365 days in my shoes Day 114


Pie Corbett at Shotton Primary School



Our INSET day following the Easter holidays was spent in the fab company of Pie Corbett. This was the third time Pie had been to my school.

The focus of the day was SPaG a la Pie in the morning and a look at creative writing through art, photos, sculpture etc… in the afternoon.

I’ve already blogged on SPaG previously with Pie and the link to that is here.



We did spend some time collating thoughts about what we had learned about teaching grammar and shared these via flipchart. These are listed below.




Think about the effect it has within the sentence
Using the specific word – creating a picture
Name it – give the noun a name. If it’s a dog – what kind of dog etc….

As powerful as the noun
Use a range of verbs
Choose a verb that describes what you see in your head

Don’t state the obvious
Don’t overuse them
Can change the mood

In context
Trying it out – does it sound right?
Read a range of texts
From as young as possible
Modelling high quality use of language
Be creative – play games
It’s OK to get it wrong
Challenge children with the choices they make and the impact upon the reader.



All ideas are directly from Pie’s work.

Pie shared many ideas regarding how and when to introduce the implicit and explicit teaching and learning of terminology.
Introducing grammatical constructions and terminology at a point which is relevant to the focus of learning.
a. Use your assessment of the ‘cold task’ (as well as picking up on what is happening daily) to decide what key sentence features need teaching for the children to make progress.
b. Decide what key language features and sentence types will be needed to help the children write the text type, making good progress.
c. Begin rehearsing these features on a daily basis, using mini whiteboards and spoken games to develop a fluency in sentence construction.
The emphasis is on effects and constructing meanings, not on the feature or terminology itself.
Read as writers – select or write a good model of the chosen text type, building in the typical features that create an effect.
Read as writers – some weaker examples, discuss and model improvements.
Read as writers – a number of strong/weak examples, gradually building up an explicit writing toolkit as well as helping children internalise an implicit ‘feel’ for good writing.
Continue to rehearse the sentence features on a daily basis until they become increasingly embedded as part of the children’s writing repertoire.
Purposefully, demonstrate the use of these features during shared writing and expect children to ‘have a go’ in their own writing.
Discuss in feedback, the effect created, focussing on ‘good’ examples as well as considering how to improve weaker examples.
The learning objective is to open up a ‘repertoire of possibilities’, not to teach about correct ways of writing.



Reading as a writer
Look at a piece of writing as a class, asking the question;
‘What are the effects being created and how has the writer achieved them?’
With the children, problem-solving sample texts together, co-constructing a ‘writing toolkit’. Add to the basic toolkit by looking at other examples, written by high quality authors. The toolkit will be used later to focus shared and independent writing.
Keep rehearsing the features of the toolkits through daily sentence practice and ‘mini-writes’. These might be oral or written. The aim is for the children to rehearse the sentence features so much that in the end they become internalised as part of the child’s writing repertoire which can then be drawn upon automatically.
Suspense Toolkit
To make the writing scary, you can: –
• Put your main character in a dangerous, dark setting
• Use an adverb starter
• Use powerful verbs to build a picture for the reader
• Describe the setting – use the five senses
• Move the character through the setting
• Use short, punchy sentences for impact
• Use words to paint a picture of the setting for the reader
• Use a preposition starter to describe the setting
• Use sentence of three to build up descriptions
• Use a dramatic connective
• Introduce a threat to keep the reader in suspense
• Use an empty word to hide the threat
• Use a rhetorical question to excite readers imaginations
• Add a short clause for dramatic effect
• Show main character’s reaction
This type of activity weaves the children’s growing understanding of grammar into their thinking ‘as a writer’. Depending on the year group, the suspense toolkit will vary in length. In year two, you might just have:
• Hide your main character in a dark, lonely place.
• Your main character hears something scary and reacts.
Over time, the toolkit can be built up so that the teaching is cumulative. Add to the toolkit by looking at examples of suspense writing written by high quality authors. It is very useful for the children to have a favourite picture book or story that they know well and can be referred to.
When children come to write, it is important that the toolkits are optional – ‘here is a list of approaches that we have noticed writers using to create suspense and when you are writing, you can use these…. however, you may also have some other ideas to try.’ This approach is totally different to ‘success criteria’ which may be a reductive list of language features needed to gain a level without any thought about their purpose, e.g. to create suspense. In narrative writing, you will need toolkits for – openings, endings, action, suspense, characterisation, dialogue, setting and description. It is also worth working out a ‘generic’ toolkit for each year group – basic grammatical features that we expect to see in all writing, e.g. in year 1, you expect capital letter and full stop.



Shared writing
Before moving into the shared writing, children may need to practice parts of the Suspense Toolkit, e.g. varying powerful verbs, using preposition starters. Quickfire games are an effective way to help children to remember and internalise the toolkit so that it begins to become part of their writing repertoire rather than a bunch of problematical things to remember that could actually make writing harder and interfere with compositional flow. The more children read examples, discuss their impact and how the author creates effects as well as become involved in using the toolkits both in shared and independent writing, the more they internalise the patterns and approaches.

Shared writing allows grammar work to be interwoven into the act of composition and can support children in becoming better communicators.
Children need to see whole texts being written and this has to happen over a number of days. It is important to have the main model and toolkit displayed so that both these can be referred to by the children. This is very helpful scaffolding for the weaker writer. As you are doing shared writing, involve the children but also draw attention and talk through any new or demanding aspects. Shared writing is built around 3 key ideas – I’ll show you how to do something (demonstration); now we’ll do it together (joint composition); then you can have a go on your own (independent writing). Shared writing must be interactive and involve children generating and selecting ideas with constant discussion about ‘what works’. The teacher’s role is to shape and challenge the writing and to refer to a rich range of children’s literature to help generate ideas.
Once the shared writing paragraph has been created together, children use it to build their own writing. They will then have the initial model, the toolkit that makes features explicit as well as the shared writing. All of this can be used to scaffold independent writing. Weaker writers may find it helpful to ‘hug closely’ to the original model but stronger writers should embellish and add in their own ideas whilst still focussing on creating the same effects, e.g. suspense.
Shared writing needs to be used from Nursery onwards. Very often this is a neglected part of early years provision and so children do not begin to see themselves as writers and writing is not part of their everyday play. Constant shared writing means that the teacher can begin to teach composition right from the very start, creating class stories with everyone involved giving ideas. These can be turned into homemade ‘big books’ and be used as part of early reading. Across a primary school, ‘reading as a writer’, writing toolkits and shared writing should be common practice. In this way, grammatical understanding and skill becomes woven into the purposeful teaching of reading and writing. Constant use and discussion of grammar will help children gain a deep understanding that will last them a lifetime of language use.
Grammar films can be found on: http://www.oxfordschoolimprovement.co.uk/professional-development/issueVideo/Grammar_punct_spelling/pie-tips-grammar

c Pie Corbett 2012




How do you teach poetry?

How creative are you with language?

Pie shared ideas for teaching poetry and writing creatively using pictures, photos, sculpture, art etc…

Poem of the week – Little Monkey
Poem of the day – Clouds
Displays of poems in surprising places.
Poetry tree.
Desert island poems.
Poem swaps.
Poem cards in classrooms.
Start staff meetings with a poem.
Each class sends another class a poem once a week.
Garage box of poetry books for daily browsing.
Use of poetry CDs and DVDs.


Word association

Words in the bag – truth under frail

If I had…..

I stood in….. /and my shadow….

Pie 1

Pie 2

Pie 3

Pie 4

Images, pictures and sculptures evoke so many emotions and equally ideas to out into writing.

Pie 5


Our shared poem about Radar.

Radar the dragon has fiery eyes that wander the desolate landscape,

Shimmering scales as sharp as a razor shell,

Crescent talons curved like a dense scythe.

Pie 6

She pinches the dry sandwich, as delicate as a butterfly,

And her suspicious eyes gaze at the intriguing reflection of the man behind….

He slices succulent ham – pursing his thin lips.

Pie 9

Pie 12

Pie 13

Pie 14

Generating ideas and judge.
First thought not always the best – keep word searching.
All ideas accepted.
Fear is the enemy.
All succeed uniquely.
Experiment – new combinations.
Beyond the cliché.
Name it – add detail
Beware of ‘overwriting’.
Jot down ideas – magpie from others.
Writing journals.
Double act.
The roots of creative language.

Generate and judge – powerful words
Choosing the fresh word combinations
Alliteration – sound effects
Similes, metaphors and personification
Inclinations – ask questions, describe, tease, riddle, invent new things, turn objects into creatures, etc.
Brainstorm words and ideas

By showing to a pupil’s imagination many opportunities and few restraints, and instilling into him confidence and a natural motive for writing, the odds are that something – maybe not much, but something – of our common genius will begin to put a word in.
Ted Hughes – Poetry in the Making.

Our day was interspersed with a small owl hooting its way through each session.

Brought new meaning to OWL PIE!!!




One thought on “365 days in my shoes Day 114

  1. Some of the images are in ‘The Poetry Pack’ which I have just published and is available from Philip & Tacey publishers – or the Hope catalogue. Thanks for a great day in Shotton – still haunted by the small, hooting owl that accompanied us all day but proved to be invisible….

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