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How to use Pathways to Write effectively in a mixed-age setting

Oct 30th 2023

After creating Pathways to Write in 2018, schools began to get in touch to ask us how to use the programme in mixed-age classes. The simple answer was – it’s not easy! Coverage of national curriculum objectives had to be the first consideration but also trying to ensure teachers were able to deliver one cohesive lesson to a full class was so important. Ultimately, we took a leap of faith and decided to create plans specifically to support mixed-age schools, and now over a quarter of our Pathways to Write schools use our mixed-age planning.

Pathways to Write mixed-age works on a two year cycle. Each unit of work centres around one text that you can share and enjoy with your whole class. The writing objectives are taught through the text with plenty of opportunities to write purposeful and meaningful writing tasks. To ensure full coverage of all objectives, we produced an overview for Y1/2, Y3/4 and Y5/6. Within each overview, we married up objectives from both year groups, for example, in year 3 using conjunctions to express time, place and cause matches well with extending the range of sentences with more than clause in year 4. Where possible, the objectives have been linked to support the teacher delivering the lesson. However, some skills do have to be taught discretely to a year group e.g. subordination in Y2 or subjunctive in Y6 and we suggest an alternative activity for the additional year group.

In our mixed-age sample pack, the documents and example lessons focus on the text: Alba The Hundred Year Old Fish by Lara Hawthorne. The final outcome of this unit of work for Y3 and Y4 pupils is to write an information board for an aquarium (non-chronological report). Pupils will be focusing on paragraphing, vocabulary and apostrophes as mastery keys and will build up their non-fiction writing to be able to create the final extended piece.

Here is an illustration of one of the sessions from the plan and the teaching sequence for a mixed-age class. Y3 are to be taught discretely on the use of ‘a’ or ‘an’:

  • All pupils investigate the text to look at pages depicting the litter-scattered ocean
  • Improve sentences about the scene together using an A-Z vocabulary sheet
  • Whole class work together to improve the setting description about the ocean ‘after human impact’
  • Y4 repeat the activity starting to independently write a paragraph about when the ocean was vivid and vibrant ‘before human impact’ and consider their vocabulary choices
  • Teacher works with Y3 pupils to secure whether to use ‘a’ or ‘an’ in a noun phrase
  • All pupils write their setting description

Teaching PowerPoints can be used alongside the unit plans to guide the teacher through teaching points and activities specific to individual year groups. The teaching plans themselves display the lower year group objectives on the left-hand side (Y1, 3, 5) and the higher year group objectives on the right-hand side (Y2, 4, 6).

If you are a school thinking about using Pathways to Write mixed-age, there are some things to consider. You might want to think about your current school curriculum and the coverage of objectives so far. If you have lower attaining cohorts with higher numbers of pupils from the lower year group e.g. more Y3s in a Y3/4 mix, we would suggest you start mixed-age planning on the first year as these texts are slightly easier. If you have a higher attaining cohort, with larger numbers from the higher year group e.g. more Y4s in a Y3/4 mix, we would recommend you start on the second year. If you have mixed classes with more than two-year groups e.g. a Y3/4/5 class, this can be facilitated with consultant support – a 3 year rolling programme can be developed.

Lastly, Pathways to Write mixed-age enables you to deliver effective English lessons covering the writing objectives from the national curriculum. Pathways to Read and Pathways to Spell can be used alongside the mixed-age writing plans for teaching reading and spelling.

Our consultants have worked with a whole range of schools to support them with creating their own curriculum, working around varying mixed-ages and wider curriculum links. Please get in touch to arrange a meeting to discuss anything related to mixed-age planning.