Developing children's literacy skills through a writer's toolkit

Jul 2012
Helping children to become confident writers will involve a number of things, from a focus on supporting their development of a number of skills (such as the use of precise vocabulary) to tailoring their language/tone to meet the needs of their audience.

The Talk for Writing system used by many schools, and developed by government consultant and former Ofsted Inspector/headteacher Pie Corbett, highlights numerous techniques for improving children's capabilities in literacy, and creating a writer's toolkit is one key element of this method.

A writer's tool kit is essentially a space where children can store their writing tools, in the form of words or phrases, needed to write successfully. These can be recorded in an exercise book, scrapbook or on a large sheet of sugar paper that should always be close to hand. Here are a few ways that parents can work together with their children to make a toolkit.

Preparation activities
To get children started, parents can use a number of activities designed to enhance vocabulary and stimulate their creative thinking. Help children create alliterative sentences for their favourite animals e.g. the tiny tiger tickled the terrified terrapin's two toes with torn tinsel. Word generation activities can also be used to broaden children's vocabulary.

Children can choose from a selection of images, and then write down as many adjectives as they can to describe it. Once children are confident that they can have some understanding of the use of adjectives, synonyms, wow words, similes and metaphors they can then begin to create their kits.

Making a writer's tool kit
Individual tool kits can be created for any writing style from stories to reports. A story-writing tool kit can be presented as a thought shower, with ideas off each branch, or as a list. Here is an example of how it would look:

  • Structure: Opening, Build Up, Problem, Resolution, Ending

  • Vocabulary: Adjectives, Adverbs, Connectives, Verbs

  • Punctuation: Commas, Exclamation marks, Full stops, Speech Marks

  • Sentence starters: One sunny day, later that afternoon, meanwhile, suddenly, finally

  • Characters: Describe physical features, personality, likes/dislikes

Children can then build on this initial framework by adding details over time, e.g. Adverbs (quietly, hungrily) Opening (describe the setting or character, start with dialogue).