The components of an effective writing unit

A class writing project (or writing unit) is an opportunity for a whole class to come together and learn more about a type of writing. It’s also where teachers can explicitly teach children about the processes involved in writing. Research has shown that teaching children about the writer’s process can result in a positive effect size of +1.26. For context, anything over +0.4 is deemed to have a significant positive effect on children’s progress. That’s why teaching the writing processes appears as one of our 14 principles of world-class writing teaching (Young & Ferguson 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023a, 2023b).

An effective writing unit typically involves a reassuringly consistent (though adaptable) routine of: introduce, read as writers, establish product goals, generate ideas, plan, draft, revise, proof-read and publish. 

The table below explains why these different components are so useful and effective.

This type of routine provides an excellent foundation for your writing units. However, once you and your students are comfortable with this kind of structure, you can begin to play around with it. Routine doesn’t mean rigidity – a good routine always has a component of flexible response. The routine’s importance is found in knowing what a good class writing project typically involves and having a shared language you can use with your class and across school. Your students will soon get used to language like: publishing goals, reading as writers, mentor texts, product goals, generating ideas, planning, drafting, process goals, revising, proof-reading and publishing and performing.

It’s important to point out that not every writing unit needs to go through all of these components. Teachers should use their own professional judgement to plan their own units. For example, a teacher could feel it appropriate to remove, shorten or otherwise rearrange particular components based on their class’ needs and the amount of time they want to spend on a particular project. However, with that said, to routinely omit or neglect certain processes would certainly result in children receiving an incomplete writerly apprenticeship and would inevitably lead to unnecessary writing underachievement.

There are endless ways in which you can play around with these key combinations. As writer-teacher Doug Kaufman (2022) suggests, we recommend that you plan your writing units in a graphic form of boxes. This can help you to clarify what components you want to cover and how many sessions you might want to spend on each component. This helps you envision the multiple possibilities for structuring your units in response to your pupils’ needs and personal agendas. Here are some examples:

Below, we provide some examples of what a classic unit can look like across multiple lessons.

Here are some other ways in which teachers have planned a writing unit:

On the next few pages, we show how the components of an effective writing unit support the requirements of The EYFS Framework, Development Matters and the KS1/KS2 STA Writing Statements.

Finally, whilst class writing projects are the perfect place for introducing and teaching children about the writer’s process, it’s crucial to remember that, over time, young writers should have an opportunity to develop their own idiosyncratic ways of writing (Young & Ferguson 2020, 2021a, 2022, 2023). We must provide opportunities for children to play around with these processes for themselves – away from the demands of class writing projects. We believe this is best done by ensuring children have opportunities to pursue their own personal writing projects (Ferguson & Young 2021). This way, they can learn about the recursive nature of the writer’s process and how they can move between these different processes for themselves. It’s also a place for them to learn about other processes writers go through, such as: abandoning, reimagining, returning and updating. For more information, see our eBook: A Guide To Personal Writing Projects & Writing Clubs For 3-11 Year Olds


For more information on planning your class writing units, consider downloading our Class Writing Projects and other eBooks.

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