As children get older, it is often hard for parents to know how best to support their child with their learning at home. This guide is intended to help parents work with the child in supporting the development of writing skills at Key Stage 3.
By Year 7, most children will be confident with recording their thoughts in clear sentences, and making use of paragraphs and punctuation to clarify their work. As they mature as writers, children will begin to develop a range of styles of writing to suit different purposes.
Purpose, Audience and Form
When writing a new text, children will need to select from a range of styles of writing that they have used before. Their selection will depend on the purpose of a text (Why am I writing it?), its audience (Who am I writing for?) and its form (How will I write it?).
For example, a task might require students to write a newspaper article aimed at over-60s to persuade them of the benefits of mobile phones. To achieve this children will need to select appropriate vocabulary, both to explain technical aspects - text messages, etc. - and to write persuasively. This is often a decision that needs to be considered at the planning stage of a text.
Once children become more confident writers, they will be challenged to extend the range of sentence types and structures that they use in their work. This will include a mixture of both long and short sentences, as well as moving on to look at compound and complex sentences.
To achieve this, they will need to use a range of connectives and conjunctions. Connectives are used to join sentences and paragraphs together, e.g. Firstly, In conclusion, On the other hand, Despite.
Conjunctions are used to join parts of sentences, e.g. Although, while, because, if, even though, whereas
In Year 7, children will be encouraged to use a selection of sentence openers to make writing more varied. These are outlined here:
A preposition is a word that tells you about where or when something happened, e.g.
Before he could catch him, the dog had run off to the far side of the field.
A participle is a verb with either an -ing or an -ed ending, e.g.
Wearing his favourite Manchester United t-shirt, Max strode onto the pitch.
An infinitive is the form of a verb which has ‘to’ in front of it, e.g.
To escape, the children had no choice but to steal the ice cream van.
A subordinate clause is a clause which gives more information but doesn’t make sense alone, e.g.
Foolishly, the students had forgotten to leave their mobile phones at home.
Subordinate Clause openers
An adverb is a descriptive word which describes the action of the verb, e.g.
Although it was still only morning, Jamie knew he had to go home.
Repeated structures allow you to use the same type of phrase a few times in a row, e.g.
Bored of lessons, tired of teachers, and weary of writing, he ran for freedom.
As your child gets older, he/she will be expected to write longer, more detailed texts. For example, rather than writing a simple report on “What I found out about World War Two”, a task might include an essay analysing the events surrounding the Dunkirk evacuation. To do this, children will need to plan the structure of their essay before starting writing - perhaps by identifying what broad content will be covered in each paragraph.
For those children who are unsure about when to start a new paragraph, a useful mnemonic is the ‘TipTop’ approach, which reminds children to change to a new paragraph whenever these is a change of:
· Topic; or
In the last case, this also includes placing each new speaker on a new line when writing speech as part of a dialogue.
Reading to Write
Like with most skills, one of the best ways to improve your own writing is to look at the work of the best in the field. For children learning to write more complex texts, this means reading widely and frequently.
Often, as children become more able writers towards the end of their time at middle school, they are able to identify techniques used by their favourite authors and apply these in their own work. For example, a child who is familiar with the work of Michael Morpurgo might adopt his use of interweaving narratives in their own work, combining two stories into one. Skills like this are best learnt by reading different authors’ work and looking at it in detail.
For parents wishing to help their child with reading in this way there is a separate “How to help your child with... Reading” leaflet.
It is also useful to provide your child with lots of real-life opportunities for writing, whether that’s a thank-you letter after a birthday, or invitations to friends for a party.
In addition, do discuss your child’s writing with him/her, and ask what part of the piece he/she is most proud of - often they will surprise you with their thoughtful knowledge of writing techniques!