From October 2017, St Aloysius is delivering a Talk 4 Writing literacy curriculum from EYFS to Year 6 as part of the Primary Writing Project. Talk for Writing is powerful because it enables children to imitate the language they need for a particular topic orally before reading and analysing it and then writing their own version. We want our children to be as confident orally as they are at writing so knew this was the key to opening up their potential.Talk 4 Writing is split in to three stages: Imitation, innovation and independent invention.
Stage 1: Imitation
A typical Talk-for-Writing unit begins with an exciting hook into learning and some engaging activities to help children internalise the pattern of the language required. It is essential that during this initial stage the children become orally competent and can re-tell a chosen story/extract by the end of the Imitation section. The oral retelling is supported visually by a story map that the teacher has created which is accompanied by physical movements to help the children recall the story or non-fiction piece. In this way the children hear the text, say it for themselves and enjoy it before seeing it written down. Once they have internalised the language of the text, they are in a position to read the text and start to think about the key ingredients that help to make it work. This stage includes a range of reading as-a-reader and as-a-writer activities which help the children to pull the text apart and explore the content and structure. We then use a boxing-up technique (splitting the text into sections) and then help the children to analyse the features that have helped to make the text work. Once the boxing up is complete, the class starts to co-construct a toolkit for this type of text so that they can talk about the ingredients themselves – a key stage in internalising the toolkit in their heads.
Stage 2: Innovation
The second stage is an exciting one for the children as they begin to explore their own ideas while sharing with the teacher. Once the children have internalised the text, they are then ready to start innovating on the pattern of the text. Younger children and less confident writers alter their text maps and orally rehearse what they want to say, creating their own version. The key focus in this stage is shared writing with the teacher that then helps the children to move away slightly from the teacher and write their own. It’s during this time that the teacher will identify specific areas for learning and give the children the opportunity to explore different skills before they are expected to do it independently. The teacher will also explore and demonstrate how to accurately use ambitious vocabulary and sentence structures that, again, the children can then apply to their own writing. Demonstrating how to regularly read their work aloud to see if it works is important here. This process enables the children to write their own versions through developing their ability to generate good words and phrases and also develops the inner judge when they start to decide why one word or phrase is best. Good ideas and examples will be hung on the washing line alongside the shared writing so when the children come to write they have models and words and phrases to support them. Throughout the shared writing, the children will be strengthening the toolkit so they start to understand the type of ingredients that may help. Once they have finished their own paragraph/s children should be encouraged to swap their work with a response partner. Then either with the aid of a visualizer or from peer/teacher feedback, the whole class can also discuss some of the more successful work and identify what made it successful. Time will be given at the end of each writing session for the teacher to provide feedback for the children to read and improve on the following day.
Stage 3: Independent invention
This is the final stage of the unit and will provide the children with the most freedom with regard to their writing. The teacher will assess what the children can do and adapt their planning in light of this. This unit will begin with some discreet teaching of an area that the teacher has identified as needing further work prior to the children writing their own piece. More examples of the text are introduced, analysed and compared before the children can have a go themselves on a related topic of their own choosing. The teachers will work with the children to set ‘tickable targets’ which focus on aspects that they need to focus on. Again this section will end with response partner and whole class discussion about what features really worked, followed by an opportunity to edit and improve their work. This process also helps the children internalise the toolkit for such writing so that it becomes a practical flexible toolkit in the head rather than a list to be looked at and blindly followed. At the end of the unit, the children’s work will be published or displayed, either in the classrooms, wider school or on the school website.