Section 2: Fiction The Daily Planning format: Fiction p3
Story Structure p4
Text Level p6
Sentence Level p8
Section 3: Planning Formats for Non-Fiction The Daily Planning Format; Non Fiction p9
Writing Instructions p10
Trips and Visits p12
Explanations of a process p18
How things work p20
Why something happened p22
Factual Report p24
Comparative Report (1) p26
Comparative Report (2) p28
Comparative Report (3) p30
Writing Newspaper Reports p32
Persuasive Writing p34
Writing Discussions p36
Introduction to the Planning Format
The Principles behind the Planning Format The planning format has two major functions.
Primarily it came from recognition amongst staff that there was needless duplication of planning occurring throughout the school. The school’s use of the Alan Peat materials means that all classes are being taught the same structure for much of their written work, especially in non-fiction. It was therefore felt more expedient for the school to develop a generic planning format that acted not just as planning tool but as a dynamic on-going document that could also be used to track children’s progress throughout the school.
However of greater importance was the need for the school to develop a common language for the development of literacy throughout the school. Both staff and children alike benefit greatly when the language used to define the textual features of a given genre are consistent throughout the school. For teachers it allows there to be a greater continuity between classes as children develop in their learning using the identical framework employed by the child’s previous teacher. For the child the common framework provides a language by which they can evaluate and discuss their own learning. If everyone is aware that the line under the headline of the newspaper is called a “byline” it allows children to engage with quality of the text rather than seeking to clarify which aspect of the text is being referred to. In this regard the naming of the features is not as important as their consistency throughout the school and the planning format will ensure this occurs.
As a by-product the planning format should reduce the time needed for each teacher to plan. The steps of learning in each genre are clearly articulated and the teacher need only highlight which areas they are covering and with which groups of children. This releases more planning time which can be focused on the more important areas of developing a secure context for the writing and resourcing quality texts which demonstrate key features of the learning objective.
Whilst the strategies in the document may appear at first sight a little prescribed the school believes that “you need to know a rule to break a rule”. The end goal is not that children will use the strategies to produce formulaic stereotypical texts but will use the knowledge of them to produce high quality pieces of creative and original writing.
The school does not seek nor wish to hide form the fact that it has leant heavily on the work of Alan Peat to develop this planning format. The school works alongside Alan’s research of writing and has been used in many of his books; notably his work on Exciting Sentences. All the material within the document has therefore been reproduced with his permission. The framework draws heavily from two of Alan’s books; “Improving Non-Fiction Writing at Key Stage 1 and 2: the success approach” and “Improving Story Writing at Key Stages 1 and 2” both of which are available from his web site www.alanpeat.com at a cost of £15.
Story structure falls into two distinct areas. The first area relates to plot development whilst the latter relates to story planning. These must be seen as tow clearly distinct activities because where teachers seek to meld them together planning will become muddled and confused in the mind of the child and lack a sharpness of focus that they both need as a pre-requisite to writing.
A. THE PLOT
Whilst there is a measure of truth that the ability to write good prose in a fluent style will engage the reader, true engagement starts with a secure idea for a plotline. The plot is the starting point for engaging the reader. As all stories hinge around the “problem/solution” dilemma then the children need to focus on these to develop creative and original ideas for their story. The story of the wicked giant trapping the beautiful princess in the castle is not as interesting as the beautiful princess incarcerating the evil giant. The former leads the reader to believe they know the ending of the story before they start reading sassuming that somewhere in the story a knight will appear to save the princess and they will all live happily ever after. The latter poses interesting thoughts in the mind of the reader, and leads them to read on. As E.M Forster declared “the only reason people keep on reading is because they want to find out what happens in the end” If the story is predictable and boring no matter how well it is written it will not engage the reader.
A few years ago the SAT paper task was to write about “Your favourite food” one can only imagine that throughout the length and breadth of the country the markers were subjected to endless pieces of writing explaining (probably in lovely prose to be fair) why pizza is so tasty. The child in our Year 6 class who started his story… I saw a bucket full of cold fish probably gained the reader’s attention; the story continued until it concluded with the sentence that acknowledged the character of the story was a seal being fed at the zoo. The following year the advert for the trainers saw one of the children write his piece not through the eyes of a trendy teenager but through the viewpoint of his grandma, assassinating the shallow fashion icon status of such attire through the eyes of an older person. The 2012 SAT paper focused on the diary of a hot air balloon ride. One of the children decided to write their piece from the grave, thereby assuming the ride had gone horribly wrong, another found himself left alone in the balloon as it spiralled out of control and explained the brevity of his diary entry by the fact that his only way of sustaining himself was to eat the pages of the diary itself.
The point being is simply that I would prefer to read any of these stories over and above their more conventional counterparts because I am engaged by the creativity and the originality of the thought process that has gone into the planning of the plot. I am sure there have been hundreds of stories written about princesses being rescued from castles by handsome knights but the reason we still tell the tale of Rapunzel is because of the original thought of climbing down the girl’s hair. So to with Red Riding Hood, would the story have been as interesting if the wolf had just eaten her in the wood, it is the creative thought of the wolf dressing up as the grandmother that sets it apart from other stories. One of my favourite stories of all time is the Tinder Box by Hans Christian Anderson. In many ways it is a straightforward “Rags to Riches story” and is not that remarkable except for the three dogs, one with eyes the size of tea cups, one with eyes the size of supper plates and the last with eyes the size of mill wheels. Every time I read the story whether to Reception or Year 6 I always ask them what they liked best about the story and without fail it is the dogs that fascinate them and bring the story to life. I wonder what impact the story would have if these characters were played by a cat, a hamster and a goldfish.
The plot is therefore the foundation block to all good story writing. In many ways I would prefer to read a badly written story with an interesting plot as opposed to a well written, well structured story about, yet another princess being rescued from, yet another evil giant from (surprise, surprise) the giant’s castle.
What will become readily apparent is that the more able writers are not necessarily those who will come up with the most creative ideas for plotlines. The two skills are distinct and whilst some will excel in terms of developing stories that offer a creative storyline others will show a greater ability in the technical elements of the writing process. Indeed for those who have read Davis’ book The Gift of Dyslexia it will come as no surprise to find that some of the most creative children are often those who struggle most with the writing process.
If we gloss over the plot and the creative element of the writing process which occurs before pen is put to paper; we run the risk of disenfranchising the less able writer who has real creative flair. This is their opportunity to shine, because they know that when the technical elements come into play their ability to perform will diminish. Indeed in many cultures stories are still told not written, so these children with their wealth of ideas should not be marginalised because they “cannot write effectively”. As Pie Corbett states the pre-cursor to writing at any stage is to be able to tell the story and the creative idea along with the verbal telling gives non-writers the opportunity to access this aspect of the writing curriculum and glean much pleasure and enjoyment from it.
There is the danger that as we rush headlong to “Raise Standards” there is an undue focus upon the secretarial and technical features of the process and we can lose sight of the fact that writing is a single strand of the larger literary concept of communication. In the educational arena we can often fall into the trap of seeing the acquisition of writing skills as an end in itself but the truth is that if you have nothing to communicate to others then putting pen to paper is a meaningless exercise. The dreaded Christmas thank you letters are written each year because there is something to communicate but the same should apply to story writing, if the child does not have a good story then why bother getting them to commit it to paper?
There must also be the recognition that creativity is not a linear learning concept. It is lateral both in terms of the thinking itself but also in its progression in a child’s life. It is impossible to “teach” children the next stage in creativity, the most we can do is to provide opportunities and a learning culture where it can thrive and allow children to revel in a creativity environment that allows them to come up with ideas and thoughts. It may be that the child with a fantastically creative story idea may not think of another in their time at The Wyche but that is the nature of creativity. What is certainly true is that some children are more creative than others but also a creative culture breeds creative people.
So what should plot planning look like? It should focus on two questions and two questions alone. What is the problem? and What is the solution? Whilst the teacher might suggest the context for the story e.g. Favourite food, a greek myth and legend, a fairy tale etc. the children should then be encouraged to avoid writing the story that they know the teacher will read 30 times when they come to mark the work. Engaging the reader is imperative and that is done through thinking outside of the box, not following the same predictable storylines written by children for generations. In teaching terms there should be a narrow focus on the two questions. There should be no emphasis placed on detail at this point, this can come later in the story planning process, here the only concern is to find a quirky reason for both the problem and the solution. In terms of output therefore the plot should be either two sentences one relating to the problem and one relating to the solution or 2-3 storyboard pictures that home right in on the problem/solution dilemma and nothing else.
In the course of their writing career throughout the school the children should be exposed to a variety of plotlines. The plots fall into 5 simple categories – all of which can be found in Alan Peat’s book Improving Literacy Creative Approaches (p36-37)
By the end of Year 2 the expectation should be that the children have met the full range of story plots. They should be able therefore to verbally plan a story, virtually spontaneously, on any of the 5 plot lines.
Whilst the children will meet these in their formal Literacy lessons when they deconstruct stories as a precursor to writing they should also be introduced to them as they read their own stories, or in shared reading times or when the teacher simply reads to the class. These concepts need to be well embedded. Indeed the hope might be that we don’t have to “teach” the structures in formal lessons at all. Why set up a lesson to teach it when you have read a story the day before? If we look for opportunities to embed this language in KS1 we should be able to disseminate these plots at pace.
On top of the structure and the plot lies the Genre. These will include all those found in the Literacy Strategy and more e.g Science Fiction, Romance, Historical, Fantasy, Cultural, Myths and Legends, Fables, Humour, Fairy Tales, Adventure Stories etc.
These provide a broad range of opportunities to be explored in the various plot scenarios. The children might write a Science Fiction/Shipwreck, Romance/Rags to Riches story or a Ugly to Beautiful myth. Without wishing to state the obvious the options are endless.
B. STORY PLANNING
With the element of plot secure in the mind of the child and with a understanding of the story upon which their narrative hangs the child and/or the teacher can move into the process of “Story Planning”
All story planning in the early years of the school (Reception to Year 2) should follow the basic format below as a central core. There was a feeling that we had overcomplicated the planning process and both children and teachers had got lost in the complexity. The consensus was that we needed to strip the planning structure back to the bare bones which basically hinges on the “problem/solution” scenario that all stories hang upon. As someone once said; “there is only one structure for all stories… Something happens!” These thoughts relate to the fact that the central part of the story is the creativity found in the plot and the story planning needs to build upon that