Writing challenges

A lot of school literary emphasis is placed on reading, however writing provides a wide range of challenges.  Schools regularly tell me that writing skills is an area they struggle with, raising questions such as:

  1. Why do we seem to make good progress in reading but the children’s writing standards don’t necessarily follow?

As we know, the fact that a child is a good reader is not always reflected in them also being a good writer. Children get to be better readers by practising reading; the same does not hold true for writing – they have to be taught the skills, techniques and thinking processes that good writers use (although immersing themselves in other people’s writing is, of course, a prerequisite for being a really good writer!).

In order to target this instruction effectively, it is crucial that we know exactly where each child already is on the continuum of writing skills so that the next level of instruction can be tailored perfectly to suit their development and interest level.

  1. How should we be preparing children for the 2016 SPaG test?

Being able to talk about aspects of grammar using a common terminology is essential for equipping children to be able to talk about the standard of their own writing and, thereby to improve it.

To this end it is vital that we teach children to classify and to apply aspects of grammar using a standard language to discuss this. (And for teachers to be confident about their own knowledge of grammar terminology!)

  1. I am teaching for the SPaG test but this does not seem to make a difference to the children’s actual writing assignments

Being well-prepared for the SPaG test does not necessarily guarantee that the children will be able to apply these skills when they are writing independently; to this end they must be given lots of modelled and guided practice during the relevant parts of the drafting and redrafting processes and reminders to apply the skills when writing for themselves.

  1. How do we make judgements about writing and describe children’s progress in the absence of levels?

We can still make judgements about children’s writing standards in the same way as before by looking carefully at all the different aspects that combine to provide a full picture of their writing proficiencies.

How these are then reported is a matter for negotiation but as a general rule, will still compare the child’s level of attainment in each of the various areas to a standard model of where we would expect/like them to be.

Raising writing standards through training and support

I have worked closely with schools across the UK to help them improve writing standards, find out more using the links below.