Using Talk to Support Writing – by Ros Fisher, Debra Myhill, Susan Jones and Shirley Larkin

This book represents a new departure in education literature by its demonstration of a powerful partnership between theory and practice in early writing. It is an outcome of the ‘Talk to Text’ action research project centred on the University of Exeter and led by the co-authors. Its uniqueness rests not only in the effective collaboration between professional researchers and teachers, but also in the inspiring way that this collaboration is portrayed.

The opening chapters create a context by reviewing relevant research literature into early writing and describing how the ‘Talk to Text’ action research project was facilitated. Methods of data collection are explained and the reader is invited to consider the relative merits of videoed lessons, classroom observations, analysis of writing samples and pupil interviews when reflecting on their own practice. Interludes from the teachers involved are woven into the text, including a Head outlining the positive impact that this project had on her staff.

The research takes a fresh, focused look at what actually happens when children talk before, during and after writing and how talk can be used to develop specific writing skills. There are chapters on talk to generate ideas, the role of oral rehearsal, how to transform talk into writing and the value of metacognition in thinking about writing. Academic analysis is contextualised with lots of practical ideas and activities to use in the classroom, reflection interludes invite the reader to reflect on their own practice and pupils’ response is given respectful consideration.

Although the project researched early writing and the book is intended for Primary ITT students, there is a great deal here to provoke reflection in Primary practitioners at all levels of experience. Maybe its greatest hidden strength lies in the successful linking of theory and practice which results from effective HEI and practitioner collaboration. So I would also recommend it to be read as a model of best practice in research partnership.

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