What makes a good piece of writing?

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Whilst evaluating the answer to the above question – I continually have the “Content vs Technical” debate. Do I want the piece to grip the reader’s attention, displaying the skill of a classic novelist? Or would I prefer for the piece to be presented with meticulous accuracy, resembling a complex lab report?

Surely – I want the piece to demonstrate strengths in both its content and its technical accuracy. However, does the way we currently teach writing marry these ideas together?

Schemes such as Big Writing have effectively improved the technical ability of writers, whilst developing the 4 core principles (Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation). But does it teach learners how to use their ‘voice’? Six Traits + 1 has a positive impact on developing ideas (voice being one of the embedded principles). Although can learners be taught spelling, punctuation and grammar through writing in this way?

Teaching That Makes Sense have developed guidance to support practitioners in developing the curriculum in America. They suggest that good writing begins with the writer having thoughts, which they transfer into ideas using their unique writer’s voice.

Something we often hear/ observe/ comment on is the fact that pupils often have difficulty generating ideas independently. Perhaps, as opposed to recommending a ‘Writing Scheme’, the Literacy Working Group  need to review what each scheme has to offer, sourcing a bank of resources which support ideas building, whilst providing guidance on learning, teaching and assessment in writing?

I recommend checking out the Teaching That Makes Sense website. A few of the documents I have found interesting can be found below:

What Is Good Writing

Be A Better Writer

What do YOU think makes a ‘good’ piece of writing?

2 thoughts on “What makes a good piece of writing?

  1. elspethmackenzie

    Interesting post! You said, ‘Six Traits + 1 has a positive impact on developing ideas (voice being one of the embedded principles). Although can learners be taught spelling, punctuation and grammar through writing in this way?’. The answer is without doubt YES! Conventions are one of the 6 traits of effective writing and that’s where you’d be teaching spelling, grammar and punctuation. But they are one of seven traits and need to be seen as one part of a much bigger picture- that’s the key message in the 6 Traits + 1 materials.

    I know I’d rather read a piece of writing that makes me feel ‘something’. I’m an emotional reader and want what I read to leave me thinking. I guess for me teaching the technical side of writing is easier as there is a right and wrong answer but helping children discover and develop their voice and their ideas takes more time, is more subjective and more personal and that’s perhaps why we don’t do enough of it. It’s harder!

    No scheme can ever provide a quick fix it’s what we as teachers do that will make the difference. Why not spend the money we have on teacher training rather than a scheme?

  2. Mr Cook Post author

    Great thoughts Elspeth.

    I agree – quality training is a must. As the Literacy Group, in conjunction with the Literacy Development Officer, hopefully we’ll be able to devise a training programme which will encompass the ‘best bits’ to impact on learning and teaching.

    The more I read about Six Traits, I develop an increasing fondness. The Teaching That Makes Sense link houses a wealth of work related to the scheme, displaying it’s successes within America.

    In an ideal world – the piece would be written with both creative flair, and technical mastery. However on first read, I too prefer a piece which encapsulates my emotions and thinking.


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