Give them a reason and they'll write

As a Year 6 teacher I took a decision to teach writing almost exclusively through purpose. To test its effectiveness I started the year with a 'traditional' writing task (an account of the children's summer holidays), with disappointing results. The next day I started the lesson by asking if anyone had any advice for a boy I knew who was in trouble at another school. They all wanted to give their suggestions so I asked whether anyone would like to write him a letter. Everyone wanted to!

The letters were fantastic; the effect on handwriting, vocabulary, and punctuation was striking. The children's writing had risen immediately by two to three ‘sub-levels’ without any other intervention.

The learning is more purposeful for the children, and for me!
— Year 6 teacher

As Writing Leader I showed 'before and after' examples from these two exercises to my colleagues. They were struck by the contrast. Writing for purpose, we agreed, was critical for optimal performance. This is one of many simple, proven techniques for delivering better results, and yet something seems to stop teachers applying it to its full potential. I found that it was possible to unblock this for teachers in a busy mainstream primary school and quickly impact on standards.