Big Writing is one of our most key strategies for teaching communication and writing . All of our staff have been trained to use this strategy that has a track record in improving children’s writing skills.
What is Big Writing?
Big Writing is a concept created by Ros Wilson. It aims to improve children’s writing skills by focusing on the four main aspects of writing…
During daily VCOP lessons, children develop and enhance their understanding of these four areas and then apply what they’ve learnt during a weekly Big Writing lesson. This lesson may take the form of various writing genres – i.e. they may apply their knowledge by writing a biography, persuasive letter, information text, story etc.
Daily VCOP lessons take place from Year 1 to Year 6. It is hoped that these lessons will boost the children’s enthusiasm to write and make them more confident. There is a focus on the children improving their own writing by ‘up-levelling’ their own work and that children, by following the Big Writing concept, will develop a better understanding of the writing process.
On most Friday mornings, every class has a Big Writing lesson. It starts before break when the children will have VCOP activities and a planning session to prepare them for writing. After break, the children will get on with writing on their own. In Years 1/2, the actual writing session lasts for 20-30 minutes, whilst in Years 3–6 it is a 45 minute session. Reception children engage in the ‘Big Talk’ but will be encouraged to write on their own if they feel ready. During the lesson teachers will play calming music and light a candle in their classroom. It is thought that this creates a calming atmosphere where children can concentrate and focus.
The elements of Big Writing
Vocabulary - Each classroom will have put aside an area where children can share ‘WOW WORDS’. These are new and impressive words that the children have found and wish to share with their peers. Children then try to use these words in their everyday writing, if applicable and of course during their Weekly Big Write.
Connectives - These are words that the children will use to join clauses in their sentences. They are again displayed in the classroom and the children are encouraged to use them to organise and improve their writing.
Openers - These are the words and strategies that children use to begin their sentences. A variety of words and techniques, that illustrate how children can open their sentences, are displayed in the classroom. These encourage children to add more variety to their sentence openers.
Punctuation - Not only capital letters and full stops! Each class will have a set of punctuation pyramids that illustrate the different types of punctuation that children should be using in their writing. These are organized in different stages matched to the stages of the National Curriculum. Right from the Reception classes, the children will be introduced to all kinds of punctuation because it is used in everything they will be reading.
Big Writing at home
As part of the children’s preparation for their weekly Big Writing lesson, they may bring home a note that asks them to discuss a particular topic (or they me be informed verbally of the topic they are to discuss at home) - we call this ‘Talk Homework’. This will usually be on Thursdays. The idea behind ‘Talk Homework’ is that if children can talk about a topic/subject then they can write about it too. Talk homework develops the children’s language and listening skills, this in turn helps to improve their writing ability. The note that your child brings home will inform you of the topic to discuss. Discussing this with your children WILL help them with their writing during the following Big Writing session.
To get the most out of Talk Homework you can do the following things:
Encourage as many family members as possible to be involved in Talk Homework, possibly around the meal table.
Switch off the T.V.
Try to ensure there is dedicated talking and listening time.
When giving you opinion, use the ‘because’ word to explain why you think that.
Give the possible opinions of two contrasting family members who are not present for the talk, and use the ‘because’ word to explain why they may be different.
Ask others around the table to give their opinions and to use the ‘because’ word.
Ask your child his/her opinion and ask them to use the ‘because’ word.
Link the topic you are given to discuss back something you remember from when your were a child and say why things may be different now. Project forward to how things may be different in the future.
If you require any support or clarification about how to conduct ‘Talk Homework’, please contact your child’s class teacher
The Big Talk
The premise of Big Writing is: “If the kids can’t say it, the kids can’t write it.”
The technology we have today is brilliant but, unfortunately, it has stopped us talking half as much as we used to. When children can talk confidently, their writing is much better. Therefore as a school we have decided we are going to talk more and talk at every opportunity. We want everyone to take part and parents and other family members to join in too. Every Friday or Monday, we will set a weekly Big Talk Topic. We may never write about this topic but we will certainly do lots of talking about it.