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.
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. Weekly sentence building tasks throughout school are sequenced in such a way that the basic sentence unit is being constantly developed and expanded to the degree that by Upper Key Stage 2, children can begin to manipulate grammatical constructions to create a range of different effects.
As with many of these key facets of writing, children’s abilities are aided 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, appropriate 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.
Throughout school, other areas of the curriculum explicitly teach the subject-specific vocabulary needed to write reports and other more formal pieces, and other more widely-used, high-quality vocabulary (often referred to as tier 2 vocabulary) is explicitly drawn out of texts studied and subjects taught. The wider this base of adjectival and adverbial vocabulary, the more likely a child is to be able to purposefully mould their writing by the end of Key Stage 2.
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 are 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 rules.
On top of this, in Year 3-6, children will be provided with a spelling list of ten ‘Statutory Words’ per half-term which will be tested every two weeks.
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 load’ 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.
The quality and fluency of one’s handwriting has been shown to have a huge effect on so many of the aforementioned areas of writing. This is the reason we place such high emphasis on the embedding of this key skill at Woodhouse.
From Reception, letter formation is explicitly taught in weekly phonics sessions and further recapped in small group settings to be applied every day in morning work. Individual letters follow Little Wandle mnemonics which are recapped regularly to help children remember the correct formation of their letters. During this critical stage in development, much effort is also placed into ensuring the correct position of a child’s paper, the good posture of the child, the correct pressure applied to their pens and an increasingly suitable pen grip for successfully neat handwriting. These core skills are further consolidated in Year 1 where intervention may take place to ensure letters are correctly formed.
In Year 2, lead-in and lead-out strokes are explicitly taught to enable the formation of continuous cursive script later on in the year. Particular attention is given to both top joins (eg. o, w and v) which children find challenging, and letters that are now formed completely differently than before (eg. f, j and y).
At the start of Year 3, children will be consolidating their ability to join their letters and once again letter joins will be explicitly taught to ensure maximum understanding is attained in this area before fluency is achieved.
In Year 4, handwriting should be of a continuous cursive style and pen licenses can be awarded for those who are ready to use handwriting pens in their everyday work whilst maintaining the presentation of their work.
In Year 5 and 6, daily handwriting practise helps children grow in speed and fluency. Special care is taken here to ensure ascenders and descenders are still of the correct size and orientation.
Recent research has suggested that there are many factors that contribute to children producing high-quality writing. One of these is having a clear audience and purpose for their writing; alongside this is the chance to ‘publish’ their work by writing it up in the neatest fashion possible. This practice gives purpose to our editing time and ensures that children really do give their best to their writing. At Woodhouse, we publish our work after every Big Write opportunity and, where possible, present it to the proposed audience to fulfil its original purpose.
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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