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Talk for Writing at St Joseph's


Talk 4 Writing (T4W) Implementation   

At St Joseph’s we use Pie Corbett’s Talk 4 Writing approach, this approach involves 3 stages: Imitation, Innovation and Invention, with the aim of the whole process being to create independent, enthusiastic writers. Each unit of work follows the same structure which is detailed below: 

Base line assessment- ‘Cold task’   Teaching is focused by initial assessment. This is known as a ‘cold task’ or a ‘have a go task’. An interesting and rich starting point provides the stimulus and content but there is no initial teaching. The aim of this is to see what the children can do independently at the start of unit, drawing on prior knowledge. Assessment of their writing helps the teacher work out what to teach the whole class, different groups and adapt the model text and plan. Targes can then be set for individuals. By the end of the unit, pupils complete a ‘hot task’ which is an independent task on a similar type of writing.  A maximum of 3 targets are given to the children to work on for their ‘hot task’.  

The Imitation Stage  The teaching begins with a  ‘hook’ which engages the pupils. This could be a challenge, such as informing Dr Who about how the Tardis works producing an invitation for the tiger to come for tea, providing a sense of purpose. The model test is pitched well above the children’s level and has built unto it the underlying, transferable structures and language patterns that children will need when they are writing. This is learned using a ‘text map’ and actions to strengthen memory and help students internalise the text. Activities such as drama are used to deepen understanding of the text.  Once children can ‘talk like the text’, the model, and other examples are then read for vocabulary and comprehension, before being analysed for the basic text (boxing up) and language patterns, as we as writing techniques within the toolkits. All of this first phase is underpinned by rehearsing key spellings and grammatical patterns. Short- burst writing is used to practise key focuses such as description, persuasion or explanation.  

The Innovation Stage  Once children are familiar with the model text, then the teacher leads them into creating their own versions. With younger children, this is based on changing the basic map and retelling new versions. Older children used box-up planners and the teacher demonstrated how to create simple plans and orally develop ideas prior to writing. Ideas may need to be generated and organised or information researched and added to a planner. Shared and guided writing is then used to stage write over a number of days so that children are writing texts bit by bit, concentrating on bringing all the elements together, writing effectively and accurately.  Feedback is given during the lesson, as well as using children’s work to show them how to improve their writing, make it more accurate, until they can edit on their own or in pairs.  

Independent Application -‘Hot task’ Eventually, children move on to the third stage, which is when they apply independently what had been taught and practised. Before this happens, the teacher may decide to give further input and rehearsal dependent on the marking of the innovation stage. Writing maybe staged over a number of days. The final piece is used as the ‘hot task’ which clearly shows progress across the unit of work.  

Pie Corbett

The Talk for Writing approach was develop by Pie Corbett, an educational writer and poet.  He is well known for promoting creativity in the classroom and has experience as a teacher and headteacher.  He regularly lectures on education around the world and the UK government consult with him as an educational advisor. 

The video below is of Pie Corbett explaining more about Talk for Writing