Thinking Routines for Writing:
Optimising the writing experience
within and beyond the English Language Classroom
Native-speaking English Teacher Section Curriculum Development Institute
Collaborative Research and Development (“Seed”) Project 2022/23
Flow of the "Seed" Project
This "Seed" project aims to support English language teachers in:
● becoming familiar with a range of thinking routines that can be used for different purposes;
● exploring how thinking routines can be applied to develop and refine students’ writing skills;
● building capacity to cultivate a classroom environment conducive to using thinking routines regularly and naturally to enhance students’
● designing units of work with writing activities structured by thinking routines; and
● tracking students' progress in the use of thinking routines and in the development of their writing ability using a variety
of formative assessment tools including portfolio.
How can thinking routines add value to
secondary students' writing?
Targets both students and teachers with a strong focus on
the development of thinking and writing skills
• Describe, express or explain ideas, feelings and experiences
• Create written and multimodal texts appropriate to context, purpose and audience
• Use strategies to arouse and sustain readers' interest
• Plan and organise ideas, and use appropriate cohesive devices
• Use a wide range of language patterns... for various purposes
• Use appropriate tone, style and register for various purposes
Examples of Writing Skills to be Developed at KS3 and KS4
• Plan and produce coherent and structured texts
• Present different views and arguments clearly and logically
• Present and elaborate main ideas and supporting details through exemplifications, explanations, etc
• Relate events and their causes and effects
• Use persuasive devices effectively
CDC English Language Education KLA Curriculum Guide (P1-S6) (2017), p.A46
Some Common features in Writing that we will address
● Perspective taking
● Supporting ideas
● Sustaining a logical
● Suitability of tone
Supporting ideas and sustaining a logical argument
● Initial stimulus
● Relevant examples
● Extension of ideas
● Connection to point
Suitability of tone
Exposure to a wider range of vocabulary and language structures
Reviewing structures in an authentic environment
Using group editing to
Visible thinking means visible results
2021 HKDSE English Language Paper 2 Candidates' Performance Report
The better answers addressed the question in a balanced way, utilising a wide range of grammatical structures, supported arguments with credible examples and provided a variety of vocabulary in the form of complex sentence structures and a variety of suitable vocabulary.
Notably these answers were always ‘compelling, thoughtful and
accurate in tone and grammar’.
(Using Thinking Routines)
Thinking Routines can be divided into categories to make
their implementation strategic in the classes. Some work in
a specific way to uncover ideas while others take a much more
detailed look at reasons, evidence and perspective.
Example Categories of thinking
- See think wonder
Synthesising and organising ideas - Generate sort connect elaborate
Digging deeper into ideas
- Peel the fruit
Perspective taking - Step in step out Giving feedback
- 321 feedback
Instructional cycle – Writing and
Identify where Ss are in their
learning and set an appropriate level of challenge
Show Ss the
connections between their thinking and their learning
Support Ss in creating a portfolio of work which documents their progress
Explore a variety
of ways to give
Here is an example of
what can happen in a
High density Living Guiding questions - What would it be like to
live here? What would you see around you?
Step 1 Introduce a link to the writing that you want to work on
Step 2 Explore
Step 3 Refine - Use an anchor text for further stimulus
Step 4 Evaluate, Document,
What is the purpose of the Portfolio?
● Digital or handwritten
● Should be a reflection of student work and show evidence of editing and process. Some of the entries should
address how the students arrived at their thinking and discovery
● Peer/self and teacher evaluation that is both formative and summative
● Drafting and editing
Sample Portfolio Entry Content
What do you notice?
People working, makeshift tools, mud on the ground, children going to school, corrugated iron housing, low exposed wires
What does it make you feel?
The people are in danger, a poor area. Cramped area, no running water, lots of disease, children have limited access to basic needs, limited potential for jobs/development, not a safe area to be growing up, crowded
What story might it tell?
The people living here do not have the basic needs of life. There are probably a lot of accidents occurring because of the dangers of low wires. Electricity is possibly very hit and miss and therefore the routines which occur after dark would be made treacherous.
When I look at this image I feel that the probability of … is high/low This image highlights the need for …
The living conditions here are…
Portfolio entry – checklist for writing process
Writing Skills Evidence Thinking skills Evidence (where did it come from?)
Range of ideas Ideas/claims are clear
● What is your claim?
How have you
supported your claim?
● Have you done this in different ways?
Sequencing of ideas List the major idea with development.
What persuasive language have you used to support your claim?