Good writers draw on a bank of ideas about how to create a certain effect. Teaching children about what it is that writers do is an important part of the imitation stage of talk for writing. This post explains in more detail some ideas about constructing a writers’ toolkit with children so that they understand what a writer has done. The issue is, though, that if children are to internalise a writers’ toolkit, they will need to practise remembering it.
When a writers’ toolkit like the one pictured above is created and displayed on a working wall, children may well be able to look at it and use it. But this gives only the illusion that the toolkit is internalised. Re-reading and looking up information is not the most effective way of strengthening the encoding of information into memory or the retrieval process. Children remember what they think about, and like any learning, practice makes permanent. Children need to practise remembering items on a writers’ toolkit in order internalise it. Low stakes testing is one way of practising retrieving information. Effective retrieval, however, requires a good cue. This cue needs to be similar to whatever the cue may be when you want children to remember the information. It would be great if children could remember items on the writers’ toolkit at the point of writing so that they can make good decisions about their composition. Just before they write, the teacher will show children how to do it so it makes sense that the cue should be snippets of writing.
In the toolkit above, the beginning of the wording for each item is still visible. This cue is further strengthened by having a sentence or a sentence fragment which exemplifies the item that it is partially obscuring. You can zoom in on the photos to see specific examples.
Do children remember how to persuade from this retrieval practice? Yes, to varying degrees. But it will take time, spacing and further practice for children to securely internalise what it is that good writers do.