Research School Network: Getting writing, right Getting writing, right


Getting writing, right

Getting writing, right

by East London Research School
on the


As part of our newsletter theme Putting evidence into practice’, Shaghaygh Khademian, a deputy headteacher and Early Years Leader in Tower Hamlets, talks about how her school has recently worked with the EEF Guidance Report Preparing for Literacy,’ and other evidence, to improve children’s writing in Reception.

Marion Richardson is a two-form entry primary school in Tower Hamlets. Many children speak English as an additional language. The number of pupils who are eligible for Free School Meals, and the number of children who have SEN and/​or disabilities is above national average.

The Early Years team meets regularly to reflect on our curriculum and the components that receive more/​less emphasis. We then consider areas which we feel require further attention.

One such review highlighted that all staff had received professional development focussed on:

high quality interactions through the ShREC approach, and
selecting high-frequency words for explicit teaching of reading

Yet these skills were not transferring into children’s writing.

The EEF Preparing for Literacy Guidance Report emphasises that, before writing, children should have a broad range of opportunities to develop their expressive language.

We can support children to articulate sophisticated sentences with activities such as:

group reading, or
role play

They are then better equipped to express these sentences in written form.

Dr Sinead Harmey reminds us that the prime purpose of writing is to make meaning’ (Harmey, 2023, Putting the Early Years into Practice, Literacy’ p.66). When children explore their ideas before writing, they are better able to express meaning.

Writing can be both physically and intellectually demanding for young children. They must combine the expression of meaning (composition), with the physical skills of handwriting (transcription), and spelling.

The EEF Preparing for Literacy Guidance Report highlights that accurate letter formation is an essential skill that forms the basis of fluent handwriting. If poor handwriting is not dealt with children form bad habits, which are difficult to unlearn.

Taking account of our context, a challenge faced by most children living in Tower Hamlets is the lack of physical space. Many of our children do not have adequate access to an environment where their gross motor skills are developed. As a result, they start nursery with limited motor and muscular control.

We considered this in our review of the evidence and barriers to writing well in our setting. Upon review, we felt that physical development was well supported in our setting. There is a good range of support to develop the gross motor and fine motor skills necessary for writing.

Our review highlighted that our reception team had limited time to dedicate to developing composition skills. Children were often writing for a purpose, linked to our shared reading books. However, they did not have enough visual support which was placing pressure on their working memory. This meant children lacked the motivation and self-regulation to be able to write by themselves. They rushed through their guided writing activities.

We adapted Berninger et al’s Simple View of Writing’ (referenced in EEF’s Improving Literacy in KS1 guidance report). Before writing, we gave reception children the opportunity to draw or paint about their subject matter.

We attended Write from the beginning’, a webinar led by Dr Sinead Harmey and East London Research School, and we provided follow up training. Practitioners felt more confident to use prompts to engage in dialogue with children. This enabled children to develop their ideas into words and sentences.

The notion of doing’ before writing’ has proven to be effective in our setting and children are excited about using and applying their phonics and experiences in their writing. What has worked well has been the collaborative way in which we reviewed the evidence base against our own context and deep understanding of our setting.

EEF Preparing for Literacy Guidance Report

The Simple View of Writing (Berninger et al., 2002)

EEF Preparing for Literacy Guidance Report

Putting the EYFS Curriculum into Practice, Chapter 6Literacy’ (Harmey, S, 2023)

More from the East London Research School

Show all news

This website collects a number of cookies from its users for improving your overall experience of the site.Read more