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Year 4 writing overview

The grid below is an overview of the writing units in Year 4. Each unit is driven by an engaging, vocabulary-rich book (or a school trip!) that inspires a wealth of writing opportunities.   Some of these books have strong thematic links to other areas of our curriculum (for example Science, History and Geography). If you would like to see how writing units are mapped across the whole school, please read our 'Whole School Writing Overview' which is available HERE. If you would like to find our more about our writing curriculum, please follow the link to our 'contacts' page and get in touch.

Autumn term Spring term Summer term

Poetry:  Where do you get your ideas? (1 week)

Stimulus: ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ by Sue Hardy-Dawson

Purpose and Audience: write a poem to be performed to the school in assembly

Key knowledge and skills:

  • through poetry we can express our unique ideas
  • collect ideas and images and play with the sequence
  • enjoy word-play and create unusual and surprising combinations
  • read my own writing aloud to an audience in an entertaining way

Fiction (modern fables): The Tin Forest – descriptive writing (2 weeks)

Stimulus: ‘The Tin Forest’ by Helen Ward and ‘The promise’ by Nicola Davies

Purpose and Audience: create story settings that paint vivid pictures in the mind of your reader

Key knowledge and skills:

  • consider how authors develop settings
  • use imaginative and rich vocabulary drawn from reading
  • expand noun phrases by the addition of modifying adjectives and preposition phrases

Non-fiction: Guide to a local attraction (3 weeks)

Stimulus: ‘i360 leaflet’ and other leaflets

Purpose and Audience: write an information leaflet that promotes a local attraction we have visited

Key knowledge and skills:

  • understand the purpose of promotional leaflets and media
  • use subheadings and summarise information
  • reuse new words from other leaflets
  • plan and write paragraphs around a key idea

Fiction: The present (2 weeks)

Stimulus: ‘The Present’ short film

Purpose and Audience: this unit is a whole-class sentence intervention

Key knowledge and skills:

  • develop sentence awareness across the class
  • change fragments into full, accurate sentences
  • identify and correct run-ons using conjunctions

Poetry: 6 ways of looking at the moon and the sea (1 week)

Stimulus: ‘6 ways of looking at the moon’ by Pie Corbett

Purpose and Audience: create a poem that impacts on the reader

Key knowledge and skills:

  • use metaphor to combine idea and create imagery
  • select rich and imaginative and vocabulary carefully
  • assess the effectiveness of writing and suggest improvements

Poetry:  The Minotaur (1 week)

Stimulus: ‘The Minotaur’ by Rachael M Nicholas

Purpose and Audience: understand a narrative poem and perform it using intonation, tone, volume and action. 

Key knowledge and skills:

  • prepare a poem to read aloud and to perform (intonation, tone, volume and action)
  • recognise some different forms of poetry and ask questions 
  • discuss words and phrases that capture the reader’s interest and imagination

Non-fiction: Celts versus Romans (3 weeks)

Stimulus: ‘Celts’ by Jane Bingham

Purpose and Audience: write an information page and present information in a way that excites young readers

Key knowledge and skills:

  • continue to organise paragraphs around a theme (cont. from Y3)
  • express time, place and cause using conjunctions and prepositions (cont. from Y3)
  • explore exciting new ways of presenting information

Non-fiction: Eco heroes – explanation (2 weeks)

Stimulus: ‘Guardians of the planet’ by Clive Gifford

‘Planet for sale’ by Sue Hardy Dawson

Purpose and Audience:  explain to our school community how to become an eco-hero.

Key knowledge and skills:

  • use our reading skills to learn about climate change
  • build on previously learned language of cause and effect
  • organise paragraphs around a theme

Fiction: The Minotaur (4 weeks)

Stimulus: ‘Theseus and the Minotaur’ by A. Horowitz

Purpose and Audience: create a legend in the style of ‘The Minotaur’, involving gifts and a dangerous creature

Key knowledge and skills:

  • retell myths and legends orally
  • understand the term ‘adverbial’ and use a wide variety of fronted adverbials (with a comma)
  • use a variety of conjunctions, noun phrases and pronouns (to avoid repetition)

Diary: A cat that was not quite a cat (3 weeks)

Stimulus: ‘Varjak Paw’ by SF Said

Purpose and Audience: diary entries from different viewpoints – Varjak and Holly meet a toy cat. Share our writing on SF Said’s very active blog.

Key knowledge and skills:

  • explore and use the features typical of diary writing
  • continue to use a variety of prepositions
  • give reasons for word choices: ‘this is effective because…’ and edit word choices

Non-fiction: Eco heroes – persuasion (3 weeks)

Stimulus: ‘Guardians of the planet’ by Clive Gifford

‘Planet for sale’ by Sue Hardy Dawson

Purpose and Audience:  persuade our school community to stop wasting food.

Key knowledge and skills:

  • understand and use persuasive devices
  • take part in discussion and debate
  • identify fact and opinion

Poetry: Old Foxy (1 week)

Stimulus: ‘Old foxy’ by Sue Hardy-Dawson

Purpose and Audience: explore a poem about one urban scavenger and then create a poem about another one (seagull)

Key knowledge and skills:

  • present a poem as a shape poem
  • discuss word choices that capture the imagination
  • expand noun phrases by the addition of modifying adjectives and preposition phrases

 Narrative: Tam’s story (3 weeks)

Stimulus: ‘Varjak Paw’ by SF Said

Purpose and Audience: Write a new part of the story (Tam’s story) in the style of SF Said. Read it to a small audience.

Key knowledge and skills:

  • compose a narrative written from another character's point of view
  • draft and write by organising paragraphs around a theme
  • discuss words and phrases that capture readers’ interest and imagination

 Fiction: Recount – News report (3 weeks)

Stimulus: ‘The Iron Man’ by Ted Hughes, ‘The Iron Giant’ (film)

Purpose and Audience: news reports for local people about the Iron Man’s arrival, destruction of machinery and heroism.

Key knowledge and skills:

  • transfer drama ideas into direct quotes sentences, using inverted commas and other punctuation
  • use eyewitness accounts and structural features of news reports
  • use a variety of fronted adverbials (often followed by a comma)

Fiction: Fox Friend – character/dilemma (3 weeks)

Stimulus: ‘Fox Friend’ by Michael Morpurgo

Purpose and Audience: create a dilemma story with strong lead character for a year 4 audience

Key knowledge and skills:

  • know that through stories we can explore real-life problems
  • explore how authors set up dilemmas and solutions
  • use details to build strong character descriptions
  • use adverbs and prepositions to make links between paragraphs

What writing skills and knowledge do we learn about in Year 4?

Sentence Construction


Consolidate on:

  • capital letters
  • full stops
  • exclamation marks
  • question marks
  • colons for a list
  • comma

Direct Speech

When using speech there are some important things that you need to remember.

  • Speech marks are used to separate direct speech from the rest of the text. Speech marks can also be used here.

"He's very clever," she boasted.

  • Speech verbs need to be used after the direct speech. These explain how something was said.

"Let me go!" screamed Mary.

  • New line for a new speaker. When writing direct speech you must start a new line every time a new person is speaking.

"Where is she?" questioned Simon.
"That's for me to know and you to find out," teased the stranger.


For contractions:

A contraction is where two words are shortened into one. When this happens an apostrophe should be used to mark where the missing letters are.

Do not --- Don't
Did not --- Didn't
Should not --- Shouldn't

For possession

Apostrophes are used in possessive nouns. They appear before the 's' unless the noun is plural. In this case it appears after the 's'. 

They boy's boots were muddy. (only one boy - singular possessive)
They boys' boots were muddy. (more than one boy - plural possessive) 

Word Structure and Language

Prepositional Phrases

Use prepositional phrases to start sentences.

Beyond the gloom of the cave, Zach saw the ancient wizard moving.

Adjectival Phrases

An adjectival phrase is a group of words which are used to describe a noun or pronoun in a sentence. Use a range of adjectival phrases in order to vary writing.

  • heavily disguised
  • slow stepping
  • darkly wooded

Standard English verb inflections

Use standard English for verb inflections throughout writing. 

  • We were   not   we was
  • did   not   I done

Plural and Posessive 's'

Children should know the difference between the use of plural 's' and possessive 's'.

Plural 's':

When there is more than one of something (plural) an 's' is added to the end of the word. 
boy --- boys
cow --- cows
However there are a few exceptions. Some plurals don't 'just add s'.
fish --- fish
cactus --- cacti

Posessive 's':

Possessions are words which show possession, e.g This is the boy's cat. The cat belongs to the boy so 'boy' is a possessive noun. When we write these we add an apostrophe s.
teacher --- teacher's
mother --- mother's
However, there is an exception. If the possessive word is already plural (already has an 's' not he end), then the apostrophe appraise after the 's'.
boys' (more than one boy)
boy's (only one boy)

Word Families

For a definition of 'word families' see year 3

Investigate meaning and spellings of related words through:

  • adding suffices

help, helped, helpful, etc...
distract, distraction, distracted, etc...

  • common prefixes

constant, contract, concede etc...

  • prefixes for negatives and opposites

un, dis, in, ir, il etc...

  • identify common prefixes and experiment with adding them to words

Children can make use of dictionaries and the internet for investigated prefixes.

Consolidate on:

  • well-chosen adjectives/adverbs that add something new
  • 'name it' (poodle not dog)
  • powerful verbs
  • speech verbs
  • making sure each word earns its place, avoiding 'over-writing'
  • creating new combinations, avoiding clichés (the old lady was break-dancing not the old lady was hobbling)

For more information on these areas, look at previous year groups.

National Curriculum Terminology

  • pronoun
  • posessive pronoun
  • adverbial
  • suffix
  • prefix

Text Structure

Plan or orally rehearse 

Before writing it is useful for children to plan and/or rehearse what they are going to write out loud. This enables them to have a clear direction of where their writing is heading before they start. It can help children order their thoughts and this allows their thoughts and creativity to flow more freely onto the page. 

Organise stories into paragraphs

Children will be moving beyond a simple beginning, middle and end narrative and try different story patterns.

Organisational Devices

Use organisational devices in non-narrative texts (non-fiction) to guide the reader. These devices include:

  • bullet points
  • subheadings
  • labelled diagrams

Fronted Adverbials

Fronted adverbials are adverbs which appear at the beginning of sentences.

Late into the evening, the doorbell rang.


Use a widening range of connecting words and phrases to link paragraphs across a text, and sentences within a paragraph. 

  • who
  • because
  • so that
  • as a result
  • while
  • until
  • where
  • or
  • if
  • to
  • also
  • however
  • as well
  •  consequently
  • unfortunately

Prepositional Openers

Use prepositional openers to indicate where something has happened. 

At the end of the lane, the car was abandoned.


Secure use of ed-ing-ly, words which end in -ed, -ing and -ly.

Surprised, Jane darted into a corner.
Feeling her way through the tunnel, Jill's heart pounded.
Reluctantly, the servant arose at 5am.

Language Effects

Emotive Language

In persuasive language emotive language should be used to make the reader feel something. This may be: sympathy, guilt, happiness, sorrow etc...

Imagine being cast out into the street, cold, lonely and frightened.

Empty Words

Use 'empty words' in writing to capture the reader's interest.

Someone, somewhere was out to get him.

Figurative language

Invent figurative language to evoke time, place, mood, feelings etc... This can by done by using:

  • alliteration
  • onomatopoeia
  • similes
  • metaphors
  • personification

Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

Use comparative and superlative adjectives and a range of adverbs for precision and effect to exaggerate or shade the strength of words.

  • slightly
  • rather
  • fairly
  • completely
  • utterly
  • especially

 Draw in the Reader

Questions can be used to draw in the reader while exclamations effectively create emphasis.

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