Uplevelling Point System - Making Children Reflective Writers

After stumbling across the brilliant @deputymitchell's Punctuation points, I felt obliged to share a similar approach I have used with my classes for the past couple of years.

After a year or so of using Big Writing, I started to think about the whole writing process. It was advised that the next Big Writing session children should be given time to read back on their work, look at the comments and as a class decide on some “goal scorers.” This is a good way of revising but I felt it wasn't enough, also if it was a whole week or two later, the activity is long forgotten by the children. I am sure if you ask any author they will always say that the revising and editing part of writing is possibly the most important. But how can we teach this and instill a reflective approach in children? Timed writing sessions don’t provide this quality time to reflect on your writing. It led me to make a resource which I have found invaluable ever since.

I introduced the Uplevelling point system probably around 3 years ago. I have found it to be a clear and straightforward way to help children visualise and see the importance and need to check and edit their writing. Basically, it is a checklist of the following aspects - Big writing focuses on four main aspects of V-vocabulary, C – connectives, O – openers and P – punctuation. Along with this, I also have a Sentence of the Week, inspired by the great AlanPeat’s Writing Exciting sentences book. Each week we would focus on a different sentence of the week, usually it was picked depending on the text type. A ‘Noun, who/which/where,’ was a great one when focusing on Newspapers, Imagine 3 examples: was great for looking at story openers. After every new sentence of the week, it is added to the checklist.

Here is the checklist: 

I would edit the checklist to include exciting sentences that may fit that text type, rather than have all of them. You want to make sure children are not trying to force sentence types in, it is making sure they are choosing them for effect in their writing.

I wouldn't give the children the checklist as they did their initial writing lesson. If they finish I asked them to get a red pen and identify the VCOP and S for sentences of the week. This helped me see whether the children can actually identify what each aspect was.

After the lesson, came the part of this approach which was the most difficult. I made sure that I marked all the children’s work for the next day or at the latest the day after, I never left it longer than two days. This meant that the work was still fresh in the children’s minds.

The next lesson worked like this:

5 mins - Children are given their work back with my marking and comments. They then swap with their partners, read their work, magpie any words or phrases and leave their own comment using the two/three stars and a wish approach (3 stars – good aspects to the work, 1 wish – something that could be improved on.)

10 mins – Children are then given the uplevelling points sheet and with their partner, go through and count up their points. They discuss decisions with their partners, justify their reasons and total their scores which has to be verified by their partner. This sparks some really good discussions where children are having to talk using key vocabulary. When discussing the use of exciting sentences, the children really need to consider whether the sentence has been used correctly for effect, serving its purporse and not used for the sake of it. 
I then collect the children’s points.

10 mins – I, the teacher, then ask the children if I can use one of their examples. I put it under the visualiser and model how to edit and improve. I look at a sentence and decide whether I am happy with it or if I could change it to make it better. I look at the original sentence and see how many points it would get. I then improve it and recalculate the points this gives the children a clear visual image of how by using these techniques it improves their writing.

Here is an example-
Original Sentence:
The crowd of New York watch in giddiness at their famous superhero beating the bones or Metiorisa.
This sentence would get 6 points at a push – Capital letters, full stops and a couple of wow words.
Improved sentence:
Excited, astounded, stunned, the crowd of New York watch in awe at their famous Superhero punching, kicking and bending the bones of the dreaded Metiorisa.”
This sentence would get 15 points – 3 points for a 3_ed, 3 for each wow word in the 3_ed, 3 for the correct use of punctuation, 1 for in awe, 4 for punching, kicking and bending including the punctuation and 1 or 2 for the wow word dreaded.

Children can clearly see by the value of points how much their writing has improved. They see the impact carefully considering their work can be and are eager to have a go themselves. 

20mins – For the next part of the lesson, children have a go at improving some of their sentences. I do not ask them to change everything, I ask them to leave a sentence they are happy with or have scored a lot of points on and change sentences that they feel need more work. It makes the children more independent and has them reflecting on their work carefully. Children have access to dictionaries and thesauruses to help them select more interesting words.
For higher ability children who may find it difficult to change much of their work, I set other challenges such as lipograms – change sentences so that it doesn’t contain the letter “o” for example, or hendecasyllabic – every sentence must be 11 syllables.

Plenary – for the last part of the lesson I ask the children to look at their new sentences and total up their points, who has made the biggest increase?
I had special rewards which I gave to children for their initial writing, I did not reward the children who had the most points. I compared the points to their last piece of work and worked out who made the biggest improvement. This means that it isn't the same high achievers winning the prize, they are competing against themselves. I then also reward children who have made the biggest improvement in the editing lesson.

The children love these lessons, they love the competitive aspect of the point scoring and I purposefully use this to try and engage boys. I sit the children next to others I feel will get a positive reaction with. Sit a Manchester United fan next to a city fan and challenge them to get the most points for their team. The deputy and Literacy co-ordinator observed one of my lessons using the checklist and thought it was outstanding, she was impressed with how self reflective and conscious it made the children and the impact it had on their writing.
After a few months of using this approach, the children were finding it harder and harder to pick sentences to improve. They were becoming more conscious in their initial writing and therefore accumulating lots of points – it does work. Don’t believe me – try it yourself. 

Some examples of children's work and how it has been improved:

Original piece                                                    After reflection lesson

Original piece                                               After reflection lesson


  1. Going to try this with mine, thanks!

  2. Hi,

    This looks amazing!!!! Exactly what i'm looking for! Can you give me some translations / examples from your sheet please?!These are the ones i'm not sure about -
    The more, the more
    Double -ly ending
    Ad, some ad
    Outside (inside)


  3. These are all from a book "Writing exciting sentences," by Alan Peat - Link here - http://www.thecepress.com/shop/index.php?route=product/product&path=60&product_id=59


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How Pixar can help develop writing!

Get Seesaw Plus for FREE!

Teaching Direct Speech Punctuation using the iPhone text messaging!