Research School Network: Getting Writing Right by Reviewing the Five Stages Putting Evidence to Work: Primary Case Study

Getting Writing Right by Reviewing the Five Stages

Putting Evidence to Work: Primary Case Study

by Great Heights Research School: West Yorkshire
on the

Jade Vincent is a year 5/6 teacher, Assistant Headteacher, English, PSHE, Geography and Wellbeing Lead, SCITT and ECT Mentor at West Vale Academy in Halifax; the school has 127 pupils. Jade is an Evidence Champion for Great Heights Research School: West Yorkshire. 

The KS2 Literacy Guidance Report identifies five stages of the writing process.

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As a year 5/6 teacher I was reviewing the writing that my children were producing and how effectively they were able to apply the different strategies across the writing cycle. What I noticed was that the children were less confident with the editing’ stage. To explore the issue further I zoomed in on this aspect of teaching across other year groups and found a similar issue.

Having developed the writing cycle across our small staff team, I thought that this might point to a need for further staff professional development around this stage of the cycle. However, as I questioned the children and spent more time observing in lessons I soon came to realise that I needed to change tact.

I know that writing is an extremely demanding process and many children were reaching the point of cognitive overload trying to coordinate so many different skills during the editing stage. They needed greater support in managing the cognitive demands of the task, we needed a strategy for activating the core knowledge that they would rely on for the editing stage.

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So what did we do?

We have introduced SPaG squares as a retrieval activity to support the editing process. After reviewing the writing produced by the children, I am able to identify key areas that they may need to address through the editing stage and use this to inform the content of the SPaG squares. The use of multiple-choice questions ensures all children are able to access these and for those children that find writing more challenging it can provide them with an opportunity to experience some success which can provide just enough motivation to keep them going; the SPaG squares are stuck into books as a form of scaffold.

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What have I noticed?

Once the prior knowledge has been activated, the children have become much more confident at editing their own work as they are able to apply the content of SPaG squares to their work. This is improving the accuracy of their written work and frees up cognitive capacity to focus on other elements of composition before the publishing stage. As a happy consequence, we have also noticed that this regular retrieval of core knowledge is supporting their SPaG scores.

We are now continuing to refine this approach with a consideration of how we ensure a deliberate and planned reduction in this type of scaffolding.

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