Writing Curriculum Implementation
At Phoenix, we believe that great writing comes from teachers who champion oracy as a process, whereby students learn to write through talk, deepening their vocabulary and understanding of a topic through a constant and rich dialogue with their teachers and peers. Oracy involves our teachers and students thinking carefully and deliberately about the spoken language they are using, whilst responding to structured questions in discussion with others, helping our students to deepen their understanding of key knowledge points, principles and processes. Talk happens at the beginning of and throughout our topics/genres, not just at the end. In our classrooms, talk is exploratory, critical and impactful, rather than presentational. To help our students achieve this, we explicitly teach the four distinct – but interlinked – strands recommended to teach good communication skills outlined by academics at Cambridge University, which are the: physical, linguistic, cognitive and social/emotional elements of talk.
Our children are encouraged and expected to use this ‘sea of talk’ as a foundation on which to ‘float’ their own ideas, byplanning, writing, editing and improving an extended piece of writing linked to their topic every 2-3 weeks. This extended writing task provides an opportunity for children to independently apply a wide range of learned skills.
“Good literacy floats on a sea of talk” James Britton (1970)
Writing Curriculum Impact
Outcomes in English are evident and celebrated across the school in both communal areas and in each individual classroom.
Every element of the English curriculum is acknowledged as being vital by the staff and children across all of the curriculum and embedded in the way we teach all subjects. These elements are tied together by topics which immerse pupils in highly engaging worlds that lead to impressive outcomes.
Children understand that the staff of Phoenix place a great value on oracy/talk and in turn value it themselves, not just in English lessons but also across the other subjects. They are able to voice their opinions on texts, current affairs, social issues and know that their opinion is always valid. Phoenix children value each others’ ‘talk time’ and understand that everyone has a voice and point of view that they are not just tolerating, but that could actually add to their school experience/understanding of a topic. They recognise that just because someone disagrees with them does not mean that person is not their friend, and equally know it is okay to disagree with their best friend. They have a great respect for their opinion and the opinions of others.
To secure teacher judgements in the outcomes in writing, we use the “21 Steps Assessment Document” which focuses on the four strands of the writing curriculum; transcription (spelling and handwriting), composition, vocabulary and grammar and punctuation.
Outcomes in English books demonstrate clearly a progression and mastery of increasingly difficult grammatical, structural and contextual English concepts and show children’s acquisition of key knowledge. Pupils can be seen developing their understanding of a new grammatical idea, assessing the impact of this in the work of others and translating it into their writing to engage their reader. As children move through the school, they become more competent in using these tools and are able to apply their knowledge across a wide range of genres and text types. Pupils at Phoenix love showing-off their writing to their peers and teachers; you can see this through the wide celebration of writing on our Twitter page, blog, in assemblies, on Seesaw and when children visit the Senior Leadership Team to get Purple Pen for their work.
Writing not only begins at Phoenix with talk and immersion in a topic, but also with a model text provided by the class teacher or lifted from a classic text. These texts provide our children with a piece of writing to aspire to and a visible, dissectible and relevant example of what their own end goal is. Teachers ensure that when planning a writing unit, all of the grammatical, structural and contextual features of the text type are included in the model piece and you will find if you visit our classrooms that the children can talk confidently about why a text/an element of an extract of writing is successful and how they hope to emulate that same effect in their own work. This is based on the theory taught by education consultant Jane Considine for ‘The Write Stuff’ and ‘The Training Space’. Using this technique and training our children are able to achieve high-quality independent writing of their own across a range of genres that they and our staff are extremely proud of.