Learning to write well depends on learning to read well. It involves children listening to, re-reading and reflecting on high-quality books, rather than extracts. It takes time and needs carefully developed activities. The Centre for Language in Primary Education looked at six Year 5 teachers and their classes during the year that the National Literacy Strategy was introduced. Each class worked on the same two pieces of well respected literature.
Researchers also found that children writing in role, who were prepared for the activity by a drama workshop that was led by a drama consultant, made marked progress as writers. They used language outside their usual range and showed empathy with the characters which came out in the writing. Other teachers boosted the children's success by having the write in pairs and comment on each other's work. The teachers felt the NLS framework had helped them plan a literature curriculum and had raised awareness of particular authors, and writing genres. But they said it didn't allow enough time for children to write longer stories or even to finish first drafts. Because of this, some of the teachers extended literacy hour by an extra half hour a day, and one introduced two sessions a week specifically for extended writing. All those surveyed reported "positive transformations" by the end of the year.
"The Reader in the Writer" by Myra Barrs, Centre for Langugage in Primary Education, Webber Row, London SE1 8QW, appeared in Reading: A Journal about Literacy and Language in Education, Volume 34, Number 2, July 2000, Blackwell Publishers