At Simon de Senlis, we have been using drama to develop the sentences within our writing. For this we have introduced ‘Sentence Strolling’ across the school which allows children to analyse their sentences and build in opportunities for in depth discussions.
At first we modelled this process as a whole class allowing children to take the lead, whilst at the same time, guiding them through higher order teacher questions. Children were offered the chance to discuss things they noticed about the sentence and justify their reasoning with detailed explanations. Does the sentence have to have a full stop at the end? Why not? What other form of punctuation could we have? (!) How does this change the effect of the sentence for the reader? Does it change the way that we read it out to the audience? Does it emphasise any words? Why? Which word do you think is the most powerful word choice? Why? Which could be improved? Can you give me an example of a synonym? The list is endless. What it shows is that children do have an understanding of the choices they make and the effect that their writing can have on the reader by simply changing the order of their clauses or changing a piece of punctuation. It also lends to the fact that writing is a working document and that even if it is black and white on a page, it is not the end. That there are still endless opportunities to explore and develop their own ideas whilst showing them the importance of editing and up levelling.
Once the children had grown in confidence with the process, we moved onto individual examples. Children went into their books and located a sentence which they felt could be improved. Working with a partner (and many post it notes) they guided each other through the process until they were happy with the final outcome.
The following lesson I decided to use a similar approach with the Windows 8 for my Literacy starter. Children organised themselves into groups of three and numbered themselves. I then revealed the instructions on the class OneNote. Together we devised criteria to which we could up level our sentences by and allocated them to each person in the group. These involved a change of punctuation, word choices and clause order. The rest of the starter was time for children to uplevel their sentence according to the instructions and document the ‘journey’ that it had gone through. It was not about deleting it and starting again, but showing how one element each time could enhance writing. Because we have 60 devices at SdS, it meant that all three members of the group could work on the same page, at the same time but on different devices. This provided particularly powerful and allowed children to work collaboratively on a single piece of work, using all of their expertise and knowledge combined.