabs - click 'Next tab' below or use tabs above to see Teaching approaches andCPD approaches

    What information or data did you use to measure progress towards yoursuccess criteria?

    Observation outcomes Periodic teacher assessment Pupils' work

    What did you do? What teaching approaches (pedagogy) did you use toachieve the intended impact?

    Use of pupil talk for whole-class teaching

    Describe the teaching approaches you used

    Background Information

    Bishop Alexander is a school in the town of Newark who has a verymixed intake of children. Our KS2 English test results fluctuatebetween 60 80% achieving level 4+ depending on cohort and thesituation in school. Because of this our school was placed in ISP(Improving Schools Programme) this year and we have just completed thefirst year of this. In the last three years we have reorganised all ofthe literacy resources in school and also implemented the nationalstrategy. We have had a whole school push on standards in writing byimplementing elements from the Big Write and speaking and listeningstrategies.

    Implementing Talk for Writing strategies

    All of these strategies were used with my year 5 class and then continued into year 6 with the same set of children.

    I used writer talk when doing shared writing and also guidedwriting; the children found it hard to sit and listen to me at firstbecause we have normally quite interactive sessions. I am going todevelop this further this year.

    I used some prompts for talk and displayed them in front of thechildren and then when reading a shared text or the class novel Imodelled how you would use these phrases and also started discussionsabout the points it raised. We were reading Alone on a Wide Sea byMichael Morpurgo which had lots of different issues which through theseprompts, I felt helped the children to ask more pertinent questions andalso focus their thinking.

    We planned using story maps and cartoon strips talking themthrough, using concentric circles ( children split into 2 groups ofchildrfen one set stay still and the second set move one person at atime talking their plan through- a little like speed dating) to telltheir story to lots of other children and getting feedback from lots ofdifferent children. They had time to edit their story in between eachmove. The children loved this activity, some of the reluctant writerboys found themselves writing because they found it necessary as theycouldnt remember all the things they wanted to say. We had been workingon connectives and a lot of the children were naturally using them in

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  • their talking to vary their sentence starts. We also used talk this wayto talk through plans with other children which uses music to get themto move around the room and stop to the nearest child and talk theirplan getting feedback about their writing from the children.

    We used Boxing up (from the Talk for writing materials - where youtake the main themes of the story and then imitate then, innovate themor invent something totally new based on the structure) with legends.The children found this amazingly helpful because they found it hard todevelop a writer's frame and the conventional frame didnt fit any ofthe examples that I had. So I collected several good examples that had avery similar structure. I modelled how to box up the first legend andthen using this as a working model they boxed up the second, theynoticed the subtle differences between the two and then were able tocheck these boxes with a third. They then went and in pairs boxed uptheir own myth either using one of the story lines already read orcreated a totally new one. They then split from their partner and walkedand talked their legend to a different child. They edited their boxesand then told it to another child. This was repeated allowing thechildren time in between to edit and review. They ended up withscribbled on plans with changes and amendments all over it. They thendid their writing and their end products actually ended up looking liketheir plan!!

    We used the writers diary alongside the class novel to begin withto magpie ideas from the good quality text. Some children loved thisespecially when I encouraged them to take them home and jot down ideasfrom TV or real life. They used them religiously and then had theirdiaries with them when writing their own end of block story. Theyenjoyed finding out that this was what real writers do and also felt alittle naughty taking ideas from other people.

    We also used the imagination stimulating activities, Whats inthe box and Crossing the river (also TFW materials) to get ideasflowing and to extend vocabulary. They were a little confused at firstand I didnt get the quality I wanted as I had introduced it cold. Afterthree or four goes they started to say a better quality response but wewill still have to work on this further.

    Limitations and things to consider before starting Talk for writing:

    We have a lot less written evidence. Some units are taking us longer. Children didnt just develop an imagination over night!! The move from shared writing to the more modelled version was a

    shock for them because they were used to having control of the pen inmy hand.

    We had quite a lively interactive ethos which had been astruggle to get to for the first term. The children need to have theground rules in place for talk and drama. If this isnt embedded ateacher could be setting themselves up to fail.


    Example of a Boxing up framework

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  • What did you do? What approaches to CPD and learning for adults wereused?

    Coaching Training

    Describe the CPD approaches you used

    I was part of the Nottinghamshire project for TfW which trialled theapproaches and also experimented with using it in a non-fiction context.We worked as a working party to implement Talk for Writing in ourschools and then cascaded this in our own school, at LA training events,INSET and the schools we were linked with through ECaW support.

    I cascaded this training to the rest of my school staff. There hadbeen lots of interest (and noise) created because of what we have beendoing and the children had been enthusing to other staff members abouttheir learning. I led a staff meeting on Talk for Writing at my schooland my staff found it brilliant, started talking about the impactstraight away, which gave me the impetus to take it further.

    Classroom observations and informal dialogues with staff were used to see if it was being embedded throughoutschool.

    INSET at other school and with my ECAW schools:

    Used our first cluster meeting to look at main teachingapproaches to TFW which would appeal to Y3/4 and also talked abouttrying some of the more key stage 1 approaches of oral retelling whichmight appeal to our more challenging schools.

    We looked at book talk, writer talk, boxing up, story mapping,warm up games, oral retelling, walk this way talk this way and how touse these approaches in whole class and guided group situations

    I then sent staff to other schools where I knew TfW was being done well and they also watched me. Follow up meetings at individual schools looked at including

    TfW throughout the teaching sequence with discussions into how theapproaches have been going, totally positive feedback. Children enjoyedlearning in this way.

    Next cluster we looked at how to box up non fiction, feedback at the next meeting. Coaching with the ECaW teachers, planning a teaching sequence, assessing the impact after the taught

    session. Looking at work samples after a unit of talk for writing and using APP to see what progress had been made.

    Below is one example of a year 6 plan (journalistic writing) which includes many of the talk for writing techniques.


    Example of year 3 planning

    Planning example Literacy Y6 Journalistic writing

    What CPD materials, research or expertise have you drawn on?

    Used Talk for Writing materials produced by the primary strategies in conjunction with Pie Corbett.

    TfW resources:

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  • TfW pack and ordering information: A video of story-telling (Y2, The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch) can be viewed at A video of Pie Corbett on 'What is reading as a writer?' can be viewed at Assessing Pupils' Progress

    assessingpupilsprogressapp Worked with LA advisor.


    Presentation materials for example INSET day

    Example INSET plan

    Training materials from pilot with focus on non-fiction

    Who provided you with support?

    Senior management Subject leader

    How were you supported?

    We worked as a working party to implement Talk for Writing into ourschools and then cascaded this throughout our own school, trainingevents, INSET and the schools we were linked with through ECaW support.


    What has been the overall impact on pupil learning?

    Enthusiasm - children actually saying under their breath Yes! when its literacy time. Children stuck to their plan more instead of writing and ignoring what they had spent time planning. More participation particularly by boys, they seemed to see the

    point of it and half the time didnt feel like they were working. Better levels in their writing marks when assessed using APP. Using connectives in their talk which then appeared in writing. Much more focus in discussion on texts and children starting to

    be able to articulate their opinions and ideas more clearly. Writing skills are transferring much easier to other subjects and writing is of a much better quality.

    Thoughts you think are relevant to overall impact on learning

    Teachers embraced the Talk for Writing strategies. They found theincreased level of engagement, the buzz about literacy and the outcomesof the children's work to be something amazing. They saw their resultsfor their classes increase in a relatively short time and they alsofound that the sticky bits of writing they had been struggling with mucheasier to teach to the children e.g. boxing up helped childrenmassively with structure. Because they could talk their writing throughthey were, in the older classes particularly, starting to talk in much

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