We teach writing using Talk 4 Writing, developed by Pie Corbett. It is based on the key principles of how children learn and enables them to imitate the key language they need orally before reading and analysing it.  Through fun activities and oral rehearsal, children internalise the text structures and language patterns before putting pen to paper.  Talk 4 Writing has 3 stages: Imitation, Innovation and Invention, with the aim of the whole process being to create independent, enthusiastic authors. 

We have developed a clearly planned literacy spine for each phase of our school to ensure that our pupils have access to high quality texts and to a wide range of text types. These literacy spines also ensure that pupils are working through a consistent programme of study that means they revisit key text types each year.


A typical Talk 4 Writing unit would be begin with a creative context, for example, a unit on The Spiderwick Chronicles could begin with children going on a goblin hunt around the school ground and investigating ways to trap them! Children then learn a model text, supported visually by a text map and physical movements.  Children hear the text and say it for themselves before they see it written down. 

Once the children know the text well they 'read it as a reader'.  This involves in depth discussions around the text, focussing heavily on vocabulary and oral comprehension. They are encouraged to express opinions on their likes and dislikes regarding the text in order to improve their own writing.  Reading comprehension strategies such as: summarising, imaging, predicting and making connections are taught explicitly.  Further models are also shared with the children so they broaden their frame of reference through investigating how other writers tackle this type of writing. 

The next stage is 'read as a writer' which involves identifying the underlying patterns of both the overall organisation, as well as how the writer creates different effects.  The text is ‘boxed up’ (broken down into key sections) so that the structure becomes obvious and can be used as a basic planner.  Writing toolkits are also created and these contain transferrable strategies and techniques.  During this stage children are not just bathed in language but specifically notice, rehearse and learn language patterns needed to write powerfully.


Once the children have internalised the text they are ready to start innovating.  Younger children and less confident writers alter their text maps and orally rehearse what they want to say.  More confident writers use the boxing up planning tool, then turn their plan into writing.  At this stage the teaching is focussed on generating and crafting composition.  This process enables children to write their own versions of the exemplar text and develop their ability to generate good words and phrases using their inner judge, where they start to decide whether one word or phrase is best. Washing lines are used to collect and display models, words and phrases to support independent writing. 

At Portfield we have found that displaying the teacher modelled writing (I show), the shared writing with children (We show) and children’s published work (You show) provide good quality scaffolds for all abilities.  Children can innovate the model text in a variety of ways including: substituting characters and settings, writing prequels and sequels, introducing flashbacks and writing from a different characters perspective.  During this time children are expected to use their ‘purple polishing pens’ to edit their work carefully, considering their teacher’s feedback and the effect their word choice has on the reader.  All teacher’s marking should lead to action.


Finally, children move into invention where they write the text type independently and apply what they have learnt across the curriculum.  

Throughout the process children work on daily spelling, vocabulary building and sentence work in relation to the initial assessments of their writing, as well as the demands of the text type.