Judge Heath Lane, Hayes, Middlesex, UB3 2PD

02085 734427




How do we teach writing at McMillan?




At McMillan we believe for children to be able to be good writers they need to be excited and motivated to want to write. Our aim is for our children to be excited to be writers, have the skills in order to write such as good fine motor control and have the knowledge and skills to be a writer through a carefully planned sequenced curriculum. At McMillan we believe that effective teaching for writing requires explicit teaching through group times and provision children can access through play. We believe children learn how to enjoy writing by:

  • Teaching the physical skills which will enable them to control and manipulate writing tools
  • Valuing the different ways that children make marks
  • Teaching writing through talk for writing
  • Teaching how phonemes are represented through graphemes
  • Teaching letter formation
  • Providing children with genuine reasons to write
  • Ensuring that writing tools and materials are readily available
  • Modelling the pleasure and purpose of writing
  • Immersing children in an environment of print e.g. vocabulary, sentences, books, labels
  • Developing children’s vocabulary by rehearsing orally what they are going to write


KNOWLEDGE we would like our children to gain


2 year olds

  • Writing goes from left to right and top to bottom
  • Marks carry a meaning
  • Writing has meaning
  • Different ways writing can be represented
  • Stories have a beginning, middle and an end
  • How to hold a pencil well enough to draw using a palmer or tripod grasp
  • Being able to hear and distinguish sounds in the environment


3 year olds

  • Words are units of meaning
  • The different features of different types of writing I know…
  • How letters are formed correctly
  • How phonemes are represented
  • How to hold a person using a tripod grip
  • Different ways writing can be represented
  • Writing and marks carry a meaning
  • Gaining phonological awareness by having skills of rhyming, alliteration and oral blending


4 year old

  • There are spaces between words in writing
  • How some common regular and irregular words are spelt
  • How many words are in the sentence I say
  • Corresponding letters to sounds
  • Phonological awareness


Therefore we plan for writing for children using talk for writing, which develops both reading and writing skills, planning for purpose in continuous provision and using planning in the moment. Writing is valued and promoted through daily direct teaching and purposeful learning opportunities across all subjects and all areas of provision.

  • Explicit talk for writing sessions
  • Explicit letters and sounds sessions
  • During the planning process careful consideration is given to the next steps in learning and how children can rehearse and refine their writing skills.
  • New and ambitious vocabulary we want children to learn and use is identified and displayed in the environment in the form of words and sentences.
  • A mark making area offering a wide variety of mark making tools and materials.
  • Vertical surfaces such as white boards and easels are also available indoors and outside e.g. Graffiti walls.
  • A finger gym area and playdough area where children can develop physical strength and fine motor skills to hold a pencil
    Each area of the provision is equipped with relevant writing resources
  • We use sensory experiences to develop children’s confidence and enjoyment in early writing skills. We encourage them to mark make in positions where they feel most comfortable e.g. standing, lying, whilst they are developing their core stability
  • Adults have a sound knowledge and deep understanding of child development and they recognise the strong links between physical and communication skills and emerging writers
  • Within the environment adults actively encourage children to practise and develop gross and fine motor skills and oral communication in readiness for writing
  • By modelling, suggesting and encouraging they promote ways in which children can record their ideas in different ways
  • We recognise and use the links across Literacy between reading, spelling and writing
  • We ensure that children are immersed in different genres of books promoting an enjoyment of reading, extending their vocabulary and cultivating their imagination


By the end of their time at McMillan we hope children can at


  • Ascribes meanings to signs, symbols and words that they see in different places, including those they make themselves
  • Imitates mark making and includes mark making in early play

3 years

  • Beginning to make letter type shapes to represent the initial sound of their name and other familiar words
  • Gives meaning to marks they make as they draw or paint
  • Enjoys creating texts to communicate meaning for an increasing wide range of purposes such as drawing story maps, creating their own stories with images and sometimes with text

4 years

  • Uses their phonic knowledge to write things such as labels using initial sounds.
  • Enjoys creating texts to communicate meaning for an increasing wide range of purposes such as Starts to develop phonic knowledge by linking sounds to letters, identifying letters and writing recognisable letters sequence such as their name
  • making greeting cards, creating their own stories with pictures and texts

Why do we teach Talk for writing at McMillan? (Our Curriculum intent)

We believe that Talk for Writing, enables our children to become confident readers to then become confident writers. Below is the Hollie Scarborough (2001) model.


Our aim is to teach children writing through the love of reading and also develop their writing skills through teaching of phonics using the letters and sounds programme (see our phonics policy) and also through developing fine motor skills to hold a pencil to effectively form recognisable letters. However we recognise for children to enjoy writing, we need to engage them using a model which will enable them to love writing.

We have chosen talk for writing, as we believe it is an evidence based approach to raising attainment but also, develops both reading and writing skills. This approach is based on the research and evidence provided by the EEF report ‘Preparing for Literacy: Improving Communication, Language & Literacy in the Early Years’. It is powerful because it is based on the principles of how people learn. The movement from imitation to innovation to independent application can be adapted to suit the needs of learners of any stage.


Talk for Writing has had an outstanding impact on schools. Typically, schools have found that children initially double their rate of progress and, where the approach has been applied systematically across a setting, many schools have moved from dire results to outstanding success. Schools already performing well have not only increased attainment, but also enjoyment and engagement.

The Talk for Writing approach

The Talk for Writing approach enables children to read and write independently for a variety of audiences and purposes within different subjects. A key feature is that children internalise the language structures needed to write through ‘talking the text’, as well as close reading. The approach moves from dependence towards independence, with the teacher using shared and guided teaching to develop the ability in children to write creatively and powerfully.


Talk for writing is implemented through 2 explicit session during group times- lasting no longer than 15 minutes and throughout continuous provision.

Children also develop writing skills through their knowledge of phonics which is taught through the letters and sounds programme (please see our phonics policy)

EYFS Toolkits

Throughout the T4W process, heavy emphasis will be placed on the explicit teaching and development of listening, speaking, reading, pre-writing and writing skills. These skills will have an associated, pupil-friendly toolkit. The toolkits will be displayed in the classroom and used in the explicit teaching and modelling of each skill area.


Enhanced Provision

Continuous provision will be enhanced, as appropriate, for each new T4W unit. The aim of these enhancements is to provide children with opportunities to apply the new skills they have learned during T4W. 

Successful enhancements should motivate children to:

  • Retell the T4W model text.
  • Apply any new vocabulary in various, different contexts.
  • Explore stories / non-fiction texts which link to the current model text.
  • Explore the concept of innovation, by enabling children to choose alternative characters, endings, settings etc. within their play. 
  • Experiment with writing key words, labels, parts of the model text.
  • Create new stories, based on or inspired by the current T4W unit.
  • Demonstrate and apply their understanding of the basic 3-part story structure.

Appropriate enhancements could include:

  • Key vocabulary cards and pictures in the mark making area.
  • Puppets and a copy of the model text in the story corner.
  • Linked texts in the story corner.
  • Relevant props and costumes in the role play area or in an outdoor theatre area.
  • Relevant figures and props in the small world play area.
  • Character cutters or relevant props in the dough area.
  • Relevant pictures of buildings / settings & transport in the construction area.
  • Talk tins, iPads or cameras to enable children to record their T4W inspired play.





  • A typical unit of fiction will last for 3 weeks.
  • Use data from observations and assessments to inform planning and adapt the model text for your cohort.  
  • Use phonics planning & assessments to ensure coherence between the T4W unit planning and the phonological abilities of the cohort.
  • Write a talk for writing overview and a spiderweb to document your planning
  • Draw your text map.



The teaching begins with some sort of creative ‘hook’ which engages the pupils, often with a sense of enjoyment, audience and purpose. The model text is pitched well above the pupils’ level and has built into it the underlying, transferable structures and language patterns that students will need when they are writing. This is learned using a ‘text map’ and actions to strengthen memory and help students internalise the text. Activities such as drama are used to deepen understanding of the text. Once children can ‘talk like the text’, the model, and other examples, are then read for vocabulary and comprehension, before being analysed for the basic text (boxing up) and language patterns, as well as writing techniques or toolkits

Duration: lesson 1 - 8

Experience and story telling (Lessons 1 & 2)


  • Creative hook & context: Deliver an Experience lesson that is designed to capture the pupil’s imagination about the upcoming unit of writing.
  • This should then be followed by a lesson which allows the children to sequence & retell their hook experience in a ‘stage appropriate’ way.


Learn Text & Develop pre-writing / writing skills  (Lesson 3 – 8)

  • Teachers need to know the text off by heart. Actions can be co-constructed with the children.
  • Ensure participation from the whole class and use techniques such as boys v girls, quiet v low, choosing best re-teller, choosing best actions.
  • Orally retell the story from the beginning.
  • Recap the story and sequence main parts.
  • Pre-teach vocabulary / explicitly teach vocabulary whilst learning the text.
  • Use the story map to internalise the model text using words and actions. The story map should be a combination of pictures and words, as appropriate for the current cohort.
  • Continuous provision should be enhanced with resources which encourage and support independent retelling of the model text.
  • Each lesson should also focus on one or more specific skill areas, as determined by the needs of the learners. Eg. Listening, speaking, pre-writing skills or early writing skills.
  • A focus on speaking and listening should be maintained, at a stage appropriate level, throughout the year


Innovation (Lessons 9 - 13)

Once children are familiar with the model text, then the teacher leads them into creating their own versions. A new subject is presented and the teacher leads the children through planning. With younger pupils, this is based on changing the basic map and retelling new versions. Older children use boxed-up planners and the teacher demonstrates how to create simple plans and orally develop ideas prior to drawing or possible writing their story map (this will look like ascribing means to marks for some 2 year old and mostly all 3 year olds and possibly writing identifiable letters to communicate meaning for 4 year olds) . Shared and guided writing is then used to stage writing over a number of days so that children  are writing texts bit by bit, concentrating on bringing all the elements together, writing effectively and accurately. Feedback is given during the lessons, as well as using some form of visualiser on a daily basis, so that students can be taught how to improve their writing, make it more accurate, until they can increasingly edit in pairs or on their own.

This part of the T4W process introduces EYFS children to: 


  • The 3-part story model.
  • Story innovation.
  • A range of new vocabulary.
  • The structure of a simple sentence (including capital letters and full stops) for four year olds
  • ‘Hold a sentence’ techniques to rehearse sentences
  • This stage begins with ‘boxing up’. As a whole group, you should explore the structure of the story & sequence the 3 parts of the model text onto a story mountain:
  • In the next lesson, you should start to think about innovation. How could the story have started or ended differently? What could have happened differently in the middle?
  • The outcomes of this lesson should be stage appropriate e.g. pictorial and then oral innovation / pictorial and then a written sentence / key words for each part of the story mountain.
  • Pupils could be encouraged to work with ‘talk partners’ to generate their ideas and move around / choose pictures on their own story map.
  • Continuous provision should be enhanced to encourage story innovation.
  • Adults working alongside children in Continuous provision should be aware of how they can sensitively support children to innovate their role play / small world play etc. E.g. “Can you think of a different / happier / sad / new way the game / story might end?” or “Would it work if this happened next instead? Why? Why not?” 


Innovation – word level (Lessons 11 - 13)


This stage allows children to think about innovating sentences in the model text, using substitution.


  • First, spend a lesson generating new vocabulary possibilities for a chosen sentence / sentences. Then spend some time learning this new vocabulary (embed pronunciation by chanting / playing games, ‘
  • Ensure that children are excited about having a go on their own.
  • Ensure keywords, scaffolds and writing frames are provided to allow all children to succeed.
  • Think about how the children’s work will be published.
  • During the next lesson, children should choose which of the new words they’d like to use to innovate the chosen sentence / sentences. Model this process and then ask the children to do it (using sentence strips and images or words as appropriate). 
  • They should then begin to orally rehearse this sentence and ‘hold it’ in their heads. Again, model the technique and then ask the children to orally rehearse their own sentence. 
  • Talk tins’ or iPads for children to record & then listen back to their sentence are also used.
  • In the Final lesson, children will have a go at writing their story maps
  • Children will write their version of the story that they have been rehearsing from their text map.
  • For 2 year olds this will be children telling their story from a story map, where they have ascribed meanings to mark
  • For 3 year olds this will look like children drawing a story map with some recognisable pictures to retell a story and ascribing meanings to the pictures they have drawn
  • For 4 year olds this will look like, the children drawing a story map, drawing pictures, using recognisable letters or words to ascribe ascribing meanings to marks. Some children will be able to write captions using phonic knowledge
  • Emergent writers may still need to have their oral story transcribed by an adult so that composition can be assessed alongside examples of children’s writing (transcription).


Final Assessment



  • The final assessment is completed in the form of a ‘Hot Task’.
  • This evidence, plus the ‘Hot Task’ should inform future planning.
  • The Hot Task will assess stage appropriate skills