We use an approach called Talk4Writing to teach writing from Nursery to Year 6.  Talk4Writing was developed by the author Pie Corbett and is based on the premise that children cannot create writing out of nothing; that a knowledge of language, narrative structure and sentence structures needs to be embedded before children can write confidently and effectively using these tools.  Children work with one key text, supported by other high quality texts or extracts, and engage with the text first as a reader and then as a writer. Talk for Writing sits alongside high-quality teaching of reading, phonics and spelling across the school. 

How does it work? 

There are 3 main phases: Imitation, Innovation and Independent Application. Every unit starts with a ‘Cold Task’ where the children are asked to write a story or text with no prior teaching on the text type.  This is then read and marked by the teacher and used to inform what is taught over the next few weeks. 

Stage 1 - Imitation
The teachers choose a text which is either fiction or non-fiction containing sentence structures and ambitious language which the teacher feels will move on the children’s learning. This is normally no longer than 300 words and, particularly in the earlier years, contains repetitive words and phrases which are easy to learn. The children learn this text by heart using a ‘text map’ and actions. They spend some time as a class reading the text and pulling it apart developing their comprehension skills and looking at key words and phrases within the text. They then create a class ‘toolkit’ of features and important sentence structures to use when they write the text themselves. 

Stage 2 - Innovation
In this stage children work with the original text. As a class they ‘innovate’ the text. This can be done in a number of ways: children in Year 1 may just switch the names of characters or change or add adjectives, whereas in Year 6, children might write the text from a different character’s perspective or expand on one part of the text.  In this phase teachers draw on other high quality texts or passages to model good use of language or sentence structure.  A new text is then modelled by the teacher with the children adding their own ideas. This is coupled with specific grammar work. 

Stage 3 - Independent Application
Children apply what they have learnt in a piece of independent writing. This might be in an English session or in a piece of writing in another curriculum subject. 

Why did we choose Talk4Writing? 

  • It aligns with the school’s aims to stretch the mind and enrich the imagination. 
  • It has a proven track record, with other schools having high levels of success. 
  • It gives children the confidence they need to write independently and at length as it removes barriers for those who struggle with creating their own ideas. 
  • It allows children to learn higher level vocabulary and more challenging grammatical concepts in context. 
  • It improves children’s speech and language and story-telling skills. 
  • It provide opportunities for children to practise regularly by writing at length.