We had developed the two page approach to capturing the writing process, linked with flip out personal targets, but still wanted to ensure that, at transition points, there was no drop in expectation, as was evident in a couple of year groups. We were especially concerned at the Infant- Junior point. The classic statement was occasionally heard, level 3 in Junior is not the same as in Infants, full stop.
This could enable lower expectations to become embedded, so was tackled by taking the writing books from the previous year, to continue their use into the next year, thereby establishing the earlier benchmark as the starting expectation. It also meant that the receiving teacher could not ignore the professional decisions of the previous colleague, as evidence was continuous.
Following this, we took account of the volume of writing that the children were doing, across the range of subjects and surmised that, if they did less of more quality that writing outcomes would improve. The hypothesis was propounded that because, at that time, there were books for several subjects, the imperative to have evidence in each was driving the writing dilemma. The solution was to have three exercise books, one for maths, one for written work and one for “topic notes”, for want of a better descriptor. They also had an art sketch book.
The two page approach, grown out of the National Writing Project ideals, embeds note making, ordering ideas, collecting vocabulary, among many other, process based elements, so we were happy with that approach. Drafting and redrafting, with an audience in mind, perhaps public display or a class compilation in book form. Making books, story, topic and records was a feature of school life.
So, as a result, every area of the curriculum could become the focus for writing during the week. A piece of art work, DT, PE activity, class visit or science experience could be written up as an appropriate narrative report, a set of instructions or an evaluation. Preparatory activities ahead of trips, or responses after could provide the vehicles for letter writing, to a specific audience. We found that every aspect of school experience could lend itself to a range of writing experiences, well beyond anything that was ever thought of in a purely literacy framework.
The writing process, as a result, became an even stronger aspect of school life, with teachers deciding what should be developed through drafting to presentation forms for display, or some other presentation. Dialogue about improvements, based on personal targets, enabled individuals to take some responsibility for their efforts and outcomes.
Quality of writing and presentation improved. It was a case of narrow the focus, but improve the progressive “baselines”.
Notes (all writings) were kept, and stuck into the left hand page to show how the thinking had developed throughout. Photocopies were kept to a minimum, as was the use of the wipe on wipe off boards, but, if they were used, they would be copied. How much of children’s work is “lost” as the early drafts are wiped clean. If they produce something, it should be shown to have value.
On another note; Ideas books are far stronger than scrap books (what’s in a word?)
A holistic approach to the writing process, captured within one book, transferred to the next class, supports writing progress, through interrogation of outcomes. In other words, a personal portfolio.