What is the Primary Writing Project?
The Primary Writing Project is designed to help schools implement Talk for Writing at a whole-school level by providing support and training over a sustained period of time. We estimate that it takes at least two years to embed Talk for Writing effectively across a school. Schools embarking on the programme should see it as a long term investment to improve standards in reading and writing. In addition, the programme aims to build capacity for sustainable improvement through developing leadership to improve the quality of teaching across the whole school.
To date we are working with partnerships in various parts of the country and carefully scaling this number up. We aim to start around 8 to 10 programmes per year, working with a team of highly experienced trainers, who direct and support each programme, reporting directly to Pie Corbett and John Stannard.
Each programme is based on school partnerships of 8 to 10 schools. The PWP provides training and resources, carefully aligned with the requirements of the National Curriculum, to;
- secure high quality teaching across each school;
- help schools develop strong school-wide systems to sustain improvements – developing the school culture.
The aim of the Primary Writing Project is to motivate children and teachers as readers and writers, deepening understanding and refining skills so that children make good progress and standards are raised. The project is based on clusters of schools, with a similar interest in improving reading and writing, working collaboratively over time. Each school identifies a ‘Project Team’ that meets regularly, leading and developing the project in school. Every teacher and teaching assistant will also have whole day training sessions.
Although many teachers are already aware of Talk for Writing and may have attended conferences, getting to grips with the practices effectively takes time. Experience shows that, where all teachers embark on the core strategies, spend time collaboratively refining each key aspect and deepening their understanding, schools begin to establish whole-school systems that raise standards and develop the professional culture, leading to more sustainable improvements.
The Primary Writing Project is a whole-school, cumulative and systematic process for teaching reading and writing, based on what works in many schools. The aim is to help children make faster progress and gain confidence and pleasure as a reader and writer. It is grounded in the process of shared writing with a systematic focus on securing the basics of handwriting, phonics, spelling and grammar in relation to what children need to make progress in the text type being taught. It is also founded on the principle that schools should increase the amount children read and are read to. One key element is establishing a very strong ‘literature spine’ which identifies key stories, picture books, poems and non-fiction which will be read and drawn upon to develop reading for pleasure, comprehension and writing.
Talk for Writing is based on deepening our understanding of language development and how reading and writing might best be taught; there is still much to be learned. Talk for Writing projects involve teachers in researching the processes needed to develop young readers and writers. It is therefore a shifting and dynamic process through which we are forever developing our understanding. It is less effective when reduced to simplistic class routines without teachers thinking carefully about what is happening and adapting their teaching as they learn. Over time, a set of core practices has developed (e.g. learning texts orally, shared reading and writing, etc.) which must be central to any Talk for Writing school. However, each school develops the work in different ways, according to their school community, discovering what systems work in their context.
Over time, children gradually build their bank of well-known texts, supplemented by picture books, novels, poems and non-fiction books. Gradually, this living library of language begins to equip the children with the words they need to express themselves. In the same way, the ability to manipulate that bank of texts increasingly enables children to create new versions and become inventive, blending and experimenting.
Constant shared reading and writing also develops positive reading and writing habits within the school community. Each year, new strategies and techniques are introduced, building on previous learning and giving children confidence as readers and writers. A central concept is the importance of children enjoying reading and writing in a creative context, being praised for ‘trying hard’ so that children’s confidence and self-image as a young reader and writer is enhanced. If we all try hard then we will all have every chance of making progress and the effect of this over time is cumulative.
The 3 i’s: a process not a product
The Primary Writing Project is not a ‘product’ like a scheme of work with teachers’ notes, workbooks and activities for children, that can be bought off the shelf. Rather it is a process through which teachers learn how to scaffold and support children’s reading and writing, developing their confidence, skill and inventiveness as they build up a repertoire of transferrable skills essential to success in reading and writing. This is because, whatever sort of reading and writing we are teaching, the teaching is essentially a creative process where children learn to construct and produce language, so the teaching must be creative as well.
That said, we are very specific about the details and strategies to be used in teaching reading and writing and provide a wealth of detailed guidance and support material to help with content, planning and implementation. In the end, however, each school must make this their own, so that common systems and practices underpin a rich and diverse writing curriculum across all the schools we are working with. The programme is driven by the ‘3I’s’ learning model.
Learning to read and write: the three i’s
- Getting to know a model text really well. Oral language patterns spoken, read and processed to become part of children’s generative language competence.
- Adapting the model text in a variety of ways to create new versions. Initially, modelled by the class teacher with children then having a go over several days with focused feedback to edit and improve.
- Following the taught/modelled innovation, the children then use and apply their learning to independently create a new version.
Plus regular opportunities to invent:
- Ability to draw on a growing repertoire of text structures, writer’s toolkits, language experiences and ideas to write independently and creatively, i.e the 3I’s learning model.
Complex developments require time, attention and support. The Primary Writing Project focuses on helping teachers deepen their knowledge about how to teach reading and writing effectively and develop the skills needed. The challenge is how to work together to establish common practices across schools that are highly effective and deeply satisfying for teachers and children.
It is fundamental to success that each school identifies a senior leadership team with the headteacher as a member. Each ‘Project Team’ will then be responsible for implementation in their school. Participating schools will need to make reading and writing a development priority over the 5- 6 terms of the programme. Time commitments to the programme comprise minimum of 10 days of training and support overall including 3 school closures by agreement between schools over the 5/6 terms. Schools also need to plan a significant investment of CPD time between the training days to get the work established across the whole school.
By the end of the programme, we expect to leave schools in a sustainable position with effective inter-school support systems. We also expect to find potential in each partnership for helping us develop partnerships in other areas. We are identifying and accrediting a growing national group of highly successful Talk for Writing schools and teachers on whom we may draw from time to time. Within each partnership.
The impact on reading
Because Talk for Writing is based on the principle that children take patterns and structures from reading to use in their writing, there is inevitably a positive benefit to reading as well. Learning texts involves exploring them in detail and understanding how authors have used language to hook their readers and create effects; how and why they chose words, use different sentence patterns and organise and sequence paragraphs in different ways. Much of this work happens in the imitation phase of the Talk for Writing sequence. The first priority is that children enjoy books and learn to explore and share ideas. There has to be continuous focus on shared reading and reading in depth for comprehension through, for example;
- making connections to personal experience and knowledge;
- investigating new vocabulary and sentence patterns;
- imagining and supposing;
- making and explaining inferences;
- summarising and abstracting;
- evaluating and criticising.
For guidance on developing your whole school literature spine click on the image below.
How does this fit in with my school’s curriculum?
The Primary Writing Project is aligned with the National Curriculum.
Talk for Writing:
- is compatible with any synthetic phonics or reading programme;
- requires dedicated daily curriculum time;
- develops the whole school reading curriculum;
- has a major emphasis on the application of non-fiction writing across the whole curriculum;
- develops basic teaching strategies. For example, shared writing and questioning has a wide application across all areas of teaching and learning.
Teaching writing is teaching communication and expression.