What is BIG Writing?
It is a philosophy about writing which was originally devised by Ros Wilson. (A former teacher and Ofsted Inspector). We have taken it and adapted it to help our pupils become fluent and exciting writers. In order to be really successful we need your help.
It is based on the premise that to write well children need to feel confident and motivated.
Children are encouraged to...
Talk about their writing.
Find exciting vocabulary to use in their writing.
Magpie interesting words and phrases from other authors.
WOW words should be a strong feature of writing.
Write for extended periods of time so they can really develop their ideas.
Have a go at using punctuation to improve and extend their writing.
Use voice to change the feel of a text.
Be inspired by experiences, events and stories to motivate them.
Re-read their own writing to find ways to make it better.
Understand what they need to do next to improve.
Improve the writing of other authors by up levelling.
When does it take place?
Once a week, or once a fortnight, depending on what is being taught in class as the skills taught are to be used in BIG Write sessions.
How long do we write for during a BIG WRITE session?
We build up to at least 60 minutes by the time pupils are in year 6
Foundation Stage ‘talk’ about their writing and start putting down words.
Year 1 write for at least 20 minutes.
Year 2 write for at least 30 minutes.
Year 3 and 4 write for at least 45 minutes.
Year 5 and 6 write for at least 60 minutes.
What do pupils learn?
Essentially they learn the skills of composition and editing as well as the secretarial aspects of writing.
Pupils write either in their books or on special paper which is stuck into their books, to help make the event special.
There is a success criteria which children use to think about and improve their writing.
When the children have written their work the teachers mark it and give them detailed ‘small step’ targets for improvement.
Teachers also plan skills sessions for the following week to teach children what they need to know to make their writing better, that’s why BIG write usually happens on a Friday.
We want every child in school to know what they need to do to improve their writing, so we use their writing as examples for them to learn from. Children then conference with their writing and polish it with a green pen to improve it.
So how does Big Writing work?
It is a way of teaching children to write, through focusing on four main aspects of writing:
Collectively known as VCOP
These are displayed in every class. Children play VCOP games at the beginning of each BIG write session to get them warmed up and ready to go.
Every class has a 'Wow Word' board where new and impressive words that the children have used throughout the week and have found in good quality texts, are shared with everyone. These are often called Magpie boards because Magpies are very good at collecting nice shiny things! Pupils are encouraged to use these words in their writing.
Every class displays examples of powerful connectives and teaches children how to use them through various writing opportunities throughout the week. Pupils are encouraged to use these in their writing to join sentences and paragraphs, therefore improving the organisation of their writing.
Every class displays and discusses good sentence ‘openers’ (sentence starters) that the children can use in their writing to make their sentences and overall texts more interesting. Pupils are taught how they can improve a basic sentence by changing how it begins.
The teaching of punctuation is based on the ‘Punctuation Pyramid.’ Children start by using full stops and capital letters, then question marks followed by commas and an exclamation marks and so on. They learn how punctuation can build suspense, add detail and alter the pace and flow of their writing.
Everything on the pyramids is levelled and children are challenged with using vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation from the highest levels possible on the pyramid.
Progression – how writing improves
When given a simple stimulus children typically write the following types of sentences. As their understanding of language and VCOP skills improve their writing improves, as illustrated below;
Age 5 or Year 1-12 level The dog is big. The dog likes a bone. The dog can bark. I like the dog.
Age 6 or Year 2-12 Level My dog is big and brown and very scruffy. He likes to eat bones but he likes sausages best. My dog can bark loudly and he can run very fast. I like my cat and my dog but I like my dog best.
Age 8 or Year 4-12 Level I have two pets, a dog, and a cat. I like them both but I like my dog best! He is large, rusty brown and very scruffy. Have you seen him? He looks very funny. My dog likes eating bones and biscuits, but best of all he likes eating sausages. When my dog barks it is so loud that I cover my ears. Also my dog runs very fast.
Age 11 or Year 6-12 level People often ask me about my pets and although I have two, I have to say I like my dog best. That large, rusty brown ragamuffin looks so very amusing that he makes me laugh. Have you seen him? He mainly dines on biscuits and bones, however he prefers meat and he enjoys sausages most of all. When my scruffy, old friend barks it is as loud as thunder crashing across the sky! We all have to cover our ears for protection.
Helping children see explicitly what they need to do to improve will help them up level their own writing very effectively to make it more interesting to the reader.
What can you do to help your child?
Talk! Ask them to describe everything and anything.
Play games that will improve vocabulary like the Minister’s Cat – your child knows it we’ve played it in assembly get them to show you what to do.
Take it in turns to tell a story. One person starts it; the other says what happens next etc...
Look at a picture or photo together. Use it to tell a story. Think of a title for your story. What would the opening 10 words be?
Encourage your children to spot WOW words and perhaps write them down in a book at home or on a piece of paper.
Encourage your children to borrow or ‘Magpie’ words or phrases which they like from books, magazines, television programmes. Great writers are even better Magpies!!
WRITE and make it real! Encourage your child to ...... write letters, write a diary, take notes about a walk, a trip etc... they could use their notes to write a news report, you could record it on an ipad and send it to relatives who missed out on the adventure, make lists – to do lists, shopping lists, lists of favourite music, games, characters, books etc... Use games to help develop vocabulary such as puzzles, crosswords, word games, anagrams etc...