Planning a piece of writing for pupils, no matter their age or ability can often be time consuming and difficult process, that very often, doesn’t tend to help make them any more ready to begin a piece writing or any more confident about crafting it effective beyond the opening – Andrew Jennings.
Let’s set the scene – After a few days of immersing the pupils in vivid language and dramatic role play, we set aside the planning day, where pupil ascend and decent mountains, produce timelines with various scaffolds or make copious amounts of detailed notes – more often than not – the words of the teacher in the plan ring louder than the students, as we try to support the pupils to develop an effective plan. The next day quickly arrives, D-Day. We all know that dreaded moment is about to arrive, where despite your best effort, the hands of ‘those’ pupils will slowly rise and be quickly accompanied by the enigmatic sounds of pupils stating “Sir..Miss…I don’t know how to start it, I don’t know what to write!?” And yes, this maybe verging on a little dramatic, but it’s a fairly common scene and sadly one that is most probably experienced by the lower attainers within classrooms across the country. What’s more ridiculous, is that despite experiencing this folly and frustration time after time, teachers are guilty of facilitating the same planning procedures and somehow expecting the outcome to be different to before.
Quite simply, for some pupils (especially lower attaining pupils, who tend to have social, emotional and other barriers to learning), such plans and planning processes are ineffective because it’s just too much information (that may be relatively new to them, in the form of a new text) for them to process and/or hold in their working memory and remember. Let alone write the text.
Why not try simplifying your whole planning process to a few well-chosen words, that are heavily embedded in those immersive and engaging dramatic, sketching, talk and sensory experiences that the pupils can refer and relate back to, underpinned by vocabulary – with the simple prompt of a single word. In doing so, you will save potentially a lesson every week or in every writing sequence from laborious and often pointless planning, which can be used to spend more time immersing the learners in the book, the landscape, the setting, or in the characters very own shoes and modelling how to develop aspects of the text effectively.
Using the simple vocabulary to plan, allows the pupils to cognitively focus on the task at hand without the mental overload that the traditional plan can create. Providing your pupils with the faculty to retrieve the familiar content of the book or stimulus, and still be able to focus on the developing and including the expected grammatical features of the text.
See the example below for Shackleton’s Journey. Ten well-chosen words which elicit memories, discussion, facts, opinions and much more from the text (in this case lots of meaning rich verbs). A simple and effective way to prompt and structure the writing process! Simple to prompt pupils’ knowledge and drive adult questioning.
• Execution (dogs)
• Elephant Island