The key to raising attainment
Talk for Writing, developed by Pie Corbett, supported by Julia Strong and the Talk for Writing team, is powerful because it is based on the principles of how people learn. The movement from imitation to innovation to independent application can be adapted to suit the needs of learners of any stage.
Talk for Writing has had an outstanding impact on schools. Typically, schools have found that children initially double their rate of progress and, where the approach has been applied systematically across a setting, many schools have moved from dire results to outstanding success. Schools already performing well have not only increased attainment, but also enjoyment and engagement.
The Talk for Writing approach
The Talk for Writing approach enables children to read and write independently for a variety of audiences and purposes within different subjects. A key feature is that children internalise the language structures needed to write through ‘talking the text’, as well as close reading. The approach moves from dependence towards independence, with the teacher using shared and guided teaching to develop the ability in children to write creatively and powerfully.
Schools underpin their English work by establishing a core reading spine of quality fiction, poetry and non-fiction that all children experience and draw upon. Imaginative units of work are developed to create a whole-school plan that is refined over the years, is well-resourced and documented to release teachers from planning and preparation so that they can focus on adapting their teaching for children’s learning.
The key phases of the Talk for Writing process, as outlined below, enable children to imitate orally the language they need for a particular topic, before reading and analysing it, and then writing their own version.
- 1. Baseline assessment and planning - 'cold' task
- 2. The imitation phase
- 3. The innovation phase
- 4. Independent application and invention - 'hot' task
- 5. Final assessment - building on progression
1. Baseline assessment and planning – the ‘cold’ task
Teaching is focused by initial assessment. Generally, teachers use what is known as a ‘cold’ task or a ‘have a go’ task. An interesting and rich starting point provides the stimulus and content but there is no initial teaching. The aim of this is to see what the children can do independently at the start of a unit, drawing on their prior learning. Assessment of their writing helps the teacher work out what to teach the whole class, different groups and adapt the model text and plan. Targets can then be set for individuals. By the end of the unit, pupils complete a ‘hot’ task or a ‘show us what you know’ task which is an independent task on a similar type of writing with an interesting stimulus. Progress should be evident which encourages pupils and helps schools track the impact of teaching.
2. The imitation stage
The teaching begins with some sort of creative ‘hook’ which engages the pupils, often with a sense of enjoyment, audience and purpose. Writing challenges, such as informing Dr Who about how the Tardis works or producing leaflets for younger children about healthy eating, provide a sense of purpose. The model text is pitched well above the pupils’ level and has built into it the underlying, transferable structures and language patterns that students will need when they are writing. This is learned using a ‘text map’ and actions to strengthen memory and help students internalise the text. Activities such as drama are used to deepen understanding of the text.
Once students can ‘talk like the text’, the model, and other examples, are then read for vocabulary and comprehension, before being analysed for the basic text (boxing up) and language patterns, as well as writing techniques or toolkits. All of this first phase is underpinned by rehearsing key spellings and grammatical patterns. Short-burst writing is used to practise key focuses such as description, persuasion or scientific explanation.