What is a high-quality text in the context of the writing classroom?

We are all familiar with the term ‘high quality’ when it is used as an attribute of the kinds of texts which are typically recommended for use in the reading classroom. In this article, we want to give a new perspective on what a ‘high quality’ text can be, but in the very specific context of the writing classroom.

As we know, reading and writing are deeply interconnected (Young & Ferguson 2023a, 2023b). However, UK schools are experiencing a systemic problem here, because this connection is usually being interpreted for the writing classroom by those who are actually reading rather than writing specialists. The currently popular idea of tethering so-called ‘creative’ writing activities related to the content of a single text is first and foremost a way of improving children’s reading comprehension rather than teaching them the craft of writing. We’ve written about this a lot elsewhere (LINK, LINK).

As writing specialists who also understand the power of reading, we advocate for the kind of writing lesson in which a reader-writer-teacher finds and teaches one craft move made by the author of a chosen mentor text, and invites the class to apply that strategy in the context of their authentic writing that day (Young & Ferguson 2023b). Finding these craft moves in a piece of writing is the key to discovering what the writer is doing to make that text, and children will see that they can use these moves in their very own piece too.

Here is an example of what we consider to be a high-quality text for use in the writing classroom. It happens to be a fairly recently published picture-book called How To Eat Pizza, by Jon Burgerman. It’s bold, colourful, fun and amusing, and includes an element of non-fiction and instruction within a playful narrative which progresses entirely through the medium of dialogue (what we like to call ‘faction’ LINK). The main character is a personified and very smart slice of pizza intent on avoiding being eaten, and the other characters are various kinds of talking foods, each with its own distinct voice – a sure-fire win with children, who often like to include such characters in their own texts.

So, why is it a high-quality text? Well, for four reasons…

✅ A clear reason why the author was moved to write.

Jon Burgerman’s ability to make clear his reason for writing is the first way in which we can say his book is of high quality. Immediately, we know why he was moved to write the book: opposite the title page he includes a little blurb about his love for pizza, and, in the blurb on the back cover, he leaves us in no doubt that his intention is to entertain his readers, and, in the process, inform them about healthy eating. Children pick up on this, and want to entertain and inform their readers just as much when they write their very own piece. The book clearly matches the reasons children are so often moved to write.

✅ Possibilities for children to write something of their own

Secondly, because of its appeal, Jon’s book has the potential to be what we call a ‘leapfrogging’ book (Young & Ferguson 2022, LINK). Children read it and immediately see how they can write a ‘faction’ or an entertaining information text of their own. In fact, he suggests this possibility on the very last page with the question: Now, how do you eat doughnuts? Given agency over their own ideas, children may choose to write something similar to Jon’s book, or they may not, but there is enough possibility there for something to be developed as a result of reading his text. This potential is another reason why we judge the book to be of high quality in the writing classroom. It’s a book that is open to children’s agency. It offers them their own possibilities. 

✅ Scope for children to play with intertextuality 

A third thing that marks the book out for use in the writing classroom is that its content enables children to be intertextual (Young et al. 2022, LINK). Intertextuality is an ability to draw on your own personal experiences, including things you have read, heard or seen, to help you generate your very own writing ideas. This book is great for inviting children to create their own texts using their own funds of knowledge, language and identity.

✅ Full of great writing craft moves that children will want to use too

Jon’s book is jam-packed with a wealth of quality craft moves. When teachers and children ‘mine’ texts to see how they are made, they together construct a list of what we call product goalscraft moves they agree would be good to do or include in their own texts to make them as meaningful and successful as they can be (Young & Ferguson 2023b). Co-constructed product goals help children maintain their focus and enthusiasm while composing, and are taught how to use these craft moves by their writer-teacher through the medium of SRSD (mini-lesson) instruction (LINK, LINK). They will come to be added to children’s own repertoire of writerly knowledge.

Here are some of the craft moves Jon has used: 

  • Time-markers (fronted adverbials) to show the order in which things could be done (in keeping with the instructional aspect of the book)
  • Adding voice and detail through a variety of adverbs and adjectives
  • Words written in capitals for emphasis
  • Onomatopoeia (vocal noises like “Aaaaargh”)
  • Ellipsis to signal anticipation
  • An interesting use of capitalisation used for the proper name (Pizza)
  • An array of end punctuation
  • Speech marks in dialogue

The book also contains some unusual compositional craft moves which contribute to the book’s appeal, such as: 

  • Having your character talk back to and interact with an invisible narrator
  • Making a joke on the final page to open up the possibility of writing another book, perhaps as part of a series
  • Taking the opportunity to be multimodal – illustrating a whole double-page spread with a gallery of pizza slices, all numbered and labelled with different attributes

Finally, this book would sit well within a collection of similarly high-quality texts, all offering the kinds of possibilities described above. Reading and studying a variety of mentor texts is emphasised by research and is a part of excellent practice in the writing classroom (Young & Ferguson 2023b, LINK).

In summary, we define high-quality texts, in the context of the writing classroom, as offering:
A clear reason why the author was moved to write it
Possibilities for children to write something of their own
Scope for being intertextual
Examples of high-quality craft moves 

In this article, we have given a new perspective to the concept of a ‘high-quality text’ by considering it in the specific context of the writing classroom. This has been a long-felt need. ‘How to Eat Pizza’ is just one example of such a text – and you will find many others in your own class library – which can be added as alternatives to the usual recommended lists. 

We end this article by sharing the templates we use to record our favourite fiction and non-fiction texts for use in the writing classroom. You’re welcome to use this template too. You’ll find them at the end of this document.


  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2022) No More: I Don’t Know What To Write… Lessons That Help Children Generate Great Writing Ideas For 3-11 Year Olds Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre 
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F., Govender, N., Kaufman, D. (2022) Writing Realities Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2023a) Handbook Of Teaching Young Writers Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2023b) Reading In The Writing Classroom: A Guide To Finding, Writing And Using Mentor Texts With Your Class Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre

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