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Talk for writing: Jo's Year 1 case study – Implementing 'Talk for writing'

Objectives and process

  • Date: Sep 2008
  • Programme: Talk for writing
  • Subject area: Literacy
  • Focus: Improving the rate of progress of children's writing by focusing on sentence structures, vocabulary and oral rehearsal
  • Number in series: 2
  • Phase: Primary
  • Key stage: Key Stage 1
  • Ref: 00467-2008PDF-EN-28


  • To improve the rate of progress of children's writing with particular focus on improving sentence structures and range of vocabulary appropriate for each text type.
  • To support children to improve skills in oral rehearsal prior to writing.


The teacher carried out a series of units based on the strategies presented through the Talk for writing project, including:

  • responding to poetry and stories through drama, art and dance
  • use of oral storytelling techniques including imitation, innovation and invention in both fiction and non-fiction text.

The children in the class were already very good at child-to-child talk based on the routines and expectations that were already established. The teacher used this as a strength on which to build. Each unit significantly increased the amount of talk the children undertook, within a range of drama and role-play strategies, by learning the texts orally – also in preparation for planning their writing.

Of particular significance was the introduction of oral storytelling, particularly imitation of text and subsequent innovation on the text. This supported children to learn a wider range of sentence structures and vocabulary as they had to 'talk' them aloud over and over again. When children came to write for themselves, by innovating on the text, they were then confident to reuse those structures and also some of the vocabulary they had previously learned in the context of a similar text. This technique was applied to units linked to traditional stories and non-fiction text, for example, Explanation text and Fantasy stories.

The success of the work carried out is attributed to the following aspects.

  • Children verbalised a wider range of sentence structures and vocabulary than they use in their everyday spoken language, which has helped them to remember and reuse these in their independent writing.
  • Children verbalised structures for good non-fiction text, which is less usual. This provided them with the support they required to be successful in their writing.

Similar structures and approaches were used through a range of different units, including nonfiction,so the children understood the expectations. Children have 'walked the same paths across the wheat-field' many times. (They have spent time going over and over the same text, learning it, using it and then making it into a springboard from which to write their own stories.) This has helped them to remember the language and vocabulary for application in other pieces of writing.

Children were taught to use simple planning structures to which they were able to refer when writing full text.

The children thoroughly enjoyed learning in this way and when they were expected to write they felt they had something to write about. Some children could hardly wait to begin writing!