A lifetime of writing
TEACHING CHILDREN TO WRITE. The Process Approach to Writing for Literacy. By Pam Hodson and Deborah Jones. David Fulton pound;15. Available from TES Direct for pound;14.50
Christopher Walker became so firmly associated with cloze procedure and its spinoff, spirit-masters, that no other individual managed to muscle in on the act. At one time you would have predicted a similar fate for David Wray, who was among the first to promote the use of writing frames, and with whom they have become just as firmly associated. But the writing frame industry is proving to be a more open market. The hefty ring-binder Writing Frames Made Easy contains enough frames to keep any teacher happy for a lifetime, whether it be the teacher's own, or the lifetime of the frame (for all such teaching aids must in due course become moribund).
Steve Mynard and Sandy Stockwell have compiled a file of tightly printed lesson notes for both key stage literacy hours, to accompany each set of frames, and what I like about their expensive but value-for-money enterprise is the emphasi on both cross-curricular and home "teaching points". Each section contains ideas on ways to develop the writing for homework or ICT. There are cross-references to the National Literacy Strategy and QCA schemes of work in other subjects.
There are 30 frames for key stage 1 and 54 at KS2. The set for "Writing simple instructions" at Year 2 is exemplary, providing the opportunity for imaginative treasure mapping, practice in the economical recording of commands for a floor turtle, and the careful sequencing of directions from home to school.
The frames in Teaching Children to Write are more schematic and less child-friendly. To be fair, it has a different purpose - to persuade teachers that writing needs to be taught as a series of discrete but interdependent stages: brainstorming, organising, drafting, responding etc. The book is well-supported, up to a point, by current research, but in its aim to be a helpful bank of frames as well as a provocative text, it ends up falling between its two objectives. And it is blind to this deadly reality - the "process" it believes needs promoting is already alive and well and doing its stultifying work.
Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes primary school, Hailsham, East Sussex