Writing at Woodhouse is underpinned by two central aims: to instil in our pupils an excitement for the creativity of the writing process and to teach them the necessary skills and abilities to become successful, independent writers.
To achieve this, emphasis is placed on ensuring the increasingly complex demands of appropriate sentence structure are met securely, that children are exposed to a wide variety of vocabulary and, in conjunction, pupils are provided with opportunities to develop an understanding of the spelling rules of the English language appropriate to their age. To support this, pupils are exposed to a wide range of high-quality texts to enable them to experience a range of writing styles and genres which provide aspirational models for them to reproduce in their own work.
In response to the recent COVID pandemic and the impact this has had on children’s writing in both Key Stages, the emphases that we have previously held as central have become even more crucial and are therefore visible throughout our provision across the whole curriculum.
To instil an ability to confidently build sentences as our pupils progress through school, children are first introduced to ‘High Five’ sentences in early Key Stage 1, majoring on the very basics of sentence construction. Continual practice and mastery of these simple sentences creates a confidence that subsequent teaching builds on.
From this point, complexity is built year upon year, always beginning with the original simple sentence and building outwards from there. For instance, in Year 3 and 4, the children are introduced to fronted adverbials. These openers are merely a sentence with an adverb at the start and separated by a comma. As you can see, once the basic idea of a sentence is embedded, other additions are more easily assimilated into a child’s writing.
As with many of these key facets of writing, children’s abilities are assisted by a huge number of book-based units throughout school where the children are exposed to a wide range of sentence types to use in their own work.
The understanding and use of advanced vocabulary are both central skills in the comprehension and creation of texts and so they are therefore a huge part of our teaching.
From early in Key Stage 1, subject-specific vocabulary is explicitly explored through play, though this vehicle soon makes way for exposure to quality vocabulary through our range of hand-picked class readers. Throughout school, these texts are chosen from our 50 Book Challenge and will be read and re-read throughout the year creating a culture which constantly revisits and enjoys quality lexis.
As children progress into Key Stage 2, they will become accustomed to other vocabulary enhancing resources we use including Mrs Wordsmith resources in the latter years of school.
Soon after children walk through the doors of Woodhouse, a large emphasis is placed on spelling. Initially, this is centred around using their phonic knowledge to encode, and room is made for the choice of phonetically plausible spellings, however, as children progress into Key Stage 2, correct spelling and application of basic spelling rules begin to form a central role in their ability to write effectively.
Although there is a huge array of activities that are used to achieve this in different year groups, all children from Year 1 upwards will receive weekly spelling tests – in Key Stage 1, these will often be based around Common Exception words in line with our Little Wandle Phonics scheme. Spelling tests throughout the rest of school test the application of rules that have been introduced, discussed and practised at least three times in class each week including in dictations, in handwriting and in stand-alone SPaG activities. These should also be practised at home to fully embed these crucial spelling rules.
On top of this, in Year 3-6, children will be provided with a spelling list of ten ‘Statutory Words’ which will be tested every two weeks in the half-term.
To further encourage parental support, children will have a set of key words in the centre of their reading diaries throughout Key Stage 2 that require extra practice. These may be Common Exception Words from previous year groups, statutory words from previous year groups that have been spelt wrong or words that the class teacher considers are crucial moving forwards. Regular practice of these is also encouraged throughout Key Stage 2 when children have any time to do so in class.
This regular practising and exposure to the rules and sounds of the English language serves to provide a confidence with basic spelling that will free up cognitive ‘room’ for the children to focus on the control, manipulation and creativity of their work in later years.
Increasingly difficult punctuation is both explicitly taught in daily SPaG activities and modelled through the daily use of class readers and quality book-based units. In conjunction with explicit teaching and dependable understanding of sentence structure, children are able to apply an ever-expanding range of punctuation marks in their writing.
Basic errors in these punctuation marks are picked up in marking and will be corrected by children the next time work is completed, allowing them to quickly reflect on their own writing and correct any errors made.
Each year group also has a range of punctuation and spelling words/rules that children are expected to be able to recall instantly .
Planning and editing
At Woodhouse, we recognise that choosing words for the page is only part of the skill of writing and must also join with the key skills of planning and editing. As children develop these skills, the purpose and audience take prominence in order to enhance the quality of writing produced.
We also recognise editing as a key foundation of writing successfully and it has become a central facet of our writing pedagogy to use ‘pit-stop’ editing, pausing regularly to re-read and edit work (both correcting errors and improving writing) rather than undertaking one large session of editing once a piece has been written.
There are many free downloadable resource packs including:
Y1 – phonics, grammar, punctuation, writing
Y2 – reading comprehension, grammar, writing
Y3/4 – spelling, grammar, writing, punctuation
Y5/6 – reading comprehension, spelling, grammar, vocabulary