The process of teaching writing
and post-writing activities
For pupils to make excellent progress teachers must finally balance pre-writing development activities, time for actual writing, and post-writing activities.
Download a PDF version of the teaching sequence diagram (print A3).
Quantity of writing, and the amount of time devoted to writing, makes a difference to pupil progress. When students write more frequently, there is a 12 percentile jump in writing quality. In addition, research has shown that these pupils also make a 14 percentile gain in reading comprehension. Despite knowing that 'time for writing' makes a difference, it is unclear from research what is optimal for primary pupils. One study suggests at least 30 minutes a day.
One way of increasing the amount of writing pupils undertake is to combine writing with other subjects, such as geography, science and history. Using writing as a tool to facilitate learning can be very beneficial for both gaining subject knowledge and practising writing.
However, there is a note of caution. If pupils spend all their time writing - they will gain confidence in writing and will tend to produce longer tests, but the sophistication and quality of their writing will only develop slowly. Writing time is not the only factor to take into consideration!
Pre-writing activities (including planning, grammar activities, shared writing tasks, whole class discussions, direct teaching, drama, etc) are essential for introducing and teaching pupils new skills, and are essential for ensuring pupils produce writing of quality, e.g. good vocabulary, interesting content, logical sequencing, appropriate style.
Once pupils have completed their first attempt at a writing task, we as teachers can see exactly what they have understood and mastered. This is a hinge point for learning. We can provide expert guidance, perhaps through 1:1 conferencing, through written feedback in books or through direct teaching of the whole class to help address issues. Teachers can look through their pupils' books to spot common problems and design post-writing lessons to help tackle these.
Post writing lessons can take many formats and are essential for ensuring learning is embedded. Post-writing lessons also include time for pupils to revise and editing writing. We know that these are high impact strategies for pupils development of writing. However, for revising to be successful pupils need to be taught how to be effective revisers. They need to see lots of teacher modelling of revising writing and have resources to help them make improvements.
What might this look like in practical terms?
Pre-writing, writing and post writing activities might all be part of a single lesson, particularly if the focus is at sentence level. Equally, one or more lessons might be devoted to pre-writing, writing and post writing. Generally speaking – aim for balance across a half term. Ideally, each teaching sequence will have roughly equal time devoted to the three aspects - but don’t be a slave to the formula. Use your professional judgement. Depending on the needs of the class and the writing being tackled, you may decide to prioritise one particular element of the writing process, e.g. a new genre of writing may require a heavier emphasis and more time on pre-writing sessions than writing or post-writing sessions. By contrast, a genre that pupils are familiar with might have a greater focus on writing and post-writing activities.
The pre-writing sessions are particularly important for lower ability pupils. They need to see more WAGOLLS, need more time and support with vocabulary and benefit from support with planning.
Download examples of teaching sequences that includes all three elements.