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Writing at primary school

Learning to write is one of the most important things that a child at primary school will learn. Children use their writing in almost all other subjects of the curriculum. Good writing also gives children a voice to share their ideas with the world.

For a child, learning to write can be a tricky business, not least because good writing involves handwriting, spelling, grammar and punctuation not to mention what we want to write and who we are writing for.

Writing in the National Curriculum in England

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

In Reception, children will start to learn how to form letters correctly. They will be encouraged to use their knowledge of phonics to write words in ways which match their spoken sounds. By the end of the year, they will be expected to write simple sentences which can be read by themselves and others.

Key Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2)

In Year 1, children will be taught to write sentences by saying out loud what they are going to write about, put several sentences together and re-read their writing to check it makes sense. They will also be expected to discuss what they have written and to read it aloud.

In Year 2, children learn to write for a range of purposes, including stories, information texts and poetry. Children are encouraged to plan what they are going to write and to read through their writing to make corrections and improvements.

Key stage 2 (Years 3 to 6)

In Years 3 and 4, children are encouraged to draft and write by talking about their writing. They will continue to learn how to organise paragraphs and, if they are writing non-fiction, to use headings. When they are writing stories, they will learn to use settings, characters and plots. Children in Years 3 and 4 will be expected to use what they know about grammar in their writing and to read through what they have written, to find ways to improve it.

In Years 5 and 6, children will continue to develop their skills in planning, drafting and reviewing what they have written. Children learn to identify the audience for and purpose of their writing. They will be expected to use grammar appropriately. In non-fiction writing, children will use headings, bullet points and other ways to organise their writing. They will be expected to describe settings, characters and to use dialogue in their stories.

Learning to write in primary schools in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

  • For information about writing and the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland see the experiences and outcomes for literacy and English on the Education Scotland website.
  • Details about writing in the national curriculum for Wales can be found on the Learning Wales website.
  • For information about writing in the Northern Ireland curriculum, see the Language and Literacy area of learning. Visit CCEA for more details.

How can I support my child’s writing?

1. Reading with your child

No matter their age, reading regularly to your child, often books that they can’t yet read independently, is a great way of supporting their writing. Listening to books being read aloud introduces them to different ideas that they can borrow and adapt for their own writing, as well as hearing different ways of using language that are often from the types of sentences that we use when we speak.

Try to make sure your child gets to hear a range of different types of books, including fiction and non-fiction. This is useful for their writing, as it allows them to encounter a wide variety of different types of language and different purposes for writing.

2. Giving your child opportunities to write

Writing for a real-life purpose can be a great way of practising writing. Writing cards, shopping lists, or letters and emails to relatives can all be motivating real life reasons for writing. Children might also keep a diary or be encouraged to write short stories based on books they have read or toys they enjoy playing with.

Older children could produce their own version of a book for a younger child – The Rhino Who Came to Tea or The Very Hungry Angler Fish, for example. Books with a distinctive format such as The Day the Crayons Quit or The Last Polar Bears are perfect for this. Another idea is for children to write the book of the film (or TV programme). If children have watched something they’ve really enjoyed, they could try and tell the same story in writing.

While writing using a pen and pencil is useful practice, writing on the computer counts too. You might want to turn the spelling and grammar check off to help children to learn to use their own knowledge. The grammar check can be wrong too, so this can be confusing for children.

For tips on encouraging your child in creative writing, take a look at our creative writing page.

3. Helping your child with spelling

While there’s obviously much more to good writing than correct spelling, if children are worrying about spelling a particular word or having to stop frequently to think about spelling it can prevent them from concentrating on the other aspects of writing, including communicating their ideas. For specific ideas and support with spelling, see our help with spelling page.

4. Helping your child with grammar and punctuation

The curriculum in England puts a lot of emphasis on children learning to use grammar and punctuation. For ideas and support with grammar and punctuation, see our grammar at primary school page.

5. Helping your child with handwriting

Different children develop control over their handwriting at different points, and there is certainly a lot more to be a good writer than having neat handwriting. That said, learning to form letters correctly at the start of school can very useful for later on as it is much harder to unlearn habits once they have been formed. Fluent, neat handwriting is useful to ensure that a reader can understand what a child is trying to communicate in their writing, as well as helping a child to feel confident about their writing.


Video: Make handwriting fun




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