With thanks to Catherine Casey, co-author of On Track English: Writing and Grammar.
Intervention and providing additional support for pupils requires time, staff, space and resources - all of which are precious commodities in schools. Therefore, making sure intervention sessions are successful and effective is vital.
Do you want to get the most out of writing and grammar intervention but are not sure how? Take a look at my top tips and suggestions for successful intervention sessions.
Purpose and Audience
Have you heard children ask “What’s the point? Why do I need to know this?”
Providing children with writing activities that have a real purpose and audience can give children a reason to write and engage. This can up the level of importance and gives children a reason to take care and get it correct. The purpose could be a thank you letter, an invitation, an information text, a story, a recount for the school newsletter or instructions for a game. The audience could be teachers, fellow pupils, younger pupils, members of the local community, parents and carers; there are many possibilities. Explicit teaching and modelling of the skills is important and part of the process, but if children have sight of the purpose and audience, they will understand why they are learning and how they can apply and use the skills.
Explicit teaching of grammar
Teach grammar explicitly, model examples and provide activities to practice skills - but within the context of the session. Plan activities to apply skills to sentences and pieces of writing. For example, teach and model how to use capital letters at the beginning of a sentence, ask children to practice using them in a game or activity and then write sentences that have a real purpose (such as a recount for the newsletter) to demonstrate and use this skill.
Model the writing process
Do you know children who are reluctant to make mistakes, children who want everything to be perfect on the page first time or children who don’t want to try in case they get it wrong?
Talk through the writing process as you model/write examples. Make mistakes, change your mind, cross things out, discuss word choices, consider the word order and check spellings in the dictionary or a word bank when modelling writing to the children. Children need to learn its ok to make mistakes, alter things and edit while writing – this is part of the writing process. Show that you value children’s input and opinion by involving them and asking them which word works best or which punctuation mark to use.
Making it fun
Have you taught children who think writing is boring?
Make it fun and practical. Use drama activities, visual props, games, write in chalk or icing, use magnetic letters, record sentences orally. Try and create a sensory experience for the children where they are physically moving and using their senses to experience the writing process and practice grammar skills.
Time to prepare
Ever got half way through a session and found you don’t have a resource?
Preparation is key if you want to make the most of the time you have. If teaching assistants are going to deliver the sessions, they need time to read through the lesson plans, understand the outcomes and skills required, collect and prepare any resources and ask any questions before the pupils are present. Without preparation, time can be wasted, momentum of the session lost and the session ineffective. Time to prepare results in a more effective session and a more confident delivery.
Have you taught children who are preoccupied with the latest playground craze?
Great, use this to engage them in writing! Choose topics that interest the children; something that will motivate and engage them. If the children enjoy acting then write play scripts, if the children enjoy cookery or building with construction kits then write instructions to take these interests into consideration. If the children are interested in animals then choose their favourite one to write about. What is the latest playground craze? Can the children write about it? Perhaps they could write instructions for a game or design a poster.
Familiar topics and examples
How often have you heard a child say “I don’t know what to write”?
When choosing examples of writing for intervention work, pick something the children will be familiar with, something the children can relate to and share their personal experiences about. For example, if choosing an information text about a famous landmark choose something local the children will have seen and know about, or if choosing an information text about an animal consider pets such as dogs, rabbits or cats rather than a tropical creature. Tailor your choices to your pupils and their personal experiences. Fairy tales are a great starting point for retelling stories. If children are familiar with the topic they are writing about they will be more confident and can focus on the grammar and writing process.
Transferring skills to the classroom
Have you got children who can apply skills in a focused session but then don’t use those skills in their writing?
Help children to transfer the skills gained in their intervention sessions to the classroom by asking them what they learnt in the session, acknowledging the sessions and work they have produced. Discuss similarities between previous and future projects. For example “Do you remember when we wrote thank you letters and practiced using commas in a list? (Show them examples) Let’s see if we can use the commas in a list in our story now.”
Don’t have time to speak to the teaching assistant/teacher?
Communication between the teaching assistant and teacher is vital. Discuss how the invention session went, what the children achieved, what gaps are there that still need addressing and children’s contributions. Time can be pressured and often teaching assistants need to move on to the next class, group or duties and teachers are busy teaching – if it’s not possible to meet, try to develop a system of communication that works for you - leave notes, fill in an evaluation/assessment forms, use tick lists or stickers.
A safe and supportive environment
Have you taught children who are reluctant to have a go?
Children need to feel safe and supported during their sessions. Often children requiring additional support will lack self-confidence and be reluctant to record their ideas/put pen to paper. Support children by discussing and modelling ideas, working in pairs, recording ideas and sentences verbally, and writing drafts on individual whiteboards. Encourage children to praise and support each other and model purposeful praise yourself.
Assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning. Ensure assessment informs your choices for intervention and continues to be part of the teaching and learning process through-out the intervention session.
Where is the best place for an intervention session?
Location deserves some thought. As mentioned previously, space can be limited within school. School environments vary in their set up, some may be open plan while others more traditional Victorian buildings. Different children thrive in different environments. You might choose to keep the children within the main classroom so they feel part of the class, are in a room they feel comfortable and familiar with and don’t have to adjust to their surroundings. Or you may want to find a quite area where the children can focus and concentrate, such as the library. Perhaps it would be appropriate to work outside or somewhere that is bright, inspiring and feels special to the children. Consider carefully where the best place to carry out the intervention session would be, taking into consideration your school environment, pupils and the person leading the session.
Clear outcomes and objectives
What do you want to achieve during the sessions? Set clear, specific outcomes that are realistic and share these with both the pupils and the person leading the session. This will result in a sense of achievement for the pupils when the outcome is achieved.
Short, structured activities
Keep the intervention sessions short and focused so the children can maintain their concentration and motivation.
If the intervention sessions follow the same structured pattern, children know what to expect next and teaching assistants are more likely to feel confident in the delivery of the session. Structure can also help the lesson to flow better and save time.
Be specific and positive when evaluating the session; ask what went well, share good examples and celebrate achievements, however small. Use peer-evaluation and self-evaluation as well as teacher evaluation. Model how to identify something that has been achieved.
Are you looking for a writing and grammar intervention programme to boost attainment? Check out On Track English: Writing and Grammar here.
TagsEnglish and Literacy