Kate Kelly, a deputy head in Sheffield, has begun a writing research project in her school using Talk for Writing methodology. She recently sent us this feedback telling us how things were developing and how she has used the example of an alien invasion to inspire writing in her Year 6 class. Kate has also generously made available her planning documents and the resources that she has used (downloads are available below). Kate explains:
“Some of our staff were familiar with Talk for Writing but weren’t really using it. Now, however, the whole of KS2 are totally fired up with it and the consistency it has brought to our teaching is great! On top of that, and most importantly of all (for me) the children are loving it and are having loads of fun. If Ofsted were to come in now they would see text maps throughout KS2 and boxed up texts all over the place! Its been uplifting, for me, to see the way staff have embraced it.
I began by writing an overview of three text types we were all going to cover from September to December. Our school has developed an excellent Creative Curriculum so I planned the work around our whole-school theme: My Place in Space. From here, I planned in detail the UKS2 Literacy covering Explanations, Journalistic writing and Instructions. We plan in what we call ‘modules’ so have gone away from the Mon-Fri plan as so many teachers would worry if they hadn’t covered everything they’d written down in that week! Planning in a modular way has allowed staff more freedom to take the time needed with different aspects of the children’s learning, which is obviously far better for the children themselves. Although we had aimed for each module to take approximately 3 weeks, as ever, with other things happening in school, the modules are taking longer to cover.
To put the writing and text maps produced into context, you need to understand the following: At the start of October, I arranged for a 10ft tall rocket to ‘crash land’ in our school allotment! We had an alienologist (my husband!) who arrived to investigate the scene and the local community PC stood guard at the crash site which we had taped off properly before the children arrived. For added effect, we had rigged up a smoke machine, so every now and then smoke billowed from the rocket – it was superb! We held an emergency assembly in the hall where the Headteacher explained to the children that she had been called out in the night etc etc. and she asked them to help investigate further. A photographer from the local paper turned up just at the right moment to say they’d had reports of a rocket crash landing in the school grounds. We made it into the paper twice that week!
The alienologist, Professor Roswell Rendlesham, arranged for the rocket to be taken away to a secret laboratory (the boiler house) for a more detailed examination. Throughout the rest of the week, green handprints appeared around school, the headteacher mysteriously disappeared on the Wednesday morning and a ransom note was put on her office door. An important email was received from the alienolgist during the week to explain his findings which suggested aliens had been present at the site but had gone before he’d arrived. On the Thursday morning, the children came in to find the Head’s office and the three UKS2 classrooms had been ‘trashed’!! (the teachers had a lot of fun setting that up the night before!). The children were given cameras to take photos of the evidence (which included trails of alien slime ). Eventually, after an exhausting week, a final note arrived from the alienologist to say the rocket had mysteriously disappeared from the secret lab over night and he thought the aliens had broken in, made necessary repairs to it, then flown off !
So, from all of this, the children wrote a variety of explanations e.g. Why do aliens invade earth? (text map), Why do aliens travel in spaceships? (Imitation stage), and Why are aliens green?(Independent stage). We have just begun Journalistic writing, the intention being that the children’s independent writing will be about the rocket crash landing in the school allotment.
Please find below copies of the planning we are using.
1. Module planning – instructions – imitation stage