A class writing project is an opportunity for the whole class to learn more about a type of writing. It’s also where teachers can explicitly teach children about the writer’s process. It’s important to point out that not every single class writing project needs to go through all of the processes shared above. Teachers should use their own professional judgement to plan their own class writing projects. For example, a teacher could feel it appropriate to remove a particular process 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 certain processes would certainly result in children receiving an incomplete writerly apprenticeship and would inevitably lead to writing underachievement.
The link between class writing projects and the KS2 STA writing framework statements
Below, we will show how the journey of a class writing project can naturally attend to all aspects of the greater-depth standard.
On the first day of a new class writing project, you will want to establish the purpose and potential audience for the writing. You want to establish a publishing goal with your class [LINK]. This doesn’t take long and so for the rest of the session, children can work on their personal writing project [LINK].
For a few lessons, you will want to read as writers [LINK]. It’s important to remember that if your project is to write some spooky stories, then it’s a good idea to read lots of great spooky stories to see how it can be done! While undertaking this kind of reading, you’ll want to establish the product goals (success criteria) for the project with the class (see this LINK for more details). We recommend spending about 20-30 minutes on this each day. That way, the rest of the lesson can be devoted to children working on their personal writing projects. This ensures children are getting a sustained period in which to write every day.
When you and your class have read lots of great mentor texts, and you’ve established your product goals for the project, you’re in a position to generate your writing ideas. One of the best ways to do this is through an Ideas Party [LINK]. By having an ideas party, you can ensure that every child in your class produces an independent piece of writing by the project’s end.
Modelling a planning technique to your class before inviting them to use that technique for their own writing idea is one device which can help children build cohesion [LINK]. We can certainly recommend keeping these plans and letting moderators know that this is one cohesive device your pupils have used. I can also recommend asking your class to do their planning on a separate piece of paper and not in their English book. That way, they can easily consult their plans as they are drafting.
At the drafting stage, we recommend teaching through the principles of SRSD instruction [LINK]. This way, children can see how grammatical structures and other literary features (what we like to call craft moves) have been used by their teacher before being invited to use and apply that craft move to their own writing that day.
We find that once children have drafted their compositions, they are in a position to reconsider and otherwise re-envision their writing through – revision. This is an opportunity to model more sophisticated craft moves to children before inviting them to give the move a go on their ‘trying things out page’. If they like what they’ve produced, they can add it to their manuscript – but they don’t have to! Moderators love seeing this because the child has provided evidence for certain craft moves but have made the authorial decision not to include it in their final manuscript. The behaviour of a greater-depth writer.
In addition to delivering specific revision craft move sessions, we recommend that teachers meet with their class, in groups, over a few days. This gives them an opportunity to reflect on whether their composition has met the product goals that were established for the project. This gives them time to work on their manuscript a little more – or at the very least use their ‘trying things out page’ to show how they could have applied certain product goals to their writing. While you meet with these groups, the rest of your class can be working on their personal writing projects [LINK].
The National Curriculum and the STA assessment statements are heavily weighted towards accuracy and adherence to conventions. It makes sense then that this is where a teacher will have to devote the majority of their instruction time. To help children try and obtain as close to 100% accuracy as they are capable, we recommend breaking proof-reading down into small and manageable chunks. You can read more about this here. The idea is that once children have completed the aspect of proof-reading that’s been modelled to them by their teacher that day, they can work on their personal writing project. This frees the teacher up to work with children who may be struggling the most.
Publishing is a great opportunity to focus on children’s handwriting in context. How often do we have pupils produce beautiful handwriting for us when they complete their handwriting worksheets, but it goes out the window once they are undertaking composition? Publishing is a great opportunity to give children live verbal feedback and additional instruction in the aspects of handwriting they need to work on most.
Please read this section carefully as there are important things to consider
- Class writing projects are the perfect place for introducing and teaching children about the writer’s process. However, it’s crucial to remember that, over time, writers develop their own idiosyncratic ways of writing (Young & Ferguson 2020, 2021a, 2022, 2023). Therefore, we must provide opportunities for children to play around with these processes. We believe this is best done by ensuring children have opportunities to pursue their own personal writing projects once they have finished what they’ve been asked to do that day for the class project (see LINK for more details). This way, they can learn about the recursive nature of the writer’s process and how they can move between these different processes. It’s also a place for them to learn about other processes such as: abandoning, reimagining, returning and updating. We have to say that through their personal writing, children can produce some of their most creative and innovative work. It’s a great place to look for elements of the greater-depth standard.
On the PDF version of this article, we provide two examples of what a project plan can look like. However, it’s important to remember the following:
- Teachers should use their own professional judgement to plan their own class writing projects. For example, they should either add or remove sessions based on their own class’ needs and the amount of time they want to spend on a project. You can read more about this here.
- The more time spent on a project, the better the final outcomes will be. If you rush a project, you get rushed outcomes.
- It’s important to remember that once a child has completed the goal for that writing session, they should know that they can work on their personal writing project for the rest of the lesson [LINK].
- Remember, this is not the only writing children should produce. Children should also have their personal writing project writing, their writing in the wider curriculum subjects, and the writing they produce in their reading lessons.