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The use of writing frames and planning tools to improve structure and increase depth in writing

Written By: Driver Youth Trust
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What's the idea?

Knowing how to structure ideas is hard for many learners, especially those with literacy difficulties. Scaffolding a task before they begin to work on it can help learners to develop the depth of their writing.

 

What does it mean?

Scaffolding support for pupils that find writing difficult increases the opportunity for them to become successful writers and have the confidence to put their own ideas into words. The scaffold is managed by the teacher and can be adapted for different pupils. The scaffold can then be reduced as the pupil’s confidence grows – for example, providing a pupil with sentence starters to answer comprehension questions and subsequently reducing the number of words given until they complete the answers unaided.

Scaffolds support several different types of learners: those with anxiety and fear of the blank page, learners with organisation issues and those with literacy difficulties including dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Writing can become distilled down to the ‘clothes of writing’, a term used by Wittgenstein (Wyse, 2017) to describe a focus on grammar and sentence structure. It is important that both the audience the text is intended for and its purpose, i.e. to inform, advise or describe, are at the forefront of any written activity. It is also important when creating a writing frame to address both of these points. A suggestion would be to highlight and explicitly focus on the audience and the purpose during the planning phase and ensure that grammar and punctuation are addressed during the editing phase.

 

Action points for teachers

  1. Knowing your pupils and the level of help they may need is crucial in being able to create effective writing frames, such as the 5-paragraph essay or the 5Ws, (who, where, what, where, when and why) that add support to a pupil’s work rather than do the work for them.
  2. Make planning and editing key activities in lessons to create good writing habits.
  3. Use a framework and make it a classroom habit. Give the whole class the structure and develop or scaffold this idea where needed.
  4. Making time to plan is an integral part of the lesson – it teaches effective learning skills and instills good habits for independent work.
  5. A framework could be as simple as a reminder of the main task and a few key words, or it could provide an exemplar and sentence starters, or even a skeleton of an approach such as a compare and contrast essay in English or source question in History. Frameworks increases the opportunity to succeed in writing and the intention is that pupils will then understand the process of writing and be better prepared when they tackle such a task in the future.
  6. Frameworks support working memory and are an excellent way of creating revision notes.

 

The Driver Youth Trust is a charity committed to improving the outcomes of young people who struggle with literacy.

Want to know more?

Wyse D (2017) How writing works – From the Inventions of the Alphabet to the Rise of Social Media. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rosenshine B (2012) Principles of instruction: Research-based strategies that all teachers should know. American Educator 36(1): 12–19, 39.

Tharby A (2017) Making Every English Lesson Count: Six Principles to Support Great Reading and Writing. Carmarthen: Crown Publishing.

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