Hanging our writing on washing lines helps our pupils to improve, says Portsmouth headteacher

Isambard Brunel pupils (l-r) Ieva Maseviciute, Alfie Stone, Lynden Ravensdale, Abi McGriskin and Tegan Wheeler. ''Picture: Sarah Standing (141986-6059)
Isambard Brunel pupils (l-r) Ieva Maseviciute, Alfie Stone, Lynden Ravensdale, Abi McGriskin and Tegan Wheeler. ''Picture: Sarah Standing (141986-6059)

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STUDENTS at Isambard Brunel Juniors in North End have a different and fun way to learn.

We have been focusing on developing the teaching of writing, writes deputy headteacher Sara Paine.

This was an area that we wanted children to make even greater progress in.

Over the past year, we have introduced a new approach to writing which focuses on giving the children a clear structure for a text and then using more modelling by the teachers to support the writing for the children.

High-quality texts are used to immerse the children into the genre also linked to the class’s current topic to get the children really fired up about writing.

They then ‘box up’ identifying the key element of each section of writing so it is really clear for the children.

Finally, the teacher will model each section and give pupils plenty of opportunities to practise their writing.

This approach has had a dramatic impact on the writing the children produce and on the profile of writing in the school. If you walk into any classroom now, you will see lots of examples of modelled writing hanging from washing lines for all the children to see.

You will also see classroom learning environments which are rich in language and examples for the children to use.

We have also introduced more regular assessment of the children’s writing in specific books which go with them up through the school so every teacher can see the learning journey the children have been on with their writing.

Writing conferencing is now being used to support individual children to make accelerated progress.

It works by the teacher assessing a piece of writing and identifying the gaps in the children’s knowledge or understanding. The teacher and the child then plan which gaps to tackle first.

This can be something small like the use of where and were or something bigger like using the correct punctuation and layout when using dialogue.

The teacher will then teach the child this specific skill. This will then be a target for the child and the teacher will expect to see the identified gap being closed very quickly.

These measures, along with rigorous moderation of our Year 6 writing results over the past three years, have shown a dramatic impact in the quality of the writing the children produce and their confidence in their own skills.

We are now putting measures in place to ensure that this improvement is sustainable to give all the children in the school the best chance of achieving high results in their writing.

Lynden Ravensdale, 10, Year 5

‘We box up a piece of writing which means we sort paragraphs into sections.

‘This makes it clearer as to what we need to include in this piece of writing. I have had writing conferences with my teacher that help me to hit my targets and improve my writing.’

Ieva Masevicuite, nine, Year 5

‘The teacher gives you chances to improve your writing. The working walls and displays help you when you are stuck.

‘They help you by reminding you of the type of writing you have been learning about.

‘I am proud of my story writing now I know how to improve.’

Alfie Stone, 10, Year 5

‘I am much better now at writing. I can use similes, drop-in clauses and complex sentences.

‘My teacher uses a check list of success criteria so I know what I need to include.

‘I am now confident in using detail to improve my writing and increase my level.’

Abi McGriskin, nine, Year 4

‘I like going out in the afternoons to work with adults. We go through my work and check it and they help me to improve it.

‘I have a green card to put all of my spellings on and I use it every time I write.

‘This has really helped me to improve.’

Tegan Wheeler, nine, Year 4

‘We have been learning how to write fantasy stories. We have been looking at imaginary worlds and finding really fantastic language to describe it to the reader. The teachers display all our ideas and this really helps me when I am writing. I am having fun when I write now.’