Barnes Primary School became a ‘knowledge centre for the teaching of writing’ in September 2009. The school received £25,000 additional funding, with the expectation that this money would be used to work in partnership with other schools to develop high-quality practice in the teaching of writing. The award was made to the school in recognition of the outstanding outcomes pupils at Barnes achieve by the time they leave the school and transfer to the secondary sector. During the 2009-10 academic year, the school established partnerships with eight different schools. Over seventy practitioners attended a training course at our school and observed a writing lesson. The school retained its ‘knowledge centre’ status in 2010-11, receiving £20,000, despite financial austerity within the public sector.
Our writing model
So what do we do? What is our formula? We use a model that offers a high level of scaffolding of the writing experience. The complementary processes of imitation and deconstruction are used. An overview of our approach is available on the link below:
As part of our approach we provide children with words to use in their writing. We refer to these sheets of words to use as word mats, and children have these available at the point of composition. Giving pupils words or phrases to start sentences with really helps them to get started. Different sentence starters are provided according to the style of writing that is being taught.
The writing tasks set relate to the texts that pupils study. Units of learning, with defined written outcomes, are created around high-quality texts that are read and analysed in class. Most units last for two to three weeks and children engage in a range of preparatory activities based upon the book they are studying. We also ensure that pupils have frequent opportunities to write more independently, with limited support.
We feel it is important to support children to develop neat, attractive and consistent handwriting. The development of an efficient, legible style assists pupils in all forms of written recording. We want to help children with layout, presentation and the way they organise themselves on paper. If success is achieved in this area, they have pride in their written work, tend to be better at spelling and are more motivated to write. Getting the right habits established early on is key to future success. We appreciate that some children find this more difficult than others and will offer additional support or alternative ways of recording when necessary.
Standards in handwriting are very high at our school. We use the Nelson handwriting scheme. Handwriting books are available for parents to order from the school office. As soon as pupils are able to orientate their letters correctly, they are taught how to join their letters. Short, focused handwriting sessions are taught on a regular basis. Handwriting has a high focus and a high status at our school. Early in the school year a house handwriting competition is held. Examples of exceptional written content, presented to a very high standard are abundant in framed work that is installed on both school sites. These raise the expectation for what is possible.
Standards of spelling have really improved at our school over the past few years. Pupils in Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 are given spellings to learn at home each week. They are also shown exactly how to learn them. Guidance about how to support your child with spelling, including some of the most common spelling patterns and the words that are most frequently spelt incorrectly (good ones to learn, as many are common words), is available by clicking the link below. Ideas for supporting children with spelling at home (the download takes a moment).
The spelling programme for children:
Examples of writing
Writing showcase: Lily’s Diary, from ‘The Whale Song’ by Dylan Sheldon
What an amazing experience! I must tell you what happened. It all began when my beautiful grandma told me about the magical whales she used to see from the rickety rackety jetty. Suddenly, Uncle Frederick stomped into the room and interrupted us by saying “Don’t fill her head with nonsense! Whales are only useful for their blubber.” Why doesn’t he like whales? I’m going to find out for myself.
When no-one was looking, I sneaked outside and raced to the jetty. I looked out to the island beyond. What an amazing sight! Carefully, I pulled a beautiful yellow flower out of my pocket and let it float peacefully into the glistening water. Will the whales like my present? Unfortunately Uncle Frederick came and dragged me away. How would he like me to do that to him? What a naughty man!
Suddenly, I woke up in the middle of the night. My room was filled with light and I heard an unusual noise was coming from my window. Could it be the phenomenal whales? The sound was beautiful. I looked out of the window but saw nothing so I decided to go outside. I zoomed to the wooden jetty and guess what I saw…
There I saw tuns of blue whales leaping and dancing in the moonlight. I was so thrilled I nearly cried! Suddenly, I felt a breeze in my nightdress and the mystical creatures were gone. I went back to my warm bed. After that, I heard a haunting sound. It sounded like someone, or something was calling my name. Did all this really happen, or was it just a magical dream? I’ll go back tomorrow night and find out.
Writer: HS, Year 2 (23rd January 2018, aged 6 years and 7 months, only!)
The Ancient Mariner’s Diary (written at different points in this epic story)
Entry 1 – After the ice splits and the ship sails to safety on the very day that the albatross is spotted for the first time
But for the grace of God, we escaped untouched and indeed unharmed by the vicious vice of that monstrous iceberg! My heart dropped with relief as the iceberg surrendered and through gritted teeth split in half to reveal a sea with a brilliant breeze.
On the contrary, God might not be responsible for this phenomenon. As I see it, an albatross might be our life saver, for we saw it just as our skinny bodies were sweating with fear. Wheeling overhead, the albatross perched on the mast and responded to the other mariner’s hollers. Fortuitously, it has followed us on our way. Yes! It has followed us! It is our guardian angel, sent down from the skies. Hail the albatross! All hail the great bird of the seas! She soars through the fog, as graceful as ever and preserves our souls from the fiends of the sea. God, protect the albatross! I beg of you!
Entry 2 – On the evening after the mariner has shot the albatross when all the sailors curse him for bringing them bad luck
I have done a hellish thing. As I write, my head is bowed in shame. Oh, Christ! What have I done? This is the first time my soul has leapt out of my skin – too ashamed to show itself to all the other souls – too ashamed to represent me. Do you know what I did? I took the albatross’s life! I killed her for no reason at all!
A shiver of guilt and shame poured down on my heart. Never before had I experienced such despair. Never in my life had I experienced such guilt. Like an arrow piercing my selfish heart, I have betrayed the ones that once trusted me.
The sails are still dancing in the wind, but to a different tune. A gloomy and depressive tune, for no albatross responds to the other mariner hollers….
Entry 3 – When all the other sailors have died and he is alone on the ship, desperately lonely and experiencing life-in-death.
He climbs up high, reaching from the stars that, by day, squirrel themselves into the blue but, by night, they stretch their illuminating bodies out into the open. This man I talk of is the sun. Oh see, see how he kicks the feeble shade away from the masts of the boat – shaking his fists in the air. As fast as the wind – even faster – he sprints around our idle boat, scorching the sails until they burn in pain! Scorching our souls until they wither – only mine is kept alive due to the menacing glances I have from old and young.
“Why me? Why me?” My heart sobs in agony, as it’s shredded to bits by the guilt that God is raining down on me.
Entry 4 – The night of the day he met the wedding guest and got him to listen to his harrowing tale.
Oh, what a glorious and heavenly thing she is! Her silky gown floods effortlessly down our parched throats. Soothing our withered tongues. Oh God, let it rain! Relieve the heaven from the bounty of water they carry! My throat is crying in desperation. My tongue is withering this very moment. And, as if in response to my agony, she turns her head, whistles a tune and disappears into the blue.
The sound of silence is far more painful to the heart than dying a long, slow death. I am drowning in loneliness. Every time I open my mouth to speak, something snatches what I’m about to say and throws it overboard. Is it a fact that my tongue is wrinkled at the root? Is it a fact that my throat is as dry as a desert, or is it just plain guilt? Guilt from shooting the albatross? Guilt from guiding us into this sea of idleness… Writer: EP-f, Year 5,
They’ve Got Talent – independent writing, 20 minutes (Year 6)
The act I shall review is quite an interesting one – a magician (dressed as a kangaroo) conjuring up objects before turning them to stone! Strangely, one of the objects that appeared out of thin air was a spaniel. Once it appeared, it barked twice – to the amusement of the audience – before instantly being frozen in rock; the judges were horrified. They looked as if they had seen a ghost.
Ignoring the uproar of approval from the audience, the judges stopped the act; they did not want to see any more. This was followed by a hail of questions. Is the spaniel safe? How would you improve the act? But most importantly, why are you dressed as a kangaroo? The audience shouted their disapproval of the judge’s criticism. However, they decided unanimously that the act would not continue to the next round. The following incident involved a can of drink, a member of the audience and several security officers. The outcome was a slight bruise to one of the judge’s heads.
Subsequently, the magician left the stage. Instantly, all the objects turned back into their original form. It was pandemonium! Evidently, spaniels, china plates and cats do not mix! So, in the end, the judges let the magician through to the next round. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the act – and the incidents that occurred.