365 days in my shoes Day 68


Main course SPaG and dessert is Pie!!! The icing and cherry on the cake!



Grammar through Talk for Writing with Pie Corbett

supported by Julia Strong and Nick Batty


Interactive grammar games and the use of focused teaching two deepen children’s understanding and interest in how words and sentences work.

The day began with an exercise on grammar.

Delegates were invited to ‘take the grammar test’ to find out whether they had heard of key grammatical terms our children could be faced with in SPaG as well as knowing how to use them.

These words included :-
Noun, pronoun, adjective, determiner, conjunction, verb, adverb, preposition, connectives, sentence, clause, phrase, imperative, present tense, pasta tense, singular, plural, suffix, prefix, paragraph.


And then…..

Subordinate clause, possessive pronoun, adverbial, relative clause, modal verb, relative pronoun, active voice, passive voice, subject, object, cohesion, ambiguity, fronted adverbial, subjunctive.

So, is SPaG full of BOLs??????

Talk for writing great grammar guide!

Grammatical knowledge
It is not possible to teach labels and terminology in isolation because you do not know the job of a word until it is in the sentence.

For example:- green
Is it an adjective or a noun or both?


Grammar is correct usage of language through sentence patterns. It is vital we have implicit learning of this early on without even mentioning any terminology. This becomes embedded and will lead to the explicit learning of terminology etc… when the time is right.

The ‘TEST’ is only 20% name and identify and the other 80% is about grammatical accuracy.

The phrase ‘walking the wheat field’ is one Pie uses often. We have to make sure there is constant practice by making the pathway stronger. Introduce, use and apply constantly. You can’t simply teach a unit of work on adverbs in one particular half term and expect children to be able to apply that 6 months down the line. It may be plate spinning, but the constant application through daily learning is key.

Teaching grammar creatively must be cumulative.

On the Talk for Writing website you can download Pie’s FABULOUS progression in writing. There is a column on the right hand side which identifies the key terminology expected in each year group. If it is in bold then it is aligned to the new draft curriculum. For me this is a layered approach for language.

The five columns are:-
1. Text structure
2. Sentence construction
3. Word structure/language
4. Punctuation
5. Terminology

You could almost make your own ‘5 a week’ as I like to call it, by spending 15 minutes using each one of these on a separate day through word play and games.

For the reception child the text structure can be simply retelling simple 5 part story. Sentence structure could be a connectives game. And so on…..

Link to the document is here.



It’s important to think about the text type and then think about the words and the language features needed. Push the starter for the lesson into the shared writing.

Is success criteria the death knell of creativity and independence?

Feedback should always focus on ‘Did it really work?’

Children often choose words from dictionaries and thesaurus because they have been told to find a better word, a longer word, a more interesting word. This is not necessarily the case. It is making sure what has been chosen really works well.


Noun games:-
Replacing nouns – in this activity all the nouns had been replaced with fruit and vegetables. Such fun working out what the nouns should be.

Swapping nouns – moving them around in a short paragraph and then having to put them back to make sense.

Common and proper nouns – can you categorise these words?

Concrete and abstract nouns – concrete you can touch, abstract you can’t

Collective nouns – can you add to them? A swish of swans? An elegance of swans?





Then we moved on to changing the mood in writing.


The challenge was to re-write as though the character were Miss Honey. Have a go!


Modal verbs give us certainty and uncertainty. Build modal verbs into the text you are working on and not delivering discretely.

Sue Palmer has a wonderful way of explaining adverbs and adverbials.

They are the ROVING REPORTERS. They report on what’s happening – the how, when and where.


And then, who is their wisdom came up with fronted adverbial? Sounds like some form of illness!


Children do this quite naturally if they have been used to BIG WRITING but they would never think of calling them fronted adverbials. These should be taught to all children implicitly early on through good quality speaking, listening and getting children to use in Talk Time. Talk for Writing is about imitate, innovate and invent.


If you are a Talk for Writing school, your children will be familiar with all the actions for retelling stories as well as the key words used in non-fiction too. In particular, if they know how to retell stories and were brought up on THE LITTLE RED HEN as retold by Pie, they will be so proficient at the ‘drop in clause’ WHO.

Once upon a time there was a little red hen, who lived on a farm ……. And so on.

Early sentence work should focus on capital letters and full stops. Get this right. Children should not go through school and get to key stage 2 and still not be proficient in using caps and FS. Start this orally in EYFS.

It is important to vary the sentence types.
Short, compound, complex, question, exclamation, list (x3 for description), drop in, tagged on, imperative, topic and x3 for action.




This is something we all do quite naturally with our writers in school. Children with do this unconsciously and it will have been taught implicitly early on. The correct terms etc… Can be made explicit when the time is right in KS1 and KS2 – again refer to Pie’s writing progression guide.




A form of connective for linking and joining – they can be used to join and to add on.




It’s important for children to say the whole sentence and not simply the second part. For example, I was extremely cold because I had forgotten my coat. If the child simply says ‘because I had forgotten my coat’ it becomes speech like and children will end up writing in speech talk rather than writer talk.


Can you take these short sentences and make them into one better one by combining the ideas and rephrasing using the knowledge of grammar for nouns, adjectives, adverbs etc…



This works for both fiction and non-fiction.

Work on the pattern with children, persuade and make points powerful.


The main key messages about teaching grammar is not to do it in isolation or deliver discrete lessons on it.

That does not help our year 5 and 6 children who are at a great disadvantage faced with a stand alone test having not been brought up on learning terminology. For some children now, this will simply be a memory exercise and some rote learning.

By teaching correct grammar usage implicitly using Pie’s writing guide and focusing on the talk for writing, we can equip children with the tools of exceptionally good writers who focus on what really works and not simply a check list of things to make sure they have included in their writing.

Is SPaG a whole load of BOLs!??????

Get it right for our children.

Focus on what really works and makes a difference.

There was an extra dusting of icing on that cherry Pie when Julia Strong told me she had mentioned our school’s Talk for Writing work on the T4W website with a link to my blog.



Have fun!




Pie Corbett videos – http://www.oxfordschoolimprovement.co.uk/professional-development/videos/pie-corbett

Talk for Writing resources – http://www.talk4writing.com/id6.html

Improving writing –

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