When I arrived at secondary school, I’m ashamed to say that I’d never heard of ‘slow writing.’ In fact, I only heard about it through a chance encounter with one of the English teachers in the work room. I was grumbling away about the lack of progress in my special needs English group and at the point where I felt like nothing I’d tried was working, when she suggested that I try ‘slow writing.’
Basically, the idea is that students are told what each sentence must include. For example, sentence one must start with an ‘ing ly’ opener; sentence two must include a connective and so on.
Yes – this is very prescriptive, but it has worked wonders with my SEND writing group.
Previously, these students just couldn’t generate the ideas needed for a lengthy piece of writing, even with planning frames and speaking prep time. Many also were incredibly frustrated because they had the ideas, but just didn’t have the ability to get these onto paper. Then there were the students at the upper end of the group, who can spell and write, but tend to write huge streams of unconscious waffle.
Did they like this style of writing? Not at first, no. The group did complain a lot about having to write what they were told. I also had issues in that this approach relied on them understanding at least basic grammatical words and terms. Even with examples and explanations, I found I would have to recap individually what a simile was, or what a sentence with a subordinate clause would look like. Really though, as I find with any new approach, the key is training students up over time and patience.
We’ve just completed our fourth structured ‘slow write’ this term and the complaints have dropped. The work that my group is producing is of much higher quality and they’re all very proud of themselves. They’ve also built up their SPaG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) knowledge as a positive side effect of this.
I’ve attached a slow writing sheet – Mr. Bean at the dentist – slow writing task and example – that I use with my SEND group of 6 students at the end of a unit of work based on Mr. Bean. Basically, we watch a video clip of Mr. Bean getting up late for the dentist and I show students and example of slow writing to match this. Their task is to complete slow writing for the second half of the clip, following the set structure. While this isn’t really my kind of humour, Mr. Bean is a big hit with KS2 and SEND KS3 students, and the fact that they’re happy and engaged certainly helps! Here’s the clip in full:
I’ve also attached newly-made slow writing cards which I will be moving to next with my group. I think they will appreciate the act of being able to choose which technique to use depending on where they are in their writing, though I will ensure that they still cover a range of skills within the whole piece.
Slow writing really is such a simple idea, but it has made a huge difference to the progress, skill, understanding and confidence of some very weak writers. I’d recommend this strategy to anyone!