What is a WAGOLL?
WAGOLL is an acronym for What A Good One Looks Like. WAGOLLs are the model texts teachers use to teach children the skills of writing.
Teaching with WAGOLL
A good WAGOLL is the focal point of a literacy unit of work. It is used for reading, vocabulary, grammar learning and as an exemplar for children’s own writing. Teaching with WAGOLL is an approach that enables each child to write real texts.
Using different example texts
When we ask children to write real texts, we’re looking for so much more than a tick list of grammatical features. All real texts have a purpose, whether that be to inform, persuade, thrill or amuse.
Real texts are also written with a specific audience in mind. Using WAGOLLs that exemplify these different text types and varying audiences ensures that grammar and vocabulary teaching is authentically connected to real life writing.
Using different WAGOLLs to teach distinct aspects of writing ensures that literacy lessons are engaging for both teacher and child and that they are driven towards real writing.
Positive approaches to non-fiction texts
Non-fiction texts offer teachers a range of purposes for writing. While some such as recipes for making cakes and pizzas can be instantly connected to children’s own lives, others such as balanced discussions about environmental issues or explanation texts about scientific phenomena require vocabulary and sentences structures that do not come easily to children.
WAGOLLs written to exemplify the common features of these different non-fiction genres are invaluable for supporting students to write successful texts. They also help to ensure skill progression across the school, that children are writing a wide range of written forms within each broad text type, and that text types are targeted to teach specific aspects of grammar authentically.
Instruction text examples
Instructions are frequently used in every classroom from Year 1 to Year 6. They enable pupils to learn about command sentences, adverbials of time, bullet points, headings and subheadings all within a real-life written context.
Because they should be neither lengthy nor complicated, instructions are perfect for introducing the youngest children to non-fiction writing. However, ensuring that instructions in Year 1 look different to those in Year 3 can be difficult.
This is where good WAGOLLs can really help you out. These units from Real Writing – a whole-school writing programme from Plazoom – use model texts that exemplify features specific to their intended year group and so ensure that you achieve progression in writing across the school.
- Year 1 Model Text – How to make a rainstick
This unit has a teaching and learning focus on imperative verbs and sequencing with simple adverbials of time.
- Year 4 Model Text – How to build a Roman Road
This unit has a teaching and learning focus on expressing time, place and cause with conjunctions and adverbials.
- Year 5 Model Text – Compare the savoury recipes
This unit has a teaching and learning focus on levels of formality. It takes children’s familiarity with recipes and uses this to show how having a different audience in mind influences the vocabulary, grammar and punctuation choices of the author.
Recount text examples
Recounts enable children to practise using the past tense and to create chronologically organised texts. Commonly children write recounts that are accounts of trips, or retellings of events such a sports day.
As children gain experience in retelling events, we can enrich their recount writing through the use of biographies, diaries, letters and newspaper reports.
When we do this, children can retell events with different voices and with varying levels of formality and so begin to explore writing for different audiences.
Exploring the range of recount texts and considering which are best suited to children in KS1 and KS2 has the potential to unlock a whole-school approach to writing that is built on deep understanding of what each type of text offers and how it can build on children’s prior knowledge and understanding.
Persuasive text examples
Persuasive texts are great for exploring how to connect with your audience and children love creating adverts for chocolate bars and posters for school fairs. But there’s more to persuasive writing than exciting vocabulary and exclamation marks. Take a look at this extract from Real Writing – a Year 6 model text for a persuasive non-chronological report.
In the example, noun phrases are expanded to appeal to the reader through expansion both before and after the noun. When you have a great model text like this, you have the opportunity to teach key grammar such as expanded noun phrases in a context that is real and purposeful.
The range of non-fiction texts
Non-fiction texts present us with so many opportunities to take the grammar of the national curriculum and bring it to life through high-quality WAGOLLs. Knowing which grammatical features appear authentically in different genre can take a long time to learn although it’s well worth doing to get the most out of a text-led approach to writing.
To help your staff get to grips with this knowledge, use the database on the Real Writing section of the Plazoom website. Simply click on the national curriculum objective and it will show you which WAGOLLs include the objective you want to teach.
Narrative text examples
Narrative texts tell a story. These take a range of forms including traditional tales, stories with contemporary settings, fantasy stories and stories told in the first person to name but a few.
Narrative texts can also take different structural forms such as linear stories, which are little more than a series of connected events, to home-away-home stories where characters move between their familiar world into another dimension and then back again.
It is this huge range of storytelling forms that makes narrative writing so challenging to teach. Children need texts they can replicate and many of the well-loved stories we read to them are far too complex for them to reproduce.
This is why expertly crafted WAGOLLs written with the age and stage of the children in mind, are so important for ensuring that children become successful narrative writers.
If you’re interested in using simple text structures with children in KS1, these units from Real Writing may be of interest.
Descriptive text examples
It’s often said that it’s easiest to write about what you know. This is why writing that immerses children in the knowledge they’ve gained from their wider topic lessons works so well. Real Writing is grounded in the popular topics taught through the wider National Curriculum including the Shang Dynasty, the Great Fire of London and North and South America.
As with all other aspects of writing, there is a need for progression when teaching children to write descriptively so that we hit the right objectives at the right point. This is why description is built upon over time in Real Writing so that each WAGOLL is at the correct pitch for the year group.
Character description WAGOLL
Along with describing settings and action, children need to build descriptions of characters to bring their writing alive. Throughout the Real Writing WAGOLLs, you’ll find examples of well-rounded characters who children can use as models for their own characters.
This unit about the American folk hero Johnny Appleseed asks children to draw and annotate a picture of Johnny based on what they’ve read. It’s a perfect example of how instead of listing characteristics, real authors thread details about a character throughout a piece of descriptive text.