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English Language Teaching Global Blog


Writing texts in the Primary classroom

Sarah Phillips, co-author of Incredible English second edition, looks at how you can help your students produce a good piece of writing step by step. She will be hosting a webinar on the same topic on 12th and 13th September. Find out more and register here.

It’s not easy to write a text. You need time, ideas, language, and editing skills.

Writing is a process

This flow diagram charts a set of possible steps from generating an idea to publishing a finished text.

Writing texts flowchart

In order for our pupils to become successful writers we have to work on each of the steps with them, supporting them and showing them different ways of approaching each one.

Focus on the topic and the structure of the text

Reading is an important precursor to writing a text. Exposing the children to different text types and encouraging them to notice their features helps them when they write their own texts.

Generate ideas and choose what to use

Ways of generating ideas include:

  • completing a table with given headings
  • adding headings to groups of words
  • answering generic questions about sample texts and then using them as prompts for further ideas
  • using a concept map as a way of organising words associated with key words

Once the pupils have put their ideas onto paper they can then select the ones they wish to include in their text. It is always better to have more ideas than you can use.

Model texts and first drafts

By giving the pupils model texts to work with, we are scaffolding their own writing. Such activities are an important step on the way to independent writing. The children can transfer information from tables, mind maps, notes and so on into a model text. This mimics the process they should follow when writing their own texts.

Once the children have worked on ways of generating ideas and done some activities with model texts, they can start to write their own texts following a clear set of instructions.

Reading with a critical eye

When they have a first draft it needs to be checked with a critical eye, which can be their own, their classmates’ or their teacher’s.  It is important that they receive feedback on the content as well as the language. After all, the function of a piece of writing is to communicate with the reader.  Give children a clear and simple set of criteria to look for when reading through their own or their peer’s work. When reading the children’s first drafts look for things that they will be able to correct themselves. You may want to correct the second draft more ruthlessly, especially if it is going to be published for a wider audience.


Writing is hard work, and it is a pity to spend a lot of time on writing a text only for it to disappear into a folder. Children’s work can be published in many different ways, for example: on the class noticeboard, on blogs and wikis, stapled together to make a class book for the reading corner or to take home to parents.

If you want more guidance and advice on how to help your students with writing a text in the Primary classroom, register for Sarah’s webinar on 12th or 13th September.


Brain-based learning: teaching that reflects how the brain likes to learn

Sarah Phillips, co-author of Incredible English second edition, talks about teaching students how the brain likes to learn.

What do we know about the brain and how it learns? Well, what is clear is that we’re still only scratching the surface but we know some basics. We know that brains are designed to learn! In the past 20 years we’ve found out a lot about this and there is still a lot more to learn. The more we know about how the brain learns, the better we will be able to match how we teach (input) with how children learn (intake).

We know that experiences shape the brain and those that involve strong feelings are more likely to be remembered. This can be both an aid and a barrier to learning, depending on whether the experiences were positive or negative. To state the obvious: as teachers we need to create positive learning experiences for children. If children enjoy the tasks we give them, it is more likely that they will learn and more than this – remember the learning.

We also know that learning and remembering happens through different channels; it is multisensory. Our brains are literally shaped by our experiences. In addition, children are designed to make sense of the world around them and making sense is fundamental for learning and remembering. So, if children use their different senses when they are learning something, they are more likely to remember it later. It gives them different channels for recalling.

All this should influence what goes on in the classroom. We can use it to guide us when we develop materials and lessons that are brain friendly for the children.

We learn more efficiently if we know what we are meant to be learning. We learn less effectively if we are kept in the dark. So, it seems like a sensible idea to tell children what they are meant to be learning at the start of each lesson. Make a list and point it out to the children.

We process information through three different channels, the visual, the auditory, and the kinesthetic. (We also process information through our sense of taste and smell but we will leave that to one side). There is some evidence to suggest that everyone has one channel that is stronger than the others. If we plan classes that deliver the content in a variety of ways we will engage all the learners in the class. We can also take into account the theory of multiple intelligences in our efforts to reach as many of the children as possible.

Music has a profound effect on many of us. It can influence our moods and evoke memories. We can use this ancient response when we are teaching. If we can link language (words and structures) to rhythm and music we help children remember it. Using songs can have a beneficial effect on learning and in our case, language learning.

Learning is more difficult when it is in isolation. We learn and remember far more efficiently when new information is linked to already learned information. The more links there are from the new to the old, the better our remembering will be. We need to ensure that our lessons are linked together. Reminding children of what we did before and where we are going next will help them make links. This is called ‘linked learning’.

Many children enjoy a challenge. The brain thrives on being challenged. Material that makes children think, develops the capacity of the brain. We can help children by showing different ways, different strategies, for solving problems.

Finally, children need time for feedback and an opportunity to reflect on what they have been doing. This will help the learning process to flourish. They need to be able to evaluate themselves, to think about what they have done effectively and less effectively. They need to think about what they can change. And finally they need to think about what they are going to do next and to set themselves future goals.

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Activating Speaking with Young Learners

Sarah Phillips, co-author of Incredible English second edition, talks about her upcoming webinar entitled ‘Activating Speaking with Young Learners’ on 18th April. You can find more information and register to attend here.

I’m often asked how we can get our pupils speaking more English. It’s a good question. As you know, Speaking is possibly the most difficult, but probably the most important, skill for our young learners.

Please join me in the Activating Speaking with Young Learners webinar on Wednesday 18 April 2012 18:00 – 19:00 BST as we look at examples from Incredible English 2nd Edition and try to identify:

a) what it is that makes teaching and learning speaking so challenging
b) how we can support the children during speaking activities
c) what we can do make speaking activities communicative and fun.

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