I’m sure I’ve blogged about this before but I can’t express how pleased I am with the class’ progression in writing over this year – the above picture is a short extract of a piece written by a year 4. I’ve been looking for that ‘magical’ thing that bumps up the style and ability of children’s writing and (putting my neck on the line here) I think I’ve found it!
We’ve worked really hard all year on three things:
- Sentence structure and demarcation.
Ultimately, those three things determine the style and features of any piece of writing and, now that the children understand these things they’re starting to become excellent individual writers over a whole range of genres.
Sentence structure was something we started to tackle first and we used a whole heap of Alan Peat’s excellent sentence types. They’re really simple for the children to follow, with clear rules belonging to each type, but very effective at the same time. Oh, and there’s a new cheap app out with them all now!
Purpose has been somewhat of a slog. I expected this would be fairly simple to get over – writing is done for a reason and there’s a whole bunch of different reasons (to persuade, to inform, to instruct…). However, it seems that when you’re a child writing is only done “because it’s literacy time.” This has taken me a very long time to break down (and still poses somewhat of a problem) but it seems that the children are now beginning to get to grips with the fact that writing has a real-life purpose too. In fact, giving the children the opportunity to see this real-life application has been part of the break-through here. Performing their scripts, or sending their letters, or publishing their poems has all started the children’s understanding of purpose… and I’ll continue to promote opportunities where this can be shown!
Audience. Well, I always thought this would be the area where we’d struggle the most. The children seem to find that they’re always writing for themselves and don’t really take into consideration the audience that much. This, of course, meant that we had some great diary entries, recounts and letters to family members but that stories often lacked the complexity expected if written for an older audience. Again, real-life experience with this helped a lot but the real breakthrough seems to have come when we’ve done script-writing again this time. Each group had to think about their audience before they started writing, and this lead to a much more explicit showing of a consideration of audience.
It’s not over yet; there’s still plenty of room for improvement, particularly with the little things (full stops, capital letters, punctuation, varying sentence starters, connectives etc…) but what I’ve seen in one year is promising. I think the children understand what writing is all about!