Role Models: Improving Writing

Alongside close reading, modelling writing is an important part of our English curriculum. The two support each other perfectly, and weaving back and forth between close reading exercises and modelled writing is an effective way to teach students a broad range of skills necessary for English and across the curriculum.

Our writing model is based on the work of Brian Moon, and follows a cycle which takes students through the development of various skills related to whatever form, style and genre of text is being worked on.

The Writing Model
  1. Define the purpose

There must be a clear and valid reason for producing a piece of writing. Writing without purpose is work for work’s sake, and arbitrary tasks are not the business of any classroom. Whether it’s an analytical essay, a persuasive speech, or a blog post, the audience, purpose, and context should be clearly defined

2. Exploration

The second stage is the most difficult to set up, but arguably the most important. Students must be provided with high quality examples of work in the form, genre, and style they are expected to produce themselves. This might mean that teachers write content, or it could mean using the work of established authors. If the purpose of a written outcome is to write a creative piece that sits in the dystopian genre, for example, then an extract from a text like The Giver or Fahrenheit 451 may be suitable. The most important part of this stage is that students are given time and, through close reading activities, the opportunity to identify for themselves the various conventions and techniques of the writing they see modelled.

3. Ideas

It’s important to get students writing as quickly as possible. Whilst reviewing the models can be immersive and time-consuming work, the aim is to get the students’ own ideas down on paper. The third stage is an opportunity to generate ideas and write rough work that will form the basis of the remaining stages.

4. Skills

In the fourth stage, those conventions and techniques identified from the models are teased out further. The teacher selects from a range of skills specific to the form, genre, and style of the text being studied, and delivers a lesson (or several) targeting those areas. In some instances, it may be worth using a workshop model to allow students to work on different skills. For example, in the dystopian unit, skills may centre on developing an unnerving sense of the ‘uncanny’, or on techniques such as the use of figurative language. Stage four provides an opportunity to contextualise the teaching of skills using both the earlier models, and the students’ own draft work.

5. Collaboration

At stage five, we bring in an important element of peer review and discussion. Writing is shared and workshopped, read aloud, checked for obvious elements like spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and edited in preparation for the final stage.

6. Submission

Stage six comes with a caveat: a piece of writing is never really finished. There comes a time when an author must submit their work. Based on my own experience, that time can stretch out indefinitely with “just a few more edits”. This is a good opportunity to cycle through the other stages, using stages 1-5 as a checklist. Does the writing meet the stated purpose? Is the study of the models evident? Was the drafting process taken seriously? Did the work target and improve upon specific skills? Has it been peer reviewed and edited? Once the student and teacher are satisfied, the work can be submitted.

This writing model works from a single sentence to a short story, to an analytical essay. It provides a way of teaching texts that goes beyond simplistic frameworks like TEEL and demonstrates to students the importance of viewing writing as a process, and a craft. It also makes explicit the link between close reading and writing and reinforces key skills for both.

Whether the process takes a single lesson or a whole term, student writing will be stronger by the end.

Interested in a practical collection of writing models with aligned teaching resources? Join my mailing list for updates about my upcoming publication: Modelling Writing

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5 responses to “Role Models: Improving Writing”

  1. […] be understated, particularly in the English classroom. If you want students to be successful, you must be willing and able to model. The problem is, it can be incredibly daunting to stand in front of a class of students and just […]

  2. […] the time, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for – I was seeking something to help staff with modelling in the classroom – and it stayed on my shelf. Picking it up recently, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the […]

  3. […] you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of using quality writing models in the English classroom for everything from creative writing to an alternative to the dreaded […]

  4. […] continue to run sessions promoting alternatives to TEEL. I’ve written posts in the past about using quality models and where to look for them, and many of these ideas will feature in my next book, Practical Writing […]

  5. […] and models for years, even using them as a way of breaking out of tired structures like TEEL for essay writing. They can range from short non-fiction or fiction through to longer pieces (and when I teach essay […]

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