Talk for writing

​Recent research (Myhill, Jones and Wilson, 2016; Love and Sandiford, 2016) highlights how the inclusion of dialogic conversations about writing facilitates students’ understandings.

Extended conversations about students’ writing help to develop an understanding of the language choices including vocabulary, grammatical structures, text choices and presentation, and the effect that these choices have within a text.

Fisher, Jones and Myhill’s (2010) extensive research in classrooms presents three discrete phases, when dialogic talk benefits thinking and writing:

  • During the generation of ideas – What shall I write?
  • During the oral rehearsal – How shall I write?
  • When being metacognitive – How do I write? (talking about the process of writing)

Oral rehearsal is particularly useful when highlighting the difference between spoken and written language. Rehearsing sentence structures and vocabulary in the oral domain can be used to help shape written sentences. Oral rehearsal also gives students the opportunity to justify their own thinking (Alexander, 2008).

When using the teaching and learning cycle for writing, it is useful to plan the talk interactions that will occur at each stage. Rehearsing orally is particularly useful for joint construction.

Talking about the process of writing, that is, using metacognitive strategies has been shown to benefits students’ writing composition (Fisher, Jones and Myhill, 2010). In addition, research has demonstrated that students who monitor their thinking during a task are more motivated and self-reliant (Alexander, 2008).

Useful questions to encourage metacognition in writing include:

  • From where did I get my ideas?
  • What parts of the writing did I find challenging?
  • What helped me move on?
  • How did I feel when I was writing?
  • What did I learn from this piece of writing?
  • What could I have done differently?


Alexander, R. 2008. Towards Dialogic Teaching: Rethinking Classroom Talk. 4th ed. York: Dialogos.

Fisher, R., Jones, S. J. and Myhill, D. (2010). Using talk to support writing. London: Sage Publications.

Love, K. and Sandiford, C. (2016). Teachers’ and students’ meta-reflections on writing choices: An Australian case study. International Journal of Educational Research, 80, 204 -216.

Myhill, D., Jones, S. and Wilson, A. (2016). Writing conversations: fostering metalinguistic discussion about writing. Research Papers in Education, 31(1), 23-44.