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Writing

Learning to write is one of the most important things that your child will do at primary school. Almost all other areas of the curriculum are assessed through writing, so strong writing is one of the keys to academic success. Good writing also gives your child a voice to share their ideas with the world.

The National Curriculum divides writing into two broad areas: transcription and comprehension. Transcription covers the technical aspects of writing: handwriting, spelling, grammar & punctuation, and so on. Composition is about sharing their ideas and thinking about the purpose for their writing. Learning to write can be a tricky business, because good writing involves balancing all these different parts. There’s a lot for a child to juggle.

Fortunately, learning to write is also a lot of fun, and there are all sorts of enjoyable ways you can help your child learn to love writing.

What your child will learn

Follow the links below for an overview of each year, with lots of information, support, and practice activities:

Writing in Year 1 (age 5–6)

In Year 1, your child will learn to tell stories orally, to write short sentences, and to check back what they have written. This includes:

  • saying out loud what they are going to write about, and then composing sentences aloud
  • putting sentences together into short narratives
  • reading back what they have written with peers and teachers.

More information and activity ideas for Year 1 >

Writing in Year 2 (age 6–7)

In Year 2, your child will learn to create lots of different types of writing, to plan their work, and to edit work they have already written. This includes:

  • writing for a range of purposes, including fictional stories, non-fiction texts, and poetry
  • getting ready to write by writing or orally laying out a simple plan
  • making simple additions, revisions, and corrections to their own reading.

 More information and activity ideas for Year 2 >

Writing in Year 3 (age 7–8)

In Year 3, your child will learn to plan in detail, to use imaginative ideas, and to write with a particular purpose in mind. This includes:

  • talking about similar pieces of writing, and using these to help them plan their own
  • using a rich vocabulary and a range of sentence structures
  • creating settings, characters, and plots for stories
  • using simple organisational devices (for example, headings and sub-headings) for non-fiction
  • proof-reading for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.

More information and activity ideas for Year 3 >

Writing in Year 4 (age 8–9)

In Year 4, the National Curriculum expectations for writing are similar to what they are in Year 3. So your child will build upon their learning by continuing to plan in detail, to use imaginative ideas, and to write with a particular purpose in mind. This includes:

  • talking about similar pieces of writing, and using these to help them plan their own
  • using a rich vocabulary and a range of sentence structures
  • creating settings, characters, and plots for stories
  • using simple organisational devices (for example, headings and sub-headings) for non-fiction
  • proof-reading for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.

More information and activity ideas for Year 4 >

Writing in Year 5 (age 9–10)

In Year 5, your child will learn to write imaginatively and cohesively and to choose the right structure and tone for any given piece of writing. This includes:

  • identifying the audience and purpose of their writing
  • modifying their use of grammar and vocabulary depending on what they are writing
  • using a consistent tense
  • checking through their own and their peers’ writing and making constructive improvements.

More information and activity ideas for Year 5 >

Writing in Year 6 (age 10–11)

In Year 6, the National Curriculum expectations for writing are similar to what they are in Year 5. So your child will build upon their learning by continuing to write imaginatively and cohesively and choosing the right structure and tone for any given piece of writing​. This includes:

  • identifying the audience and purpose of their writing
  • modifying their use of grammar and vocabulary depending on what they are writing
  • using a consistent tense
  • checking through their own and their peers’ writing and making constructive improvements.

More information and activity ideas for Year 6 >

How to help at home

There are lots of ways you can help your child with writing. Here are our top ideas.

1. Read to your child

While children do learn new language and ideas from speaking and listening, the type of language we use in writing is often very different from that in speech. Reading regularly to your child, especially longer chapter books that they might not be able to yet read independently, is a great way to support their writing.

While your child will have some favourite books and types of book that they’ll want to listen to again and again, try to make sure they get to hear a range of different types of books, including fiction and non-fiction. This is useful for their writing because it models lots of language styles.

For books to read with your child, take a look at our free eBook library.

2. Have your child to read to you

Making time to hear your child read isn’t just good for their reading. Seeing words in print helps them to understand the words, to spell them, and to see how grammar and punctuation are used to make meaning.

When you read, occasionally talk about why the author has decided to include something and how they written it. For example:

‘I wonder why the author has chosen to describe the castle as “gloomy”? I wonder what that tells us about what might happen there?’

3. Try some real-world writing

Writing for a real purpose can be a great way to fit in some practice. Writing cards, shopping lists, or letters/emails to relatives can be motivating real life reasons for writing, and can show children how useful it is to be able to write well.

Your child might enjoy keeping a diary or writing short stories based on books they have read or toys they enjoy playing with. Be sure to encourage your child to write about what most interests them, as this is the best way to keep them enthusiastic.

4. Tell stories aloud

Giving your child the opportunity to tell stories orally is a great way to get them used to structuring their ideas and using adventurous language. If they’re not sure where to start, see if they can retell a story that they already know well, like Little Red Riding Hood or Three Little Pigs.

If your child finds it useful to plan out their story first, try our free Story mountain to make a great plot with a beginning, middle, and end. For more practical tips on helping your child improve their storytelling confidence, watch our storytelling skills video with Suzy Ditchburn.

Activity: Story mountain

Complete the story mountain to plan your story with a beginning, middle, and end.

Video: How to develop storytelling skills

Suzy Ditchburn offers practical tips for improving storytelling confidence.

5. Find story inspiration

You can find fun story ideas anywhere! Why not raid your kitchen cupboards or hunt through the attic to find lost treasures? Anything from an old hat to a telescope will do the trick. What could the object be used for? Who might be looking for it? What secrets could it hold? Suggest different genres such as mystery or science fiction and discuss how the item might be used in this kind of story.

Real-world facts can also be a great source of inspiration. For example, did you know a jumping flea can accelerate faster than a space rocket taking off into orbit? What crazy story can your child make out of this fact? Newspapers and news websites can be great for finding these sorts of ideas.

For more storytelling ideas, download our free Story idea generator or our Character profile activity sheet.

Activity: Story idea generator

Mix together a genre, character, and setting to think up a story idea.

Activity: Character profile

Come up with lots of interesting details about the lead character in your story.

6. Draw your ideas first

If your child isn’t sure where to start with a story or even a piece of non-fiction, it can sometimes be helpful to sketch out their ideas first. For instance, can they draw a picture of a dastardly villain or a brave hero? How about a scary woodland or an enchanted castle?

Your child might also find it useful to draw maps or diagrams. What are all the different areas of their fantasy landscape called? How is the baddie’s base organised?

Some children might enjoy taking this idea a step further and drawing their own comics. This is great practice – it stretches your child’s creativity, gets them thinking about plot, character, and dialogue, and is a big confidence boost once they’ve finished and have an amazing story to look back on.

Copyright Oxford University Press 2020