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Taking risks - making a difference: Working as a specialist teacher with Every Child a Writer

Case Study
  • Authored by: Linda Quinton-Jones
  • Status: Approved


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

As a specialist teacher working within the Every Child a Writer (ECaW) programme, I wanted to raise teachers' awareness of how to plan a three tier model using a more creative approach to writing through:

  • Improving quality first teaching for the whole class
  • Improving guided writing to meet group needs
  • Providing 1:1 teaching for those children that need it most

My main role as a specialist teacher with ECaW was to develop effective practice and accelerate the rates of progress in Years 3 and 4, in order to secure L3b in writing at the end of Year 4.

As my own school was developing a skills based curriculum, I was keen to explore a more creative approach to using the primary framework with the intention of developing this approach in my supported schools.

Who might find this case study useful?

  • Carer
  • Headteacher
  • Middle leader
  • Parent
  • Pupil
  • Senior leadership team (SLT)
  • SIP (School Improvement Partner)
  • Subject leader
  • Support staff
  • Teacher

Key points

Point 1

To accelerate the progress of writing in Years 3 and 4

Point 2

Use a creative approach to plan a unit of work using the Support for Writing materials


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

  • English - reading
  • English - speaking and listening
  • English - writing

How did you intend to impact on pupil learning?

Ensure faster progress in writing at the beginning of Key Stage 2 by
•  Developing teachers' ability to make effective use of the support for writing materials
•  Ensuring pupils write thoughtful and imaginative texts
•  Establishing shared and guided writing as part of general classroom practice
•  Making effective use of APP to inform guided writing groups

What were your success criteria?

  • Securing Level 3 in writing at the end of year 4
  • Making two levels of progress in writing across the key stage
  • Fully engaging pupils to write imaginative, thoughtful text
  • Teachers taking risks to engage and motivate children to write

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?

  • Periodic teacher assessment
  • Pupils' work
  • Test results

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
  • First-hand learning
  • Independent learning
  • Learning how to learn
  • Self assessment and peer assessment
  • Use of pupil talk for whole-class teaching
  • Use of thinking skills

Describe the teaching approaches you used

I wanted to encourage the Year 3 and 4 teachers in my own and supported schools to develop an approach that would move from compartmentalised teaching of writing (vocabulary work one day, spelling another) to a whole unit approach where reading and writing are integrated, culminating in a piece of writing at the end of the unit. I had trialled an approach in my own Year 3 classroom and wanted to share its success with the supported teachers. My ECaW consultant and I were keen to develop a 'taking risks in the classroom' approach to motivate reluctant writers and to see it cascade out to my supported schools.

I start each new topic with a group activity of the children deciding what they want to learn. They achieve this by brainstorming ideas on large sheets of paper. There are usually similarities in what the groups have brainstormed and it is always possible to pick up on 2 or 3 strands. With this particular topic the children wanted to know about, The Solar System, astronauts and aliens. Using this information I planned the writing to incorporate ‘alien poetry’ but principally I wanted to use the unit on adventure stories to enable the children to write an adventure set in space. In order for the children to write this adventure they would need a lot of new vocabulary, and in order to achieve this some of the children were given ‘use ambitious and adventurous vocabulary’ as their target.

The first step I took was to bring in an expert who explained all about the planets and outer space, and because they had wanted to know about astronauts I asked our specialist to incorporate that into the day. Back in the classroom, to get the imagination going, the children designed their own planets and then labelled them. I then introduced them to a film called Zathura – a space adventure where 2 little boys play a space game and things happen to them as if they were part of the game. This film was chosen particularly because not only were the children taking part in an adventure set in space but also included the directors obvious desire to ensure the scientific elements were accurate. Only the first part of the film was shown, children then used 'Talk for Writing' to discuss what they thought might happen next. Film was also used to stimulate ideas in the form of 'Tin Tin' Rocket to the Moon, as an example of cartoon characters. This idea was continued by watching the BBC's Captain Crimson who is also a comic strip space hero who has adventures both on Earth and in space. After which some time was spent exploring the children’s ideas through drama. Drama and talk activities in particular support children with preparation and planning for writing by helping to establish the links between characters and their settings. They also help children to manage the interweaving of description, action and dialogue.

So after acting out landing on the moon, being a space hero, meeting an alien and trying to speak in Martian, we eventually started writing and began with our own settings for our adventure. At this point I didn't want any characters to begin with as I really wanted the children to concentrate on building a world where the adventure would take place. As part of the shared writing activity, I modelled how to use the 5 senses to develop imagery, atmosphere and a sense of place. Modelling the writing in this way demonstrates the kind of thinking that I want the children to do and thereby improves their own literacy skills. After that the children then read each other's settings, not only to give feedback to the writing so far but also to move on and discuss the characters they had in mind.

Having orally rehearsed ideas ready to write, the next step was to write a plan using the story mountain principle and from this stage we began our first draft. From my AFL I was aware that certain children would have gaps in their learning and my main target was to make the writing interesting to engage the reader and this was addressed through my guided writing sessions, where the children would focus on a piece of their writing and help each other to improve it. Differentiated tasks were used to scaffold the writing as we went along and by negotiating their own success criteria I was able to ensure all children achieved success no matter what their level might be. Finally the story was published in their own book form and was readily available to all in the book corner, this was so the children had a purpose and audience for the finished story to be read by friends and parents.

Alongside the literacy lessons was the constant trickle of cross curricular activities such as: we made our own class rocket, on large sheets of paper we drew around a child to be an astronaut and in groups they filled it in with as much information as they could find about astronauts – later to be used as a resource in their writing. We wrote our own comic strips about Captain Crimson. At the end of the unit the children invited their parents into class to look at what they had been doing and to read their adventure stories. The children were very keen to show what they had been doing and needed no encouragement to ‘show off’ their abilities as authors. Likewise parents enjoyed the experience of sharing their children’s learning and engaging in positive feedback.


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

  • Coaching
  • Demonstration
  • Learning conversation
  • Lesson observation
  • Mentoring
  • Modelling
  • Partnership teaching
  • Training

Describe the CPD approaches you used

As a Leading Teacher involved with ECaW I worked in collaboration with colleagues to develop key skills in the effective teaching of writing. In each of my supported schools I worked alongside a teacher from Year 3 and one teacher from Year 4.

In the Autumn term:

  • I visited each school for 3 half day visits
  • I reviewed current planning and assessment procedures, helped to identify pupils' writing targets (from the Support for Writing materials) and Success Criteria
  • Visited a literacy lesson with a particular focus on the teaching of writing, for example modelled writing
  • Reviewed planning and progress and the next steps in learning
  • Helped to identify pupils for 1:1 tuition and monitored ITPs
  • Led a cluster meeting with all three schools. Guided writing was identified by the teachers as the CPD focus for the meeting.

In the Spring term:

  • I visited each school for 2x1 day of in class coaching and support in an area we had considered suitable for further development. Although the CPD focus of the visits varied from school to school depending on the areas identified, one of my overall aims was to build trust and ensure we all enjoyed the learning journey.
  • Led a cluster meeting with all three schools. Guided writing was identified by the teachers as the CPD focus for the meeting.

In the Summer term:

  • I visited each school for 1 day of in-class coaching and support. Once again the focus varied depending on the needs of the children and the teacher.
  • Final session of the summer term reviewed the process of support with the headteacher, subject leader and class teacher.
  • A final cluster meeting was held to talk about and reflect on classroom practice and consider the children's progress and learning.

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

Who provided you with support?

  • Local authority staff
  • Middle leader
  • Senior management
  • Subject leader

How were you supported?

  • Senior management in my own school encouraged a cross curricular approach to learning following a skills based curriculum
  • My ECaW consultant was keen to develop a 'taking risks in the classroom' approach and to see it cascade out to my supported schools
  • Teachers in the same year group worked collaboratively planning and advising to support each other
  • Budget provided in my own school to enable specialist to attend for a whole day


What has been the overall impact on pupil learning?

  • Pupils are more aware of their writing targets and what they need to improve.
  • Guided Writing has helped pupils to write in an environment which encourages a sharing of ideas and opinions.
  • Pupils are using talk to rehearse ideas, practise composition and refine and evaluate their learning progress which in turn leads to a clearer outcome of written work.
  • By negotiating their own success criteria pupils are aware of the learning intention and expected outcome.

Thoughts you think are relevant to overall impact on learning

  • If a cross curricular approach is developed for the whole topic, the children develop skills and vocabulary that will scaffold their writing. 
  • Pupils need to feel 'comfortable' about their writing. Shared, guided and small group is all less threatening to reluctant writers. When they share the responsibility, it encourages a lot of talk and discussion about writing. Children are more likely to have a go: it promotes confidence and enjoyment.
  • Pupils are keen to write for a purpose and particularly enjoy praise from their parents and families.
  • Sharing good practice with other teachers promotes a healthy climate that 'gives permission' to try out different ideas and resources.
  • Planning through the phases allows teachers a more holistic approach to writing which relies on quality rather than quantity.
  • Pupils need to be aware of their targets and why they are working towards them.
  • Pupils need to be encouraged to negotiate their own success criteria; by doing so it will enable all groups to achieve success.

Quotes you think are relevant to overall impact on learning

"What are you doing to him, he wants to write stories all the time" - Year 3 parent

"I know how to write now, shall I show you?" - Year 3 pupil (boy)

"I think I'm just like a real author now" - Year 3 pupil (girl)

"I just want to write another chapter in my book, is that OK?" - Year 3 pupil (boy)

"I've never seen him so interested in anything, it's been fantastic" - parent

"Thank you so much, I'm going to use some of those ideas in my classroom" - class teacher from another school

Quantitative evidence of impact on pupil learning

  • Periodic teacher assessment
  • Test results

Qualitative evidence of impact on pupil learning

  • Observation outcomes
  • Pupils' work

Describe the evidence of impact on pupil learning

  • Quality of pupils' writing
  • Observations
  • Pupil progress data - Please see attached upload


What has been the impact on teaching?

  • Teachers now approach  planning in a more 'relaxed fashion' and give time for 'preparation activities' before writing
  • Children are more in charge of their learning and with the children shaping their learning teachers enjoy refreshing and often unexpected lessons
  • Using previous lessons' activities as resources, the classroom becomes a positive learning environment
  • Teachers are more willing to share ideas and resources. 
  • Professional dialogue is ongoing and leads to continuous development
  • Teachers in supported schools now use the Support for Writing materials to align areas of weakness identified in APP assessments towards key curricular targets and objectives
  • The materials will help teachers to close the gap for pupils by focusing on the critical areas of writing (strands 9,10 and 11)

Thoughts you think are relevant to impact on teaching

  • Teachers have a clearer idea of the learning journey and plan activities accordingly
  • Teachers are more flexible in their planning and  consider the outcome they wish to achieve
  • A clear understanding of APP and how to use them as AFL has a definite impact on the guided writing groups
  • Teachers who do not 'take risks' deny themselves and their pupils the chance to experience a different outlook and perspective on their learning

Quotes you think are relevant to the impact on teaching

"I didn't really understand what guided writing was but now I do it makes such a difference" Year 4 teacher

"I like the way the children guide the writing, now they tell me what to write" Year 3 teacher

"I've learned not to interfere too much - after all it's their writing" Year 3 teacher

Evidence of impact on teaching

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

Describe the evidence of impact on teaching

  • Teachers in supported schools now have greater confidence in children's ability to work independently
  • Children who have  taken an active part in the learning process have a much clearer idea of the intended outcome
  • Teachers now provide interesting, carefully planned activities which ensure all children are enthusiastic about their learning
  • Teachers in supported schools now regularly assess and review pupil progress and discuss the next steps in learning
  • The use of 'Talk for Writing' has brought about an increased engagement in writing by pupils who were formally reluctant writers
  • Developing AFL has allowed children to further engage with success criteria and improve work

What has been the impact on school organisation and leadership?

  • Staff now have a greater awareness of using APP
  • Teachers now have a greater awareness of the Primary Framework and are developing the ability to plan units linked to the Skills Based Curriculum
  • Closer monitoring and tracking of writing across the school
  • Training and focus on guided writing has impacted on more inexperienced teachers becoming aware of the needs of pupils
  • Upskilled TAs by INSET training

Evidence of impact on school organisation and leadership

  • There has been demonstrable accelerated progress in writing
  • ECaW Leading teacher now working alongside the Literacy Co-ordinator
  • Home school 'rolling out' ECaW for a second year
  • There is a growing culture of sharing practice and developing guided writing into Literacy planning


What is the crucial thing that made the difference?

Being a specialist teacher with ECaW.

Being part of the project has provided me with many opportunities to develop my own skills and knowledge which I have been able to explore and apply in my own classroom. Through training and guidance I have developed the confidence and skills to support teachers in my own and other schools and demonstrate effective practice.
I was invited to Kent's Subject Leaders ISP conference in July 2010 as the theme for the day was “Taking risks - making a difference.” As this had been something that I had been exploring with teachers in the ECaW programme I was asked to provide a presentation of my experience and learning journey. I received very positive evaluative feedback from those present, with many favourable comments such as:

“Writing through risk taking session contained many excellent ideas”

“ECaW is a great way forward and has inspired me to make changes in teaching and learning of writing”

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

What CPD session and resources were particularly useful?


Subsequent sessions focused on :

  • Quality first teaching in order to secure shared and guided teaching approaches
  • Assessing Pupils' Progress
  • Support for Writing
  • Guided Writing
  • 1:1 tuition materials and pedagogies

CPD provided by Kent LA (led by Lead consultant for ECaW) to revisit materials and develop areas identified by Specialist teachers

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

  • A cross curricular approach to planning and teaching
  • Plan within your year group or phase using the resources on the Primary Framework
  • Begin with finding out what the children want to learn about the topic in that way they will be more interested and ready to learn
  • Allow time for the children to talk and develop their ideas through drama and role play
  • Understand that there might not be as much writing in pupils' books, but to focus on the end result - it is quality rather than quantity
  • Invite the parents in at the end of the unit to share the children's success as writers
  • Make sure you have quality and suitable resources. Include film, books, other adults, specialists and other children

What further developments are you planning to do (or would you like to see others do)?

I am moving to KS1 and am keen to develop Talk for Writing with Year 1 and its subsequent impact on emerging writers.

Disclaimer: Please be aware this is User Generated Content "UGC" and remains the property of the author. For more information regarding this, please refer to UGC section of the Terms and Conditions.

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  • Taking risks - making a difference: Working as a specialist teacher with Every Child a Writer