Creating better writers

We’re all striving to improve the quality of writing done by the children in our care. In this short post we outline five techniques to help children become better writers.

Better writers – know the purpose and audience

Do your children struggle to find the correct level of formality in their writing? Are they able to switch between the extremes of their playground voice and their posh hat voice? Exposure to texts which model these extremes (and the many points in-between) is important. Before getting children to write, spend some time establishing the purpose and audience of the writing. Help them to think about:

  • What the text is for?
  • What should it achieve?
  • Who is it aimed at?

By doing this you should help them to produce better writing which meets the need of the task.

Better writers – define the conventions of the writing

This is all about the form of the writing. Depending on the level of the children, knowing the form of writing may involve some of the following:

How should it be organised?

Does it need time conjunctions so that it is chronological or logical conjunctions to describe a process?

Which tense should be used?

Use the past tense for recounts “Yesterday we went on a trip”, the present tense can be used for some reports “Squirrels are found in many parks and gardens”.

Does the text require the active or passive voice?

Active “We added salt to the water”, passive “some salt was added to the water”

Are there ‘stock phrases’ associated with the form?

Dear sir,,,yours faithfully” in letter writing

Better writers – have teachers who model writing a text

You are the expert in your classroom. Model writing a sample text with the children. Our post on modelled writing gives 10 easy tips to support modelling writing.

Better writers – are involved in shared writing

Get the children to join in with your composition. As an example, “What would be the best word here? Why do you think I’ve started this sentence with ‘he’ rather than the characters name? Can you finish this sentence for me?

Better writers – have access to models, images and scaffolding

In our fuss-free phonics post we talked about the need for a supportive environment. If children are to achieve better writing they need a rich environment supportive of the text-type they are aiming to produce. This could include:

  • key words on display
  • text-types structures, such as those from Sue Palmer (apologies no link available)
  • writing frames to support the form of the text
  • success criteria which identify the elements they should include.

These  tips aren’t a quick fix. Producing better writers requires a consistent approach where these elements are woven together over time. By being explicit about what you want, by sharing quality examples of what you’re looking for and by modelling the writing process you should be successful in helping your children become better writers.

Rachel Clarke – Director Primary English Education Consultancy

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