Each imitate stage begins with a ‘cold task,’ which requires the children to write a piece of work in the chosen genre or text type. This allows them to have a first attempt at the writing, so that they can show their prior knowledge and have something to reflect upon at the end of the unit. From this task, the children are given targets that they will focus on and strive to achieve by the end of the three stages.
In the first stage, the teacher establishes an exciting lesson called ‘the hook.’ This engages the children to introduce them to the new exemplar text. A typical Talk 4 Writing unit then begins with a range of activities based around the new unit, warming them up to the tune of the text. The children will read as a reader and as a writer, gaining understanding of both the features and narrative. New language and features are discussed and identified in the text through text marking. This allows the children to magpie new vocabulary and practice using the features and think about the key ingredients that help to build the text.
The text is internalised by two key activities – story/text mapping and actions. We use these to orally re-tell the story. Story/text maps are a series of images drawn to retell the text, with the punctuation and key vocabulary included; actions being where the children all perform the text verbally with actions to each word or phrase. Both of these assist the children in acquiring new language, understanding its meaning and seeing the pattern and structure of the text more clearly. By bringing the text to life, the children learn expression and phrasing and begin to visualise how the words are used and why.
The imitation stage ends by boxing up the original text, which helps the children to analyse what makes the text work. In this way, the children can start to co-construct a toolkit for this genre or text type so that they can form a concrete structure of the text in their minds.
Stage 2: Innovation
Once the text has been learnt by all children, they are ready to start innovating on the pattern of the text. Throughout this, there are still many opportunities to develop their new skills and understanding through text based activities. Younger writers will adapt the original text/story map to orally rehearse and discuss their changes. Further up the school, children use their boxed-up plans in order to make these changes against what they have written for their imitation. This allows children to see how you can innovate on an exemplar text and select words, phrases and sentences that really work.
The teacher guides children through the writing process, modelling through ‘shared writing.’ This is where the children can all get involved with giving ideas and making suggestions for how the text could be innovated. During their first few years in school, this is done through substitution of the original story map, whereas in Key Stage 2, the children explore other ways of innovating a text, such as genre switching, alternative endings and sequels.
An important part of this process is to provide the children with a clear understanding of how to craft a text. They use what they have identified as features from the shared text and have developed through their imitation. They can also now see how the reviewing and editing process is carried out by a writer.
Stage 3: Invention
In the final stage, the learning is then passed over to the children and they can plan and write their own text, using the features as their toolkit and the shared text and innovation as an example of what a successful text should look like. By this point, the pattern of the text will be internalised, they will have gained new language and sentence types and will be well prepared to thoroughly have a go.
Some children will choose to stick quite closely to the original text, thinking of a new way of innovating independently, whilst others are now given the freedom to write in the given genre or text type, but using their creativity and initiative.
The process comes to a close with a ‘hot task.’ This is where the children can put everything that they have learnt into a final piece of writing in this genre or text type. They can then review and edit their own work, reflecting upon how to improve it and personalise it. Finally, they can assess whether they have achieved their targets, used the new features and improved their understanding and writing.