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Vision for Writing at St Finian's from English Co-Ordinator - Mrs Chihota Year 4 Teacher

We strive to be a school where children enjoy writing and are able to effectively communicate through their writing.

We aim to be: 

  • A school where children develop a love of writing through all curriculum subjects and view themselves as writers. 
  • A school where children use literature to formulate their own ideas and opinions and learn to express themselves confidently.  
  • A school where children develop socially, emotionally, culturally and spiritually through their reading and writing. 

What does Writing look like at St Finian’s?

We use a text-based approach to writing at St Finian’s, meaning that we link all our writing to a text- whether that be fiction, non-fiction, poetry or a ‘visual’ text such as a picture book or a film clip.  Often, this will involve beginning with a ‘hook’. Teachers ensure that they use high quality texts that will stretch and challenge the children as well as capture their interest.  Some, but not all of these texts form part of our Reading Spine collection.  We do not teach fiction ‘genres’ but rather we teach children to write for different purposes- to entertain, to inform, to persuade, to instruct, to describe, to evoke emotion. In non-fiction, we specifically introduce a particular genre in each year group.  We then give opportunities to revisit non-fiction genres taught in other years. Generally, the teaching of writing follows this sequence:

  • Reading and Analysing
  • Gathering Content
  • Planning and Writing (including editing and improving.)

At St Finian’s we also appreciate the importance of using talking to develop writing both in literacy lessons and across the curriculum. This involves making explicit the processes and thinking involved in the writing process so that ultimately they can be internalised and applied by children in their own writing. Word and language games are used throughout school to stimulate and develop vocabulary, punctuation and grammar and spelling.

Formal Teaching

We have developed a clear progression of writing skills that links to the National Curriculum. This ensures that all teachers have a clear understanding of the expectations for their year group, as well as enabling them to support and challenge children in their class.  In addition,  we follow the progression of ‘Alan Peats sentence types’ across the school, meaning that there are specific types of sentences taught in each year group, which are then built upon and extended in successive years.

In EYFS, there is a strong emphasis on developing spoken language in preparation for writing.  Our pupils language learning journey begins in our reception setting. Children are continuously exposed to new language in a variety of ways for example: through conversation, story, poetry, songs and rhymes; through art and design, drama and role play and outdoor exploration; through all the areas of learning in our EYFS. They start to become story-tellers in their own right, through the use of ‘helicopter stories’, which gives children the language of story-telling and helps build their confidence and capacity to tell a story.  Children also are taught to form their letters using non-cursive script in EYFS and to construct simple sentences. 

As children move through the school, they are taught writing in more formal daily English lessons and a cursive script is introduced.  

We teach grammar within the context of our chosen texts and provide opportunities for children to practise specific skills with short writing opportunities as well as at the beginning of lessons as starter tasks.

Within our English lessons, shared writing is used.  During this time, a teacher models writing as the ‘expert’, emphasising particular features or aspects of grammar or punctuation. The process of writing is articulated, with teachers sharing their thought processes.  Sessions are characterised by explicit teaching of specific writing strategies, oral response and collaboration. Where appropriate, the pupils are encouraged to join in with individual or partner work contributions. 

Children’s writing skills are also monitored and developed through guided writing sessions. At these times, the responsibility shifts to the learner and they write with support from a teacher or teaching assistant. It is intended that guided writing provides opportunities for pupils to demonstrate what they have learned about writing and to further develop and extend writing skills. 

As the overall aim is to produce confident writers who can produce written work by themselves, it is important to provide opportunities where children write independently. Frequent opportunities are provided for all pupils to do this at some stage during the writing process. The use of prompts and checklists are regularly available to support this independent stage of writing. These may include vocabulary lists, sentence stems, writing frames and success criteria.

Vocabulary

Across the school, we aim to provide a language rich environment and take every opportunity to model the use of vocabulary appropriate to a subject or topic. We spend time every week discussing new vocabulary we have come across and actively encourage the use of new vocabulary in children’s writing. In order to do this, we ensure that our reading lessons draw out vocabulary and we use strategies such as ‘word of the week’ or ‘word of the day’, as well as providing children with vocabulary lists when they are writing.

Spelling

We want our pupils to become fluent and effective writers; and we believe accurate spelling is a means to that end. Competent spellers need to spend less time and energy in thinking about spelling to enable them to channel their time and energy into the skills of composition, sentence structure and precise word choice.

As a school we use the Rising Stars spelling scheme to ensure coverage of objectives and progression of skills. Short, lively, focused sessions are delivered discreetly as well as teachers making the most of opportunities within English lessons, as appropriate, to reinforce skills taught. Spelling tests may be used as a method of assessing pupils understanding and application of specific spelling patterns or rules that have been taught, however ‘spelling lists’ are not sent home to be tested. The spelling focus for the week is practised at home and communicated through the ‘Home Learning’ sheet.

Within lessons, children are encouraged to ‘have a go’ at spellings they are unsure of and to make use of dictionaries or spelling checklists, as appropriate.

Assessment

Teachers assess informally within lessons, based on observations, conversations and responses from children. This information will then be used to inform planning including where to support and challenge children. Teachers give timely feedback, which may be written or verbal, collective or individual.  Teachers also make termly ‘summative judgements’ of where children are in relation to age-related expectations.

Children are also asked to complete, on a termly basis, written work in response to a prompt for their ‘writing journeys books’.  This provides an ongoing record of progress made with their writing.

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