How writing progresses across year groups

Monday 24 July 2017

Now that we’ve finished the school year, we thought you might be interested to see the progress in writing from year to year. Below is an example of writing from each year group. (We’ve chosen a good, typical example, not a flawless one. Also, it’s important to note that teachers should not assess a pupil’s writing skills on just one piece – it’s writing a selection of different pieces over time that matters.)

At the end of Reception, this child is using phonic knowledge: some words are spelt correctly whilst others are phonetically plausible (‘sum tee’ is a plausible attempt at spelling ‘some tea’). The sentence can be read because the spelling is good, but also letters are formed correctly and there are gaps between the words (we often refer to the gaps as ‘finger spaces’). Finally, the sentence as a whole has meaning – it makes sense. Next step here would be to include a full stop – something children might begin in Reception, but should definitely do in Year 1.

​Straight away you can see what progress is made in Year 1! Sentences ​are effectively demarcated with capital letters and full stops, although the last sentence would benefit from a full stop after ‘drum’ (to avoid what we call ‘squashed sentences’ or, more accurately, run-on sentences). The writer makes good use of phonics – many words are correctly spelled, and where they are not (‘dinasor’) the attempt is plausible. There is an awareness of story language (look at the writer’s use of the traditional start and end to a fairy tale), and the writer consistently uses the past tense.

It’s not an expectation for Year 2 children to write in paragraphs, but we find most children are able to do this, especially for non-narrative (non-story) writing such as this letter of complaint. The cohesion of the piece shown here is very good. The sentences make sense and are in the correct tense. Punctuation is accurate: full stops and capital letters are used correctly ​and there are also some exclamation marks and a question mark.
The writer’s vocabulary choice is also very good: he’s made the writing more interesting by using adjectives and has carefully selected other words to match the context and purpose of the text. Most impressive is ​the writer’s editing: although you can’t easily see it here, he’s corrected a range of mistakes using a purple pen. (Whilst that might mean the writing doesn’t initially appear impressive, the process of editing and improving writing is a very important one that we’ve been developing over the year.)

The teacher has used green text here to show aspects of this Year 3 writing that she particularly liked. Sentence openers that tell you how, where or when something happens (‘fronted adverbials’ including Just then, … and On the boat, …) are impressive and dotted throughout the piece. Descriptions using adjectives (to make ‘expanded noun phrases’) are also good – we can see One dark, damp night and a deafening bang, for example. There’s clear progression in punctuation, too: this writing shows increasingly sophisticated punctuation including inverted commas for speech, brackets and ellipsis.

This Year 4 writing might not appear to be the neatest piece in the series, but the focus here was to edit and improve – it’s hard to do that neatly without re-writing the whole piece. This writing is an example of a recount, a piece that re-tells what has happened (whether real or fictional). Unlike the Year 2 piece, the tone is informal; the writer has managed this well. Like the Year 3 piece, there are lots of effective fronted adverbials. There are examples of sophisticated punctuation (including hyphens used here); when writing longer pieces with more skills, it’s sometimes easy to slip up on a basic – capital letters for proper nouns (The Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the name of a book and film, so needs capitals). This is a common error, but you can support your child at home – get your child to practise their spellings by writing sentences that use the spelling and include proper nouns.

This is a great story – and a real one, too! Having heard and read about the story of two male penguins trying to hatch a stone, the task for this Year 5 writer was to re-write the story. The teacher has starred two ‘Ps’ for punctuation (a colon and a dash are used effectively and appropriately) and a ‘PV’ for using the passive voice (a common feature in formal, journalistic writing). Look at the complexity of the first sentence, too – more than one fronted adverbial used, and making a good use of commas. These fronted adverbials are used throughout and really give the writing cohesion.

The Year 6s all loved their residential to Robinwood and had no complaints whatsoever. However, to capture a child’s imagination, it can sometimes be good to turn everything upside down and write about the opposite. What we can see here is also the writer becoming someone else – very different to what a younger child would be able to do. The task to write as Mrs Weekes to make the complaint demanded a formal tone. And your task? Think about how else this piece shows progression across the years…