The importance of a whole-school vision for writing

If children are to receive the world-class writing instruction they need and deserve, it is essential that teachers and senior leaders come together and develop a coherent and well-constructed vision for teaching writing (The Writing For Pleasure Centre 2021; Young & Ferguson 2021d; Graham 2022).

This article provides an example of how such a vision was created at a Writing For Pleasure school. It is based on three assumptions as articulated by Graham (2022).

  1. Developing a vision for teaching writing should be guided by theory (Young & Ferguson 2021a) This includes considering what sort of writing teachers you want to be (Young & Ferguson 2022). This provides a framework for thinking about how writing instruction should proceed.
  2. Visions for teaching writing should be informed by the best scientific evidence available (Young & Ferguson 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c, in press). This increases the likelihood that the resulting vision is an effective plan.
  3. Theory and evidence-based writing practices are necessary but not sufficient for developing classroom visions for teaching writing. Teachers need to bring their own knowledge, gained through experience, to this process.

According to Graham (2022), these three ingredients make it possible for schools to make informed, judicious, and intelligent decisions when constructing a vision for teaching writing.

Here is an example of one such vision from one of our Writing For Pleasure schools:

Vision Statement – What happens in our Writing For Pleasure school?

We want to become a school of extraordinary writers and we want the greater-depth standard to be our standard. Therefore, writing is central to everything we do. Firstly, it involves children and teachers writing together every single day. They write for many different purposes, and for a variety of audiences. They are moved to write about what they are most knowledgeable and passionate about. They also write to deepen their responses and understandings of what they read. They write to transform their own (and others) thinking about what they learn in the wider curriculum subjects. They write to entertain, to paint with words, to persuade and share their opinions, to teach others, to make a record of things they don’t want to forget, and to reflect on their own thoughts and personal experiences. They write about themselves and their cultures. They also write to reflect and sustain the cultures of people they might not have met. They share their writing and discuss their development with their peers, teachers and caregivers. They learn how to live the writer’s life.

Our pupils explore new genres of writing through whole class writing projects. Together, they discuss the purpose of the writing project, explore its basic features, and study mentor texts together. Whilst doing this, they consider who they would like to write their pieces for and what they would like to write about most. Students are taught how to use the same features and expert techniques they identified from the mentor texts in their own compositions. They learn how to attend to their spellings, handwriting, grammar, and sentence construction. This helps them write happily and fluently. Pupils learn a whole host of craft knowledge – what we call craft moves. This includes writerly strategies and techniques for negotiating the writing processes. We want our children to know how they can take a germ of an idea and see it through to publication independently and successfully. We support students by providing them with clear processes and ambitious writing goals. They are given ample time and instruction in how to plan and how to improve on what they have already written through specific revision and proof-reading sessions.

Pupils receive daily in-the-moment verbal feedback and responsive assessment-based individualized instruction through teacher-pupil conferencing. These conversations are designed to push the writer and move their writing forward. Pupils are given many opportunities to discuss their compositions with their teachers and their peers. We devote at least one hour a day to the explicit teaching of writing and children write meaningfully for a sustained period every single day. We believe this is the only way they can learn about the discipline of writing and of being a writer. Across the school day, children will also write about their reading and will write in response to their learning in other subjects. Importantly, they also have access to personal writing journals which travel freely between home and school. We want them to live the writer’s life and to be in a constant state of composition.

We create genuine writing communities in our classrooms. Children write in positive and enthusiastic writing environments which are headed up by passionate writer-teachers. Our classrooms are a mixture of creative writing workshops and professional publishing houses. They are rigorous, highly-organised and reassuringly consistent. Pupils are encouraged to take risks and to be innovative, but also to write with focus and serious intent. We adapt our teaching depending on what individual children need instruction in most. Whether they are in Nursery or Year Six and regardless of where they are in their development or experience, all children are treated as writers and are helped not only to write pieces which are successful in terms of the objectives of the curriculum but also meaningful to them as young authors.

References:

  • Graham, S. (2022) Creating a Classroom Vision for Teaching Writing, The Reading Teacher, 75, 475– 484
  • The Writing For Pleasure Centre (2021) Guidance on teaching writing and the new Ofsted framework [Online: writing4pleasure.com/guidance-on-teaching-writing-and-the-new-ofsted-framework/]
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2020) Real-World Writers London: Routledge
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2021a) Writing For Pleasure: Theory, Research & Practice London: Routledge
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2021b) A Quick Guide To Teaching Writing In The EYFS Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2021c) A Quick Guide To Teaching Writing In KS1 Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2021d) The Writing For Pleasure Centre’s Writing Development Scales & Assessment Toolkit Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2022) What sort of writing teacher do you want to be [Online: writing4pleasure.com/2022/03/24/what-sort-of-writing-teacher-are-you/]
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (in press) The Science Of Teaching Primary Writing Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre

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