How to improve writing skills in year 6

(24 Posts)
Suki2 Tue 26-Feb-13 16:47:11

DS has been stuck at 5A for writing for a year now> His teacher has said she'd like him to progress but didn't give any concrete suggestions as to how he could do this.

I have no ideas to give him. can anyone give me any links or names of books that could help him move on?

cumbrialass Tue 26-Feb-13 16:56:34 is a good series to have a look at.Lots of tips for those aiming for level 6!

ReallyTired Tue 26-Feb-13 21:07:55

Show off!

Seriously he could look at BBC bitesize keystage 3.

BooksandaCuppa Tue 26-Feb-13 22:08:39

Don't panic...

No disrespect meant to primary schools/teachers but he is obviously ready for the challenge of a KS3 curriculum and will fly when he gets to secondary school. Let him enjoy his last year of primary...

Suki2 Thu 28-Feb-13 07:53:26

Thanks for the link, cumbrialass I'll definitely order the book! I really want ot find out criteria for how chldren are marked for the levels; ie what you have to put in to a piece of writing to get 5A, 5 B etc. Anyone any ideas?

Typo in original post; should have read 5B, not 5A! He's actually aiming for a 5 A, but i've no idea what he could impove to get there.

BooksandaCuppa Thu 28-Feb-13 11:35:19

Well, for one thing the sublevels are mostly made up and whilst the teachers will be assessing to some guideline grids, the sublevels are really just meant to mean - a weak, solid or high level within the overall number.

Secondly, writing ability can often vary depending on the type/genre of writing and the anticipated audience. It might be useful to ask the teacher if he has weaknesses in one particular type that you could work on specifically: eg. creative vs formal vs persuasive vs report-writing. (Ds in year 7 has been levelled as level 7 for creative work but he's probably only level 5/6 for other types).

Equally: is there one area he has technical weaknesses in: punctuation/spelling/structure of whole piece/vocabulary/varying sentence structure, etc. It would seem pointless to go over the whole kit and caboodle if there's only a few areas which are preventing him getting a top level 5/nudging into a 6.

And my slightly flippant comment above is based on this: in my experience, English is a subject which changes so dramatically once they get to secondary. The skills being taught and tested at KS3 are really very different so you might either not see much progression in' levels' in yr 7 or, alternatively, a huge jump in levels they're given (the KS3 curriculum can sometimes be a better fit for some children).

I would say that the most important thing is that he doesn't get bored of too much Sats type practice and that he enjoys writing (and reading) as much as possible.

Pozzled Thu 28-Feb-13 19:30:43

Does he read a wide range of texts? One of the best things you can do to improve a child's writing is (imho) to really encourage them to read. You can also discuss the organization of the text, the author's language, what makes it effective (or not). If he's better at writing fiction, encourage him to read more non-fiction- websites, newspapers, not just books. And vice versa.

Suki2 Fri 01-Mar-13 05:11:04

Thanks BooksandaCuppa I had assumed the sublevels were more rigid than they actually are, I think. I've looked at the maths guidelines, and it's much easier to see which bits he can and can't do. English is just different I think, and it's easier to get into a situation where you're not seeing progress.

His teacher has just asked him to write more, which I don't think is very helpful, as it hasn't pinpointed any particular areas he's weak on.

Poozled, I'd come to the same conclusion, that he's better just reading a wide range of books. Thanks for the replies!

ReallyTired Fri 01-Mar-13 11:22:38

"His teacher has just asked him to write more, which I don't think is very helpful, as it hasn't pinpointed any particular areas he's weak on."

We have had exactly the same comment. Asking for "more output" is hardly a measurable target. My son's English is nowhere near as your as your son's. We found that getting to concerntrate on sentence stucture has improved the amount he writes.

Boring sentence

We went shopping.

Slightly more interesting.

We went late night shopping in the new out of town shopping centre

adding a connective and a couple of adjectives

We went late night shopping in the new out of town shopping centre although it was busy we manged to buy everything we needed.

Changing the sentence structure andtrying to include more interesting vocab

Going late night shopping in the new out of town retail park before Christmas was an arduous experience; everywhere was bustling with crowds nevertheless we bought everything we needed.

Incidently English was never my strong point so please don't tear my writing apart. I am sure that your son is doing stuff like the above in school

Writing is very much an art. It is not easy to level writing. Sometimes writing that achieves a level 5/6 may well be very boring and sometimes a level 4 piece of work may well be more fun to read. Getting a high level in writing seems to be very much a tick box exercise rather than communicating ideas.

There is no way you want all your sentences to be long. There is also the art of structuring writing and writing for your audience.

Maybe your son just needs time to be and develop.

Pozzled Fri 01-Mar-13 11:36:02

Reallytired, a level 5/6 piece of writing should not be boring- it should show a good awareness of the audience, and an appropriate, engaging style. I do agree with you that level 3/4 pieces are often great to read, though. Some of the children I teach have fantastic vocabularies and an excellent sense of style, but the more technical aspects of writing let them down- spelling, punctuation etc.

With regard to sentence length, as you say, the sentences shouldn't all be long. By level 5 they should have a good variety of sentence structure so their writing flows. They should be confident at using short sentences for impact or to add humour.

As you say, it's so important to know a child's individual strengths and areas of weakness, otherwise you won't even know where to start.

mrz Sat 02-Mar-13 06:43:20

1. Can spell all vocabulary correctly apart from rare technical or obscure words.
2. Can open and close writing in interesting, unusual or dramatic ways, when appropriate.
3. Can use the full range of punctuation, almost always accurately and precisely, including for sub-division, effect, listing, direct speech, parenthesis, et cetera.
4. Can write neatly and accurately at speed, preferably in a joined style.
5. Can vary font for effect or emphasis when appropriate (italics or capitalisation).
6. Can use a wide range of conventions appropriately to the context eg paragraphs, sub and side headings, addendum, footnote, contents etcetera.
7. Can use a wide range of links to connect paragraphs or sections eg for time, sequence, mode.
8. Can use implicit links within text eg referring back to a point made earlier or forward to more information or detail to come.
9. Can group items for effect.
10. Can use a range of techniques to interact or show awareness of audience eg action, dialogue, quotation, aside, suspense, tension, comment
11. Can write with confidence and imagination.
12. Can adapt writing for the full range of purposes.
13. Can consciously vary levels of formality according to purpose and audience.
14. Can sustain a convincing viewpoint throughout the piece eg authoritative, expert, convincing portrayal of character, opposing opinions et cetera,
15. Can develop ideas through controlled use of: elaboration, nominalisation or imaginative detail.
16. Uses a wide range of ambitious vocabulary accurately and precisely.
17. Uses a range of stylistic features to create effect within the text eg rhetorical questions, repetition, figurative language, passive voice, metaphor, simile, alliteration, onomatopoeia, impersonal voice or universal appeal.
18. Can use varied, creative and varied sentence structure when ppropriate, intermingling with simple structures for effect.
19. Can always construct grammatically correct sentences, unless using dialect or alternative constructions consciously for effect.
20. Can use pertinent and precise detail as appropriate ( repeat?)
21. Can inter mingle a variety of types of sentences, complex with simple and effective placing of clauses.

alsoaperson Sat 02-Mar-13 09:18:37

This sounds really frustrating. I'd go back to the teacher and ask them to show you the mark scheme grid they're using or ask them to give specific pointers (as they're the one marking it!).
I have a sneaking suspicion, most primary teachers treat level 6 as if it doesn't exist (as before this year's SATs, it wasn't tested - and even now, it's optional.)
I'm a secondary English teacher and I blog about this stuff to help parents. I've put one up just for you on the main markers of level 6 writing.
Good luck!

alsoaperson Sat 02-Mar-13 09:19:34

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

mrz Sat 02-Mar-13 09:20:55

The criteria I posted are what we would look for in a level 6 writer

mrz Sat 02-Mar-13 09:23:25

so much much more than alsoaperson

fruitpastille Sat 02-Mar-13 10:07:03

If he is consistently level 5 then his writing is obviously very good. I second letting him write for enjoyment and don't sweat the levels which could stifle creativity imo.

seeker Sat 02-Mar-13 10:13:15

If he's a solid level 5 I'd just let him get on with it, to be honest.

Mind you, the best bit of extended writing my ds ever did was when I made him research and write a report on why he should be allowed to play Call of Duty (evil mother emoticon)

Suki2 Sat 02-Mar-13 18:14:24

Mrz, and really tired; WOW! Thank you so much for taking the time to write. Mrz, I found your list very interesting. I'm increasingly thinking DS should just be left to read widely, but it definitely helps to have some criteria in mind on the odd occasion he's given a piece of extended writing. Thanks again.

mrz Sun 03-Mar-13 15:02:11
alsoaperson Mon 04-Mar-13 07:41:39

Mrz - You're right. Your list is so much more thorough. It looks a lot like the exact wording of the government list for Level 6. Thanks for posting. Seeing it in a block makes it look pretty hard work and I'm an English teacher!

I was aiming for a manageable list of the areas parents could most easily help their kids with. English targets always seem so vague or too hard to understand (or books are hardly ever marked). So many parents say they don't even know where to start. Suki2, if DS is writing at Level 5a, and feels like there's nowhere else to go, that's a real shame, because I guess it looks like he's not making any progress now.

If I have a really quiet day, I'll write a set of SMART, easy to follow targets that follow the government list exactly. Parents need more help!

Please don't give up and good luck! I'd be so glad if my son was Level 5a in English. It's really quite rare :-)

Suki2 Mon 04-Mar-13 09:05:19

I very much enjoyed the link, mrz; now to show it to DS!

mrz Mon 04-Mar-13 17:01:07

Actually alsoaperson it has nothing to do with the governments list for level 6.

mrz Mon 04-Mar-13 17:08:57

To gain a level 6, across a range of writing

• I try to write with imaginative treatment of appropriate materials, show familiarity with conventions of a variety of forms, and can adapt them when I need to suit my purpose and audience.
• My writing has a convincing, individual voice or point of view which is established and mostly sustained throughout.
• I can use a level of formality for purpose and audience and I use a range of stylistic devices to achieve an effect
• My writing is imaginative and I am familiar with different writing conventions, which I try to use.
• I can establish a point of view and try to sustain it throughout.
• I try to change my formality and use stylistic devices to suit my audience and purpose, for example I can use literary devices as easily as I can use conversational style
• My writing is clearly controlled and sequenced, taking account of the reader’s likely reaction, e.g. differing length paragraphs, use of flashback in narrative, anticipating reader’s questions.
• I use a range of features to clearly signal the overall direction of the text for the reader
• My construction of paragraphs clearly supports the meaning and purpose of my writing, e.g. paragraph topic signalled and then developed, withholding of information for effect, thematic links between paragraphs.
• Within my paragraphs, I can use cohesive devices which contribute to the emphasis and effect of my writing, e.g. adverbials as sentence starters.
• I can use simple and complex sentences in my writing to show my purpose and achieve an effect on my reader.
• I can start my sentences with –ly and –ing words to emphasise my ideas.
• My sentences use the full range of punctuation and are consistently accurate.
• There is variety in my sentence structure with only occasional errors in ambitious structures, e.g. only occasional comma splices, some use of semi-colons, not always accurate
• I choose vocabulary which is generally appropriate to my purpose and audience.
• I use a range of vocabulary which is generally varied and often ambitious, even though my choices may not always be apt.
• I use generally correct spelling throughout, including some ambitious, uncommon words or words with complex sound/symbol relationships.

I'm surprised an English teacher isn't more familiar with the criteria

maree1 Mon 04-Mar-13 20:39:14

Check out some of the essays at the BBC 500 words site and google Creative Writing Magic Money Cards which list useful techniques and score how well your writing is improving. Also try reading together and analysing (as a team) where authors are using metaphors, similes and the other ways to make their writing interesting - and copy their tips.

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