Learning to write is a complex process encompassing cognitive, physical, social and cultural dimensions. Children with Developmental Language Disorder are four times more likely to experience difficulties with writing (DLD Project).
To be an effective writer requires an understanding of:
- encoding meaning
- the processes of writing and composition
- the purposes of texts and their intended audiences
- the language and visual choices which shape the meaning of texts.
Our shared beliefs about writing, which are outlined below, support our whole school processes.
- Writing instruction needs to be systematic and explicit.
- Oral language underpins the language skills of literacy.
- Reading and spelling are reciprocal processes.
- Students learn at different rates and may require differentiated instruction.
- All students at the Fremantle LDC can learn to write.
- Students need to be explicity taught skills in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.
- Teachers need to have high expectations of students.
At the Fremantle LDC, effective writing instruction incorporates:
- explicit instruction in phonic and phonological skills necessary to encode meaning as well as knowledge about language
- explicit instruction about the processes of writing, structural and grammatical features of genres, and spelling
- scaffolding and feedback to students at all stages of the writing process
- the use of graphic organisers and scaffolds
- whole group, small group and individual instruction
- a range of teaching practices such as modelled writing, shared writing, and independent writing, where varying levels of support is provided at different points of need
- clear connections between meaning-making in reading and writing
- rich, authentic texts as model texts
- high impact teaching strategies
- the modelling of writing where writing processes are visible
- opportunities to compose a range of genres.
Evidence-based writing programs informed by research and aligned with our beliefs about writing are used at the Fremantle LDC.
Braidy the Story Braid Scaffold: The Story Braidy scaffold is a visual, tactile and kinesthetic representation of story structure taken from linguistic research. The structure of the Story Braid scaffolds narrative and oral storytelling following the developmental sequence of language acquisition. Students are explicitly taught the macrostructure of narratives using the scaffold.
- Talk for Writing: The Talk for Writing approach developed by Pie Corbett enables children to read and write independently for various audiences and purposes within different subjects. A key feature is that children internalise the language structures needed to write through ‘talking the text’ and close reading. The approach moves from dependence towards independence, with the teacher using shared and guided teaching to develop the ability in children to write creatively and powerfully. The Talk for Writing program is further enhanced at the Fremantle LDC through the implementation of Literature Based Units that target oral language skills.
- InitiaLit: InitiaLit is an evidence-based whole-class literacy program providing all children with the essential core knowledge and strong foundations to become successful readers and writers. InitiaLit incorporates instruction in phonics, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, oral language and comprehension.
- Colourful Semantics: Colourful semantics is an approach created by Alison Bryan. It is aimed at helping children to develop their grammar, but it is rooted in the meaning of words (semantics). Colourful semantics reassembles sentences by cutting them up into their thematic roles and then colour codes them. The approach helps children to develop language and vocabulary in addition to grammatical structure.
Handwriting is a critical skill and a key component of literacy instruction. Handwriting is complex, and evidence tells us that explicit instruction and repetitive practice are required for mastery of this skill. As research has shown, explicit instruction in handwriting is key to the success of a handwriting program. Students need to master the necessary physical skills for handwriting before they can use correct letter formations. Necessary physical skills include a functional pencil grip, adequate in-hand manipulation and proficiency in pre-writing patterns. Gross and fine motor skills as well as self-regulation impact on handwriting development.
At the Fremantle LDC, pre-writing and handwriting skills are taught explicitly. The Peggy Lego program is used to support the development of letter formation. Peggy Lego is a pre-writing program that teaches students how to form seven pre-writing patterns. These patterns are required to form all letters of the alphabet. Pre-writing patterns are taught through a kinaesthetic approach. Consistent verbal cues are used to support letter formation.
The handwriting program at the FLDC employs the following instructional elements:
The Fremantle LDC Handwriting Guidelines include the following: