The WfP Helpline: How do I find time for modelling & independent writing?

Welcome to another post in our WfP Helpline series. This is where we try to answer your most pressing questions and help solve those most difficult teaching problems.

If you’ve got a question or problem you’d like help with, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post or drop us an email.

Today we are answering the question: How do I find time for modelling and independent writing?


1. Start class writing projects off with a ‘genre week’.

When you introduce a new class writing project, spend the first week discussing the project and look at plenty of exemplars. Take time to share a piece of writing you have written or one that you’re working on. Let children read your piece and discuss it together. You should sit in the author’s chair and take questions from your class about how you went about crafting your piece. Have your writer’s notebook with you so you can show the processes you went through – children will ask because they want to see, copy and learn from you!

This need not take a whole lesson by the way and it’s important that children get daily time in which to write themselves. Therefore, during genre-weeks, we suggest that if children have personal writing project books, they continue working in those when your discussions are over for the day.

2. Get into a daily routine of mini-lesson, writing time and class sharing.

The most effective teachers of writing have reassuringly consistent routines. They make sure they give high-quality instruction each day and that children have daily time in which to write. We therefore suggest a daily routine of:

  • Mini-Lesson (10-15 minutes) of instruction.
  • Writing Time (30-40 minutes)
  • Class Sharing (15-20 minutes) of peer review and author’s chair.

3. Share your craft during mini-lessons.

Modelling is high-quality instruction. During daily mini-lessons, share your craft knowledge with your class. This can happen either through writing study or functional grammar lessons. For example, writing-study is about how you or other writers generate ideas, plan, draft, revise, proof-read, publish and perform your texts. Functional grammar lessons are an opportunity to showcase how you use literary, linguistic and grammatical features in your writing before inviting children to give it a try during that day’s writing time.

4. Take part in the class writing project yourself.

At the beginning of daily writing time, spend the first 5 minutes writing yourself. This is good role-modelling. It not only shows children how they should conduct themselves during writing time but it also shows them that you value writing yourself. After five minutes, you can begin doing your rounds and conduct your pupil-conferences.

As a writer-teacher, take the opportunity to craft your own piece of writing as part of the class writing project. You might have to do some of this writing outside of lesson time but it’s worth it! You can then publish or perform at the end of the class project alongside with the rest of your class. Your class will appreciate it!

4. Make sure your texts are in the class library.

By being a writer-teacher, you can ensure you’re modelling the writer’s life by placing your own published texts into the class library for children to read and learn from. You can be their very own mentor author who creates mentor texts they can learn from.


If you have any ideas of your own, please add them to the comment box below.


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The WfP Helpline: How do I get children to include features from the writing framework without killing their writing?

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Welcome to another post in our WfP Helpline series. This is where we try to answer your most pressing questions and help solve those most difficult teaching problems.

If you’ve got a question or problem you’d like help with, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post or drop us an email.

Today we are answering the question: How do I get children to include features from the writing framework without killing their writing?


1. Identify the product goals for your class writing project.

When considered carefully, these product goals will naturally include aspects of the writing framework. Make sure the product goals are on display throughout the writing project and are identified by you and your class collaboratively.

2. Let children draft freely and quickly.

If children know what they are writing about, why they are writing it, and who they are writing for, they will naturally include aspects of the writing framework as they draft. Drafting is complex so don’t set specific linguistic or grammar features that you want included. Finally, drafting shouldn’t feel like a long and laborious process.

3. Give ample time to revision.

The majority of children’s time should be spent revising. This is where we see the majority of children’s writing gains. Once children have a completed first draft, they can compare their writing to the product goals you set at the beginning of the project.

4. Create revision checklists.

Successful revision involves children knowing what to do and importantly – how to do it. Create revision checklists which attend to the product goals set for the project. During daily mini-lessons, model how you revise your own writing to attend to the aspects of the revision checklist.

5. Give children a ‘trying things out’ page.

Probably our most useful advice. If you want children to evidence that they can attend to aspects of the writing framework without killing their writing, then ‘trying things out’ pages are the best.

This is a page in their book (ideally opposite their draft) where you can invite children to try things out that are on the revision checklist. This way children show that they can apply aspects of the framework but more importantly they are showing that they can be discerning and make decisions about whether these aspects of the framework will enhance their writing or not.

Children should decide whether to include the things they’ve tried out into their revised draft or not. This type of text crafting is in keeping with the greater depth standard too.


If you have any ideas of your own, please add them to the comment box below.


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The WfP Helpline: How do I create independent writers?

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Welcome to another post in our WfP Helpline series. This is where we try to answer your most pressing questions and help solve those most difficult teaching problems.

If you’ve got a question or problem you’d like help with, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post or drop us an email.

Today we are answering the question: How do I create independent writers?

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Not including for motivational or behavioural reasons, there are only two reasons why a child can’t write independently. Both have to do with the instructional decisions of the teacher and the classroom environment in which they ask children to write. A child won’t write independently if they don’t know what to do or they don’t know how to do it. They are lacking in what is termed self-regulation.

Our research last year, which looked to understand what it is the best teachers of writing do that makes the difference, showed that they focus on using teaching practices which increase children’s self-regulation.


Here is a quick list of the things these teachers did that made the difference:

  • At the beginning of class writing projects, these teachers took time to discuss exemplars texts with their class. This meant children had an idea of what their writing should be looking to achieve.
  • As a class, alongside the teacher, they would generate the product goals for their writing. These are the things they felt they needed to do to make sure their writing was successful and meaningful.
  • Throughout the class writing project, in negotiation with their class, these teachers would set loose writing deadlines or process goals that the children were expected to achieve within a certain time – all on the road towards publication or performance.
  • Independence came from letting the children write from a position of strength. This was achieved by allowing the children write on self-chosen topics.
  • Through daily mini-lessons, these teachers demonstrated writing processes, and shared craft knowledge that would help the children achieve the set product goals. This meant children knew what to do but importantly how to do it.
  • Children were always invited to use what they had learnt in the daily-mini lesson during that day’s writing time.
  • These teachers had the expectation that children should write independently during daily writing time and children knew how to solve common problems on their own. Their classrooms were orderly, well resourced, and productive places to be.
  • To promote independence when drafting, children were encouraged to use ‘invented’ or ‘temporary’ spellings, put a line under any parts they felt didn’t make sense, and to read their developing composition quietly to a partner in moments of writer’s block.
  • Once they had finished their class writing for the day, they knew that they were to continue working on any personal writing projects they were crafting.
  • Teachers provided additional instruction through daily pupil-conferencing.
  • One teacher encouraged their most inexperienced writer to write and talk alongside two experienced peers.
  • These teachers taught responsively. They were always aware of the things their class didn’t know how to do and taught them quickly.

If you have any ideas of your own, please add them to the comment box below.


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The WfP Helpline: What do I do when my class hates writing?

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Welcome to the first post in our WfP Helpline series. This is where we try to answer your most pressing questions and help solve those most difficult teaching problems.

If you’ve got a question or problem you’d like help with, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post or drop us an email.

This week we are answering the question: What do I do when my class hates writing?

There are lots of reasons why children can ‘hate’ writing. It can be due to negative past experiences, a lack of success, or low levels of self-belief. It can be because writing feels utterly unnatural, alien and confusing. They don’t know what they are meant to do or how to do it. They may also think writing is boring and pointless.

Writer-teacher Donald Graves, famously said ‘children want to write’ and I agree. I’ve yet to meet a child who actually hates writing. I’ve only met children who hate how they are taught to write.

To help combat these feelings, teachers can focus on using teaching practices which combat these common issues. Our research last year, which looked to understand what it is the best teachers of writing do that makes the difference, showed that they focus on teaching practices which increase children’s motivation, self-efficacy, self-regulation and levels of agency.


Here is a quick list of the things these teachers do that makes the difference:

  • Ensure children are writing, publishing and performing for reasons beyond just teacher evaluation.
  • Take time to explain why children are undertaking the class writing project and where their writing is going to go, be seen, or read at its end.
  • Take time to discuss the audience who is going to receive their writing.
  • Convince the class that they are going to learn something valuable about writing by participating in the class project.
  • Ask the children for their thoughts, ideas and reactions to the writing project.
  • As a whole class, the teacher and children together set the goals that need to be achieved if they are going to produce excellent writing products.
  • Children know what to consider and to include if their writing is to be successful and meaningful. Importantly, they also know how to include it. This happens through daily writing-study and functional-grammar mini-lessons.
  • They talk regularly about how things they have done in previous writing projects will help them in this one.
  • Children are regularly told that they are achieving writing goals and hitting mile-stones on the road towards publication and performance.
  • Through daily mini-lessons, children know how to undertake the different writing processes.
  • Children are given time to choose what they want to write about within the class writing project.
  • They are able to write at a pace that suits them – within a framework of loose writing deadlines.
  • Children are able to use writing processes that suits them best.

If you have any ideas of your own, please add them to the comment box below.


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