‘You can make anything by writing’ C. S Lewis
If you google ‘inspirational writing quotes’, hundreds are displayed because in reality where would our world be without words. We would have no authors; no books; we would only have empty pages. For this reason, our job as educators of English writing is so important; getting it right means we can fill our schools with pupils who develop a love of writing and become passionate about filling these blank pages with their creative ideas. Writers write for different purposes and at different times; for some it is in the bleakest time but even then, it creates an outlet; a way of escape.
“Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old school girl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing.” Anne Frank
For others, the purpose may be to entertain or to inform. Whatever the reason, we have a duty to educate our children thoroughly in the process of writing and that is what we aim to do through our curriculum at Whitehouse Community Primary School.
Intent of our English Provision
At Whitehouse Community Primary School, we truly believe that all pupils should be able to confidently communicate their knowledge, ideas and emotions through their writing. We want pupils to acquire a wide vocabulary, a solid understanding of grammar and be able to spell new words by effectively applying the spelling patterns and rules they learn throughout their time in primary school. We want them to write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences across the curriculum. We believe that all pupils should be encouraged to take pride in the presentation of their writing, in part by developing a good, joined, handwriting style by the time they move to secondary school. We believe that all good writers refine and edit their writing over time, so we want children to develop independence in being able to identify their own areas for improvement in all pieces of writing, editing their work effectively during and after the writing process. We do not put ceilings on what pupils can achieve in writing and we do not hold pre-conceptions about any pupils’ ability to make progress. We understand the importance of parents and carers in supporting their children to develop both grammar, spelling and composition skills, and so we want to encourage a home-school partnership which enables parents and carers to understand how to enhance the skills being taught in school.
Implementation of our English Provision
At Whitehouse Community Primary School, we teach the four National Curriculum key strands of English writing – namely composition, grammar, spelling and handwriting - as whole class, age-related lessons. Writing is linked to our half-termly cross-curricular ‘Enquiry’ questions, which give a purpose to writing. Every year group, from Year 1 to Year 6, have three units of writing to complete each half term. These units vary in genre, which means that over the course of the year, pupils will have written for a wide range of audiences and purposes. For example, year 2 have eight narrative pieces of writing, seven non-fiction ones and three forms of poetry to complete. Carefully selected texts complement the writing and provide a stimulus for pupils. When completing each unit, teachers work through the process of writing with their pupils covering features of that text type; investigating examples; discussing and modelling how to plan, draft, write, edit and finally present their work. Worked is marked daily and feedback given. At the end of the year, pupils have built up a portfolio of writing which is presented in their ‘Extended Write’ book. In addition, pupils and teachers complete a deep mark checklist after each unit so that next steps are clearly identified. In addition to the work presented in the extended write books, pupils also have opportunities to write at length in other subject areas, in particular in science and enquiry lessons.
To support the planning of the units, teachers work through a range of carefully written targets, which cover all aspects of writing as per the National Curriculum. Relevant targets are shared with the pupils at the start of every lesson along with the Whitehouse ‘three step’ learning challenges. These steps allow for differentiation and the chance for all pupils to achieve. A gold challenge offers further extension to more able pupils. Writing is assessed through the targets at the end of each unit. Each half term, this data is added to our assessment tracking system and then used to target specific pupils and inform planning.
Grammar, spelling and handwriting is embedded within daily English lessons. In addition, time is allocated for specific standalone lessons. Linked to National Curriculum requirements, KS2 teachers work through a bespoke program of weekly grammar and spelling lessons. Some lessons allow for the revision of spelling patterns and rules; grammatical terms and uses of punctuation from previous years whilst other lessons add new skills to existing knowledge. The spelling program across the school follows the same structure with weekly spelling tests and focused rules and patterns shared each week. In KS1, teachers also have a set of grammar concepts to teach, divided into term tasks. Teachers can choose to teach these as standalone lessons or within daily English lessons.
Across the school, regular skills checks take place for spelling and grammar in each year group which again informs planning and provides evidence for assessment. In addition, the school uses the termly RS Assessment GAPS tests which are completed in Years 1-6. Handwriting is taught throughout the school using the ‘Penpals’ writing scheme which allows for interactive lessons, skills checks and assessments. Handwriting targets form part of the deep mark checklists in extended write work. Throughout the school, to support children with their writing, teachers and teaching assistants provide pupils with a range of resources including prompt cards, spelling lists, vocabulary banks and working walls. Teachers are observed termly and given feedback so they can develop their teaching of writing.
Impact of our English Provision
There are many ways that we can demonstrate the success of our writing curriculum at Whitehouse Community Primary School and the impact it is having for all groups of pupils.