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Talk and writing

Perhaps ever since Britton’s oft-quoted assertion that reading and writing float on a sea of talk, there has been recognition of the importance of talk in the teaching of writing. However, this has tended to be more focused on talk about what to write, rather than on talk about how the text is written. Of course, it is really important to create space in the classroom for talk which helps students generate ideas and content for writing, and many teachers of writing routinely use a range of creative strategies to support the development of content for writing. But there has been much less attention to talk about the language of the written text, talk which supports the development of understanding about the many language choices and possibilities open every time we write a text.

This kind of understanding is metalinguistic understanding, which refers to moving from simply being a language user to looking at and reflecting on how language is used. The role of talk in fostering and deepening metalinguistic understanding about writing is critical. Creating opportunities in the writing classroom for students to explain and justify the language choices they have made in their own writing, to discuss and explore the language choices of others, and to reflect on their learning about shaping and crafting written text enables the development of metalinguistic understanding, strengthening their thinking about being a writer and authorial decision-making.

These resources may be helpful if you want to develop metalinguistic talk about writing in your classroom.