Children’s reflections on ‘business as usual’ writing units and Writing For Pleasure class writing projects.

Over the past two years, we’ve been introducing Writing For Pleasure class writing projects (The Writing For Pleasure Centre 2022) into our school’s programme of study (business as usual). I asked children to reflect on writing and being a writer before and after their introduction. These reflections were gathered by asking children to complete the Children As Writers survey at the beginning and towards the end of the academic year. 

What struck me were the distinctions made by many children between ‘business as usual’ writing units and Writing For Pleasure projects. Many children explicitly mentioned enjoying Writing For Pleasure projects and not enjoying lessons where they felt they were being ‘told what to do’. 

In the article below, I go into more detail about what those distinctions were and what impact they’ve had on my teaching going forward. 

Results from surveys before the introduction of Writing For Pleasure

The first theme that I identified was the idea that writing was boring and not enjoyable. When asked ‘What goes through your head when the teacher says: we are going to do some writing?’, responses included: ‘I do not want to do this’, ‘This will be long and hard’, and ‘boring’.

For example, one child said ‘I like some writing but not all. I don’t like being told what to write; I only like things I can decide.’ Similarly, another child said ‘Sometimes I really don’t want to do it, but if we’re going to do Writing For Pleasure projects or funner things I love it.’ One said he ‘only’ enjoys writing when it is Writing For Pleasure, and finds all other writing ‘boring’. 

One particularly powerful observation came from a child who said that when she thinks about writing she thinks of ‘a teacher telling you what to do but it is in your own words.’ She also distinguished between this type of writing (which is unenjoyable) with having choice (equated with enjoyment).

Their responses also revealed negative feelings around marking and feedback in our ‘business as usual’ lessons, versus the pupil-conferencing which occurs in Writing For Pleasure projects (Ferguson & Young 2021). Some children thought I was looking for mistakes when I was reading their writing: one wrote that I am looking for ‘vocabulary and corrections’ when I read his work, and another said I’m looking for ‘things to green highlight’ (green highlighter is used to indicate a mistake). One child made her (rightful) dislike for this explicit with this response: ‘Do you enjoy writing? Yes, because it lets me express my emotions and live in my own imaginary world. No, because when I get green highlighter I have to cross out something I like so I never feel my writing is MINE.’

This shows how problematic teacher marking was, and how it was having the total opposite effect it was meant to – instead of helping children, it was demotivating and disempowering. In contrast, pupil-conferencing helps the children in a way that is empowering and effective.

Results from surveys after the introduction of Writing For Pleasure

In contrast to the first writing surveys (in September 2021), there was no mention of writing as boring in the second writing surveys (in April 2022). I think this is arguably due to the fundamental principle of topic choice in the Writing For Pleasure projects; children are taught how to choose and write on topics which interest them most (Young & Ferguson 2022). 

Overall, the children’s responses were much more positive after completing two Writing For Pleasure projects. 

  • More children indicated that they were now writing at home, 
  • 100% of children thought that they ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ have a choice about what they write,
  • 100% of them thought that I personally write ‘always’ or at least ‘often’ outside of school. 

Most importantly, there was lots of mention of enjoyment of writing – more than 10 children mentioned this explicitly. There was no mention of not enjoying my feedback (and green pen) this time around.

I think these responses are due to a variety of teaching practices I introduced. I think it’s mainly due to the fact that I was writing at the beginning of every lesson; thinking aloud and discussing my choices. I would ask their opinion on my craft choices. My writing was genuine. I showed my exhilaration and frustration, and talked openly about the challenges I find with writing. Also, during the pupil-conferencing, I would reference difficulties with my own compositions to share vulnerabilities or something I’d found helpful in the mini lessons I’d previously taught.

For example, “I enjoy writing because I love learning.”, “I get excited because writing is my passion. It is my favourite thing to do.”, ‘What goes through your head: “Yay writing one of the best things.” , “I love writing”, ‘What goes through your head: “Yes I want to do this.” “It is so fun”, ‘What goes through your head: ‘YES, writing my favourite”. “It lets me express myself through words.”, “I am really excited… It is really fun and enjoyable”, “Happy because I love writing.”

I also identified a theme of writing being seen as ‘therapeutic’. This seemed particularly important for those children with additional learning needs or had a lot going on at home. One child, who is currently assigned a social worker and is a CIN, talked about how writing made her ‘feel calm, and took her to her happy place’. She wrote ‘I really enjoy getting all of my stress and anger, I do writing to calm me at home.’ This is in keeping with the findings of a recent National Literacy Trust survey into children’s writing habits during lockdown (Clark et al. 2021).

Similarly, three of the children in my class who are in the process of being diagnosed with SEND, and who are working significantly below the level of the year group, were incredibly enthusiastic in their responses in the second survey. These are children who traditionally struggle to access the Year 5 writing curriculum, and two of whom are particularly difficult to motivate and who find being in the classroom quite stressful. These two children both mention our Writing For Pleasure projects explicitly (‘what goes through my head is journals’ and ‘you get to do whatever you like’). For all three of these children, the Writing For Pleasure projects have had a hugely positive impact on their self esteem, particularly after sharing their work during ‘Author’s Chair’ (Harris 2020).

However, I did still have some children with negative responses. Interestingly, they were all from my most experienced writers. There was mention of ‘frustration’, ‘stress’, ‘it hurts my brain’ and ‘I don’t like it’. There was also explicit mention of ‘a deadline’ being stressful.

On reflection, I think some of this response can be explained by me sometimes neglecting these students who are more competent writers, and thus who I (wrongly) assumed had more robust attitudes around their writing. I tend to focus more on my less experienced writers during writing lessons. It has also made me think very carefully about how to give constructive, empowering feedback – I think perhaps with some of my ‘greater-depth’ writers, I may have been slightly less sensitive with my feedback, thinking that they were more confident and that feedback could be quicker, so I could focus on struggling writers. I think this response could be addressed by giving these children more specific, positive praise (Ferguson & Young 2021). 

In fact classes’ responses as a collective have reinforced my belief in the power of positive, specific praise. I think I do this much more with my least experienced writers, thus they feel more positive about writing, and I need to do this more consistently with all writers in my class.

My actions for next year

My first, immediate action is to stop using green highlighter when I mark their compositions. Now I only use pink highlighter (to indicate that I felt something was effective/done really well), and use my verbal feedback through conferencing to discuss the potential for their pieces and possible improvements they can make. Furthermore, instead of going around while they are writing and correcting their spellings, I give them time at the end of writing time to look at their manuscripts and see if there are any words they think they may have misspelt (what we call ‘unsure spellings’). Once they have done this, they have time to use different strategies to check the spellings (use a dictionary, ask a friend, ask the teacher) and I work together with children who need extra support doing this.

I’m going to try addressing children’s feelings of ‘stress’ around deadlines by bringing them more into the conversation. We can decide together what we feel is a suitable amount of time to get certain writing processes done. For example, ‘do you think we need an extra session for proof-reading?’, ‘do we think we could get our drafts finished by Thursday – OK – let’s aim for that’. I’m also going to plan a mini-lesson where I share how other writers manage their process and set themselves deadlines (Young et al. 2021).

By Ciara Lawlor

*New eBook* A Classroom Guide To Getting Your Year Right For Writing

In A Classroom Guide To Getting Your Year Right For Writing, writer-teachers Ross Young, Tobias Hayden and Felicity Ferguson share their secrets about having a great year of writing with your pupils. 

With so many things to attend to and consider at the beginning of an academic year, quality time to think about what your writing teaching will look like is often at a premium. This eBook shows you how to gain that time, and how to use it productively for the benefit of both yourself and your class.

Spend the first two weeks following our advice and carry out a successful Welcome Project, which will help children in a friendly and reassuring way understand what writing and being a writer is going to mean in your class or school.

This eBook provides:

  • A suggested welcome project for setting children up in the EYFS as book-makers
  • An example of a welcome project for KS1  
  • An example of a welcome project for KS2
  • Over 40 illustrated lesson examples and visuals taken from real classrooms and from the work of expert practitioners
  • Top tips from practising teachers
  • Answers to frequently asked questions  

This book is essential reading for writing coordinators and teachers. By undertaking quality Welcome Projects, you learn what your pupils need from you to write happily and successfully. You can be sure that you will have laid the groundwork for a year that’s right for writing.

£5.95 – Individual license

£29.75 – School/Institution license

or FREE for members

When writing success criteria goes wrong

Children read stories, poems and letters differently when they see these texts as things they themselves could produce – Frank Smith

Establishing product goals (also known as success criteria or writing checklists) with your class for a writing project is one the most effective things a teacher of writing can do. Research shows that setting writing goals can yield an effect size of +2.03. For context, anything over +0.4 is considered to have a significant positive effect on children’s writing development.

Setting product goals is related to another evidence-based writing practice too: the studying of mentor texts. In Writing For Pleasure schools, product goals are established by the teacher and children together and only after studying and discussing a variety of mentor texts. This should typically be a whole collection of texts which match the kind of writing the children are going to be writing as part of the class writing project. Studying mentor texts prior to writing their own can yield an effect size of +0.76 (for children with SEND, this can be anything up to +0.94).

Product goals, at their best, are decided upon jointly between you and your class. They will include the things you all think you will need to do or include for your compositions to be engaging, successful and meaningful. Product goals are absolutely not limited to grammatical features or text conventions. When you ask your class your first most challenging and exciting question: What will we have to do to make these the best short stories that were ever written?, we won’t be expecting the main response to be ‘capital letters’ (important as this is), or ‘grammar’. We will want firstly to hear children identifying things which connect with the essence of the project. The following authentic set of product goals shows what we mean:

Here you’ll notice writer-teacher Tobias Hayden writes ‘see class poster’ next to some of the goals. This is to tell the children that they’ve already received a lesson on this ‘craft move’ (Young et al. 2021) this year and that there is a poster on display in the classroom which explains how to do it.

In contrast, here is a real example of an ineffective list of product goals I saw recently on Twitter. Let me explain the problem with this particular checklist:

Firstly, you can’t hear the pupils’ voices and goals in this list. You don’t get a sense of what it is this community of writers want to achieve in their pieces. You can tell that these goals haven’t been arrived at collaboratively with the teacher and only after studying a variety of mentor texts together – mentor texts which match the kind of writing the class is looking to produce for themselves.

Almost all of the goals are too vague to be useful. They are not linked to the use of specific craft moves and we know from research that this is important for future instruction (see LINK). For example: ‘language devices’ or ‘grammar aren’t nearly good enough. These need unpacking and made explicit by naming specific craft moves. What craft moves have you and the children decide you want to try and apply? 

Finally, we can see that compositional goals and goals for proof-reading are being thrown in all together. This is such a shame. As we know, revision and proof-reading are completely different cognitive processes and each deserves its own instructional time, checklist, and attention to be done at its best (Young & Ferguson 2022).

In conclusion, you don’t want to produce product goals which look like this example.

  1. You don’t want to produce a list of product goals on the children’s behalf during your planning and preparation time. This is just a terrible writing teaching crime!
  2. You don’t want to give them a list that is out of context – without first letting the children participate in the study of mentor texts (LINK). 
  3. You don’t want your list to be depressing – failing to share with the children why any of these craft moves will be so useful for the project.
  4. Though incredibly important, you don’t want a list which is exclusively about grammar craft moves (LINK).
  5. You don’t want to include things to do with proof-reading – these can have their own checklist and be discussed later into a project (LINK).


How you read mentor texts with your class and record product goals is important, and it’s not an easy thing to do. It takes expertise and practice. For more information, see our eBooks entitled Getting Success Criteria Right for Writing: Helping 3-11 Year Olds Write Their Best Texts (Young & Hayden 2022) and Reading In The Writing Classroom: A guide to finding, writing and using mentor texts and with your class (Young & Ferguson 2023).

Special issue of Literacy: Call for papers

‘Writing Realities: Examining new directions in writing research, instruction and learning’

Guest editors: Ross Young, Doug Kaufman (University of Connecticut), Felicity Ferguson

This special issue of Literacy will highlight new directions in writing research and instruction through the voices of international scholars and practitioners. It will present and extend recent research suggesting several core principles that must be attended to for effective learning of writing to occur (Young et al. 2022). These include: writer-identity, critical literacies, culturally sustaining pedagogy, multiliteracies, translanguaging and intertextuality. 

Due to the increasing centralisation and commercialisation of writing instruction, pupils are routinely required to leave their own identities, cultural capital, thoughts, opinions and knowledge outside the writing classroom door. Through the rigid interpretation of national curriculums and published schemes, students may be required to take on a monocultural identity that doesn’t always honour or take advantage of their rich ideas and experiences. Learners from a variety of social positions –including those from diverse cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds– can feel alienated from writing because they have not typically received an apprenticeship in becoming autonomous and confident writers who carry with them a strong personal and collective writer-identity once they leave school. However, this special issue invites you to share how innovative instruction driven by some of the principles highlighted above can introduce opportunities for young people to take personal responsibility for their writing and learn how to harness their own authorial agency. In the process, they may also learn how to live, work and represent others within an inclusive, outwardly loving community of writers.

This issue will be organised in a way that presents a cohesive portrait of the innovative shifts in research and instruction that the writing education field is currently experiencing. First, we would like it to outline the research and theoretical constructs driving these shifts, offering a context, an argument, and a direction for the reform and revision of traditional curricula and teaching. Next, we wish to share examples of effective writing instruction from across the spectrum of learner development, starting in the early years and moving through to further and adult education. Finally, we invite authors to present models for preparing pre-service and practicing teachers to engage in effective classroom instruction.

In summary, for this special issue, we are asking for contributions from scholars and practitioners working in different circumstances, paradigms and research traditions to submit papers that discuss and explore any of the following:

  • Writer-identity
  • Critical literacies
  • Culturally sustaining writing pedagogies
  • The physical, social, and cultural contexts of building a community of writers 
  • Translanguaging
  • Intertextuality in the writing classroom
  • Teacher writers and action research

Submission instructions

Please send a 500-word abstract, title and short bio from each author to guest editor, Ross Young at literacyforpleasure [at] by November 1, 2023.

For any questions concerning this special issue, please contact Ross Young at literacyforpleasure [at]


  • Young, R., Ferguson, F., Kaufman, D., Govender, N. (2022) Writing Realities Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre


The components of effective grammar instruction

Have you heard of SRSD instruction? SRSD stands for self-regulation strategy development. Sounds quite posh and complicated doesn’t it? It’s actually incredibly grounded and easy to understand. SRSD instruction is about teaching children strategies which enable them to be independent writers by using for themselves what they’ve just been taught. It’s one of the most validated and effective practices a teacher of writing can employ in their classroom (Harris et al. 2006; Graham et al. 2011; McQuitty, 2014; Koster et al. 2015; Sun et al. 2022). That’s why it appears as one of our 14 principles of world-class writing teaching (Young & Ferguson 2020, 2021a, 2022a, 2022b).

All children, but particularly struggling or less experienced writers, need high-quality teaching and explicit instruction if they are to fulfil their potential as writers. This is why SRSD instruction works so well. The concept is simple. Teach your class one craft move before inviting them to use the move for themselves in their writing that day. 

Case studies show that the most effective writing teachers deliver instruction in keeping with SRSD when teaching ‘craft knowledge’ (Young et al. 2021), ‘sentence-level strategies’ (Young & Ferguson 2022c) and ‘functional grammar lessons’ (Young & Ferguson 2021b). 

This type of grammar instruction typically goes something like this:

The components of effective functional grammar instruction
Step One: Orientate
Remind the children of the class writing project you are currently working on. This includes checking they know what they are writing and who they are writing it for.
Step Two:Discuss
Introduce the grammar move you want the children to try out in writing time today. Name the craft move. For example ‘fronted adverbials’. (Young & Ferguson 2022b).
Then be a salesperson. Tell your class why this craft move is so fantastic and how its use could be so useful to them. Share how you’ve used the craft move in the past.
Link the craft move to the class’ product goals for the writing project (Young & Hayden 2022). For example: ‘fronted adverbials’ is going to help us move between places and time in our stories, which is on our product goals list.
Step Three:Share Models or Model Live
Share models. Show children examples of where other writers have used this craft move in their writing. There should certainly be an example of where you’ve used the craft move in your own writing. You should also show examples from other students’ writing. Invite children to ask you questions.

Model using the craft move live in front of your class. Share some of the writing you are currently working on and show how you’re going to use the craft move to enhance your writing. Invite children to ask you questions.
Step Four:Provide Information 
We always recommend turning your instruction into a poster or resource which the children can refer to throughout writing time. This helps them memorise the craft move and any conventions it might involve. For example, you might make a poster to accompany a lesson on using semi-colons. The poster can almost always be pre-prepared to save time and can remain up in the classroom over many days, weeks or even months. Children will be showing independent, self-regulating behaviour every time they consult the poster.
Step Five:Invite
Invite children to use the technique during that day’s writing time.Monitor children’s use of the craft move during your daily pupil-conferencing (Ferguson & Young 2021).Sometimes you might feel you want your children to practise the craft move prior to using it in their own writing. However, in all honesty, we find this is rarely necessary.
Step Six:Evaluate
You can invite children to share how they used the craft move in their writing during class sharing and Author’s Chair (Young & Ferguson 2020). If you have noticed a student who has used the craft move in a particularly powerful, innovative or sophisticated way during your pupil-conferencing, you should invite that child to share their writing with the class. The class can then discuss their friend’s writing and its impact.

If your teaching of these grammar craft moves is well planned and, above all, responsive to what your pupils need instruction in most, then, over time, children will internalise these strategies for themselves and so become confident, agentic, personally responsible and independent writers (Young & Ferguson 2020; Young et al. 2021).

It’s important to remember that the stages shared above constitute a good guide. However, teachers should also feel free to experiment with them if they want to. The professional judgement made by a particular teacher might be that a certain stage could be omitted altogether and that another stage might need more time devoted to it. For example, some teachers like children to practise the craft move prior to using it in their own writing, while others find this an unnecessary distraction. Some like to model the craft move live, and create their poster in front of their class, while others like to have made their poster prior to the lesson, or to share writing they have already crafted.

Finally, it’s essential to recognise that this is only one of the principles of world-class writing teaching. The reality is that it works best when interconnected with the other principles (Young & Ferguson 2021a). In particular:

  • Pursue purposeful and authentic class writing projects (The Writing For Pleasure Centre 2022)
  • Set writing goals (Young & Hayden 2022)
  • Teach the writing processes (Young et al. 2021)
  • Balance composition and transcription (Young et al. 2021)
  • Be reassuringly consistent (Young & Ferguson 2020, 2021c, 2021d)
  • Be a writer-teacher (UKLA 2022)
  • Pupil-conference: meet children where they are (Ferguson & Young 2021)

You can find out more about any of these principles by using this link or by downloading, for free, our Handbook Of Research On Teaching Young Writers (2023).


Finally, if you’d like to read, see and use real classroom examples of SRSD instruction, you may wish to purchase any of the following publications:


  • Ferguson, F., Young, R. (2021) A Guide To Pupil-conferencing With 3-11 Year Olds: Powerful Feedback & Responsive Teaching That Changes Writers Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Graham, S., Harris, K., Mason, L. (2011) Self-regulated strategy development for students with writing difficulties, Theory Into Practice, 50(1), 20–27
  • Harris, K.R., Graham, S., Mason, L. (2006) Improving the writing, knowledge, and motivation of struggling young writers: Effects of self-regulated strategy development with and without peer support, American Educational Research Journal, 43, 295–337
  • Koster, M., Tribushinina, E., De Jong, P.F., Van de Bergh, B. (2015) Teaching children to write: A meta-analysis of writing intervention research, Journal of Writing Research, 7(2), 249–274
  • McQuitty, V. (2014) Process-oriented writing instruction in elementary classrooms: Evidence of effective practices from the research literature, Writing & Pedagogy, 6(3), 467–495
  • Sun, T., Wang, C., Wang, Y. (2022) The effectiveness of self-regulated strategy development on improving English writing: Evidence from the last decade, Reading & Writing
  • 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) The Writing For Pleasure Centre’s Grammar Mini-Lessons For 5-11 Year Olds Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2021c) A Quick Guide To Teaching Writing In The EYFS Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2021d) A Quick Guide To Teaching Writing In KS1 Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. Hayden, T., Vasques, M. (2021) The Writing For Pleasure Centre’s Big Book Of Mini-Lessons: Lessons That Teach Powerful Craft Knowledge For 3-11 Year Olds Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2022b) The Science Of Teaching Primary Writing Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2022c) The Writing For Pleasure Centre’s Sentence-Level Instruction: Lessons That Help Children Find Their Style And Voice Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Hayden, T. (2022) Getting Success Criteria Right For Writing: Helping 3-11 Year Olds Write Their Best Texts Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2023) Handbook Of Research On Teaching Young Writers Brighton: The Writing For Pleasure Centre

What does effective ‘shared writing’ look like?

This is a great question. Firstly, there are different types of shared writing. 

Sharing your writing

There is quite literally the idea of sharing your writing by crafting mentor texts for your class to discuss and read. These texts should match what you’re expecting the children to produce as part of a class writing project. Research has shown that this kind of practice can yield an effect size of +0.76 (+0.94 for children with SEND). For context, anything over +0.4 is considered to have a significant positive effect on children’s writing development. You can read more about this here.

Incidentally, if you establish product goals for a class writing project in response to studying a variety of mentor texts, this can yield an effect size of +2.03  You can read more about this here

Shared writing

Next, there is shared writing. Modelling how to use certain craft moves before inviting children to use these craft moves for themselves in that day’s writing time can yield an effect size of +1.75. For children with SEND, this can be anything up to +2.09. Case studies show that the most effective writing teachers use shared writing when teaching ‘craft knowledge’ (Young et al. 2021), ‘sentence-level strategies’ (Young & Ferguson 2022c) and ‘functional grammar lessons’ (Young & Ferguson 2021b). You can read more about shared writing here.

‘Write alouds’

You also have the idea of write alouds. This is the writing version of ‘read aloud’ time. This is an opportunity for teachers and children to come together and write something collaboratively (shared), for pleasure, as a community of writers (Young & Ferguson 2020). This can be done on an IWB or some flipchart paper. Write alouds can be done in a single sitting or over multiple sessions. 

Sharing the writer’s life

Finally, there is the concept of sharing your writer’s life. This is about modelling how to be and live as a writer. You can read more about this here. Sharing your writer’s life and writing alongside your pupils during writing time can yield an effect size of +0.54. For children with SEND, this can be anything up to +2.48 (Young & Ferguson 2023b).

How can we improve children’s motivation to write?

Motivation (also related to ideas around goal theory; self-determination; engaging instruction; writer attitude and interest, and value theory) is closely associated with the concept of writing for pleasure (Young & Ferguson 2021).

Teachers should give special attention to practices which foster a positive disposition; children need to feel the relevance and importance of writing because, as Bruning and Horn (2000) rightly say, motivation is often what gets them through this cognitively demanding act successfully.

A possible hierarchy of children’s affective emotional writerly needs as articulated by Young & Ferguson 2021

The body of research looking specifically into children’s motivation to write is strong and growing (Young & Ferguson 2021, 2023). A lack of motivation can often be at the heart of writing underperformance, and attending to this is just as important for academic attainment as focusing on cognitive learning. Empirical findings consistently show how motivational factors are positively and directly related to students’ writing performance and achievement (Young & Ferguson 2021, 2023).

There are many different types of motivation that can be felt in the writing classroom. They all involve children knowing the value of writing and of being a writer. They are also about children knowing for themselves why they are making the writing they are crafting.

  • Attainment motivation – feeling a sense of wanting to write the best text they can.
  • Utility motivation – feeling a sense that learning about writing will be important in the future.
  • Intrinsic motivation – feeling a sense of personal enjoyment and satisfaction from producing the writing they are working on.
  • External motivation – feeling a sense of external pressure or punishment if they don’t produce their best writing. Alternatively, knowing a reward will be given for producing the best writing they can.
  • Situational motivation – feeling a sense of excitement about writing from those around them in class. This is about feeling part of a community of writers.

Teachers can help improve children’s motivation by employing the following strategies:

  1. Develop yourself as an enthusiastic writer-teacher (Young & Ferguson 2020, 2021a).
  2. Pursue purposeful and authentic class writing projects (The Writing For Pleasure Centre 2023).
  3. Establish publishing goals for class writing projects (LINK).
  4. Show children mentor texts which match the kind of writing they are about to make (Ferguson & Young 2023).
  5. Establish product goals (success criteria) for a class writing project with your class (Young & Hayden 2022). Discuss how these goals are orientated towards helping the class produce their very best writing.
  6. Let children generate their own writing ideas within the parameters of a class writing project. Let children write on topics they are knowledgeable and/or passionate about (Young & Ferguson 2022, 2023; Young et al. 2022).
  7. Teach writerly techniques and processes through self-regulation strategy instruction. Ensure you explain why the technique will be useful to children before inviting them to use and apply the technique in the context of their developing composition that day (LINK).
  8. Setting clear process goals for writing sessions (LINK).
  9. Ensure children have opportunities to pursue their own personal writing projects at school and at home (Young & Ferguson 2021b).
  10. Show enthusiasm for children’s compositions through your daily pupil-conferencing. Make sure you always celebrate quality craft (Ferguson & Young 2021).
  11. Give children an opportunity to check their drafted piece against the goals established for the class project (Young & Hayden 2022).
  12. Break proof-reading down into short, small and manageable chunks (Young & Ferguson 2022b).
  13. Organise a ‘publishing party’ to celebrate the end of a class writing project (LINK).

A list of great texts which teach great writing: Mentor texts for 3-103 year olds

If we want to attract children like bees to the idea of writing for pleasure, we must treat our classroom as a field and fill it with the sweetest of nectar – good literature.

Research has shown that there is a profound connection between effective writing instruction and reading. For example: reading, studying and discussing mentor texts, texts which match the kind of writing children are being invited to make for themselves, can yield a positive effect of +0.76 (Young & Ferguson 2021, 2023a). For children with SEND, it can be +0.94 (Young & Ferguson 2023b). To put those numbers in context, anything above a +0.4 is generally considered to have a significant positive impact on children’s writing development.

With this in mind, please find a list of some of our absolute favourite mentor texts that we like to use as part of Writing For Pleasure class writing projects (2023).


To find out more about reading effectively in the writing classroom, why not take a look at our eBook: Reading In The Writing Classroom: A Guide To Finding, Writing And Using Mentor Texts With Your Class.

Reading different types of fiction in the writing classroom

Research has shown that there is a profound connection between effective writing instruction and reading. For example: reading, studying and discussing mentor texts, texts which match the kind of writing children are being invited to make for themselves, can yield a positive effect of +0.76 (Young & Ferguson 2021, 2023a). For children with SEND, it can be +0.94 (Young & Ferguson 2023b). To put those numbers in context, anything above a +0.4 is generally considered to have a significant positive impact on children’s writing development.

Too often we see teachers explaining to children that a story must have a problem and a solution. Children groan as another story mountain planning sheet is handed out (Young & Ferguson 2023). Problem-solution stories don’t regularly match the types of picturebooks, short stories, flash-fiction and other literature children love to read. It’s therefore important that the mentor texts we share with children reflect the different types of fiction that are available to them. This way, children know they can write in these ways too as part of a class writing project. The six most common story arcs used in children’s literature are:

  • Steady rise (rag to riches)
  • Steady fall (riches to rags)
  • Fall-rise (man in hole)
  • Rise-fall (Macbeth)
  • Rise-fall-rise (Cinderella)
  • Fall-rise-fall (The boy who cried wolf)

In addition you have circular (a character returning to the place or the circumstances where the story began) and cumulative stories (with a new thing on every page adding to what’s gone before). 


To find out more about teaching reading effectively in the writing classroom, why not take a look at our eBook: Reading In The Writing Classroom: A Guide To Finding, Writing And Using Mentor Texts With Your Class.

To find out more about teaching narrative story arcs to children, why not take a look at our eBook: No More: I Don’t Know What To Write Next… Lessons That Help Children Plan Great Writing.

The Writing For Pleasure Centre’s Progression For Poetry Writing: KS1-KS2

Below is the list of the poetry class writing projects we provide on our website and to our Writing For Pleasure affiliate schools.

You can see how children are introduced to early poetry anthology making through picturebooks in KS1 (Young & Ferguson 2022). This includes writing their first ever poetry anthology and a collection of Haikus.

In Lower Key Stage Two, children are invited to write poems about Animals, The Natural World and Sensory Poetry. The focus of these projects is to begin embedding key poetic craft moves, moves which will not only enhance children’s poetry writing but also their non-fiction and narrative writing too. In Upper Key Stage Two, children are invited to write Inspired By… Poetry, Poetry That Hides In Things, Anthology Of Life and Social & Political Poetry. Not only do these projects have a positive impact on the quality of children’s non-fiction and narrative writing but they also provide opportunities for children to learn more sophisticated and lesser-known poetic craft moves

Particular attention needs to be paid to the Anthology Of Life project as this links beautifully to our Autobiography project for Year Six. Our Social & Political Poetry project works well in conjunction with our Community Activism project. Finally, Sensory Poetry and Poetry That Hides In Things gives teachers wonderful opportunities to make connections between narrative and non-fiction description with certain poetic techniques.

What’s wonderful about this progression is that, by the end of their time at primary school, children will have written hundreds of poems and learnt a whole-host of poetic craft moves. In the process, they will have learnt to paint with words and understand the reasons poets are moved to write.

Suggested class writing projects

For more information on these specific Class Writing Projects, click the link next to the project title.


My first poetry anthology [LINK]

This writing project is based on a couple of mentor books: The Puffin Book Of Fantastic First Poems edited by June Crebbin and Here’s A Little Poem: A Very First Book Of Poetry by Jane Yolen. With that said, it’s not necessary to have a copy of these books to undertake this project with your class – it will just help. It’s great to show a collection of poems to children (or a collection you’ve written) before inviting children to do the same. This is a classic: ‘Hey, I saw this book and thought it was cool – why don’t we make one like it?’ kind of writing project. You might want to explain what Edited by… means and perhaps ask the children to be the editors of their own class anthology of poetry.

My first haiku book [LINK]

This writing project is based on a mentor book called Haiku Baby by Betsy E. Snyder. With that said, it’s not necessary to have a copy of the book to undertake this project with your class – it will just help. Haiku Baby is a collection of haikus written for babies. It’s great to show this collection (or a collection you’ve written) before inviting children to do the same. This is a classic: ‘Hey, I saw this book and thought it was cool – why don’t we make some like it?’ kind of writing project.

Writing a series of haikus gives children the opportunity to write an impression, to capture a moment, to use poetry as a symbol and to make something familiar seem unfamiliar.


The natural world poetry [LINK]

The poetry of the earth is never dead – John Keats

Children enjoy writing about the world outside. British poetry has a long tradition of connection with landscape and nature. We cannot separate ourselves from the natural world, and young people are increasingly concerned about it. This project allows you and your class to bring into sharper focus the joyful, healing, subtle, delicate or terrifying aesthetics of nature. Children can share their experiences of nature with others, and this is the most important aspect of the project. When writing a nature poem, children are aiming to share a particular experience, and we have to resist the temptation to write generally about it. It’s about choosing a diamond moment. We are lucky enough to have many experiences with nature, in urban jungles, streets, allotments, gardens, weather, woods, parks, beaches, rivers, seas, peaks, hills and playgrounds. Many of these experiences will be enjoyable – some may not!

This poetry project gives children the opportunity to write an impression, to capture a moment, to use poetry as a symbol and to make something familiar seem unfamiliar. Perhaps the children could even produce a literary magazine showcasing the power and fragility of nature.

Animals and pets poetry [LINK]

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains un-awakened – Anatole Frances

Children love animals. They often ask each other what their favourite animals are and why. Many have pets. Regardless of where we live, we see a variety of animals, and they are important to us for many reasons. Poets write about animals in various ways, and many people enjoy reading or hearing such poems.

Writers sometimes simply focus on an animal in order to be playful and descriptive with language. Others use animals (such as snakes, wolves and foxes) as a metaphor to describe human behaviour, psychology and even philosophy. Some write odes to a particular animal. Poems can be memoir-based (prose poems). Of course, others will write about mythical creatures, as Lewis Carroll did in Jabberwocky.

Finally, if you read nonfiction texts about animals, you may notice that writers often use figurative language, or what we call painting with words, to classify and describe animals. With this writing project you can begin to introduce the idea that poetry and non-fiction can work in harmony.

Sensory poetry [LINK]

Poetry: the best words in the best order – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

All poetry is in some way sensory, and much narrative text is sensory too. Writers use the senses to express a feeling that is very personal. The feelings may be quite specific but are often also universal in that others will recognise them and relate to them. Writers might draw on their senses as they reflect on objects that bring back hidden memories. They might use their senses to bring nostalgic moments to mind. The senses can also be used to evoke a mood, to deliberately show things or to explore experiences in different ways.

This poetry project will give children opportunities to practise using sensory description; showing, not telling; observing and expanding on small yet significant details; making comparisons; and painting with words for the pleasure of the artistry.

As this writing project is similar to a writing exercise, it will help children to see the benefits of techniques that writers often practise and use. Children will absorb these techniques as part of their repertoires and will be able to draw on them again in all kinds of future writing.

Inspired by… poetry [LINK]

Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning – George Bernard Shaw

Writer Michael Rosen says the easiest way to write a poem is to read a poem by someone else and then say to yourself ‘I could write like that,’ and this is what this writing project is all about.

Sometimes it can be hard for writers to generate original ideas all the time, and it doesn’t represent how they always work. Poets and story writers alike find themselves inspired by things they see, read or hear from other writers, whether consciously or not. This is called ‘intertextuality’ or ‘found poetry’. You only need to look inside a writer’s notebook to see that they are forever collecting, investigating and imitating little diamond moments that they have found lying around in other texts.

The best way to understand poems is to read a lot of them and to read them often. Children begin to think about what writers are writing and why.

Alongside this writing project, you could read Love That Dog by Sharon Creech as your class book. It is written in a free-verse diary format, from the perspective of a young boy (Jack) who initially resists poetry assignments set by his teacher. As time moves on, Jack’s confidence grows, and he is able to respond to and take inspiration from poems with increasing sophistication. This book makes for an engaging, child-friendly and incredibly valuable demonstration of intertextuality.

Poetry that hides in things [LINK]

Why else are we here if not to live with unreasonable passion for things – poet ‘butterflies rising’

This project focuses on poetry that hides in things. It provides children with an opportunity to showcase sensory detail in poems about ‘things’ that can often be touched, smelled, observed, tasted, heard and thought about. The things children own, find interesting, or are disconcerted by will also tell them a lot about themselves. This personal connection makes for a great writing project.

Writing about things can lead children to share and suggest something they might have in common with their reader. They might notice the same things or show something in a new light. The familiar can suddenly become unfamiliar.

Children will learn about symbolism. They will understand that the things we hold at a distance or the things we love can be a symbol for something else – once we dig a little deeper for those diamond moments.

Objects often carry within them memories that can be shared through poetry. This project could culminate in an exhibition for families and the local community to visit. The exhibition could be a great opportunity for others to reflect on and reminisce about things from their past.

The project also has strong connections to memoir. Children will be able to bring what they have learnt about writing effective memoirs into their poems.

Anthology of life poetry [LINK]

Memoir is a unique opportunity to revisit yourself… You have to find the poetry in it. You have to find the poetry in yourself – Joshua Mohr

This project seems somehow fitting for children in Year 6 to mark an important time of transition from primary to secondary school. Children are going to create anthologies of poems about growing up and childhood. We highly recommend that you read What I’ll Remember When I Am a Grown Up by Gina Willner-Pardo with your class throughout this class writing project.

Poetry is a wonderful medium for looking back on our lives because children’s impressions and memories can be captured in a shorter, simpler and more natural way than in prose.

Not only is an ‘anthology of life’ a means for children to connect with themselves, it can also bring the writing community in your classroom together. This is a purposeful project. It is something that will be cherished and great care will be taken over it.

Children will achieve an anthology of personal poetry based on their memorable experiences. This writing project will give children the time and space to draw on their experiences of the past four years of writing poetry, to look back at poems already written and to write lots of new ones. They will select the best and publish them in any arrangement they choose.

Social and political poetry [LINK]

In the very end, civilizations perish because they listen to their politicians and not to their poets – Jonas Mekas

Throughout the history of this country, there have been radical ballads, songs and poems written with the aim of publicising and protesting against certain social and political issues.

They have been shared and performed publicly to create a sense of communality and to be an inspiration for radical action and change. They have been about class oppression, race, gender, war, injustice, inequality, disability, freedom, poverty, religion – whatever have been the preoccupations of the age in which they were written, so that a particular piece of history could be passed on from generation to generation and not lost. Spoken word poetry is also becoming increasingly popular amongst young people, and this project can harness that interest.

We all know that today’s children are very concerned about many social issues – human, animal and environmental. They learn about social injustice through the media; it may also affect their lives in a personal way. Writing political and protest poetry is important because it gives children a way of expressing their feelings and worries, asking questions about the world and their dreams and hopes for the future. Sharing their fears and concerns, challenging those who have responsibility and influence, and using their voice for social change can feel empowering and maybe even a little reassuring. And of course it’s a perfect example of the whole idea of writing personally, persuasively and for a purpose.