Writing is often viewed as a challenging curriculum subject as mastery of it involves developing skills in several areas. These areas could be seen as ‘mini-subjects’ within themselves:
Phonics (the learning of the ‘sound’ of letters and letter combinations) is the basis of spelling. Recognising, using and segmenting sounds and learning sight words is vital to children’s rapid spelling skills. Next comes learning spelling ‘rules’ (e.g. ‘i before e except after c’).
How can I help my child with spelling?
Support your child by discussing their weekly spellings as well as helping them to learn the words. What sound, letter pattern or rule are they learning this week?
The method in school is to learn spellings by: look, say, cover, write, check.
How letters and words are formed on the page. Cursive writing is the natural progression from early ‘mark making’. Printing (not joining letters) prevents ‘flow’ and the learning of how words ‘feel’ when they are written. Children are taught how it feels to write words which also helps with learning to spell and avoids letter reversals prevalent with printing styles (e.g. b and d). Our aim is for all our children to be fluent, neat hand writers. Our children aspire to use a fountain pen for their writing in school.
How can I help my child with handwriting?
If your child has been through Key Stage One at Offwell Primary School, they will have been learning our handwriting model since being in their first weeks at school. Prompt and encourage them to use the correct style when writing at home. Do some extra handwriting practice; you’ll be amazed how quickly your child’s handwriting and speed improves. (NB research has shown that by the age of seven, children have great difficulty changing the way they write and ’bad habits’ become engrained.
Thinking of what to write; organising our thoughts and getting ideas down on paper. Achieving a desired effect, e.g. to instruct, persuade, inform, entertain, etc.
Composing is the crucial element of writing. Without ideas, there is nothing to write! It is writing composition which is the key to ‘good writing’. For composition, children need to generate ideas, organise their thoughts and express them on the page – but for many children this is daunting, having learned the skills and features of a text / piece of writing beforehand. At Offwell we are committed to developing our children’s writing and use ‘Talk for Writing’ to develop this. It allows the children freedom to vocalise a text, to rehearse what they want to write and to immerse themselves in specific text types. Our Literacy co-ordinator is available to discuss this method of writing further.
Obtaining ideas for writing
From entering school we are developing our children’s ability to become writers. By interacting with our children: talking; singing; going on visits; engaging in role-play; sharing books, reading stories etc., we are providing vital banks of resources into which children can dip when composing.
Making writing purposeful and valuable
Children need to see that there is a reason for them to write. Both at school and at home, we need to be providing purposes for ‘real writing’. Writing is a ‘life skill’, and whether this is composing on a PC or on paper, children need to see the value of putting the effort into producing the writing in the first place.
How can I help my child see the purpose and value of writing?
Think about situations at home that require something to be written:
- Shopping lists
- Thank You Cards / Letters to relations /pen-friends; of complaint
These are a few ideas. Another way to help children see the value behind writing is to let them ‘catch you writing’ and explain why you are doing it. (Remember writing can be done for pleasure too!)
Sharing Children’s Writing
Assessing Writing at school:
We assess children’s writing using the Primary National Strategy Writing Assessment Guidelines:
How can I help my child improve their writing for school?
If your child has been asked to produce a piece of writing, discuss the task and ideas before preparing to write. Planning is a vital step in the process of a great piece of writing – and one that is often overlooked!
Ask your child what their ‘Writing Target’ is – they should know what it is, otherwise how will they know how to improve? If they have forgotten, your child’s teacher can tell you. When sharing homework, ask your child to think about their writing target. What is it and have they achieved it in this piece? Stress the importance of re-reading during composition to check for flow of ideas. Proof-reading their work aloud will enable them to hear whether the writing flows well and whether any words have been omitted, for example. Coming back to a piece of writing the following day can also help a child to freshly identify ways in which to improve their work. Then celebrate the writing and give lots of praise!
Used to help make the meaning of written sentences clear and as the writer intended them to be read. This is often one of the key areas which prevent children from achieving higher National Curriculum Levels. Using basic punctuation accurately is a very common writing target for many children.
How can I help my child with punctuation?
After your child has produced their written homework, ask them to proof read their work to check whether they have used punctuation accurately. After they have done this, have a look at the piece yourself – is there any punctuation missing?