Published on: 6 June 2014

A whole school initiative is helping Preparatory boys improve the quality of their written work and develop their speaking and listening skills. Big Write and VCOP (Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation), a teaching approach developed by UK educator Ros Wilson, is an evidence-based writing program with proven success overseas.

Director of Studies Brad Hilliard said, following a trial by some staff, all staff completed training at the start of this term ahead of the program’s introduction in Pre-Primary to Year 6. “Over the years, writing has been an area which could be improved across the board. Big Write is a program that could really make an impact,” he said.

Wilson believes four features are key to improving writing in the primary age range including Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation (VCOP). VCOP games, as well as VCOP stealing or borrowing, are encouraged when students see elements of VCOP in their peers’ work that they like.

Mr Hilliard said another key part of the program was ‘talk homework’, an approach that promotes the development of extended conversations, in the lead up to Big Write sessions in the classroom. “The key is ‘If a child can’t say it, a child can’t write it'”, he said.

Creating a positive environment and the right mood for learning is also helpful. Pre-Primary to Year 2 Teaching and Learning Co-ordinator Holly Miller said using candlelight and Mozart helped her Pre-Primary class relax and enjoy the writing process.

Mrs Miller said after completing their talk homework with their family, the boys had to tell a friend at school about what they planned to write. “First, they first draw a picture to organise their thoughts and ideas. Then, they either label or narrate their drawings in sentences,” she said.

Mrs Miller said the boys had also loved learning about VCOP. “They especially love using ‘wow words’, being ‘punctuation detectives’ and playing ‘kung fu punctuation’!”