Managing your Recovery Curriculum for Writing
After the struggles of the last eighteen months, it’s been so lovely to be back with you all in schools this term, starting to run live sessions and courses again. From speaking to many of you, we know that supporting pupils in getting back on track is your top priority right now so this month we’re going to look at some top tips for planning and managing your recovery curriculum for writing.
The DfE’s ‘Teaching a broad and balanced curriculum for education recovery’ document has been helpful in giving schools permission to prioritise English, and particularly reading, to ensure that pupils are in the best place academically to succeed moving forward through our education system.
But what should we actually be doing from a practical point of view to support our pupils in catching up in writing?
The first step is to look at your planned curriculum for writing – whether you use a scheme like Pathways to Write or have developed your own sequenced curriculum – and using this as a starting point to identify and then prioritise the teaching of missed content.
- Identify which elements of the curriculum were covered well during remote teaching and which were less effective.
- Adapt this year’s planning to ensure that the gaps in last year’s planned curriculum are plugged quickly.
- Identify skills that were taught but that pupils have not fully mastered due to the nature and disruption of learning from home through assessment of pupils’ writing. Then take steps to prioritise these in your teaching.
- Focus on a few elements at a time, rather than trying to tackle gaps across the whole writing curriculum at once. Prioritise an area for catch-up each half term: grammatical structures and punctuation; tense; level of detail; cohesive devices; vocabulary.
- Prioritise editing and proofreading, even after shorter pieces of writing. These are skills which require explicit teaching for pupils to become confident with them and was an aspect of writing that it was very challenging to complete effectively through remote learning.
- Give plenty of time to practise spelling and handwriting. These transcription elements can be real blockers for pupils as they take pupils away from the more creative and structural aspects of writing to focus on the secretarial skills. It is important to find the time to teach spelling patterns that pupils have not yet mastered alongside their current year group curriculum and using handwriting time to practise them further is a good use of pupils’ time.
- Finally, giving pupils opportunities for self and peer evaluation of their writing is key to developing their skills of meta-cognition and self-regulation – the ability to think critically about their own learning and become more autonomous in improving their work – these are the strategies that research by the EEF shows are most effective in ensuring pupils make progress.
We have found that many pupils across all year groups are struggling with accuracy in sentence structure and have not mastered the required complexities from the previous year groups and so this is an aspect of writing we will be focusing on in our upcoming autumn term moderation sessions. The DfE and EEF recommend that activities which promote sentence combining are the most effective in supporting pupils to develop these skills. This means giving pupils lots of opportunities to build sentences from the bottom up – starting with nouns and noun phrases, adding verbs, then further details through additional clauses using a range of conjunctions or through the addition of adverbials. Giving them the chance to really play with sentence structure physically using sentence strips is a great way to really develop that understanding of sentences and their component parts.
One way of doing this is to provide pupils with a zone of relevance to help them to create sentences. This can be done with conjunctions, as in our example here, with fronted adverbials or relative clauses. In this example we have used Alba the Hundred Year Old Fish by Lisa Hawthorne and created a simple sentence to sit at the centre. Around the next ring are a range of conjunctions that might be used to extend the sentence and then further clauses that could be added. Using this structure, pupils can create sentences using the conjunctions and decide how relevant they are to the context of the story. Some sentences will be nonsense and others might be relevant in a different context.
The purpose of the activity is to encourage pupils to play with sentence structure and evaluate the relevance of the sentences they have created.
For further advice, the EEF’s Guidance Reports for ‘Improving Literacy in KS1’ and ‘Improving Literacy in KS2’ are well worth reading. Also, our autumn term moderation sessions, which will give you plenty more practical ideas on how to support pupils in with their writing, are available to book now. We’re running them online again this term so that your whole staff can attend the relevant sessions together and ensure that consistency of judgements across school. If the dates don’t suit you to watch them live, we will also be recording them so they can be viewed at another time.
Meeting 1: Year 1 and Year 2 teachers – Tuesday 23rd November 2021 from 3:45-5:00pm
Meeting 2: Year 3 and Year 4 teachers – Tuesday 23rd November 2021 from 3:45-5:00pm
Meeting 3: Year 5 and Year 6 teachers – Tuesday 23rd November 2021 from 3:45-5:00pm
Spring term moderation available on 8th February 2022
Summer term moderation available on 10th May 2022