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Loitering with the text! Implementing Talk for Writing in Year 2

Case Study
  • Authored by: rebecca frankland
  • Status: Approved


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

As part of a small team working in a school with challenging circumstances, I felt that our approach to teaching writing was beginning to become a little 'dry'. Our school is in a socially and economically deprived area. We have a high mobility of children and a large percentage of free school meals. There is a higher percentage of boys throughout school and in my own class it is over 60% boys. Although throughout school our writing levels have improved over time and teachers' confidence has increased with the teaching of literacy, having looked at the Talk for Writing materials briefly I was sure that this could be an approach that would have a major impact on standards within literacy for ALL ages.

As an Advanced Skills Teacher and as part of my AST outreach time, I was invited by an LA literacy consultant to join a very small group of primary teachers who would pilot the Talk for Writing materials within each year group. This was to enable us to see how Pie Corbett's theory worked in practice and to assess whether other colleagues could implement similar practice.

I have always used 'talk' as a tool which enables children to engage (and therefore learn!), however I wanted to be far more specific within the literacy teaching sequence than I had been in the past in highlighting opportunities for structured talk which could be replicated within each unit. Whilst working in the early years I had been part of a CLLD programme which introduced aspects of Talk for Writing into both F1 and F2. The benefits were great, particularly as we were working with children who entered F1 at well below the national average. By the middle of F2 they were using book language confidently, engaging in mark making happily and many were writing independently. Oral rehearsal of stories worked brilliantly and provided our children with a bank of stories that they could then magpie from in the future (see Summary page for video clip).

I wanted to bring a more multisensory approach into my year 2 classroom in order to enhance learning in literacy as I worried that often learning became too formal far too early. I also wanted to see how these materials would transfer across to non-fiction as most of the DCSF resources (video, transcript, case studies etc) and the documentation which accompanies them, has a fiction focus. With male reluctant writers in mind I wanted to focus on non-fiction. Although over a period of time writing levels had improved, there was still fluctuation and I felt something needed to be put in place in order to raise the quality of children's writing in the long term.

Our children find writing hard! It's a task where they are constantly juggling a different focus - from holding a pencil to spelling polysyllabic words, writing clear punctuated sentences to using a clear structure of a text type. Talk for Writing seemed like it would give them something concrete that they could hold onto, something which would make their job as writers seem far less daunting.

Who might find this case study useful?

  • Headteacher
  • Senior leadership team (SLT)
  • SIP (School Improvement Partner)
  • Teacher

Key points

Point 1

Integrating features of Talk for Writing into a teaching sequence (in particular 'magpie-ing')

Point 2

Allowing children to engage with a text type until it has become embedded, particularly non-fiction


  • Author: rebecca frankland


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 increasing the number of children, particularly boys moving towards age related expectations.
  • Raise the quality of writing across the board.
  • Use a multisensory approach to enhance the learning experience.
  • Enable children and adults to see that there is an explicit link between unmeasured talk and a written outcome - if you can't talk it, you can't write it!

What were your success criteria?

  • Engagement with tasks - particularly the written outcome. Evidence of talk within writing, particularly as a result of 'magpie-ing'.
  • An understanding of the specific writing process and an understanding that it can be applied to all writing.
  • Children seeing themselves as authors and understanding the reader-writer link.

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

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

  • Collaborative group work
  • Independent learning
  • Teaching sequences
  • Use of pupil talk for whole-class teaching

Describe the teaching approaches you used

Implemented the features of Talk for Writing directly into the teaching sequence

PHASE 1 - Shared reading and familiarisation with the text type

  • BOOK TALK - enabling children to openly respond to what they have read (trickier with non-fiction than fiction)
  • WRITER TALK - exploring how the writer creates a particular effect
  • REAL EXPERIENCE - children should experience the text type at first hand (following instructions to make a classroom den, playing games before writing about them). This stage always involves talk.

PHASE 2 - Capturing ideas and planning

  • WRITER TALK - exploring the features of a text type to understand how writers create that particular text
  • LEARNING TEXT BY HEART - a very powerful part of the Talk for Writing process whereby children learn a model text, supported by picture map.
    • BOXING UP (see attached) and gesture (see attached). They are then actively encouraged to 'magpie' from this model, as they are told it's what all good writers do, when they begin to create their own text. Boxing up is a method of planning a text that REALLY WORKS!!
    • STEP 1 -Take an original story, just pick out the key chunks of action (ideally, there shouldn't be a great number of 'boxes' from the original story).
    • STEP 2 - generalise on this, so instead of the wolf coming along to the first little pig's house and blowing it down, you might say the bad character comes along and ruins something precious belonging to the first good character.
    • STEP 3 - children can now use just the details 'magpied' from the original (the bare bones of the story) and use it to write their own. So for example when referring to the Three Little Pigs, it could be a mean old bear filling in the burrow of the first little bunny rabbit.
  • REAL EXPERIENCE - this will be the focus for the published piece. This stage always involves lots of talk
  • CREATION OF OWN PICTURE MAP - based on the practical experience and drawing upon the magpied text/picture map. This essentially is the plan for what will be written/published

PHASE 3 - Writing (including publishing)

  • ORAL REHEARSAL - of own text
  • WRITER TALK - throughout this phase a writer's thinking must be explored and discussed. Children will be encouraged to magpie based on the model text (that author wrote...it was a good choice because...we'll steal it!) throughout shared, guided, modelled and independent writing.

Valued the time to talk over the collection of written evidence

Although I know that teachers and Senior Leadership Teams are under pressure to collect evidence and there is a feeling within literacy that children should be writing every day to 'fine tune' their skills, it is really worth holding onto the thought that the end product will be of better quality if children are given time. This isn't time to practise writing though, this is time in phase 1 and 2 to talk and to orally rehearse what will be written. If the talk is 'fine tuned', the writing will follow. Regardless of that, a child's writing experience will be so much more valuable if they are allowed to take the Talk for Writing journey.

Paired and collaborative talk and planning

Although I've also been aware that working alongside peers is incredibly supportive for children, something at the back of my mind was always saying to me 'yes, but I want to know what they can do independently'. One of the major aspects of Talk for Writing for me was the notion of 'Magpie-ing'. It is made clear to children throughout the writing process (the teaching sequence) that published authors take (or magpie) ideas (whether they be plotlines, vocabulary, characterisation...) from each other - that's how they improve their writing. Children are then encouraged to do the very same thing - and it works! It isn't copying! It's an approach which enables them to gather together a bank of meaningful writers tools (story starters, powerful connectives, phrases from model texts) and use them within their own writing. Many of the children that come into school do not have a rich literate homelife, so without the opportunity to learn a model text or features of a text by heart, they have nothing to pin their future writing on. Learning by heart means ideas and techniques can be stored away for future use - it's more than copying a sentence into an isolated piece of work.

LOITERING! Spending more time than suggested on phase 1 and 2 of the teaching sequence means that children can really familiarise themselves with a non-fiction text type. Features of that text can then be truly embedded before expecting children to be able to create their own text. I know time is an issue as we try each term to squeeze something new into the timetable, but if children produce a better quality end product, surely it's worth it?

A multisensory approach and the use of ICT

Having previously worked in the foundation stage, now more than ever I try to ensure that children approach learning from a very practical level. Before even thinking about the writing stage of our instructions, children were given opportunities to DO. They made dens in the classroom, then sleeping-bag sandwiches to eat inside the dens. They had time to play! They designed, tested, developed and created their own 'Go-Go's' games. They spent this (exciting) time TALKING and as well as refining the steps and instructions, they were modifying language and structure which directly fed into the written outcome. The boys undoubtedly became hooked into the writing process through this practical start and the end product was much less of a chore than I had experienced before. When thinking about how to publish our explanations, I thought back to the 1980's children's programme 'How to'. I wanted to give the children an opportunity to produce a children's tv programme which could be streamed within school. This was to have a scientific focus and would be completely cross curricular. Although the children made a short video, they were writing all the way through phases 2 and 3 and they had to write a plan of their explanation (as this is what production companies do!) before filming. A real audience and a good carrot is a great motivator for writing.


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

  • Lesson observation
  • Modelling
  • Training

Describe the CPD approaches you used

I recently delivered INSET to the whole staff. This involved the use of the Pie Corbett CPD materials, modelling of approaches and an opportunity to share what I had already trialled.

As part of my AST role I am often asked to support teachers with their planning. Where possible I talk about the benefits of Talk for Writing and integrate some of the features within a teaching sequence (it is tricky to integrate the whole approach as very often teachers are not aware of the approach).

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

Who provided you with support?

  • Local authority staff

How were you supported?

  • Strategic working relationship with LA consultant
  • Buddying with KS1 member of pilot group (joint planning)


What has been the overall impact on pupil learning?

Children understand implicitly that if you don't talk it, you can't write it. The talk in the classroom, within groups and within partnerships is more focused and positive. There are very few times when talk becomes 'off task' in nature.

They see that writers go on a specific journey during the writing process and because many of the features of Talk for Writing encourage children to see themselves as authors, they are happy to go on this journey. In particular the use of picture maps and 'boxing up' as an approach to planning.

Planning a text with young children is hard! Planning frames that I have used in the past would be handed to me with the entire text squished into the planning boxes - they just didn't get it! 'Boxing up' just makes so much sense to them and they are able to pick out the main features of a text and then magpie them in their own plan. Not only do children find the new approach quicker and easier, what they create is a plan, not an entire text pretending to be a plan!

Children are more equipped to focus on the really tricky bit of writing - sentences! This is because Talk for Writing gives them the tools to craft their piece of writing in what seems quite an effortless way so through guided writing, the focus on sentence structure can occur.

The use of connectives and understanding that there are different types of connectives with different uses has been really powerful. Because pictures and gestures are assigned to key features such as connectives, children remember them due to this multisensory approach. Once they have a bank of a few connectives they seem able to add to it easily. Children regularly spot connectives as we look at texts across the curriculum or during story time and they are beginning to classify them. Some have even started to note when writers do not use them! On the whole connectives appear in their writing without prompting and children are desperate to point them out when they've used one.

They KNOW that it is ok to magpie and they explicitly understand that this is what good writers do. However, they also understand that there is a fine line between magpie-ing and copying. They may ask to look at someone else's whiteboard or rough draft (I actively encourage it!) however they won't copy great chunks or complete sentences. I will hear them saying "I like that bit" or "I'm going to use that picture on my map".

Thoughts you think are relevant to overall impact on learning

Although I understand that people who are unfamiliar with the materials may just want to give 'book talk' a go or try a picture map with the children, Talk for Writing shouldn't be seen as a set of activities that can be dipped into. It is an approach. If all the elements are integrated into day to day planning, the whole writing experience will be a powerful one.

Quantitative evidence of impact on pupil learning

  • Periodic teacher assessment

Qualitative evidence of impact on pupil learning

  • Pupils' work

Describe the evidence of impact on pupil learning

In the assessment data below the focus boys are highlighted.  In two terms, three focus boys have exceeded their end of year targets.

The examples of writing are from the lower-attaining focus pupils.


What has been the impact on teaching?

  • I consistently ensure that all units have a purpose and are contextualised in some way. This means that children have a reason for what they are doing. Publishing should be for a real audience and carried out in imaginative and varied ways - I firmly believe that when children have been learning about a text type and have built up to their final piece of work, it shouldn't just end up in their literacy books.
  • My teaching sequences do last a little longer than they did previously, but I am confident that this 'loitering' is time well spent, particularly with non-fiction text types. Until children have a firm grasp of the text type and understand the features (without just being able to 'recite' what they are), they are not able to write in that style.
  • Seeing the value of multisensory learning. Talk for Writing enables different learning styles to be reached through spoken word, action, picture and writing and ensures that the journey to the end product is practical.
  • I am now more conscious of giving children more ownership over their learning, particularly when unpicking a text through Book Talk. I'm sure previously I used to ask questions about a text and have the responses I wanted to hear already in my head. I was guilty of leading children down my path when investigating a book, rather than letting them discover things for themselves. Book Talk enables them to create their own conference about what they've read and is led completely by THEM.
  • I have become more confident in my use of ICT, not only throughout the teaching sequence but also within publishing. Previously I shied away from the exemplified units within the Strategy which suggested an ICT based outcome.

Evidence of impact on teaching

  • Evidence from observation and monitoring
  • Evidence from planning

Describe the evidence of impact on teaching

Planning shows that whereas previously, non-fiction units may have had around three weeks dedicated to them, now in order to fulfil the outlined objectives well and provide children with a learning experience, four weeks is more appropriate.

Recent observations of Literacy teaching throughout school have shown that features of Talk for Writing are being successfully used. An observation of my teaching by the Head commented that "children have a great understanding of the text type because of the teaching methods used...(children are) enthusiastic about their learning and therefore made good progress."

What has been the impact on school organisation and leadership?

Because this study was only focusing on impact at classroom level, it is difficult to assess the whole school at this point.

Evidence of impact on school organisation and leadership

As above


What is the crucial thing that made the difference?

See 'impact on teaching' (purpose, context, multi-sensory learning, letting children discover things in texts for themselves)

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

  • Talk for Writing materials
  • Exemplified literacy units

What CPD session and resources were particularly useful?

The Talk for Writing discs, particularly the training from Pie Corbett, are invaluable (the training clips on the National Strategies website are not complete).

A buddy - having the opportunity to work alongside five other teachers, all trialling the materials for the first time in their own classrooms was extremely beneficial. We were a support unit for each other as well as a pot of ideas. working closely with someone to plan a unit of work for the first time was also very useful.

Having not received training directly (either from Pie Corbett or from LA course provider) working closely with an LA literacy consultant

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

  • Buddying
  • Experience of using National Strategy teaching sequences - its easier to see and understand where the features of Talk for Writing 'slot' into the teaching sequence if teachers are familiar with the phases.

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

During 'in-reach' time I would like to plan unit of work using the Strategy guidance, with each member of teaching staff within school. I feel that now they have the background to the approach and can see that it works, the next step is to see that the features of Talk for Writing fit easily within a teaching sequence - and they make sense!

Date edited by author

Tue, 16/11/2010 - 19:56

1 rating


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