PD Reflection – Developing Effective Writing Programmes for Year 5-8 Students

Held at the University of Waikato on 15 September 2016 and facilitated by Louise Dempsey

Text Types

  • Long blocks of a specific text type can be boring for both students and teachers. Three-week blocks of specific text types mean that types are still covered, but allow for variety in the writing programme. Each type can be revisited three or four times each year
    • make connections between the type you’ve just finished and the type you are about to start – that way students can see how much remains the same and the checklists become less scary (p. 31 has a good diagram)
  • Unpacking the features of specific text types can be a really good reading activity (and mean that writing time is spent with students actually writing). Research has shown that it can improve students’ reading comprehension
    • Success criteria can be developed from model texts, although it needs to be recognised that sometimes students just need to be told what is needed as they can’t see it.
    • This time can also be used to develop lists of useful language that students can refer to (important note for modelling: if you don’t refer to resources you want your students to use, they won’t use them)
  • Look for non-traditional ways of covering specific types to add variety to  the programme – p. 31 of The Writing Book has some good ideas

Teaching Writing in the Classroom Setting

  • Gradual release of responsibility – transitioning from modelled to shared, to guided, to independent
  • Modelling/ shared sessions need to be kept short and to the point
    • Use Think-Pair-Share to make sure that all students are continuing to participate
      • can mix up who talks with who by using strategies such as compass partners, talk partners (also very good for the students that struggle to get themselves into a group because of shyness etc)
      • have success criteria for being a good partner


  • Refer to all of the supports you want the students to refer to
    • graphic organisers
    • word banks
    • success criteria
  • Guided sessions are not an extension of a modelling session
    • You are there to give them a hand if they get stuck, not do the modelling all over again
  • Lesson structure
    • Intro – usually whole class and taking no more than 15 minutes
      • motivating students for writing
      • agreeing on the criteria
        • best types are visual, memorable and measurable
        • want something that students can self-assess themselves against
      • modelled and shared writing to demonstrate the criteria
      • stop and check – use TPS to engage all students – that writing meets criteria
    • Independent/ guided writing – 20 minutes or so
      • p. 52 gives good suggestions
      • encourage self-checking, but never expect students to find and fix all of their mistakes
        • can have a self-check task as an early finishers’activity
        • great way to teach is to have a piece of writing you have fixed up and get students to compare and contrast between the two versions
      • actively teacher partner checking – develops metacognition in students
        • good to use two stars and a wish type structure
        • needs to be against the criteria

Screen Shot 2016-09-18 at 11.42.21 AM.png

  • Lesson wrap-up – 10 minutes
    • sharing of writing
    • prompting students to check their writing against the criteria

Writing Skills

  • Writing is all about developing a skills toolkit that students can draw on in their everyday writing
    • All bar one come directly from the e-asTTle rubric
  • Editing/ re-crafting often needs more attention than is given in the classroom – students find it easy once they’ve had explicit teaching on it
    • Important that students focus on the text as a whole rather than just stabbing at random sections
    • Use different coloured highlighters and other indicators so that students can show where changes have been made


  • ‘This Sentence Has Five Words’ is a great way to show students the importance of varying sentence length
  • Super Sentences give students the chance to complete a short, punchy writing activity
    • Use these lessons to drill home skills such as using adverbs or adding more detail
    • Steps:
      • Agree on a criteria
      • Generate a ‘blah’ sentence without the criteria – students can upgrade this if they get stuck
      • Let students use the criteria to make their own sentence
      • Self-check and partner check
      • Revise to further improve the sentence – use the re-crafting criteria
  • Teachers often get stuck teaching compound and complex sentences – they’re not that hard!

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  • Can use sentence start menus and dice to get students to experiment with different types of sentences


  • Different types of paragraphs needed for different types of writing
    • non-fiction uses PEE structure
    • fiction had indicators for when new paragraph needs to start
  • Students can be notorious for writing a really good plan and then not referring back to it – have them partner check each other to see who is referring back to their planning and who isn’t
  • Teaching PEE
    • great way to start is with a video – this one is very cool
    • have students take notes (ties in well with teaching the summarising strategy)
    • organise the notes taken into a planner
      • P = point
      • E = example/elaboration
      • E = example/elaboration
    • teach students that ‘E’s don’t have to be the same but should be linked
    • once they have this, the next step is to add the ‘L’ on – the link back to the main point of the paragraph
  • Narrative paragraphing more tricky
    • best to think TPTP – shift paragraphs when you change
      • Time
      • Place
      • Topic
      • Person
  • Have students look for hook in stories they read – what do they notice

Generating Ideas for Writing

  • Students need to see writing as real and purposeful
  • Writing flops when students don’t know enough about the content
    • great to try and work on writing that is based on shared experiences
  • Best way to help struggling students is to break tasks down into bite sized chunks – working on one paragraph at a time is way less intimidating
  • Writing should be shared most days

My Next Steps

  1. Use paragraphing teaching ideas with one of my groups
  2. Have students write a persuasive piece selling an old house that clearly needs work
  3. Teach the class all about complex sentences
  4. Use the detail icons with narrative unit
  5. Teach partner checking and recrafting

Any images used in this blog post are screenshots from the handout given. 


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