Imitate, innovate, independent application…

I love teaching writing. Helping children shape sentences; hunting for the perfect word; working in role; exploring possibilities and alternatives: it doesn’t get much better than that.
I teach all of my English lessons through a text. At the moment, to link in with our overall “Rainforests” theme, we are using ‘The Great Kapok Tree’ for the whole half term (all four weeks of it!) In the past I have used instructions, poems, play scripts, traditional tales, picture books, film extracts… the list is endless.
Teaching in this way provides children with writing structures to hang their own writing on. It engages them. It gives them the freedom to be creative and imaginative within the safe framework of a familiar piece of writing.
At lunchtime today, my Headteacher brought a piece of Year 1 writing to show me. It was a variation of ‘Jasper’s Beanstalk’, written with good structure, ambitious language and creativity. The pupil had taken the story she knew so well through creative teaching of it over a period of time, and used it as the backbone for her own story. Her writing was hugely successful and her teacher was justifiably proud.
In a science lesson on Monday, I asked my Year 2/3s to write a set of instructions to enable someone else to carry out a plant investigation we had just started. Last term, we spent over a month working with an example text, ‘How to catch a slimy stone dragon’ (adapted from Pie Corbett’s ‘Talk for writing across the curriculum’). On Monday, I heard children reciting huge swathes of the slimy stone dragon text to themselves and each other as they wrote their new set of instructions. Again, the children have produced some fantastic writing, using a familiar structure and text-specific features.
I wouldn’t want to teach writing any other way.