Putting pen to paper

20th October 2000 at 01:00
Sue Palmer shows how to make the most of shared writing.

Illustrations by Neil Bennett.

Children's writing ability still lags behind reading - not surprising really, since writing is a much more difficult skill to acquire. But the gurus at the National Literacy Strategy believe they have the answer: shared writing two or three times a week.

They suggest the teacher demonstrates how to write, drawing children into the process of composition, and keeping a running commentary on what he or she is doing and why.

This year's Grammar for Writing training explains their three-point plan for shared writing: demonstration, scribing and supported composition.


Shared writing lets you demonstrate what goes on during the process of writing - showing the class how ideas get out of your head and on to paper.

1. In shared reading, collect ideas, words, themes and structures to use as models in your writing lessons.

2. Teach relevant grammatical points in advance (there are lots of ideas for activities in the Grammar for Writing book). You then have the rammatical vocabulary you need to talk about what you're doing in shared writing.

3. Prepare what you're going to write beforehand (short passages are provided on the Grammar for Writing CD-Rom), so you can concentrate on your commentary, without simultaneously searching for inspiration.

Abandon the crib sheet if you or the children come up with something better.

4. Don't comment on everything - choose points relevant to your writing objective. Include a few lower level points, however, aimed at less able writers.

5. Always model how to rehearse, write and reread (see 6).

6. Make a poster explaining the routine for supported composition: Rehearse - work out your sentence and say it to your partner. Improve it if you can.

Write - one of you writes, the other helps.

Reread - read to check it makes sense. Improve it if you can.

Sue Palmer was a major contributor to the NLS Grammar for Writing training and literacy website (www.standards.dfee.gov.ukliteracy). Her new series, Big Book Grammar, for Years 1 to 6, is available from Heinemann, tel: 01865 888 020

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