How do we learn the conventions of writing?


We completed this activity in college which I found useful, so decided to use it as a basic for further research in future. As always, I’ll get around to reviewing it at some point!


These are some questions we looked at today. I also think this could be a good activity when covering audience and purpose with learners.

What kinds of texts have you written in the last month?

In the last month, I’ve written text messages, essays, a Police statement, signed a tenancy agreement, written a complaint email, and written a multitude of lists!

What was the purpose of the writing?

There were many purposes, with some having dual purposes. For example, the purpose of the Police statement was to log a crime, and the purpose of my complaint letter was to firstly complain, secondly to provide my own entertainment, and thirdly to ask for compensation!

Who was your audience?

There were many audiences including friends, family, landlords, managers and the Police.

What was the context?

The context of the text messages were personal (e.g. to ask how people were, to ask for help and say happy birthday).

The context of the Police statement was to document items that were stolen.

The context of the complaint letter was appalling customer service from a well-known electrical’s supplier.

Two views of writing

  • Writing as a product
  • Writing as a process
    • The process can be split into stages – they may differ person to person. Learners should be supported throughout but they should retain ownership.

Genre Approach

Genres have different structures depending on audience/purpose/social context and learners need to be taught conventions of different genres explicitly.

  • Focus on how to construct different types of texts through modelling/sharing/scaffolding. An example of this could be an email/letter writing template.

A list of strategies to support writing composition

  • KWL grid
  • Using discussion beforehand
  • Mind map
  • Complete chart
  • Sequencing words/activities
  • Language experience
  • Scaffolding/starter sentences
  • Photos
  • Wh- questions
  • Character creation chart
  • Story boards
  • Lists/sticky notes

Further reading

  • Kernel sentences
  • Consequences game.


We were asked to complete the following chart. The chart can also be used in lessons. It’ll be going on my list of things to try!

Text type Purpose Audience Context
Text messageBoard writingPost-it notes To persuade someone to ring me so I could get them to give me their washing machine!To inform learners of the difference between present simple and present continuous.To inform me of what clothes I had in each washing basket. LandlordLearnersMyself Landlord

How do we learn to write?

It’s important to acknowledge how learners would naturally pick up the conventions of writing. For example:

  • Greetings cards – how do we learn to write greetings cards?
    • We get a lot throughout our lives, even before we can read ourselves, so we may use modelling
    • We might write our name at first
    • Pick up the conventions of greetings cards from home context and receiving themAssignment writing – how do we learn to write assignments?
      • From reading examples
      • From using scaffolded activities
      • From modelling
      • Learning methods such as point, proof, analysis
      • Learn how to structure at school – every story needs a beginning, middle and end
      • Through feedback from our tutors

I will tag this under ‘things to try in the classroom’ to ensure I’m applying some of the theory to practice.

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