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The impact of talk and role play on writing

Case Study
  • Authored by: Margaret McMullin
  • Status: Approved


What were your reasons for doing this type of development work?

Writing had been identified as a whole school focus for improvement, particularly in Key Stage 1. It was felt that a large proportion of the children had limited experiences and this was hindering their writing. Vocabulary and language skills were also limited and children had difficulty verbalising their thoughts and hence could not translate their thinking into writing.

Children, on entry, had poor language acquisition. Foundation Stage Profile (FSP) revealed that, for this Year 2 cohort, 80% gained less than 6 points in Communication, Language and Literacy (CLL) & 70% gained less than 6 points in writing.

Who might find this case study useful?

  • Teacher

Key points

Point 1

Accelerated progess in Year 2 writing

Point 2

Strategies to support the writing process with all pupils


What specific curriculum area, subject or aspect did you intend to have impact on?

  • English - speaking and listening
  • English - writing

How did you intend to impact on pupil learning?

By encouraging all children to take risks as a writer and to be confident in their own ability. Children had regular opportunities to write in a range of contexts and areas, voluntary and directed.

What were your success criteria?

Standards in writing raised as children's confidence improved and quality spoken language improved in both spoken & grammatical structure.

PLEASE NOTE this page has three tabs - click 'Next tab' below or use tabs above to see Teaching approaches and CPD approaches

What information or data did you use to measure progress towards your success criteria?

  • Data comparison of cohorts
  • Observation outcomes
  • Periodic teacher assessment
  • Pupils' work

What did you do? What teaching approaches (pedagogy) did you use to achieve the intended impact?

  • Assessment for Learning (AfL)
  • Collaborative group work
  • Cross-curricular work
  • Independent learning
  • Use of pupil talk for whole-class teaching

Describe the teaching approaches you used

As part of the writing process, children had plenty of opportunity to orally rehearse what they would later write about. Teacher constantly modelled language, in vocabulary and word choices, but also the use of grammatical structure. Children were encouraged and rewarded for selecting and using the new vocabulary, where appropriate, in both speech and writing. This raised the profile of speaking and listening in the Y2 classroom and the children became more confident at using a range of vocabulary and actually took great pride in their own talk. Talk underpinned teaching and learning in all areas of the curriculum.

Talk was the main component and used in a variety of forms, paired, small group (4 children), large group (8), whole class; role play, either in the designated area or just in class; drama; hot-seating; snowballing etc. The content of the talk was also varied and reflected the current curriculum with plenty of cross-curricular links.

Regular shared and guided writing sessions were planned where teacher demonstrating and modelling took place. Talk led these sessions in which the week's learning culminated in a writing task. This was an independent activity. All children were well prepared for the writing as all work prior to the task had focused around it. It became an opportunity for the children to showcase their learning which raised self-esteem and encouraged all children to aim that little bit higher. During the independent writing, the teacher also wrote to the task and would share elements of her writing with the class, as would some children. This challenged but was also supportive by being a prompt for some children who may have needed re-focusing.


What did you do? What approaches to CPD and learning for adults were used?

  • Demonstration
  • Learning conversation
  • Lesson observation
  • Modelling
  • Work scrutiny

Describe the CPD approaches you used

As writing was a whole school priority there had been considerable training focused on raising and sustaining standards. CPD included planning and delivering from the revised framework, a re-fresh on guided writing and teaching writing in KS1. Work scrutiny and lesson observations indicated that progress was being made by all children in this Y2 cohort. Each child's weekly independent writing was kept in individual writing folders and clearly demonstrated how content and confidence had improved. This also illustrated how cross-curricular writing had been central to developing and extending pupil writing skills. Lesson demonstrations with this cohort and this practice were given in both whole class teaching and guided writing sessions.

Pupils were all assessed in writing and their progress tracked every half-term. The tracker revealed an upward trend across the year with 77% making 2 sub-levels progress or more from September 07 to July 08.

What CPD materials, research or expertise have you drawn on?

Who provided you with support?

  • Middle leader
  • Senior management
  • Subject leader

How were you supported?

Feedback from lesson observations and work scrutinies, by Senior Leaders and Subject Leader, reinforced that progress was being made and highlighted the impact of this approach in raising standards. Lesson observations indicated how children's vocabulary had increased and how they were able to articulate their thinking at a higher level than before. This was then being transferred into their writing.


What has been the overall impact on pupil learning?

Writing considerably improved, in content and length, as did pupil attitude towards writing. Writing activities didn't bring worry to children but were greeted with enthusiasm and an opportunity to celebrate their achievements. Self and peer assessment was used to identify next steps for learning but also as a positive experience for the children as writers. This was in addition to the weekly 'Writers of the Week' whereby the teacher chose 2 to 3 pupils' work and typed it into a powerpoint presentation and then displayed it on the classroom's interactive whiteboard. Children then highlighted the positive elements of the writing, such as vocabulary, punctuation and features appropriate to the particular genre. After this the name of the author was finally revealed which boosted confidence and self-esteem after having their writing receive great praise from their peers.

Thoughts you think are relevant to overall impact on learning

Talk had a profound impact on writing, in content, length and confidence. Children were able to talk to their talk partner prior to writing which helped focus them on the activity before writing independently. Regular shared and guided writing sessions were also crucial for teacher modelling and for supporting and extending writing skills. Guided sessions were very much part of assessment for learning and were a response to issues arising in class. They were pivotal to planning for the next steps for learning.

Quotes you think are relevant to overall impact on learning

'When can we do our Barnaby Bear postcards as I have collected some amazing words to describe Scotland?' – Girl C, age 6

'The writing 'Boy T' brought home about the Cinderella's invitation to the ball was brilliant. We are so pleased with his progress.' – Parent of Boy T, age 6

'I talk to my talk partner and this helps me to think about what I am going to write about.' – Boy J, age 7

Can I finish my writing about our trip to the beach? – Boy C, age 6

Quantitative evidence of impact on pupil learning

  • Data comparison of cohorts
  • Periodic teacher assessment
  • Test results

Qualitative evidence of impact on pupil learning

  • Logs or interviews
  • Observation outcomes
  • Pupils' work

Describe the evidence of impact on pupil learning

This cohort had been underperforming in writing.

In September 07, 83% were working below level 2c on entry to Y2, 50% of pupils working at W.
17% were working at 2c & these were the more able in the cohort. There were 4 pupils admitted during the year, all of whom were working at W.

By May 08 40% had attained 2b+ and by July 08, 45% 2b+ with one child being awarded level 3.
18% attained 2c.

77% of the cohort made 2 or more sub-levels of progress.


What has been the impact on teaching?

Talk has continued to be a vehicle for the teaching of writing. It is embedded across the Y2 curriculum and is an enhancement to teaching and learning. The teaching of writing is interactive and addresses all learning styles. The oral rehearsal has supported pupils with special educational needs and those pupils lacking confidence whilst helping them prepare for the writing task. Guided writing is used to target areas for development in response to assessment for learning.

Thoughts you think are relevant to impact on teaching

Writing has become an exciting and interesting learning journey for the children. It has become lively and interactive and is no longer an activity where children work in pure isolation. They enjoy the oral rehearsal as well as the process of writing and having the completed task as an outcome. They are aware of their progress and targets and are able to identify key features of writing in their peers' writing.

Quotes you think are relevant to the impact on teaching

'The confidence these children have now is incredible. They can't wait to get writing.' – Teaching Assistant

'I think Girl S's writing (displayed on IWB) is excellent. She has remembered bossy words and numbers for her instructions.'– Girl E, age 6

'I could hardly write and now look at my writing. You can see my writing getting better each week.' – Child after looking at her individual writing folder at the end of the academic year which contained her weekly writing tasks.

Evidence of impact on teaching

  • Evidence from observation and monitoring
  • Evidence from planning
  • Teacher perceptions

Describe the evidence of impact on teaching

Expectations of pupil performance in writing were raised and more children than in previous years attained writing at level 3 or with elements of level 3. 77% of the cohort made 2 or more sub-levels of progress. Lesson observations highlighted how high expectations were and also how the children themselves aimed high and rose to the challenge.

65% of the cohort were on the special needs register and the interactivity allowed all pupils to access the lesson and to make progress. This teaching approach addressed all learning styles. Talk & role play are increasingly planned for and teachers are more aware of the need for this.

What has been the impact on school organisation and leadership?

This approach is embedded in Y2 and has now been extended to the Y1 curriculum. Speaking and listening is planned for in a range of contexts and in a variety of forms- role play, drama, hot-seating, talking partners, small group discussion.

This approach to the teaching of writing will now be rolled out to KS2 this academic year following its success in KS1.

Thoughts you think are relevant to overall impact on school organisation and leadership

Teaching styles have been adapted to accommodate and promote this approach of an interactive way of teaching but also raising standards in writing. There are designated areas for role play and drama as well as making time and space for impromptu speaking and listening activities. The cross-curricular talking and writing has been emphasised throughout.

Quotes you think are relevant to overall impact on school organisation and leadership

'The improvement in this cohort's (Y2) speaking and listening has had a real impact on how the children construct text. They have successfully managed to develop a writer's voice and view themselves as confident and able writers.' – Senior Leader

Evidence of impact on school organisation and leadership

Talk is now a key component in the how to develop and extend children's writing.


What is the crucial thing that made the difference?

Patience was crucial as children became familiar with a real increase in speaking and listening activities and how to fully particpate in them. Key vocabulary was introduced and re-visited wherever possible. Teachers and children continually utilised new vocabulary and in all areas of the curriculum. The curriculum became enriched with talk throughout which then led naturally into the writing process. The talk prepared the children for the writing tasks and therefore they tackled the tasks with confidence and motivation. They took a great sense of pride in their work and achievement and relished self and peer assessment opportunities.

What key resources would people who want to learn from your experience need access to?

DCSF Speaking and Listening box for a range of ideas for planning and delivering a wealth of high quality talk activities: http://nationalstrategies.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/node/84856

Refresh on guided writing to maximise on these opportunities to develop talk and writing.

What CPD session and resources were particularly useful?

Guided writing and how to effectively develop writing using these focused sessions.

If another individual or school was attempting to replicate this work, where would they start and what would the essential elements be?

  • Audit of current speaking and listening in your classroom and where does it feature in the curriculum. What is its impact and can this be improved?
  • Review classroom organisation and plan for paired work, small group, large group and whole class discussions.
  • Model language, vocabulary and its structures, and encourage the children to do the same.
  • Listen to your pupils and follow their lead.

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