We all know how important it is for children to develop the basic skill of writing. From early mark-making to fully developed cohesive pieces, they need to be able to communicate effectively and communicate in different ways. In our technologically advancing world, these effective communication skills are more important than ever as we connect with people from across the globe. But how do we get children to write? How do we engage them in the writing process?
Understanding Audience, Purpose and Effect are the keys to success. Without purpose, what’s the point? Who are we writing for and what do they need from me as the author? How can I use writing ‘tools’ to achieve my desired effect?
There are three main purposes to writing: to inform, to persuade and to entertain. If a child’s view is that they are writing for writing’s sake, for their teacher or to create a display in the classroom, then chances are they are not fully engaged. However, if that writing has a purpose – they are writing stories for a reception class, creating a newsletter for parents, writing to the government about an important environmental issue then suddenly the writing comes alive: it has purpose and context and relevance to the children. This, then, helps them understand humans around them – a fundamental life skill. Understanding their intended audience then informs choices of appropriate vocabulary, style, tone and grammatical devices – to ensure their intended message (or ‘effect’) are conveyed well.
The National Curriculum is very clear, children should be taught to “identify the audience for and purpose of the writing” (Year 5 and 6 Programme of Study, National Curriculum, 2014).
This involves investing in time to analyse others’ writing, using reading as a guide, looking for stylistic choices and the effect they create within the writing by the author and then using what is learnt in one’s own writing. This in turn requires careful planning and choice of texts. The idea of purpose and audience is not an add-on to writing; instead it should be the first consideration when planning what will be written. It can be developed through a wide variety of games and practical activities to raise children’s awareness of the ‘what’, the ‘why’, the ‘who’ and the ‘how’.
If you’d like to know how you can take writing in your school even further – and develop greater sophistication in your pupils as writers, why not take a look at our two great courses, focused on writing for a purpose: Raising Attainment in Writing and Achieving Greater Depth in English – two full-day courses which cover these ideas and many other ways to improve writing outcomes for your pupils.
Published on 02 September 2020