Steve Williams

Writing is a wonderful tool not only for informing, persuading and entertaining others but for remembering, exploring, thinking, analysing, reflecting and imagining for oneself. Children arrive at school wanting to write, to make their significant marks and to tell teachers what the marks mean. Writing seems natural and so it is.

To think with pen or pencil in hand and to write down ones thoughts is empowering rather than threatening. With nourishment, writing for thinking, can survive the more difficult and high-risk challenge of writing for assessment, or writing in order to be understood by a distant reader without recourse to further conversation with the writer. If we can nurture ideas-writing as a low-risk activity then we will be helping pupils not only to think more effectively for themselves but also to link their own ideas-writing with the writing they do for an audience.

A danger associated with placing too much emphasis on high-risk writing for performance is that teachers coach pupils to reproduce the surface features of approved models of writing in order to made quick progress towards the appearance of sophistication that is thought to bring higher marks in examinations. The result is often writing that is muddled, uninteresting and too dependent on set constructions learned from 'writing frames', genre models and checklists of connectives. The children's own thoughts and intended meanings seem to get lost along the way.

Here is the first part of a document I wrote on using writing to help learning in the classroom: Writing, Thinking and Dialogue Pt 1

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