What is ‘Talk for Writing’?

‘Talk for Writing’ is built around a simple enough notion. What would happen if we took a primary school and decided that every day children would spend 15 or 20 minutes storytelling. In a reception class, they might well learn and develop about 10 stories. This could be built upon in year 1 with another ten and, thereafter, perhaps a story every half term. This would provide every child with a bank of about 50 stories that they know really well. If you add in a similar number of non-fiction texts and then include poetry, the language and imaginative store becomes fairly extensive.

Talk for writing – phase 1 – Imitation

Learning stories orally is a powerful tool for helping the child to internalise the language. Whilst reading is also necessary, it can become a passive activity. Oral learning of texts involves the children in hearing and speaking the text. These are taught in a multi-sensory manner, using story maps (visual representation) and actions (kinaesthetic). You may see your child bring these maps home to learn as part of their homework.

Talk for writing – phase 2 – Innovation
Once the children have heard, spoken, read and explored a model text, internalising it into their long-term working memory, then they are ready for the second phase which is known as ‘INNOVATION’. This is when the children are helped to create their own new version of the known text. Young children and those who struggle with composition start by making changes to their maps and then retelling their new version. This has to be modelled by the teacher. A new class map is decided upon and the new story retold. Then the teacher works with different groups, helping children develop their ideas, alter their maps and retell and refine their new versions.

Talk for writing – phase 3 – Invention
The third phase is ‘INVENTION’. This is where children are expected to write increasingly independently. The teacher may well decide that certain aspects need revisiting and teaching. There may also be ‘feedback’ sessions – but the main thrust is on the children writing independently. When writing, less confident children may well rely on the initial model but more confident writers will draw upon many different sources. By this stage, the underlying patterns and structures begin to become ‘transferable’ so that they can be used in different situations for the young writer’s own purposes.