Tuesday 15 May 2018

Trying to better my writing practice - a reflection

I have always felt that I am best at teaching maths, then maybe reading, followed lastly by writing. I get more shift in maths than I do in other learning areas, so I must be doing something right. I have never felt confident teaching writing, and I think this shows through my teaching and students lack of shift. 

I realised towards the end of last year and confirmed it (in my own head) last term, that the 'bit' I am missing is the middle bit. 

Thinking of the 'Gradual Release of Responsibility'...

I found that I was going from 'demonstration' straight to 'independent practice', and missing the bits in the middle. Therefore students often did not have in-depth understandings of what I was asking them to do, couldn't explain, would make mistakes etc. 

This week, as a new term (we didn't do writing last week) I have really tried to focus on those middle bits to 1) see what difference could be made for students, and 2) prove to myself I can be good at teaching writing.

This was my plan for the week.

WALT identify features of a report
SC I can identify the features of a report  
  • T introduce new writing topic - report writing. Clarify this is similar, but different than reports the kids get.
  • Give each group an example - they have 5 minutes with it to see it, read it etc and take notes about it. PRINT EXAMPLES FROM HERE.
  • Class discussion - what do they all have in common? What are the proper words for those things? (E.g. headings and subheadings, technical vocab, pictures, diagrams, sometimes have questions, lists, facts NOT opinions)
WALT navigate an information report by using its features
SC I can find information in a report without reading it
  • Give students copies of reports they have not seen before.
  • Ask them to find one feature - headings/subheadings. WITHOUT reading the actual text, what is this story going to be about? (possibly block out the actual text so they can’t read it). Make a prediction about 3 different things that will be talked about.
  • What information can we add from only looking at the pictures, diagrams or illustrations?
  • What have we learnt so far? Write FACTS. Finally, read the text. Find the technical vocab and any questions. What else have we learnt?
  • To sum up - where can we look for information? NOT JUST THE TEXT. But also, there is not one sentence that doesn’t tell you something new. Read sentence by sentence and check this. No random silly sentences.
  • Students annotate a digital copy of the text with a buddy to find the different features of the text.
WALT to identify and use the SEE structure
SC I can write an explanation and an example for a statement
SEE structure example - here.
  • T show 3 different examples of reports. Get students to focus on one paragraph at a time. What do you notice? Hope they say SEE.
  • If not, explicitly show. Highlight in different colours so they can see.
  • Model writing paragraphs using think alouds.
  • Share back to class. Display these on writing wall with SEE parts labeled.  
WALT to identify and use the SEE structure
SC I can organise sentences into the SEE structure
  • Class discussion - review SEE structure
  • Students organise given sentences into what they think is an appropriate SEE structure that makes sense.
  • Groups go and read each others, then feed back to class.
WALT create and use a check-list to mark information reports
SC I can identify features of a
  • T hands out all information reports that we have looked at this week and all resources.
Have blank template of checklist open, get students to help fill it in to create an agreed checklist.
WALT write an information report
SC I can use a plan to help guide my writing
  • As a class, plan together (teacher lead) what we will include.
  • Students write a information report about the sun using plan created together.

Evidence of our learning this week

The kids came up with all of these features of information reports. Even the idea that pictures/illustrations and diagrams are similar, but diagrams must have labels. Woo!

Examples of student labelling digitally.

Examples of the added 'explain and example' sentences -

Written by Timote and Isaia.
Bananas are the most popular fruit in the world.Because you can do like anything with it and it cheap for example you can make a
  1. milkshake
  2. A cake
  3. Ice cream
  4. Bread
If You wanted to measure time you could use a watch , clock , hourglass or even a sundial.
This is a clock you can find it in your house and if you look at it you can tell the time  because there is two of sicks on the clock a short and a long the short one tells the HR and the long on tells the minute that is one strategy but in the world there are a loads. You might say why because it is eazy and you must have one of them.

  1. in your house
  2. In a community hall
  3. In your family house
 On Thursday we did the sorting activity. All the groups could organise the sentences into the correct SEE structure. Some needed reminding what an introduction and conclusion were, but got there in the end.
What I loved was walking around listening to the groups trying to figure it out. They were using words like 'explaining' and 'example' to justify why a particular sentence went there. This showed me that they really understood the structure and could use it independently.
Link to co-created checklist.

Link to the modelling I did and paragraphs co-created.

Overall reflection
I have really enjoyed only doing 'shared writing', instead of just doing 'writing'. The kids have developed such deep understanding of this type of text, and they haven't even written one yet. I loved hearing them discuss the texts and be able to identify and define a particular feature of this writing, and justify why they were making the choices they did. 
Throughout the week (everyday) I reminded the kids we are doing 'shared writing', which means we are learning about writing rather than just doing writing. The kids who struggle to write slowly understood the difference and the stress/fear/pressure slowly lifted. There was 100% participation in all the activities, even the kids who can't actually write independently. 


  1. I found this very helpful for me to see how you engage and accelerate written language for Year 5 and 6 students.

  2. This is great reflecting Ashley. It shows how important unpacking the specifics of writing is and your follow up activities add depth to the learning. I totally understand how it is to feel more able in some areas than others as a teacher, but knowing this and acting to upskill on those areas shows passion and professionalism. We are "forever learners" as teachers and that will always be.
    Thanks for sharing!:-)


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