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Hi there,


I am new to this site & this is my first post, so I hope it works and one or two (or loads?!) of you reply to my plea of help!


After four years of teaching in KS2 & KS1 (the last two years in Year 1) I am now teaching in the nursery of our Foundation Stage Unit. Our performance management targets are, for the second year running, to improve our writing levels. Last year we did this through the introduction of Read Write Inc, thsi hear we have to do it through Talk for Writing. Now, I have tried TfW in Year 1 before but never ever in nursery! Oh, and TfW will be our observation focus in two weeks time...arghhhh! Is there anybody out there who has done Talk for Writing / Thinking (Pie Corbett approach?) in nursery & is willing to share any ideas & resources??? I am really lost here, please help!


Thank you very much to those who are taking the time to read this post & reply!


Pinkdolphin :o

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Hi pinkdolphin

I am sorry I have no ideas for your writing issue as I work in pre-school but just wanted to say hi and people much wiser than I will be along to help soon I am sure!

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Hi pinkdolphin,


not sure if this idea is of any use but i have just been observed my HT for a self initiated writing session. I put children in talk partners before hand and then bought out the 'amazing jelly' i told them that last night i made jelly for my pudding and when i came down the next morning something had appeared in my set jelly (i set an apple in the middle as we did it on apple day) they had to discuss with their partner how the apple got into the jelly-they came up with ideas such as the apple monster and fridge fairy! (you can also do the amazing cake.) they really got into it and were inspired to think of imaginative ideas to tell their partner. they then went away and wrote recipes, letters, shopping lists etc.


Hope that helps!

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I'm not sure exactly in nursery but we had a Pie Corbett training last year and I being in year R I would have thought that it would be very adaptable. Firstly I would do lots of the storytelling, as a larger group with support, and then gradually withdrawing the support. You could model drawing the story maps and then help them to create their own story maps. They could then tell the story in small groups/pairs usng their story maps. Our children liked going off somewhere different to do this - some went outside, others went to different parts of the school. We then looked at our story maps and talked about how they could be changed. We used post its to stick over parts of the story map to change bits - setting and characters mainly at this stage. They then practised telling their new stories in a similar way. We then wrote the stories and I suppose that depends on your children but they could record their stories or you could video them telling them. The great thing with the Pie Corbett stories is that the key language of connectives is implicitly there and if they are used to that language from a young age this will come through in their writing when they have the skills to do so. I hope that is of some use.

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The Pie Corbett model involves


IMITATION – familiarisation.

• Getting to know the model story through – storytelling or


• Hear it, say it, read it, explore it.

• Spelling, sentence and paragraph work.

• Older pupils: - create a Writer’s Toolkit.

INNOVATION – re-using a well-known text.

• Substitution; addition; alteration; change of viewpoint; reusing the

basic story pattern.

• Talk and drawing before writing.

• Spelling, sentence and paragraph work.

INVENTION – making up a text.

• Building up a story – drawing, drama, images, video, first-hand

experience, location, quality reading, etc.

• Talk and drawing before writing.

• Spelling sentence and paragraph work.

• Putting the tool kit into writing.




1. Imitation – Blueprints for the


a. Listening, retelling and reading the text.

You need a range of activities so that the children listen to the text type

and also talk the text type many times. This could be through storytelling

or by rereading for a range of interesting purposes (see drama).

Use of either: -

• Storytelling.

• Listen – join in – retell.

Or: -

• Rereading a short story

• Rereading parts of the ongoing novel for close study

NB – try to establish strategies for increasing the amount that children are

read to in school, at home as well as increasing the amount that they read


b. Draw it!!

This helps children capture the whole text visually.

Use of:

• Story map, mountain graph.

• Cartoon, storyboard,

• Flow chart, boxing up, paragraph planner.

Older children should do this for themselves – problem solving by

listening carefully to the story/text.

c. Comprehension – drama.

You may wish to carry out a range of comprehension activities –

discussion, response, close reading, DARTs activities, etc.

Drama helps children get to know the text really well – often having to

listen again to, and reuse, parts of the text. With older children, drama

activities are especially useful for encouraging a return to the original text

to internalise the patterns and deepen interpretation…. also, drama can

help children begin to generate new ideas for their own writing.


If you are wanting the children to write in role – or create something new

– then it may be worth combining drama or storytelling, with drawing,

plus an opportunity to retell so that ideas and language can be


• Hot seating and freeze frames.

• Miming scenes – miming a scene from a story. Can the others guess

which scene? Miming what might happen next.

• Role playing - scenes or alternative events – this can be very effective

for ‘innovation’ – to help children embellish a scene.

• Free role play – providing a play area such as a bears’ cave or

Grandma’s cottage complete with dressing up clothes acts as a simple

invitation to ‘play at’ the story.

• Act the story – in this the teacher, possibly with the main body of the

class – retells the story and a group act the story out. This can be

followed by children working groups to re-enact the story, using a


• Puppet theatre – finger puppets and a mini theatre should be used for

children to play at the story – retelling it or inventing new ideas using

the same characters.

• Journalists – interviewing the characters about what has happened.

• ‘News’ programmes - complete with outside broadcasting unit – TV

or radio – e.g. interview with Troll about threatening behaviour of

local vandals.

• Monologues – begin this by drawing an outline of the character’s

head and asking for ideas about what the character might be thinking

or feeling. Demonstrate how to be in role as a character and ‘think

aloud’ the ‘thoughts in the head’. This might be a character in a story

or a character who is not mentioned, e.g. the wolf’s wife might be

very fed up with his behaviour…. ‘He’s always huffing and puffing up

and down the den. I just don’t know what is wrong with him…’

• Gossip - between characters about events. These could be main

characters but using bystanders can be handy as a way of revisiting


what has happened – a form of retelling, e.g. a neighbour of the bears

could tell a friend all about the break in.

• Phone calls - from a character to an off stage character provides

another ideal form of recounting events from a different viewpoint..

• Advice surgeries or working in role as agony aunts – this provides

a chance to work with the main character, digging under the skin of

what they have been doing, why – considering motive. The advice

might suggest other ways forward for a story.

• Statements to police – what does the wolf have to say about his


• Writing in role – there are many possibilities for writing in role that

help the children revisit the story, e.g. end of term report for a

character, diary entry, letters to another character, newspaper articles.

• Objects or costumes –placed in the centre of the circle.

• Forum theatre – a scene is set up. The action can be paused and

audience members suggest what might happen next.

• Re-enacting key scenes – e.g. the moment when Howard Carter

breaks into the tomb.

• Trials – teacher in role as judge. Children work as solicitors to defend

or accuse a character.

• Role on the wall – someone lies down on sheets of paper – an outline

is drawn plus comments, quotes, suggestions.

• Thoughts in the head – e.g. work in pairs – one child says aloud what

they are thinking having walked past an old house. Then their partner

role-plays the old person who lives in the house.

Making storytelling special.

Storyteller’s hat

Storyteller’s chair

Storyteller’s cloak

Magic Carpet

Story Music

Story lights

Story box or bag

Storytelling Castle


2. Innovation.

Only move on to innovation when the story is in the long-term memory –

otherwise, they will struggle to innovate. Each stage needs to be modelled

by the teacher so that there is a whole class innovation. This then sets

then scene for staging the children to gradually create their own




This seems to be the simplest form of innovation. Many children find it

simple enough to alter basic names of characters, places and objects. Be

wary of changing too much or young children become confused. The

children must draw their own new maps and use these for retelling. They

will need to retell in pairs their version a number of times before it is

been internalised. Some changes may have consequences!


Consider: -

• additions to words in a list;

• adding in more description, e.g.


This might make a third stage. In this stage you make a change rather

than just an ‘addition’. An ‘alteration’ is a significant change that leads to

consequences, usually altering the story is some fashion. There might be

two levels of approach to retelling using 'alterations'.

a. The original plot is maintained, using many of the original sentences.

However, alterations are made within the plot. These might include –

• altering characters, e.g. so that a good character becomes greedy;

• altering settings, e.g. so that a character journeys through a housing

estate rather than a forest;

• altering the way the story opens or ends;

• altering events but sticking to the basic plot.




• Move into ‘invention’ as children build up a bank of known


• For younger pupils, hold regular weekly story inventing sessions.

These should be:

- oral

- guided by the teacher

- reusing familiar characters, settings and patterns

- reusing connectives

- reusing sentence patterns

- an opportunity for new ideas, drawing on a range of stories and life

Capturing the story

1. Story map

2. Story mountain

3. Coloured connectives.

4. Story boxes – flow chart/paragraph planner

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Hi Adbenaja,


No worries at all but thank you very much for taking the time time to read my post & sending your kind reply! Hello to you too!

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Hi kerryg4!


Thank you sooooo much for your reply! I really like your suggestion as we are doing colours & rainbows this half-term, so the jelly would link in nicely. But...my children will NOT go away to do self-initiated writing as loads of EAL & simply not interested in writing just yet. So, any ideas for follow-up activities / self-initiated learning? And should I do a big book before to introduce the idea of the jelly? And where does the story mapping come in (if at all?)? I am sorry to be a pain but nursery is totally alien to me at the moment. Oh, how long did your HT spend on the activity?


Thank you!!!


Pinkdolphin :o

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Hi kittycat1279,


Thank you very much for your reply & suggestions. I've had a look at some of Pie Corbett's story telling materials (the liitle red hen, the gingerbread man, etc), and I am not sure my chn (loads of EAL) could cope with them as very long with just too much language. Besides, they cannot sit for more than ten minutes. So now what???



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Hi Marion,


Wow! Thank you very much for posting the complete PC model!!! Just one small problem for me: how on Earth am I going to adapt it to suit 3 year olds with lots of EAL and an attention span of no more than 10 minutes tops???



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At school I've got the list of stories he recommended for nursery. I can't speak from experience but from speaking to him, it works really well with EAL children as it helps build up their language and the signs particularly help as it acts as sign language. From experience in year R last year, the actions help keep those whose attention is usually poor. I'll try and remember to look out that list for you tomorrow.

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The actions help EAL children remember the story.


Once upon a time - open hands like a book

Early one morning - hands to side of head and pretend to wake up

First - one finger pointed up

Next - two fingers pointed to one side

But - fingers down

Because - hands out open palmed

At that moment/Suddenly - Hands opened expressively as if in surprise

Unfortunately - hands open to side with shrug

Luckily - fists closed then opened like stars

After that - roll hands over in turning gesture

So - roll hands forwards slightly and open as if giving

Finally - palm facing audience like a policeman stopping traffic

In the end - bring hands together as if closing book

Eventually - hands on hips

Then - hand flat and forward (palm down)

However - finger on cheek/thumb on chin

Meanwhile - double point to 'somewhere else'


One of the ideas that Pie Corbett suggested on the course was to use a roll of wallpaper and draw the story (children do the drawing) and then the child can physically walk along the story so they have prompts to remember. I find this works really well with reception.

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Hi! Thank you very much for posting the actions (very useful!). As for the wallpaper, I can't see my 3 year olds draw anything as no or very poor pencil control, but if I or my TA drew it then we could walk it together?

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Hi, I've finally remembered to look out the list of suggested stories for nursery.


Mr Mouse and Mrs Mouse

Mrs Mouse and Mr Mouse play together


We're going on a bear hunt


I don't know the first 2 stories though and having googled them I'm still non the wiser.


For year R the suggested ones are


The Gingerbread Man

The Billy Goats Gruff

Kassim and the Hungry Fox

Going for a song


These aren't an exhaustive list but gives a starting point.


It also says for nursery to use cumulative and communal stories as well as story rhymes such as - Farmers in his den. Then in year R:


Cumulative stories

Journey/quest stories

Problem/resolution stories

Wishing tales

Beating the baddie

Warning story


I hope this helps.

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We have just started this in school including nursery and I find it boring-sorry but its not doing anything for me. Infact I think its stunted the creative element of story telling.

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I find it boring-sorry but its not doing anything for me.


Have you been on any training with Pie Corbett? It shouldn't be boring if done the way he advocates and demonstrates so well... don't think I've laughed so much (well apart from the Big Talk INSET) and I have to say our children really engage.

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Have you been on any training with Pie Corbett? It shouldn't be boring if done the way he advocates and demonstrates so well... don't think I've laughed so much (well apart from the Big Talk INSET) and I have to say our children really engage.


Ours too! The parents love the fact that the children are going home telling a story so well too!

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Hope you are better again?! Thank you sooooo much for your list of stories, I'll start to google them now as I am not familiar with any of them!



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Hi, haven't read alll of the posts but i do have a question...why would you be wanting to teach nursery children, 3 year olds, to write? It should be totally informal at this stage - lots of opportunity for mark making both indoors and out.


Have you looked into write dance in the nursery? May engage your eal children and if you feel you need to be showing you're thinking about next steps for them this would demonstrate you are aware.


Penny Tassoni has a fab book out - practical eyfs handbook, will give you some ideas for appropriate activities to encourage mark making at 3 and all other areas of the eyfs.



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Hi, haven't read alll of the posts but i do have a question...why would you be wanting to teach nursery children, 3 year olds, to write? It should be totally informal at this stage - lots of opportunity for mark making both indoors and out.







Sam if you had read all the posts you would know that no one is suggesting teaching nursery children to write just equiping them with the aural skills to storytell which they will need when they are older in order to become writers. It works on the premise that you need to have something to say in order to have something to write.

The children learn to tell stories which an adult will record for them.


Just a footnote I was very disappointed in Penny Tassoni's Practical EYFS book not up to her normal standard.

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I'm sorry Marion, but I still don't see how useful this would be for 3 year olds. Looks great for reception +.

The Tassoni book has been helpful to some people I know who are unfamiliar with the EYFS having taught higher up the school. It's not particularly academic but clearly outlines and explains the EYFS and offers suggestions for activities etc.



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I'm sorry Marion, but I still don't see how useful this would be for 3 year olds. Looks great for reception +.




I'm not sure about your nursery children but in our FSU many 3 year olds arrive with very little spoken language, single words combined with gestures seems to be their main means of communication. (I know there is research which shows this is a national trend). There is also research to show considerable differences in vocabulary size in under 7s. The research also links vocabulary to later achievement so it makes sense to me to expose very young children to high quality vocabulary and to teach them to use a great number of words than they may experience in their day to day lives. It is no coincidence that Taffy Thomas was appointed the first laureate for storytelling.

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Little children love rhymes and finger plays of all sorts, these also aid talk for writing and I dont think anyone would argue that they were not appropriate?


Of course, and this is a fundamental part of preschool, I personally feel the Pie Corbett described on here seemed more appropriate for reception upwards, I wasn't disputing the value of stories and rhymes for children below school age.

I'm sure we all use story sacks, make puppets, story sequencing, feature books regularly to allow all of the children to learn them.

In previous years the preschool children I work with have narrated and illustrated their own whole group books, extended vocabulary, experimented with sounds and words and all of the groups were included in one way or another.


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It may be that there are elements you could add, Sam, you probably actually already do so to your story telling to enhance the children's internalisation of the story or rhyme, and that really is the message of Pie Corbett.


Personally, Im struggling to convince year 2 that their classrooms should not be silent!

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