Eastchurch CofE Primary School

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4.13

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Talk for Writing

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Our mission is to help all our children develop into thoughtful readers and creative writers and it is through the Talk for Writing approach that we believe we can achieve this. Through its multi-sensory and interactive teaching it enables children of all ages and abilities to learn to write a wide range of story/text types using various methods including:

  • listening to and learning texts and stories;
  • taking part in drama and role-play;
  • drawing and story mapping;
  • collecting words and language strategies
  • building their working knowledge of grammar.


At Eastchurch C E P School we are all very enthusiastic about this approach as it brings out the best in the children and the teachers! (who have to write model texts for the children to use as the basis of their own writing)


We are all writers together!

Writing becomes a joint adventure and the results are exciting!


What exactly is Talk for Writing?

Talk for Writing is an innovative approach to teaching writing developed by the literacy specialist and writer Pie Corbett (http://www.piecorbett.org.uk/) . It uses high quality model texts to introduce the children to different story/text types which they then learn off by heart and scrutinise with a writer’s critical eye.They learn the underlying structures and the process of planning using story maps. They also learn about the key strategies for creating interesting characters and settings and how to use a range of sentence types to create different effects including suspense or adventure.



Talk for Writing has three key phases which work together to develop knowledge, confidence and independence in writing:


Imitation and Immersion

We usually like to start our Talk for Writing units with a ‘wow’ starter which fires up the creativity and imagination of the children before they immerse themselves in the model text.

During this phase the children learn a model text using actions and story maps. The key to success for the children is that they internalise the text type through repetition and rehearsal. They explore the structure of the narrative and investigate the different characters, settings and events. They also begin to look closely at the language used and the effect this has on the reader. We call this process ‘read as a reader’. The classroom becomes a dynamic, interactive resource filled with word ideas, sentence types and language tools collected by the children to use in their stories later.



During this phase the teacher and the children begin to change aspects of the model text using their own ideas. They explore the text using different characters, settings or events and new ideas for descriptive language whilst sticking closely to the underlying structure.

It is during this phase that the children work using their toolkits. The toolkits, based on the features and ingredients of the model text, remind children of the different strategies they could use in their stories and helps them to see the progress they are making.


How to help your child to write at home:

  • Build a climate of words at home.  Visit places and see things with your child, then talk about your experiences.
  • Let older children see you write often.  Make sure children see you write notes and letters and perhaps stories to share.  Perhaps read aloud what you have written and ask your child their opinion of what you’ve said.  Making changes in what you write confirms for your child that revision is a natural part of writing.
  • Be as helpful as you can in helping your child to write.  Talk through their ideas with them; help them to discover what they want to say.  Give them help when they ask for help with spelling and punctuation.
  • Provide a suitable space for your child to write.  Perhaps provide different kinds of pens and pencils, pads of paper and stationery, a book for a diary or journal, a dictionary  and thesaurus appropriate to their age.
  • Encourage frequent writing and be patient with reluctance to write.  Frequency of writing is important to develop the habit of writing.
  • Praise your child’s efforts at writing, resisting the temptation to focus on errors of spelling and punctuation.  Emphasise your child’s successes.
  • Share letters from friends and relatives and urge them to write notes and letters to your child, no matter how brief.  Writing is especially rewarding when the child gets a response.  Write thank you notes alongside your child.
  • Encourage your child to write for information, free samples etc.
  • Be alert to occasions when your child can be involved in writing, for example, helping with shopping lists, taking down telephone messages, writing notes to friends, helping plan trips, drafting notes to school for parental signature and writing invitations for family get-togethers.


Writing for real purposes is rewarding, and the daily activities of family and friends present many opportunities for purposeful writing.  Involving your child may take some coaxing, but will be worth the effort!




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The key areas in narrative that children might benefit from writing toolkits are:

1. Characterisation and dialogue

2. Description – people, places, objects, creatures

3. Dilemma - suspense and action

4. Crafting the opening and ending Don’t work on everything at once – just select a focus. Model ideas, to influence the class version of a story.


Then ask children to work in pairs or individually. Of course, if you are working with reception children then you need to know the toolkit – how to create suspense – but the children do not need to know this. However, as children move into year 1, they can increasingly begin to step outside of writing and understand how specific effects are created.


Story ‘toolkits’ for year 1 children would have fewer key points than year 2. Translate the toolkits by using ‘what the children say’ and ensure that they are coconstructed from children’s reading of the model and other examples. Year 2 toolkits might include some of these sorts of ideas – but remember, keep the toolkits limited, clear and easy to understand. Your co-constructed toolkits may end up looking like these.


  1. Characterisation – you might want to

· Choose a good name

· Use a few descriptive details

· Talk about their hobby or main interest

· Think about how the character feels and why, e.g. angry – or what type are they, e.g. bossy or shy

· Show this through what they say or do

· What is their desire/goal, e.g. she wants a pet

· Develop and change character beginning to the end


     2. Dialogue – you might want to

       · Think about how they feel

       · Use powerful speech verbs

       · Use said + adverb

       · Insert stage direction to show what a character is doing when speaking, e.g. “No,” he hissed, shaking his

        head in disgust.

       · Use only a few exchanges


   3.Description – people, places, objects – you might want to

       · Use well-chosen adjectives, similes/metaphor

       · Use senses and concrete detail

       · Show things through the character’s eyes, e.g. she stared at…. · Describe only key objects

       · Describe settings to create atmosphere · Describe the weather and time of day


      4. Openings – what sort of start do you want?

       · Traditional – Once upon a time

       · Time – Early one morning…

       · How a character feels – Mandy felt sad.

       · Character – Bill stared at the goblin and smiled.

       · Setting – The forest was cold in winter…

       · Action – Jo ran. · Talk – ‘Put that down!’ · Use a ‘hook’ – Usually, John enjoyed walking to school but…


      5. Endings – what sort of ending do you want?

       · Show character’s feelings – Bill grinned.

       · Comment on what has been learned – They knew it had been stupid…


      6. Dilemma - action and suspense

       · Think about the character’s goal – how will they try to achieve this – and what ‘struggles’ will they meet on

        the way – conflicts, obstacles and problems. Don’t have too many!

       · Decide how obstacles will be overcome. To build tension and excitement: – you might want to

       · Balance short and long sentences

       · Use questions to draw reader in

       · Use exclamations for impact

       · Place your character in lonely, dark place

       · Introduce a scary sound effect, e.g. something hissed

       · Show a glimpse of something, e.g. a hand appeared at the door

       · Use dramatic connectives, e.g. at that moment…

       · Use empty words, e.g. something, somebody, it

       · Use powerful verbs, e.g. run, jump, grip, grab, struggle

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