Talk for Writing is an approach to teaching writing that encompasses a three-stage pedagogy: ‘imitation’ (where pupils learn and internalise texts, to identify transferrable ideas and structures), ‘innovation’ (where pupils use these ideas and structures to co-construct new versions with their teachers), and ‘invention’ (where teachers help pupils to create original texts independently). These tasks aim to improve writing ability by giving pupils an understanding of the structure and elements of written language.
This project sought to develop Talk for Writing into a whole-school programme. The pilot programme ran for 18 months, from January 2013 to July 2014, and involved ten schools in Portsmouth. It included a series of 6 full days for school leadership teams (project teams) plus three whole school conferences (“Big Days”) to train teachers and teaching assistants. It covered all primary age groups from nursery to year 6. In addition to the training and support for schools, the programme provided materials, resources, and guidance for staff development, planning and progression. Each school appointed a “literacy lead”, who shared responsibility for implementing the programme with the headteacher.
This developmental pilot was subject to an evaluation, which had three aims:
- to appraise the research literature underpinning key dimensions of the Talk 4 Writing pedagogy;
- to evaluate the promise and feasibility of the programme, and provide formative recommendations to inform future evaluation and development; and
- to provide an initial quantitative assessment of the potential impact of the programme on writing skills that could be used to inform any future trial.
The evaluation took place over twelve months and involved six of the 10 intervention schools, one of which withdrew halfway through the programme following the appointment of a new headteacher, and three comparison schools. There were two comparison schools in Portsmouth and one in London.