How we teach English in our school
Over the course of this academic year, Year 5 and Year 6 have been trialling a new approach within our English Writing Sessions. The new approach is called ‘The Write Stuff’. It is based upon research informed and evidence-based systems and provides structures for progress and success. The trial has been so successful in both Year 5 and Year 6 that we have decided to roll it out across KS1 and the rest of KS2. Years1-4 are now embarking on their first unit using the Disney Pixar short video Feast.
‘The Write Stuff’ is a very different approach to the teaching of writing and therefore it will take time for the children to become accustomed to it. The Write Stuff is based on demonstration writing and utilises live ‘in the moment’ modelling of writing. It is a strong, dynamic, whole-class approach to teaching.
The approach is underpinned by ‘The Writing Rainbow’ and the lenses that it is made from, a resource that both gives the children small, focused success criteria for each sentence they write but also supports children by giving them a starting point. Gone are the days when a child will say “I don’t know what to write.” This has never actually been the case; the truth is they don’t know how to start or how to structure their sentence. The Writing Rainbow alleviates this pressure for the children at the point of writing.
Sentence Stacking Lessons:
A writing lesson (or sentence stacking lesson) is now split into smaller chunks of learning, making each and every second of a lesson productive and meaningful for the children. A lesson is split into three learning chunks. Within each learning chunk the class go through an ‘Initiate Stage’ where the children, with learning partners, and as a whole class become ‘Word Collectors’ gathering a rich bank of vocabulary. Sometimes in Year 1, Badger may visit with aspirational vocabulary in his basket for the children to choose from. This vocabulary is recorded on ‘The Thinking Side’ of the children’s books.
Once the vocabulary has been collected, the children put down their pens and pencils and watch and listen to the teacher’s model, the ‘Model Stage’ and the lesson. Here the teacher shows the children what goes on inside a writer’s brain and discusses and shares how a sentence is constructed, using the vocabulary that has just been collected. At this point, the teacher will use one of the lenses from ‘The Writing Rainbow’ to structure the sentence. Once the modelled sentence has been completed, the children are expected to write their own sentence(s) in the style of the model. This is known as the ‘Enable Stage’ and the children complete this stage on ‘The Writing Side’ of their books. This process happens for each learning chunk over the course of the lesson.
Over the course of writing lessons, the children will build upon their previous work and once a unit has been completed, they will have an entire piece of writing to show for it. In celebration of the children’s incredible writing each day, the sentences that have been written will be added to ‘The Sentence Stacking Wall’ for the entire class to see.
Even though, for the purpose of the trial, the Years 1-4 are using the same video stimulus and approach, it does look slightly different for Years 1 and 2: Year 1 are focusing on one learning chunk each lesson and Year 2 are focusing on 2 whereas Year 3 and 4, like Year 5 and 6, complete three learning chunks in an hour session.
At the end of the Sentence Stacking lessons, the children will then be expected to complete an independent write. This will still be based on Feast (in future units, it will be based on the text type that has been taught within the Sentence Stacking lessons) and will allow the children to showcase all that they have learnt within the unit.
Over the next few weeks, we look forward to sharing with you some of the children’s writing outcomes from this new approach.