At St Nicholas CE Primary Academy, we want all our children to develop into thoughtful readers and creative writers. To support us with this, we use the Talk-for-Writing approach (T4W).
T4W enables children to imitate the language they need for a particular topic orally before reading and analysing it and then writing their own version. Through fun activities that help them rehearse the tune of the language they need, followed by shared writing to show them how to craft their writing, children are helped to write in the same style.
They learn the underlying structures and the process of planning using story maps. They also learn about the key strategies for creating interesting characters and settings and how to use a range of sentence types to create different effects including suspense or adventure.
T4W is separated into three different stages:
Stage 1: The Imitation Stage
A typical Talk-for-Writing unit would begin with some engaging activities warming up the tune of the text, as well as the topic focused on, to help children internalise the pattern of the language required. This is followed by talking through a model text, supported visually by a text map and physical movements to help the children recall the story. 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. At this stage, 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: The Innovation Stage
Once the children have internalised the text, they are then ready to start innovating on the pattern of the text. During this phase the teacher and the children begin to change aspects of the model text using their own ideas. They explore the text using different characters, settings or events and new ideas for descriptive language whilst sticking closely to the underlying structure. The key activity in this stage is shared writing, helping the children to write their own by “doing one together” first. This is when the ‘Box-it-Up’ grid will be used to show how to plan the text and then turn the plan into writing.
It’s during the innovation phase that the children work using their toolkits. The toolkits, based on the features and ingredients of the model text, remind children of the different strategies they could use in their stories and helps them to see the progress they are making.
Stage 3: The Invention/Independent Stage
During the invention week the children plan and write their own story based on the text type they have been learning. They experiment with the ideas and begin to explore their own style of writing using sentence types from the model text. This allows the teacher the opportunity to assess the children’s work and to adapt their planning in the light of what the children can actually do.
In addition to writing in English lessons, we ensure that children have the opportunity to write at length across the wider curriculum. In topic lessons this might be a diary entry as a character from Victorian England or a balanced argument about Tudor punishments, looking at whether they were too cruel or justified. In Science children are encouraged to hypothesize and write up their experiment findings.