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Could any teachers give tips on how to improve this piece of writing?

(38 Posts)
RueDeWakening Sun 12-Feb-17 14:47:14

DD is preparing for the 11+, she's 9 and in year 5. Today she's spent 30 minutes producing a piece of descriptive writing about visiting a deserted house, I've reproduced it below. The spelling and punctuation are hers, but I haven't included her self corrections eg the bits she wrote then crossed out.

Any pointers on how she could improve this gratefully received! Length, content, anything. Thanks.


As I steadily trudged up the long, winding lane with sand squelching under my shoes, I looked up and saw a towering building looming over me. Steadying my nerves, I strode up to the front door and pushed the rusty slab of metal open, then winced as the creak echoed round the empty room. I looked up and saw that all that was holding the building up were some rotten old timbers that looked as though they had been attacked by an army of wood-eating bees. I looked around and realised that there was a second floor.

Cauciously, I placed my foot on the top step. At least the stairs were safe. As I continued up the piled-up chunks of wood, I had the steadily growing suspicion that I was not alone...

When I got to the top step, I spotted an empty wardrobe with the doors swinging open; a towering bookcase I could swear were taller than the house; a moth bitten rug chucked carelessly on the floor; a spooky wind that was either a ghost or my imagination...and a bed. But it wasn't the bed that scared me. It was the person in the bed...

She was as warty as a toad, with a long pointed nose and a spired hat. And then I saw the broom-stick. And the jars of twinkling dust with labels like "Spell To Turn People Into Frogs." and "Spell to make you Purple." She was sitting on the bed talking to someone, I could see that now. She raised her nose in the air and sniffed.

"I smell someone. Whoever they are, they must run now or die."

I did the sensible thing. I ran. And as I ran, It finaly dawned on me. I had made the biggest mistake of my life by entering that house. You haven't worked out why yet?

I was enemys with a witch.

user1484226561 Sun 12-Feb-17 15:35:56

its alright, but the sentence structures come across as very forced, formulaic and unnatural. Has she been taught to write like that?

user1484226561 Sun 12-Feb-17 15:38:59

This bloody formula- writing is the bane of my life in secondary school, where we just want the children to communicate in writing, and they obscure everything they are trying to say with this stuff.

RueDeWakening Sun 12-Feb-17 15:59:02

Thanks. Can you say which bits seem formulaic, and how best to avoid them? I suspect it's how she's been taught to write at school, but I'm not sure tbh. I'm only a parent, not an educator grin

JoJoSM2 Sun 12-Feb-17 16:16:43

For the purposes of the exam this might work well as the examiner will be able to tick the right boxes.

user1484226561 Sun 12-Feb-17 16:23:06

depends on the exam, and the examiners. Do you have a mark scheme you could apply to it, OP?

TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Sun 12-Feb-17 16:25:48

user - which bits strike you as formulaic?

As a secondary English teacher, I would say that she is doing well to vary her sentence structures: some short, some longer and more developed, sometimes beginning with the dependent clause and sometimes not. It's a common criterion in the GCSE mark schemes to be able to do that. There is some very good descriptive detail initially.

She runs out of steam towards the end, where more mistakes creep in and it becomes less descriptive. The witch is a bit cliched as well grin She rather undercuts all the tension built up thus far!

Tbh, if some of my Yr 9s could write like that, I'd be happy (sigh).

Newtssuitcase Sun 12-Feb-17 16:29:57

Blimey, its far better than my DS2 can produce in Year 5.

ClashCityRocker Sun 12-Feb-17 16:42:35

She writes well, op.

I think she maybe needs to refer back to earlier descriptions for sense - eg the house was towering above her, but after entering she realised there was a second floor? Her initial description makes it seem clear there would be a second floor so no need to 'realise'.

In a couple of places, theres also a sense that she's not quite hitting what she wants to convey - such as the squelching sand (was she thinking more of mud?) and the piled up chunks of wood for the stairs is a little clunky.

MistyMeena Sun 12-Feb-17 16:44:30

Whereabouts are you, OP? Some areas include writing just for moderation in case of appeal, in other areas it's part of the test itself. Also make sure she is practising different genres. In our area kids were asked to write a diary entry one year as opposed to a story.

I would say if it's for exam purposes it's ticking plenty of boxes at the moment. Evidence of understanding speech punctuation is good so a bit of dialogue would be useful.

ClashCityRocker Sun 12-Feb-17 16:48:09

Sorry, op didn't see you'd asked for teachers! I'm not a teacher blush

outabout Sun 12-Feb-17 16:52:18

Sorry to be a bit picky but she puts her foot on the top step then continues up although saying this she refers to piled up chunks of wood.

RueDeWakening Sun 12-Feb-17 16:55:19

Any and all feedback is good grin

We're going for the Sutton grammars, which does include a creative writing piece as part of the exam, it won't just be for moderation.

She's sitting a Sutton mock that includes the writing, but it's not until June and we could do with ideas of what to work on before that!

Thanks for the tips so far.

user1484226561 Sun 12-Feb-17 16:55:32

To be honest, its ok. it really is ok. There is little point in pulling it to pieces and saying she should have said this, or that, or changed this. If she tries to take criticism like that on board she is just going to come across as even more convoluted and unnatural.

I would just suggest she needs to read more, preferably allowed, or listen to story tapes.

OSETmum Sun 12-Feb-17 17:03:57

She will have been taught to write in this way, it's what's required in the new National Curriculum. It's a ckaaaic example actually. It is good though but has a bit of a rubbish ending! Why was she enemies with the witch now?

Girlsinthegarden Sun 12-Feb-17 17:04:34

It is formulaic and she has been taught to write like this. I've been forced to teach it and now want to sob that my own DCs' writing sounds like every other child's.

Yours DD is a good writer and I'd focus on having a strong ending to a story. Lots of children just can't achieve that and think the job is finished because they've ticked lots of boxes for sentence structure and description.

user1484226561 Sun 12-Feb-17 17:06:04

It is formulaic and she has been taught to write like this. I've been forced to teach it and now want to sob that my own DCs' writing sounds like every other child's.



user1484226561 Sun 12-Feb-17 17:06:47

we spend a lot of time in secondary trying to "unteach" this, but that isn't what the OPs DD needs to do right now, she can do that later.

goingmadinthecountry Sun 12-Feb-17 17:40:22

I think last year's KS2 SATS writing moderation was the singular most depressing day of my whole working life.

cotdotton Sun 12-Feb-17 20:06:03

I think it's bloody amazing for a 9 year old! I reckon a lot of adults wouldn't be able to write like that.

Disclaimer - I'm not a teacher and my child is only 5 so have no idea what the standards are for that age or if it's formulaic!

Impressed me though.

Natalieevans79 Sun 12-Feb-17 21:48:15

Very good for a 9 year old! Secondary Eng teacher here. I would suggest, in order to make it sound more 'mature', that she avoids dislogue and any story like elements, e.g spells, witches, etc, in a descriptive piece. The close zoom-in description is where she is most effective. Keep it simpler, advise your dd to describe the physical surroundings only in as much detail as poss , as she did st the start. Plenty of my secondary students cannot write that well!

Astro55 Sun 12-Feb-17 22:00:42

SHe repeats at lot


There was build up but no real ending to the story

You can tick boxes

Short sentence
But it doesn't flow

mrz Mon 13-Feb-17 06:58:20

I agree the ending appears rushed in comparison the the build up. Was it a timed piece?

Trifleorbust Mon 13-Feb-17 07:45:13

I think the ending needs work - seems like a cop out and the language becomes rather cliched, particularly the use of direct address, which doesn't work with the atmosphere of the piece.

Some redundant description - stairs don't need to be described as 'piled up chunks of wood'!

The witch presents no real threat and her dialogue is very clunky. This is very common with younger writers as they don't build development opportunities into the story by thinking about motivation and background: why is the main character there? What is the witch doing there? Is there an opportunity for conflict, for example, could she be a thief trying to rob the house but come across the witch? Otherwise it is just a slightly pointless encounter with a less-than-terrifying witch!

Lovely writing overall! She is obviously very bright.

Trifleorbust Mon 13-Feb-17 07:50:41

Oh and tell her to avoid the use of semi-colons in lists - she isn't a civil servant! Drives me crazy as a secondary teacher!

Semi-colons should link closely related ideas in a descriptive piece and really should be used quite sparingly. Read Tolkien to see it done more frequently and well. Commas would be better for the purpose of her sentences here.

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