One of the staples of Talk for Writing is to help children internalise texts and the language patterns within them in order for them to be able to write effectively. One way of doing this is to get children to use a text map to help them retell a text. In the past, they have looked like this:
For many children, this worked. Some children, though, were still unable to internalise a text and indeed had difficulty writing one. In order to help these children, a few changes were made to the way that we used text maps. First, we arranged the text into a flow map where each box contained one sentence.
Children who do not yet have a secure understanding of sentence demarcation can be shown the beginnings and ends of sentences much more clearly when the text map is set out in this way. Also, the punctuation is included in the text map. Second, we split the text up to show a paragraph per page of flipchart paper, for similar reasons as splitting up sentences. Third, we wrote a simplified, shorter text for children working at earlier stages of English.
These children learned this version, but also used the longer version for work on reading comprehension and language development. A final tweak to text mapping has been using the app Explain Everything to create videos of teachers retelling texts.
Children cannot take working walls home with them to practise for homework, but they can watch the video, pause it at different points and retell the text. Children have also been using the text to practise writing accurately. They watch, pause and then write the text. They can then listen again the sentence they were working on to check the accuracy of their writing.
When children move up year groups, these videos can be looked at again, further embedding children’s banks of internalised texts that they can draw upon to write effectively.
UPDATE 29th November 2013
A further tweak that has been developed is the use of high frequency words. Accurate formative assessment can inform the teacher of which high frequency words children need to practise reading, spelling and using accurately in sentences. These can be edited into the focus text and also clearly marked on the text map. The example below is from year 3.
As children talk the text, they are practising either decoding or sight reading those high frequency words. They can practise spelling the words and using them accurately when they write from the text map. Many high frequency words will be transferable and will work fine for innovating too, meaning that children are regularly immersed in them.