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What are assessment focuses (AFs)?

Writing assessment focuses

Table of Writing assessment focuses and points to remember
Level Assessment focus
AF1 Write imaginative, interesting and thoughtful texts
AF2 Produce texts which are appropriate to task, reader and purpose
AF3 Organise and present whole texts effectively, sequencing and structuring information, ideas and events
AF4 Construct paragraphs and use cohesion within and between paragraphs
AF5 Vary sentences for clarity, purpose and effect
AF6 Write with technical accuracy of syntax and punctuation in phrases, clauses and sentences
AF7 Select appropriate and effective vocabulary
AF8 Use correct spelling

Understanding the assessment focuses for writing

The 8 assessment focuses (AFs) for writing describe the key elements of performance in this attainment target. They are linked to the National Curriculum programmes of study and the level descriptions and are designed give a detailed, analytic view of pupils' attainment across all the key stages and in all types of writing.

  • AF1 Write imaginative, interesting and thoughtful texts

    • AF1 relates to the overall impact of the piece.
    • It includes the coverage and selection of content as well as how developed the ideas are.
    • As well as thinking about what to write, pupils have to decide their stance on the topic, e.g. objective/partisan, expert/non-expert, child/adult, supportive/critical.
    • Imagination and creativity are needed for all kinds of texts, not just stories; for example, taking a fresh approach to a topic, taking risks and challenging the reader by using humour in a serious topic.
  • AF2 Produce texts that are appropriate to task, reader and purpose

    • AF2 covers purpose of writing, degree of adaptation, and style.
    • Pupils need to be set tasks that prompt them to make use of their knowledge of different text types in adventurous ways.
    • In order to develop as independent writers, pupils need opportunities to choose subject matter, forms and purposes that interest them.
    • Pupils show understanding that they can write for specific readers when they make their own decisions about, e.g. levels of formality, choice of vocabulary, form of writing.
  • AF3 Organise and present whole texts effectively, sequencing and structuring information, ideas and events

    • AF3 is about the overall coherence of texts and includes layout, use of subheadings, diagrams/pictures in both paper-based and digital texts.
    • There are underlying ways to think about text organisation in non-fiction, e.g. logical order, chronology, moving from general to specific points.
    • There are similar choices in fictional writing – strict chronology is not always needed.
    • In stories, endings matter – both plot and theme have to be resolved. Information texts also need endings, whether these are signalled by the last in a series of numbers or by a brief conclusion.
  • AF4 Construct paragraphs and use cohesion within and between paragraphs

    • AF4 is about the ways paragraphs hang together as a sequence as well as connect internally.
    • Within paragraphs, there are different ways of developing topics, from grouping related content in sections, to elaborating details around main ideas, or writing topic sentences.
    • Pupils need to experiment with different ways to make links between paragraphs, e.g. by time, by reason, by subject, by importance.
  • AF5 Vary sentences for clarity, purpose and effect

    • AF5 is about the purposeful variation of sentence structure, not simply about incorporating connectives into every sentence. More able writers use varied sentence structures as a way of packaging meaning into sentences with little redundancy and varying sentence type and length in ways that support thinking across a whole text.
    • Pupils need to work on both endings and beginnings of complex sentences to achieve different effects.
    • Writing poetry affords many opportunities for constructing and selecting different types of sentences to shape meaning according to given rhyme or rhythmic scheme.
  • AF6 Write with technical accuracy of syntax and punctuation in phrases, clauses and sentences

    • AF6 is about using accurate grammar and punctuation in sentences.
    • Effective punctuation creates clarity and meaning and can be helpfully linked to understanding of grammar.
    • As pupils reach for more complex sentence construction, their punctuation often does not keep pace.
  • AF7 Select appropriate and effective vocabulary

    • AF7 is relevant to all kinds of writing and supports the other AFs.
    • Vivid writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, is achieved by apt choices of nouns, verbs and adverbs, not just adjectives.
    • In non-fiction writing, the use of technical and precise vocabulary is vital to conveying content accurately and demonstrating that the writers know what they are talking about.
  • AF8 Use correct spelling

    • AF8 is developed in two ways in APP so that distinctions can be made between correct/incorrect spelling of grammatical function words (a small set of items) and the larger pool of content words that carry most of the meaning.
    • In learning to spell, pupils need help with both phonemes and word structure (morphemes).
    • Spelling accuracy is an important focus, but does not necessarily correlate with achievement at sentence and text level.

Assessment guidelines for writing

In each of the eight AF strands, level-related criteria provide the standard of expectation for judging particular aspects of writing. Progression within the strands is shown by differences in the criteria but also by the use of stems:

  • Level 1: In some writing, usually with support
  • Level 2: In some writing
  • Level 3: In most writing
  • Level 4 and above: Across a range of writing

The stems signal the expectation that as pupils develop as writers, they will work with less teacher support and show what they can do in a broader range of contexts. The assumption is that evidence reviewed to make a judgement will demonstrate pupils' increasing abilities to make informed choices about what and how they write, with some independence.

Within each strand of the AFs, criteria are set out as bullet points, no more than three per level. The bullet points follow a pattern to explain the scope of each AF. For writing, the AFs are presented in a particular order for assessment purposes: AFs 5 and 6, AFs 3 and 4, AFs 1 and 2, followed by AF7 and AF8.

Assessment of writing should begin at sentence level before moving onto whole text structure and cohesion. In this way, impressions about imaginative appeal and overall impact will be securely based on evidence from the words of the text. Choice of vocabulary is part of all the strands as well as being a focus in its own right. In teaching, the AFs may be dealt with in any order or combination.

Criteria for handwriting and presentation are provided for levels 1 to 3 but there is not a formal assessment focus for this aspect. In APP, for judgements of level 2 and above, the criteria for AF7 and AF8 are considered as a way of confirming or modifying the assessments made on evidence for the majority of the other AFs.

To see the AFs in practice watch the following video clip.

Video: Ways of observing and recording evidence for reading and writing

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