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Talk For Writing

At Carlton Hill Primary School, we love telling stories, playing with stories and making up our own stories. We do this with non-fiction texts too. This approach to teaching writing is called 'Talk for writing'. The most simple way to think about it is: learn a story; change a story; invent your own story.

Perhaps it's even better to explain it with some examples. Here is a Year 5 writing project (or 'unit') based on the legend of Beowulf. Each stage of the 'Talk for writing' journey is explained, and we have included some of our pupils' writing for you to enjoy.

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What is a ‘cold task’?

As children move up through the school, they build up a wide range of useful writing skills. At the start of a new project, before any teaching has taken place, children show the teacher what they already know. We call this a cold task.  Here you can see one of Emmanuel’s cold tasks. After exploring the legend of Beowulf through some lively drama activities, he retold his own version.

Emmanuel's cold task

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Why do you use story maps?

Before looking at the story as a text, we look at it as a map. Using the story map, we say the story aloud. This is called ‘talking the text’. Sometimes, we even learn whole stories off-by-heart! Getting to know stories REALLY WELL helps us to learn the patterns of written language. Here you can see Billie’s story map of ‘Beowulf’. Can you understand any of her symbols?

Part of Billie's 'Beowulf' story map

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Why do you play with stories?

When we know a story inside out, we like to have some fun with it! We play around with our stories and make changes to them. This could be as simple as changing where the story takes place (the setting), or as challenging as changing the order of key events. Here you can see that Molly has changed the narrative perspective of the class text ‘Beowulf’. She has retold the story from the monster’s point of view.

Molly changed the narrative perspective

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Do children invent their own stories?

Yes! Towards the end of a writing project, children create their own stories, in the style that class have been learning about. We call this a ‘hot task’.

At this point, most children are bursting to show-off their own ideas – maybe borrowing a phrase or a sentence structure from the class story (the ‘model text’). Other children may feel more comfortable sticking closely to the pattern of the class story, adding their own characters, settings and anything else they feel should be there.

Here you can see that Maurice has invented a prequel to Beowulf, explaining how Beowulf became a hero. He borrowed the main character, but everything else is his own. Enjoy!

Invent

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Impact on learning

All of these activities have a positive impact on the quality of children's writing. If you would like to see how 'Talk for Writing' can move writing on, please CLICK HERE to download a case study written by our deputy headteacher. The case study looks closely at one Year 5 child's writing across a one year period.

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