Writing at Valentine Primary School
At Valentine, there is a team of writing ambassadors. This team is made up of one teacher, and in larger year groups two teachers, from every year group. The team meet every half term and develop the actions they set out at the beginning of the year. The benefits of having a representative from every year group means any actions that are agreed are instantly disseminated within year groups.
We aim to make writing purposeful to each child. We plan and provide children with opportunities to write for different audiences and ensure they understand why they are producing this type of writing. We also provide opportunities for children to share and celebrate their writing with others across the school.
As a school, we have a writing process that every class follows when introducing a new genre of writing. Children will know who their audience will be and why they are doing a particular piece of writing, giving them that purpose. Even though we teach children about different types of genres, the main focus across the school is on writing skills. A copy of these can be found at the bottom of the page along with the writing process. During the immersion stage of the process, close links are made with reading so the children can understand how to structure their writing and magpie ideas for themselves. Children will publish their work in different ways depending on the audience and purpose.
In the academic year 2017-2018, the writing ambassador team introduced children to bookmark targets. After a pre-assessed piece of writing, children are given two targets that they need to work on throughout the writing process. These link to the basic skills for their year group, based on their checklist. These targets are specifically taught to them in workshops throughout the writing process so each child can embed them when writing. At the end of the writing process, the bookmark targets are looked at with the finished work. If the child has used their targets independently in their work, the target is signed off, with the expectation that this skill is now consistently used in all future writing. However, if the child has not used the skill independently or correctly, they will continue to have this as a target in the next writing process, with further workshops provided.
Writing in Year R
When children start school they come with a variety of experiences of using different writing tools. Some children are confident and control them well, whereas others have preferred to complete other activities such as building and dressing up. Within the first few days of starting school we start Clever Hands, which is a programme of gross and fine motor development to support children in becoming controlled writers. This programme is taught three times a week and then activities are provided during child-initiated time to allow children to embed these taught skills. To ensure all children access these activities they are provided with tasks that match their interests. Alongside Clever Hands children are taught how to form the letters in their name, using specific letter rhymes, and in PE, the children have opportunities for ‘tummy time’ to draw and write while laying on their tummy’s with their head raised.
Writing is also taught through phonics. When a new sound is introduced, the children are taught what the letter looks like and words that contain that letter.
As children develop, they are taught how to use a sound card to write the sounds they hear in words. We start with the first sound in words, the initial sound, and then move to writing others sounds they can hear. Once they have understood that sounds go together to make words we introduce simple captions then sentences. By the end of the year the children in Year R have been introduced to capital letters, full stops and finger spaces within sentences, as well as understanding that their writing is there to be read.
Purposeful writing is constantly being modelled to the children from adults. They are shown why we write and as adults are writing we say what we are recording so children understand matching writing to the words. This is really important to children to understand why people write. This is a big focus in our helicopter story sessions every week where children tell a story to the class and the adult writes what they say so the child can see their story in words.
Writing in Years 1 and 2
Writing at Key Stage 1 is based on experiences the children have had to ensure they can write about what they know. This could be from their own experiences from home or experiences they are provided with in school, for example writing poems about bonfires after watching a bonfire grow from small flames into larger ones on the school field, or making pizzas then writing instructions for someone else to follow.
At the beginning of Year 1, the children build on their skills they have learnt from Year R to begin with, especially linked to phonics and using their sounds to write words. As they learn new sounds they can start writing more complex words and then think about which alternative sound they need for particular words. Children use word mats to support their spelling or to check whether they have spelt a word correctly.
As they head into Year 2 the focus becomes more on the spelling and understanding different spelling rules, such as soft c. Children are also taught how to use prefixes and suffixes. All of this links closely to the daily phonics that is taught, showing the children the links between reading and writing.
There is an expectation in Year 1 and Year 2 on writing basic skills and children being able to use them correctly in all their work. This includes cross curricular writing. For example, if a maths lesson they may have to write a reason for an answer. Children would be expected to still apply their basic skills in their maths book.
Writing in Years 3 and 4
In Years 3 and 4, writing is focused on ensuring the basic skills taught in previous year groups are still embedded and children are using them confidently. From here they can then move onto basic writing skills for their year group.
In Year 3 children are assessed on a range of writing skills, with the expectation that they will have retained basic skills from key stage one. As the year goes on new skills are taught within the genre and workshops are held during the writing process to help embed skills. Basic skills and spellings are addressed across the curriculum, e.g. spelling errors are highlighted in maths as well.
In Year 4 writing is geared towards confirming the basic skills taught in Years 1-3 but then expanding on these by enabling children to use them, as well as other age appropriate skills, creatively in their writing. Children will still be working on transcription, composition in addition to punctuation and grammar. However, children will begin to use the taught skills with a detectable flair.
Writing in Years 5 and 6
In Years 5 and 6, there is more of a focus on developing the child as a writer by drawing on everything they have previously been taught. Even in Years 5 and 6, the main focus is still on the basic skills and ensuring these are natural to the child, however more emphasis is placed on the use of language and word choices. They pull apart pieces of text to see how authors control what they want the reader to know at different points. Through doing this, children can manipulate their writing for effect and create visual images in the heads of their reader
In Year 5, children are allowed to plan their pre-assessment before writing it. They then enter the immersion phase, looking at a range of text, recapping the features and focusing on the writing skills they have been taught throughout Years 1-4. Children then plan and draft their writing before editing it before publishing. As the year progresses, there is more of an emphasis on editing and up-levelling their writing. The children are taught to check their own writing against the Year 5 skills checklist. This is then checked by the teachers and any gaps worked on with the child, making learning personalised to them. They think about the reader and try to ensure that they make their writing engaging and interesting.
In Year 6 the quantity and variety of writing the children produce is at its maximum. The children understand a variety of genres which allows them to explore different writing skills and their vocabulary choices. They are then able to independently choose the writing style that best suits the purpose of their writing and their audience. They pull on their experience of reading to support their language choices relevant to the content of their work. From the beginning of Year 6, children are expected to check their writing against the Year 6 checklist of skills when they finish a published piece. This then gives them an idea of the skills they have used confidently and the skills they need to include. The children then edit their work and add in other relevant features. Again this is checked by the teacher to ensure children understand the skills missing and how to support them in developing these skills.
Spelling is taught in all year groups. Each year group has a set of words that every child needs to know how to spell within their writing by the end of the year. A copy of these can be found at the bottom of the page. Each class has word banks, dictionaries and thesauruses to support children in getting the words correct. In addition to these resources, the adults in class pick up on any misspelt words in their marking. These words are practiced by the pupils before being written into their individual spelling books. These books are then used as a tool to help in future writing.
Spelling is taught through phonics in Year R, 1 and 2. Children are taught all the phonemes and words that these phonemes are in. They are shown how to segment the phonemes in these words. Children are also taught that some words in the English language are tricky words that cannot be segmented to spell. Spelling is taught daily in these year groups.
In Years 3 to 6, spelling is specifically taught 5 times a fortnight. In addition to this, spelling is taught as and when needed to individual children through feedback.