Creating a writing culture in the English classroom

Explore how to create a writing culture in English through a focus on meaningful communication and understanding grammar in context.


  • all high school teachers
  • principals and school leaders
  • curriculum leaders

About this session

This session explores ways to develop a culture of writing that engages students in the language, literacy, literature and love of the subject of English.

This professional learning is designed to be flexible and provide learning pathways reflective of faculty needs. Options for engaging with this professional learning are outlined in the facilitator guide.

There are 4 parts, and each is led by a guiding question and investigates an aspect of the writing culture in English. There is a focus on meaningful communication through processes and types of text that matter and learning about grammar in context.

Part 1 – Creating a writing culture

This section considers what experience and research suggest about an effective writing culture. We focus on how students can go beyond transmitting content knowledge, to writing with the confidence, skills and the authority needed to communicate what they think.

Part 2 – The writing process and types of texts in English

This section explores two approaches that characterise writing within the typical English classroom and investigates the challenges and opportunities within each one. There is a focus on how English teachers can support the development of motivated and skilled writers through modelling, analysing and practising writing different types of texts.

Part 3 – Grammar in context in the English classroom

This section moves to investigating the notion of grammar in context. We unpack the relationship between writing and grammar and explore what it means to teach grammar in context, for both teacher knowledge and student agency.

Part 4 – Adopting and adapting programming in English

This section concludes with an approach to programming the new syllabus with a writing culture in mind. We explore how to adapt the sample programs to context so that an effective culture of writing is maintained and developed.


Watch Part 1 Creating a writing culture (18:57).

A writing culture that supports a love of writing as a cultural and communicative act and not only a mechanical or cognitive skill, is vital to the health and power of our subject, and its lifelong benefits for our students.

[slow relaxing music]

Tom Gyenes

Welcome to the professional learning session run by the English 7–12 Curriculum team. We are thrilled that you can join us for a deep dive into the culture of writing that frames our work in engaging students in the language, literacy, literature and love of subject English.

Firstly, we would like to acknowledge the ongoing custodians of the lands where we work and live. We pay respect to elders past and present as ongoing teachers of knowledge, songlines and stories. We strive to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners in New South Wales achieve their potential through education.

Now, please consult the Organisation section of the Facilitator's guide for the pathways that a faculty can use today to make the best use of this professional learning. Our approach in this professional learning is guided by concurrent and complementary priorities. On the one hand, the English 7–10 Syllabus now being implemented institutes an explicit approach to the teaching of writing.

This is apparent in outcomes and outcome content groups covering grammar, language features, types of texts and the processes of developing compositions, as well as monitoring and reflecting on those processes. Next to this requirement to program and teach from the syllabus is the beating heart of our love for our subject and our care for the future of our students. This is not a competing priority, but it is a distinct one that energises and guides our thinking.

A writing culture that supports a love of writing as a cultural and communicative act and not only a mechanical or cognitive skill, is vital to the health and power of our subject, and its lifelong benefits for our students.

Throughout this learning, you will develop an understanding of the ways that teachers can support student motivation and success in writing. You will also consider approaches to practical pedagogies for your classrooms that are grounded in a culture of writing. This is to equip you to implement the Expressing ideas and composing texts focus area from the English K–10 Syllabus with increased confidence. This is also directed by the standards we have chosen to focus on in this session. These are listed on screen and provided in your resource booklet.

Now in Part 1, creating a writing culture. The question guiding our thinking is how we can help students to go beyond transmitting content knowledge to writing with confidence, a solid skill base, and the authority needed to communicate what they think. We know that our students need to transmit content knowledge through writing. We know that to succeed in that endeavour, they need to develop a complex set of skills, but also the confidence and authority to see themselves as writers. It's only with both of these variables that students will be able to communicate what they think and not just what they think we want them to say.

In the first part of today's session, we examine the rituals, beliefs and practices around writing that characterise a classroom and faculty. We explore what classroom experience and research says about the key characteristics of a writing culture that supports students to move beyond the mere transmission of content to an act of meaningful communication where they can express their thoughts and feelings effectively. Our learning intentions and success criteria are set out on this slide. During this session, you will consider the nature of the writing culture that exists currently in your classroom and faculty. You will understand what research suggests about the rituals, beliefs and practices that characterise an effective writing culture, and this will equip you to reflect on and plan for refinements in writing culture that can be implemented over 2024 and beyond.

Imagine a typical moment of a student writing in your classroom. Students have been reading, discussing and analysing gothic literature, and now they are responding to a question you have set.

A student considers the imaginative writing prompt for a moment, an image of a haunted house, let's say. Then she writes…

[Pen scratching on paper. The text reads ‘It was a dark night and the wind howled through the windows of the old house. A door slammed, creaked open, then slammed again. From somewhere far away a chime tinkled sad and lonesome. Then under the leaves of the old oak, a flash of light, a car high beam, the sound of tires on gravel. Then a car door swinging open. Out of the driver’s door a leg swung out, white skin visible in patches behind the long shaggy hair mattered with blood.’]

We know a lot about what the brain is doing while this text is being composed. Writing as opposed to speaking is not an innate skill like reading, it must be learned. It is a complex mixture of cognitive processes ranging from the mechanics of handwriting through to what we call compositional skills, such as sentence formation, and onto that intense mixture of cognitive, social and cultural practices involved in crafting ideas into a piece of communication in a school setting. There is a teacher to satisfy an assessment task looming, emotions about being right or good enough to wrestle with the fear of someone else reading half-formed ideas to combat. Working memory needs to be utilised, "What did the teacher just say about using sound," long-term memory accessed. What are all the things I need to do in an orientation again, and language features to remember. Quigley, in Closing the Writing Gap, ask us to consider the sheer number of these different types of writing tasks in that student's day, the way each one involves a repertoire of moves, much like moves in a game of chess, all of which need to be learned and deployed over and over again under very different circumstances. To understand whether we are supporting students as they participate in this game, let's start with some basic beliefs.

It is important to identify what our beliefs are about who a student writer in our school actually is. Is this someone who writes because they have to for assessment and examination purposes? Is it someone who writes as a form of self-expression? Or do they write for others to communicate and interact socially?

In that first scenario, learning to write is about acquiring linguistic knowledge and control over text features, including vocabulary, syntax and cohesion. In the second, the writer is the starting point. This means that writing includes personal expression and views, so the teacher facilitates students to achieve individual perspective and voice in a writing-rich classroom environment. In that third vision, students are creators of texts that are communicative and perform a social function.

Perhaps another way of considering this is to explore our beliefs about the purpose of writing, either implied in a teaching strategy or explicitly stated in a task.

When we think of writing, do we think of the correct arrangement of syntactical elements in a sentence or text? Is that what writing is? Or is it a demonstration of knowledge provided back to the teacher? Or perhaps the production of meaningful content for real audiences and authentic purposes?

Importantly, the research suggests that that second one of those beliefs about the purpose of writing, usually referred to as writing as knowledge telling, is the kind of writing most frequently encountered in school. So what are the consequences for students when the main purpose of writing is reporting back to the teacher?

Knowledge telling tasks such as taking notes, copying down from the board and answering knowledge-based questions seem to encourage the belief that the goal of writing is to report what the authorities think.

These tasks tend to be associated with less cognitive and personal engagement with writing tasks, lower writing performance, lower levels of writing self-efficacy, and higher levels of writing apprehension.

Finally, what are our shared beliefs about how students actually learn to write? After all, shared cultural beliefs about how we learn to sing, or walk, or ride a bike will impact these activities, and dealing with those who cannot do them. Which of the following do you believe, and which are actually supported by experience and research? Do we learn to write by reading, analysing, and responding to model texts? Do we learn by being supported through the explicit teaching and practise of specific grammar features as part of functional or meaning making or ‘at point of need’ approaches? Do we learn using talk and investigating rhetoric by being taught the stages of the writing process? Do we learn by exploring how to craft great sentences? Or do we learn to write by simply writing? Do we learn to write by receiving effective feedback?

To return to our question, which of the following do you believe, and which are actually supported by experience and research? Can we really, for example, learn to write well by simply writing? In a moment, you will be given a chance to reflect on your first reactions to the information and provocations we have shared so far.

One way to consider our responses is to think of the rituals, beliefs and language of the culture of writing that exists in our classrooms. If students always write silently and individually, for example, that is not in itself either good or bad, but it is interesting. It could be described as one of the ways we just do things around here. In other words, a ritual in the established culture of writing in the school. How would you describe the beliefs, attitudes and rituals around writing in your school, English faculty and your classroom?

Take a moment now to reflect using the activity, Reflecting on the Culture of Writing in the Participant booklet. Pause the video, and complete the activity.

[slow relaxing music]

Now, to begin our exploration of what the research from successful schools suggests about the teaching of writing. Let's start with this idea of what makes a good writer.

A good writer can be viewed as someone who has something to say, a plan for how to say it in writing, and the ability to reflect and edit so that the intention is communicated to the audience. What kind of culture supports this?

The snapshot you are about to see is only a brief overview with all references provided in the booklet. To support your thinking, we suggest that you use the response table in the booklet to Part 1, Activity 2, Applied research in the field of writing, to jot down at least one idea that strikes you for each cultural element. Then use the activity time afterwards to make plans for the classroom and the faculty-wide application over the rest of 2024.Note that the 2 to 3 practical ideas for each area are meant to wet your appetite by giving you a couple of examples.

There are further ideas listed after the activity in the Participant booklet. Firstly, the setting for writing is critical. An effective writing culture involves a physical and emotional environment in which students are supported to flourish. The environment should energise, motivate and allow students to display and respond to the emotional aspects of writing for them. To do this, students might display and publish their work. They'd have choice, independence and support, and they'd collaborate and co-write. To do this, they would write regularly for a variety of purposes, including brief, informal, low-stakes writing.

One of the key rituals in a classroom culture is the way in which reading and writing work together. To develop such a culture, teachers may explicitly develop strategies and procedures for summarising reading material, because this improves their ability to present this information concisely and accurately in their writing. We might write about reading, especially extended personal responses in writing. We might also develop strong oral skills and teacher-led substantive communication in the classroom because they've been shown to facilitate effective writing.

What are the rituals and beliefs about talk in your classroom? To develop this aspect of the culture, students might practise explicitly taught skills in verbal argumentation, for example, using evidence to participate in substantive communication as a whole class, as groups and peers, over meaningful topics to prepare for writing, talk about reading and talk about writing benefits all learners.

The more connected a student is to the topic, the more likely they are to produce effective writing. This refers both to their personal engagement with concepts and content, but also the time and support given to developing adequate content knowledge so that students feel like they have something to say.

To refine this aspect of the culture, students should have time and support for an extended writing process that includes planning, revision and editing. They should use graphic organisers to represent and categorise content according to the type of writing that they are producing. In an effective writing culture, metacognition is a key feature of the shared language and rituals.

To deepen this aspect, students could be supported to practise talking about and reflecting on every stage of the writing process, including in journals. They could be supported to discuss purpose and effect during metalinguistic talk about grammar, because this is more effective than discussing grammatical features out of context. They should participate in peer reviewing of writing because it can generate metalinguistic talk. They should also write collaboratively because this process makes linguistic decision making visible in the classroom.

Peer and teacher feedback, and practices of conferencing are key aspects of an effective writing culture. In particular, students co-construct with teachers and peers the feedback criteria that will be used. They also are explicitly taught how to give and receive effective peer feedback.

Finally, many of the key rituals that define the writing classroom revolve around these 3 approaches to the teaching of writing that have underpinned our practices for around 50 years. Each of these is examined in more depth in different sections of this presentation.

In short, students learn to write by first participating in the writing processes of brainstorming, drafting, writing, editing and publishing. In other words, treating writing like the serious iterative craft that it is, and learning from the professionals who do it for a living, like we do for sport, or music, or carpentry.

We must also learn to use the specific language and textual features of specific genres or types of texts, such as imaginative, persuasive, informative or analytical texts, and we learn about grammar in the context of meaningful writing activities.

There is little research support for decontextualised grammar exercises on worksheets that are not related to the communicative, social and cultural context of writing that we have been discussing to this point. Whatever the theoretical approach, traditional or functional, grammar for writing works best embedded in a meaningful context.

In a moment, we would like you to look back over the notes you took during this last section. You will clarify which aspects of the effective culture are well supported in your classroom and which aspects you would like to develop over the rest of the year.

But first, a summary from Cambourne, who identifies the 7 key conditions for learning to write. These are listed with full explanation in the Participant booklet for your reference, but first, Immersion and engagement. Students are surrounded by meaningful and personally significant writing. Demonstration, students observe, participate with and write alongside expert mentor writers. Expectations, students who see themselves as writers who write for meaningful purposes. Responsibility, students are empowered through choice, decision making and ownership. Use, students are given time to use and practise their expanding control of writing. Approximations, students are supported to make meaning through their writing even if perfect control has not yet been achieved. And Response, students receive meaningful feedback.

In summary, it's one thing to identify the models, or grammatical features, or audiences for their writing, but it is another to encourage students to use and apply these in their own writing. The key problem, of course, is take up and transfer, the ability to use what they have learned in writing activity elsewhere.

This may in the end depend on the extent to which we convince students that their writing voice is worthwhile, that they have something to say, and that they should care how it will be received.

Before we go to the final activity, a quick note about references. References are aligned to areas of the writing culture in the Participant booklet, and there is a full list in the References section. This brings us to the end of Part 1.

At this point in the professional learning, you have 2 options. You can engage in a brief discussion as a faculty in response to the questions on screen, and then move on to another part of the professional learning. Alternatively, you can choose to spend more time on this section as a faculty now. If you choose this option, further suggestions and instructions for Part 1 are provided in the Facilitator notes and the Participant booklet under Extended application heading of the activity called Implementing strategies in the Participant booklet.

Pause the recording here and complete the activity.

[End of transcript]

Watch Part 2

Watch Part 2 – The writing process and types of texts in English (11:51).

Explore two approaches that characterise writing within the typical English classroom and investigate the challenges and opportunities within each one.

[chiming music]

Tom Gyenes

Welcome to Part 2 of Creating a Writing Culture in the English classroom. In this part, our guiding question is how we can support the development of motivated and skilled writers through modelling, analysing and practising writing different types of texts. The 2 most influential approaches to the teaching of writing, in recent years, have been the process writing field and the genre-based writing field. In this session, we will briefly examine these 2 approaches. We’re all generally familiar with them, so the angle will be to identify the key aspects of the approaches that make the difference between effective and ineffective use. To apply this learning, you will then consider the implications for the ways in which formative and formal summative tasks are designed within the writing culture of your faculty.

In this part, we investigate the implications of these 2 fields for a writing culture in English. We examine the process writing approach, then assess how knowledge of genres and types of text is being enacted in the English classroom. This will help you consider the ways assessment practices support the development of process and genre skills, and evaluate these in your context. There are 2 approaches to the teaching of writing that have, either explicitly or implicitly, underpinned classroom practice for the last 30 years, at least. The writing process approach, as we have seen in Part 1 of this professional learning, aims to treat writing like the craft that it is, and focus on the key steps of brainstorming, drafting, writing, editing and publishing. In other words, doing what the experts do. As we do, when we learn and practise for sport, or music, or carpentry.

Now, to the genre-based approach, and firstly, a word about terminology. In the research literature, this is referred to as the genre-based field. However, to avoid confusion with the textual concept of genre and how it is used in the syllabus as a content group in the outcome, Understanding and responding to texts C – we will be referring to the approach through the phrase: types of texts. As that suggests, in this field, the focus is on learning to use the specific language and textual features of specific genres or types of texts, such as imaginative, persuasive, informative or analytical texts.

Considering the processes of writing focuses us on what expert writers do. It also requires us to explicitly teach a range of skills, from planning to peer-editing and applying feedback. The new English K–10 Syllabus makes these skills explicit within the outcome EN4- and EN5-ECB-01. Here, you see the 2 content groups, with an example content point within each. Drafting, planning, monitoring, acting on feedback and reflecting on the whole process is mandatory content in English 7 to 10.

A focus on types of text is made explicit in the content under ECA in both Stage 4 and 5. In all the content groups under this outcome, there is an explicit focus on the textual and language features of the key genres or types of texts that we ask students to use. Included here is a content point about imaginative texts. In all, 2 of the 6 outcomes in the new syllabus are explicitly focused on process writing skills and types of texts.

Here are typical writing process rituals that you would find in a school that values and implements this approach as a part of its writing culture. All acknowledge that skilled writing requires strategies for planning, monitoring, evaluating, revising and reflecting. Students read to write, they read like writers. The teacher explicitly thinks aloud, speaks and practises as a writer. The teacher and students write as a collaborative craft in supportive environments. Students are supported to apply skills with increased confidence and independence. Students, teachers and community members mentor novice writers. A recursive process is considered equally important to product and assessed as such. Writing for real contexts, purposes and audiences, if possible, is emphasised. Student ownership of process and product is encouraged. And teaching often takes the form of mini-lessons, conferencing and teachable moments.

Now, that last point is our jumping-off point for considering 2 aspects of this approach that can be controversial. We will examine each. Then I will ask you to consider in a reflection and application activity to what extent your faculty is supporting process writing in its assessment practices.

The first issue with process writing is whether teachers are combining it effectively with explicit instruction. We don’t want to clog up the creative flow with a lesson about apostrophes, for example, but we also do not want students failing to learn specific skills at key milestones. As always, there is a healthy middle ground. While a process approach might support students to behave like expert writers, and hence, get the time to plan, revise and refine. Expert writers are expert because they also understand and use strategies to achieve the objectives of each stage of the process. Over time, the process approach has become increasingly interested in cognitive skill-building in the way that it focuses on what exactly expert writers do. This means that the days of rather haphazard teachable moments are gone, and teachers are planning specific skills that are needed at different stages of the process. We’re also assessing these skills in formative and summative tasks.

The 2 broad approaches to planning, top-down planning, also known as ‘advance planning’, which includes concept maps, for example, and bottom-up planning which is planning during the process of writing as one writes and extensively revises, are both important and potentially overlooked. Strategies include: analysing task requirements, activating prior knowledge, planning vocabulary and language use, using sketch journals, drawings, graphic organisers and outline maps, outlining and storyboarding, collaborating with peers and planning partners, revising for specific features.

Strategic pre-planning supports students to begin writing. Strategic bottom-up planning can assist students to break down the complex task of responding to feedback, editing and redrafting. Planning processes vary according to the genre and context of the writing and should be adjusted as such. These strategies work at both points in the process, but would it assist teachers and students to identify specific points in the process where different ones are best? For example, what would be the benefit of doing another concept map at the end of doing the first draft of a piece?

What are the core beliefs of a culture that focuses on types of texts? First, language achieves communicative goals in specific social contexts; it is never decontextualised. Second, forms, genres, types of texts are valued. Note that Donald Graves’ original work was a response to the sense that many students were being disadvantaged by not having cultural access to the genres of writing that would allow them to succeed at school and at university; hence, it had a social equity beginning. Purpose and audience influence choices in composition. Writers make decisions about text and language features to achieve specific objectives related to their readers. Now, what are the rituals that students participate in within such a culture? Writing always begins with a purpose. Then students explore how a particular type of text might achieve the communicative goal. Students are explicitly shown how to manipulate language and text in specific contexts. Students and teachers use metalanguage, students and teachers use model texts. Deconstruction is followed by joint construction then independent construction. So far, so uncontroversial. Here are 2 nuanced issues to consider, however.

Paragraph structures with their acronyms TEEL and PEEL, for example, have become ubiquitous. The research, however, is very mixed about their effectiveness. How do we ensure that the writing culture of the classroom supports students to learn about types of texts and their conventions without suffocating their ability to think and express? Here are some strategies that have been shown to work. Teachers could, for example, use and investigate multiple rather than single templates. They could incorporate strategies to move beyond the scaffold, don’t stop there. They could develop authentic purposes and publishing opportunities. Study paragraphs in the context of longer texts focusing on how they achieve the writer’s overall purpose. And see TEEL and other paragraph structures as one tool which might be useful for struggling writers but may limit more capable students. They could recognise that types of texts and paragraph conventions within them are evolving, so value risk taking, diversity, hybridity. And finally, they could deconstruct ineffective texts that do not achieve their purpose, then demonstrate upgrading them in real time, in the classroom.

Text models are powerful tools for exploring writers’ choices, and in particular, the decisions of published authors. They avoid the risks of teaching genres as set, formulaic techniques to be followed by focusing on the actual choices made by different writers, including how they hybridise genres. They are valuable starting points for learning, particularly when discussing and questioning are used in classrooms to explore the ideas more concretely. Learning is less purposeful if model text are used to imitate or replicate without a context. At secondary levels, the richness of high-quality complex texts comes from exploring how different features are interrelated and interlocked. The research suggests it is less effective to isolate features or simplistically imitate or replicate whole models by copying their textual features.

In the upcoming third part of this professional learning, we will explore the field of grammar and context. Is it really possible to integrate these 3 approaches in the English classroom, to treat the process of composing seriously and give it the time and energy it deserves, to explicitly teach the textual and language features of types of texts as we are immersed in that process, and then filter in the explicit teaching of grammar? We will leave that third area until the next session, but for the moment, we would hope that the answer is yes, the process and genre approaches can coexist usefully. They are, in the end, perhaps 2 sides of the same coin. Teachers need to move strategically between a focus on the development, drafting and refining process, to one that exposes the structures and purposes of different kinds of texts at meaningful points in the process.

Once again, we have provided a snapshot of the evidence basis for these approaches. All are listed in the references section of the Participant booklet. This brings us to the end of Part 2. Here, we would like you to consider how both approaches to teaching writing are evident in the way students prepare for assessment tasks, both formative and summative, but also consider is there scope for, or are you already including effectively, ways of assessing process and types of texts. Further suggestions and instructions for Part 2 are provided in the Facilitator notes and Participant booklet under the ‘Extended application’ heading.

[energetic music]

[chiming music]

[End of transcript]

Watch Part 3

Watch Part 3 – Grammar in context in the English classroom(16:45).

How can we teach grammar in context in the English classroom?

[calm bright music]

Francesca Gazzola

Welcome to Part 3 of today's professional learning. The guiding question driving this part of the professional learning is how can we teach grammar in context in the English classroom?

Let's start by considering the relationship between writing and grammar. What does it mean to teach grammar in context? The explicit instruction of word, phrase and sentence level grammar and punctuation enhances the quality of writing. However, this is only the case if that instruction is consistently and authentically framed in conceptual programs that invite students to think, collaborate and write purposefully.

Metalinguistic discussion and practice focused on grammatical features is most effective if it is framed by a discussion of purpose and effect. On this slide, is the learning intention for this part of the professional learning and the success criteria. The NESA accredited PD standard descriptors apply to this professional learning as a whole.

In this part of the professional learning, we aim to explore how student writing can be supported through the explicit teaching of grammar. This should help you to embed explicit grammar and writing instruction in teaching and learning programs, so that you can address the content points in the Sentence-level grammar and Punctuation content group in the English 7–10 Syllabus.

With all this in mind, we can see that for the explicit teaching of grammar to be effective, it must be integrated into writing instruction. This is reflected in the syllabus Course overview from The importance of language in English section where we see that students' understanding of how language use at word, sentence, paragraph and whole text-level is determined by context, audience and purpose.

In addition to this, we see the integration of grammar instruction throughout the content that appears underneath the Sentence-level grammar and Punctuation content group, the writing content group, and the Planning, monitoring and revising content group. Research supports teaching grammar in context as the most effective way to integrate grammar instruction. This means drawing attention to the grammar of writing in an embedded and purposeful way at relevant points of the learning. It means moving away from teaching grammar rules in isolation through drill type activities. Students may be able to identify and label parts of speech and syntactical structures during these activities, but the application of this knowledge in their own writing often proves challenging.

It is imperative that we highlight for students the value of understanding the conventions and structures of grammar. It can be incredibly empowering for students to make judicious choices about sentence structure to, for example, more effectively develop their voice and shape meaning in their writing.

Let's take a look at whether Stage 4 syllabus outlines the essential knowledge and skills under the Sentence-level grammar and Punctuation content group. By the end of Stage 4, students should be able to make choices about sentence structure or length by constructing a variety of simple, compound and complex sentences for purpose.

Teaching the metalanguage of grammar can support students to understand how language works. It is critical that this kind of grammar instruction is done in context. This means that the concepts underpinning the program drive the exploration of grammatical structures and how these influence meaning.

Use model texts to examine the way in which expert writers use a variety of sentence structures to create unique personal style or to build authority. Students can then apply this understanding in their own writing to enhance their own emerging personal style.

It is quite often thought that an understanding of the mechanics of sentence structure is knowledge that is taught in K–6 and therefore, assumed knowledge when students arrive in high school. However, for many students, this is not the case. It may be important depending on the context of your class, to explicitly teach metalanguage, such as the language relevant to the standard English sentence structure, so that students understand that all sentences must have a subject and predicate.

Revisiting what a main clause is, what a dependent clause is, and what a phrase is, and explicitly teaching how the different elements of a sentence function can help students evaluate their own writing and also produce more cohesive writing. Many students struggle to move beyond simple sentences. To support students to address the content point we looked at on the last slide, which requires students to make choices about sentence structure or length by constructing a variety of simple, compound and complex sentences, we can use a range of practical strategies, and Quigley's as Closing the Writing Gap, suggests using sentence combining, sentence signposting, sentence expanding, and sentence shrinking, to encourage students to consider more varied sentence structures, and we need them to do this for a purpose. We are now going to explore a sentence combining and a sentence expanding activity.

Examples of sentence signposting and sentence shrinking activities have been included in your Participant workbook. Sentence combining helps students to practise controlling and manipulating syntax by rearranging sentence elements. They learn to produce better sentences as they learn to use a variety of syntactic forms that better match the writer's intent.

When using model texts as stimulus for imaginative writing, have students combine sentences from a class text that has been edited as a series of simple sentences, such as 'The ants were busy.' 'They were on the ground.' 'There were big ones.' 'The big ones were black.' 'The big ones had shiny bodies.' 'There were little ants.' 'The little ants were dusty.' 'The little ones were quick.'

It may be useful to have students identify the verbs in each of the sentences and facilitate a discussion about why this repetition of the same sentence structure does not make for engaging writing and how writers need to include more descriptive detail without making the writing monotonous or read like a list.

This conversation is an example of what is meant by teaching grammar in context. Through this discussion, students think about how grammar can be used by writers to impact the reader. You may also like to have students identify the phrases, adjectival and adverbial phrases.

The simple sentences on the slide have been combined to make this one gorgeous sentence in John Steinbeck's, The Pearl, 'The ants were busy on the ground, big black ones with shiny bodies, and little dusty quick ants.'

There may be variations among the student's responses, and this can provide a springboard into discussions about the choices made, and how these impact on the overall style of the writer. The aim of this activity is not to guess or accurately recreate the original, but for students to see how sentence structure can influence meaning and contribute to a personal writing voice.

The next content points that we are going to explore focus on noun groups. Noun groups are called out in both the Stage 4 and Stage 5 Sentence-level grammar and Punctuation content groups as a key feature of writing that students need to be able to demonstrate. Let's have a look at how these can be explicitly taught.

The explicit teaching of appositives is one way that we can effectively teach the selection and crafting of noun groups. For those who are unsure, 'An appositive is a noun or pronoun that is positioned beside another noun or pronoun to explain or identify it. An appositive often includes modifiers.' That comes from the NESA 2022 glossary. For example, the capital city of France serves as a secondary noun group to help explain or identify Paris. When considering how we can teach this skill in context, let's consider how appositives can be used to add detail and complexity to students' analytical writing.

Let's look at some strategies for how to teach appositives to improve the writing of our students. Mix and matching is a good way for students to make connections between appositives and the nouns before then using them in a sentence.

Providing modelled examples or identifying appositives in model texts is another strategy that can be used. By raising awareness of appositive in texts that students read, we can make it easier for students to replicate the skill in their own writing. Or, providing students with sentences for which they need to create an appositive. Let's have a look at an example of this, drawing from Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Let's consider the Atticus example here. We could fill this gap in with Scout and Jem's father which provides some insight into his relationship with other characters. We could fill the space with a civil rights lawyer which provides some information about the character, but also the context of the novel, or we could fill the space in with something like an allegorical representation of Lee's own father, which provides information about the author's personal context and her use of language through the form of allegory.

Once again, this is grammar in the context of a communicative need for the student. How do I demonstrate my thoughtful analysis to the reader? None of these sentences need an appositive to make sense, however, the additional information can be useful for a range of different writing contexts. For example, if students are writing an informative text, such as a character overview or a persuasive text, such as a book review or recommendation, appositives are an effective strategy for providing additional detail about, in this case, the characters. There is also the obvious application to analytical writing. The last example for Atticus is a clear example of how appositives can be used to deepen textual analysis in a clear and concise manner.

You are now going to apply your understanding of sentence variation activities by completing one of the strategies in the Participant workbook. The example shared for sentence combining and sentence expanding have been included in the Participant booklet along with instructions for activities associated with sentence signposting and sentence shrinking.

Please select one activity from the options on screen and pause this video to complete this activity.

[calm bright music]

Welcome back. The final sample strategy we will discuss in this section of the professional learning is the explicit teaching of adverbial phrases and adverbial clauses. To do this, we will be exploring how a model text uses adverbial phrases and clauses for specific purposes, and then consider how students may adapt these authorial choices in their own writing. This is one example of ways to teach sentence-level grammar and punctuation in context.

This use of model texts can help to build a strong writing culture by investigating the choices made by expert writers. This can support students in their discussions about intent and impact and the role of language choices.

The 2 extracts on screen are from My Mother, My Hero, by Kobra Moradi. This text comes from the 'Paper Boats Anthology', which contains youth refugee stories. The entire text has been included in your booklet for you. When you get to the activity slide, you will have time to read this text. A key feature of this model text is that most paragraphs begin with adverbial phrases or clauses. The choice of syntax is a clear structural and stylistic feature of the text. This helps to clearly position the reader in terms of the chronology of events. This structural and stylistic feature is one that provides an effective model for students to experiment with in their own writing.

An activity that could follow the study of this text is an extended writing activity where students write a recount of a significant event using adverbial phrases or clauses at the beginning of each paragraph. The example student activity on screen now is taken from the 'Year 7, Powerful Youth Voices' program published on the department's planning, programming, and assessing an English 7–10 webpage. This activity comes from phase 3 of the program in which students are discovering and engaging analytically with a core text.

This is an example of how we can use model texts to teach aspects of writing and demonstrates again, the connection between reading and writing. Students are given a range of sentences from the core text, in this case, My Mother, My Hero in which they identify where relevant, the adverbial phrase, main clause, and dependent clause and subordinating conjunction.

We are now going to give you an opportunity to read the model text and complete an activity related to adverbial phrases. You will have the option of the 2 included on the previous slides and some additional ones that have been included in the Participant workbook.

[calm bright music]

Regarding the content point that requires students to experiment with positioning adverbial phrases, a sentence scramble is another way to build students confidence with syntax. The activity on screen now takes complex sentences from the core text and scrambles them up. Students then need to arrange the words in 2 different ways, so that they make sense as a complex sentence with an adverbial phrase. This sort of activity is also really useful in supporting students to understand the placement of words in sentences, for instance, the placement of articles or adjectives in relation to nouns.

We appreciate that we have had only a short amount of time with you today to begin to address an aspect of subject English which our data tells us that teachers feel lacking in confidence. So, we have included a list of suggested resources for you to explore at a later stage, perhaps with your faculty.

This brings us to the end of Part 3. Further suggestions and instructions for Part 3 are provided in the Facilitator notes and Participant booklet under the Extended activity heading.

[calm bright music]

[End of transcript]

Watch Part 4

Watch Part 4 – Adopting and adapting programming in English (11:12).

How to adapt sample programs to context so that an effective culture of writing is maintained and developed.

Mark McDonald

Welcome to Part 4 – Adopting and Adapting Programming in English.

The question guiding our thinking in this part is: 'How can we adapt programs to context so that an effective culture of writing is maintained and developed?' The implementation of a new syllabus can be challenging, and the theoretical benefits of a writing culture may be lost. In this section, we will take a sample program and consider ways to adapt it to individual school contexts. We will explore ways to combine existing quality work with the evidence-based programs and resources developed by the department.

During this process, we examine how a culture of writing is fostered through the sample programs. We support a process of adaptation that maintains a focus on writing as communication in a purposeful context. We explore how model texts, writing processes, and writing different types of texts have been authentically integrated in a conceptual framework and support teachers in developing this kind of integration into their own contexts.

Our focus in this part is on exploring how to foster a culture of writing and exploring ways to integrate these types of writing tasks into your programs. This will equip you to reflect on your own programs and evaluate the way you provide opportunities to enhance student writing development. As you may already be aware, the English curriculum team have been working on providing sample materials for the implementation of the English K–10 Syllabus. Thus far, we have created programs for Years 7 and 9 for use by English staff across New South Wales. Programs for Years 8 and 10 are being released this year.

The image on screen is a sample of what you will find. If you have not already, you can access the resources on the planning, programming and assessing English 7–10 website. You may also like to review the Statewide Staffroom sessions on adaptive expertise. Links have been included in your booklet. Today, we are going to look at how we can apply writing tasks to our programs so that an effective culture of writing is maintained and developed. The process of adapting writing tasks from the sample materials will support you to integrate writing tasks into your programs and meet the needs of your student cohort and extend their writing abilities.

The following is an overview of the session.

Considering the context of your students, examining writing tasks, identifying writing tasks and implementing writing tasks. It is important to consider your school context when programming. Schools have a variety of student cohorts with a range of student abilities therefore, knowing your students is essential for providing appropriate writing opportunities. A checklist has been included in your Participant workbook for you to use with your individual classes. These link to the outcome content groups within EN4-ECA-01. Key checklist areas include whether your students can punctuate sentences, construct sentences, write paragraphs, spell accurately, use grammar in context, write for different purposes, use a range of writing processes. Suggestions are provided in the resource to assist you with the task, as well as a strategy to determine writing ability.

For the following activity, you'll be using sequences from a Year 7 program, Powerful Youth Voices. Your Participant booklet has excerpts from the program for this activity. You will be examining how outcome content points are embedded in the program and addressed through the delivery of specific writing tasks in the sample materials.

If you have used the English curriculum team resources in Term 1, you may be familiar with the program. If you have not, you can still use this program for the activity. The sample on the screen from the English curriculum team's Year 7 Powerful Youth Voices program, is an adapted version of the teaching and learning sequence for the purposes of this professional learning.

To complete the activity you are about to do, be aware of the following features: the outcome content points are in the left column under the heading ‘Outcome and content’. The teaching strategy being used to address the requirements of the outcome content is provided in the middle column titled ‘Teaching and learning sequence’. Bold headings within that column are used to identify the focus of the learning. The evidence of learning column contains the success criteria. This criteria would be personalised at the classroom level by the teacher delivering the program. The next slide will outline your steps for this activity.

For this activity, you will use the resources provided in your Participant booklet to identify and reflect on the way the writing requirements of the syllabus are being addressed within the sample materials. This will help you reflect on and evaluate the way you're supporting the development of writing, and in turn, of writing culture in your school. To complete the activity, you will split into pairs. Select one of the sample program sequences provided in the resource booklet. Identify the outcome points from within EN4-ECA-01 that have been addressed in the sequence. Identify the teaching strategy that has been used to develop student learning in relation to that outcome content. Discuss your findings using the prompt questions in your booklet.

Pause this video now to complete this activity.

[gentle music]

When we are identifying writing tasks within our own programs, we want to make sure we are treating writing like the serious iterative craft that it is. We must provide students with the opportunities to participate in the writing process of brainstorming, drafting, writing, editing and publishing. We must guide students as they use the specific language and textural features of specific genres or types of texts and we must also teach them about grammar in the context of meaningful writing activities related to the communicative, social, and cultural context of the writing that we have been discussing.

When implementing writing tasks into your programming, consider Cambourne's 7 key conditions for learning to write as introduced in part 1 of this professional learning session: Immersion and engagement – meaningful and personally significant writing experiences. Demonstration – students observe, participate with and write alongside expert mentor writers. Expectations – students see themselves as writers who write for meaningful purposes. Responsibility – students are empowered through choice, decision making and ownership. Use – students are given time to use and practice their expanding control of writing. Approximations – students are supported to make meaning through their writing, even if perfect control has not been achieved and Response – students receive meaningful feedback. Keep these conditions in mind as you complete the following activity.

For the following activity, you will use one of your own programs to identify where students need to develop specific writing skills. First, you will choose a sequence of learning that involves a writing task. Identify the writing requirements of that task, for example, a student's working on grammar. Is it in context? Are they being asked to rearrange syntactical elements? Is the purpose clear, or is it a different kind of task entirely? A knowledge retelling one where they are writing back to the teacher what he or she already knows, or are they producing meaningful content for real audiences? Identify the needs of your current student group and then refine the task and resources, focusing on the identified writing needs.

Through this activity, you will use your contextual knowledge and the learning gained through this session to differentiate a specific writing task for your context. Discuss your thoughts and findings with your faculty and share why this task and teaching strategy would be appropriate to this lesson sequence and how it helps build a writing culture. In the future, this process can be incorporated into your programming to ensure writing tasks are consistently embedded across all your programs.

As you move forward on your journey of curriculum reform and refining the culture of writing in your classroom and school, we would like to remind you to continue integrating a range of writing tasks within your teaching and learning sequences. Refer to the Planning, programming and assessing English 7–10 website for planning tools, scope and sequences, programs and resources, and contact the English curriculum team or refer to the Statewide Staffroom for further support.

A checklist has been provided in the Participant booklet with types of writing tasks you could integrate into your programs. Take some time to look at these in comparison with the tasks integrated into the English curriculum team's sample programs. This list is not comprehensive but just a thought starter. It is by creating a writing culture in the English classroom that our students will embrace writing and improve their outcomes.

We would like to provide you with some links to valuable resources to assist your programming that you may like to explore with your faculty at another time.

This brings us to the end of Part 4 and the English curriculum team's combined presentation.

[gentle music]

[End of transcript]


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