Journal Writing in Year 4St. John’s Combined School
"My child really enjoys free writing at school and looks forward to the day at school it is done. My child has started to write out of choice at home now."
"My child has gained more confidence using more advanced language and not worrying about getting it wrong, she is taking more risks."
"I think writing journals have helped my son consider himself to be a valuable writer and author, that’s got to be good!"
St. John’s is a mixed, voluntary aided, Church of England Primary School. There are 247 pupils on roll, with a very small percentage of pupil premium, or EAL. We are located in a small village community and the children generally come into school at an average or above average level.
There are high expectations for the children from parents. Reading and writing levels have generally been good at St John’s and children have made expected progress.
As a school we noticed a lack of enthusiasm for writing and some anxiety about getting things wrong. Teaching was beginning to be formulaic and the children were becoming less independent in their approach. Some children were becoming disillusioned with writing, this coupled with the introduction of the added pressure of the SPAG test, led to a decline in confidence. There were also certain year groups where progress was causing concern, and as a result we changed our approach to various aspects of teaching English.
The focus group for this study is the current Year 4 comprising of 38 pupils. This is one of the year groups where ability and progress were a cause for concern. For St. John’s there were a higher than normal percentage with SEN, including 2 statements, 3 children referred to the PRU and 5 with behavioural problems. The children are currently being taught in 2 smaller groups in the mornings (Maths and English.) They are in 3 class groups, mixed with Year 3, in the afternoons.
Action / Intervention:
Evaluation of impact on writing and teaching of writing:
We have had to find ways to inspire a sense of excitement, freedom and ownership in our children’s writing, whilst also giving them the pivotal opportunities to learn the grammatical skills in order to express themselves.
We trialled some of these changes with Year 6 from January 2013 – July 2013 and noticed a change in attitude towards writing (see quotes from children.) However, these changes were not really measurable.
We are now tracking the progress of the focus group, but it is too early to note any significant changes to levels, although improvements in attitude and engagement have already been noticed.
Teachers have responded very positively to the changes and are gaining in confidence with trying new games and approaches. The new approach to the teaching and learning of spellings is generally considered to be better and has seen an improved use of vocabulary. However, there has not been a noticeable change in spelling accuracy. This is an area which we will continue to develop further.
The parent survey was very encouraging and they are beginning to notice changes in their own child’s approach to writing. Links and communication between home and school concerning English are improving.
Most of what we want to do next is to build and consolidate on what we have started. We need to continue to track the focus year group and monitor their levels of progress.