Instructions… Talk for Writing Style

Contributed by Miss Marriott

To complement Year Two’s topic ‘Superheroes’, I decided to look for a Superhero book that would be suitable for my intervention group. Luckily for me, ‘How to be a Superhero’ By Rachel Yu was suggested by the Deputy Head Teacher to use as an extended instructional text. From beginning to end, this book ignited the children’s enthusiasm and provided the children with enrichment of language and vocabulary – providing plenty of opportunity for the children to ‘Magpie’.

To ‘Tune into the Text’, the children labelled different features from a set of instructions. Once the children identified key features, I displayed the labelled instructions (below) for the children to refer back to.

Instructions 1

To consolidate instructional features, again, I followed Pie Corbett and Julia Strong’s ‘Imitation, Innovation and Independent Application’. I provided the children with an instructional text map – How to Cook a Magical, Flying Ointment. I taught the children actions to the text maps, allowing them to internalise the language.

Instructions 2

To consolidate instructional language further, using a ‘Boxed up’ planning method, I displayed ‘What a good one looks like’ on the washing line in the study area.

Instructions 3

From here, the children innovated their own set of instructions and applied independent application.

‘Makaton in Talk for Writing’ – By Fiona McGonagle

I first came across Fiona McGonagle on Twitter when following the hashtag for #TMDenton. After discovering that Fiona planned to do a presentation on Makaton and Talk for Writing, and being disappointed that I was unable to attend myself, I stalked Fiona on Twitter in order to find out as much as possible about this concept.

Fiona McGonagle

Fiona is a bunde of energy and enthusiasm (and a huge asset to her school). She very generously created a video to inspire Leamore staff and also wrote the following post:

I am very pleased to share with you our school’s journey with Makaton and how it is used in my class to support Talk for Writing. Our journey began in January 2013 when some staff members (including myself) went on some Makaton training. Since then, we could not be silenced! Soon, all members of staff went on the training and Makaton is now used throughout the school to aid communication for our more vulnerable learners.

One experience (that will forever touch my heart) is when a little girl came to my class in year 4 and I realised that she could not read. She had one-to-one support with an amazing teaching assistant and had intervention after intervention, still nothing seemed to connect. We then introduced Makaton with her and taught her some signs for key words. After that, she flourished. After a matter of weeks, she could read her first book containing 12 key words. After 6 months she had read her 7th book meaning she could read over 80 key words. Now she is in year 5 and continues to progress. That alone told me that Makaton works.

Our children love learning new signs which help them to learn internal structures of texts as well as helping them understand what the words mean to them. I have included a short video of how Makaton is used in my class and in our singing assemblies which take place weekly. I hope it will inspire you to use Makaton as much it has inspired our school!

Please visit our schools website where you can also access our class blogs!

Fiona McGonagle

Twitter: @missmcgonagle

Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us Fiona!

Effective Assessment to Support Progress in Reception

Recently, Miss Johnson and Mrs Aldridge attended the ‘Effective Assessment to Support Progress in Reception’ conference in Birmingham.

Here are Miss Johnson’s highlights from the day:

Mrs Aldridge and I recently attended a one-day national conference in Birmingham. The conference focused on effective assessment in Reception, but also covered a wide range of other topics such as: transition, working with parents, tracking progress and interaction.

Throughout the day we were lucky enough to have a wide range of experienced Early Years speakers, Vicky Hutchin (Independent Early Years Consultant) and Linda Tallent (Learning and Training Consultancy) to name a few. Each speaker offered their expertise on a range of topics and shared a variety of resources that could be used to help improve current early years practise.

I chose to attend the ‘Transition’, ‘Observation’ and ‘Tracking Progress’ workshops. Each workshop provided me with the opportunity to extend and enhance my current knowledge, magpie a range of new ideas and converse with other early years professionals. I especially found the ‘Tracking Progress’ workshop useful. It was highlighted during this workshop that in-house moderation was essential in order to ensure that all members of staff were assessing children’s progress accurately and fairly. We were all provided with an in-house moderation template which could be used to record the discussions and judgements made. The Early Years Team has now implemented this moderation process and has to date moderated reading, writing and mathematics. We have found the template an extremely useful and easy to use tool to document that in-house moderation is actively taking place at our school. It has also provided staff with the opportunity to share evidence, discuss next steps and assess individual childrens learning.

In conclusion, Mrs Aldridge and I found the conference extremely useful as it provided us with the opportunity to develop our own professional development as Early Years teachers.

EYFS In-House Moderation Record

(Y2) Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog

By Miss Marriott

Developing language is currently a main focus – so using ‘Traction Man Meets Turbodog’ By Mini Grey, has been an effective, engaging book – full of brilliant vocabulary.


To internalise the text, I taught the children how to retell the story using Makaton signs. I have recently received Makaton training  and this is something I thoroughly enjoyed  – so why not learn to retell stories using it? Additionally, I used Makaton symbols for my Storyboard and Story Map. Using the same signing system and drawing the same symbols throughout school, I believe, will increase consistency.

As you will see I’m developing my knowledge of Makaton symbols so not every picture is a Makaton symbol.



Here I am retelling the story of Traction Man and Turbo Dog using Makaton:

This video shows a group of Year two children retelling the story using Makaton:

Check out these Story Maps created by the children to ‘Immerse’ the story.

Story Map 1

Story Map 2

Story Map 4

Knowing the objectives were speech and synonyms for the word ‘said’, I stumbled upon this fantastic activity by – using to create a Text Message dialogue. Bringing a familiar messaging system into the classroom, instantly grabbed their attention. I told the children Traction Man had text me, asked if we had seen Scrubbing Brush, having a two way conversation. I challenged the children to think about different words for ‘said’ – which they linked to the speech bubbles. Later using the vocabulary for independent writing.

Here is the two way conversation!

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 21.21.19

Here is some of the work the children produced:

Text 1

Text 2

Silhouette 1

Silhouette 2

Story 3

(Y2) ‘My Adventure Island’

By Miss Marriott

As a Teaching Assistant at Leamore Primary School, I work with a small Year Two intervention group. These children are confident and brilliant at anticipating questions I’m going to ask them. So challenges are always welcome.

To work on all four interdependent strands of language: Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing, I introduced the group to ‘My Adventure Island…where wild things happen!’ By Timothy Knapman and Sarah Warburton.


I work alongside objectives and topics that are currently set within the classroom setting to reinforce the children’s skills, so this book linked perfectly to the Island topic. I’m not aware if anyone else has used this book for set work, but I could not resist this perfect imaginative story.

After introducing the book, as a group, the children had extensive guided reading sessions, which included lengthy discussions about the book in order for the children to infer and deduce the clues behind the adventure. The children compared it to previous reading, from the beginning of the year,  reading ‘Where the wild things are’.

Before any written work was covered from this brilliant book, Story Maps (A Pie Corbett approach) were created to help embed the story, not only this, the children began to ‘talk the text’ from reading images from a Story Map. Additionally,  they began to use the language patterns and rhythm  I used. This strategy is used in School – building on the oral approach – through ‘imitation’, ‘innovation’ and ‘invention’ of language.

Here is the Story Map that involved the comprehension and recalling events of a story.


(Y2) My Adventure Island TFW from Leamore Primary School on Vimeo.

(Y2) My Adventure Island TFW from Leamore Primary School on Vimeo.

(Y2) My Adventure Island TFW from Leamore Primary School on Vimeo.

Here is the Storyboard to recall events.


To build on this, the children made their own Story Maps. Here are some that didn’t go home.


Once the children internalised the patterns and events of the story, the children took part in many Speaking and Listening activities to support ideas to innovate their own islands. They took on the role of  a character on their own island and took the ‘Hot Seat’ whilst the rest of the group asked them questions about their island (This developed their language).

To develop this idea, the children drew their own islands and illustrated what kind of island they would like.

Here is my example that I modelled for the children – using ideas based on ‘My Adventure Island’. My ideas were displayed on a washing line in the study area.


From this the children wrote similar stories and diary entries. I would definitely recommend this book as it would also be an effective way to introduce Narrative Poetry.

Conversation Station

We first came across the idea of a ‘Conversation Station’ when several of us attended  Communication and Language training delivered by Eileen Swan. In this post, Sarah Johnson (our Nursery teacher) shares how she has implemented a conversation station in her classroom.Conversation Station

In Nursery, we have developed our very own Conversation Station. We implemented the Conversation Station in order to ensure that high quality, meaningful, consistent conversations would occur within Nursery. The Conversation Station ensures that the children have the opportunity to talk, get feedback on their language, and have appropriate language modelled for them by an adult.

Our conversation consists of a tent, with two comfortable beanbags and key vocabulary from current and previous topics. The vocabulary cards are regularly used to stimulate discussion when children find it difficult to think of a topic to talk about.

The conversation station provides a ‘private’ space within the classroom, in which a child and adult can have a conversation without any interruptions. The Nursery environment doesn’t always provide the opportunity for children to have time talking one on one with adults about a topic of their choice, something that the Conversation Station now provides. It is also beneficial for those children that lack confidence when speaking in front of small groups as they are provided with this much needed one on one contact time.

When in the conversation station with an adult, the children are encouraged to demonstrate their speaking and listening skills. It also provides the platform for adults to model effective conversation skills. The adult can also take this opportunity to introduce new vocabulary and ask questions to extend responses. The language rich environment, achieved from the key vocabulary cards, also provides the children with the chance to demonstrate their knowledge of letters and sounds. Once the conversation has finished, the adult records a quick note of who they were talking with, the topic and any other relevant information e.g. the child used a range of vocabulary relating to the farm. This record is then used to inform planning and assessment.

In Nursery we have noticed a significant improvement in the children’s conversation skills since implementing the Conversation Station. We have also noticed that the children are very keen and eager to visit the Conversation Station, and often ask adults to spend time in there with them. It is a fantastic addition to our classroom that encourages progress in the areas of: communication and language; literacy; and personal, social and emotional development. 

By Sarah Johnson, Nursery Teacher

The following ‘Conversation Record’  has been adapted from a resource created by Eileen Swan.

Eileen shared the following background reading.

Wireless Printing From Your iPad (to the Sharp MX-3640N Photocopier)

To print from your iPad, you need to do the following:

In the app store, search for and then download the ‘Sharp Desk Mobile’ app. You will do this once only.

When you want to print, open the ‘Sharp Desk Mobile’ app and click on ‘Settings’.

Click on ‘Printer/Scanner Settings’ and then ‘Find Printers/Scanners’. The photocopier MX-3640N should appear. Make sure that it has a green tick. You will only need to do this step once. 

Go back and now click on ‘User Settings’. In ‘User Authentication’, put your photocopier code in the ‘Use User Number for authentication’ and SAVE. You will only need to do this step once.

Go back.

When you want to print, you just need to click on ‘Print’, then ‘Select File’ and then ‘Photo Album’ which gives you access to your camera roll.

Select a photo and then scroll down to ‘Retention’ on the right hand side of the photo. Make sure you choose ‘Hold Only’ so that you can access the printing at the photocopier when you next go upstairs.

If you make a Pic Collage, just save your collage to your camera roll for printing.

Anything else you want to print can be saved as a photo by taking a screen shot (click the ‘power’ and ‘home’ button at the same time).

Think of the environment (and our colour ink costs): do you really need to print this document?