Writing Checklists

Child-speak success criteria to scaffold your students in Writing lessons

Here you can find some child-speak checklists for different genres of writing. These are one of my favourite tools for empowering students in their writing. A checklist makes it clear to your students what you are looking for and, if you have introduced the writing skills clearly, means that students can take responsibility for improving their own writing without you.

Feel free to adapt them to suit your students’ ability and the way your school prefers to word success criteria (what students should be able to demonstrate by the end of the lesson). These are all written with the sentence starter “I can…”.

You can print out a small checklist of success criteria for your students to stick into their Writing books. Students can tick off the features that they have included before peer or teacher assessment against the same success criteria.

I recommend giving your students a condensed checklist if they are not already familiar with that genre of writing. In particular, be sure not to overwhelm your struggling students with too many ‘things to do’ at once. You can use the checklists to give you ideas on different features of the writing genre to focus on in each lesson.

Formal Letter Writing Checklist

I can…

  • include my own address in the top right corner

  • include the address of the recipient in the top left

  • write today’s date

  • start with the greeting ‘Dear Sir/Madam or Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss (surname)’

  • introduce myself and state the purpose of the letter

  • use a formal tone

  • start a new paragraph for each new idea

  • conclude the letter by stating what you want to happen next

  • finish with ‘Yours sincerely’ or ‘Yours faithfully’

  • sign off with my name and/or signature

Instructional Writing Checklist

I can…

  • use a title that starts with ‘How to...’

  • use an opening sentence that encourages the reader to have a go

  • list the equipment or ingredients needed

  • number each step

  • start each step on a new line

  • start each step with a bossy verb (imperative)

  • include a diagram or illustration

  • finish with a closing statement which shows or describes what the reader has achieved

Persuasive Writing Checklist

I can…

  • use a title ‘Should/How/Why...’

  • write an introduction which states your opinion

  • use a rhetorical question to make the reader think

  • give three reasons for your opinion

  • use convincing words ‘must/should/need to’

  • back up each reason with an explanation and example

  • write a conclusion which restates your opinion

Recount Writing Checklist (personal)

I can…

  • start with a hook to grab the reader’s attention

  • write in first person perspective ‘I’

  • write in past tense ‘saw/heard/felt’

  • select the most interesting events

  • use time connectives ‘First/Next/After that’

  • write in chronological order

  • use adjectives, verbs and adverbs to add interest

  • use imagery (similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, personification)

  • use the senses (touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight)

  • include personal thoughts

  • sum up the events and say why they were significant

Recount Writing Checklist (factual)

I can…

  • start with a hook to grab the reader’s attention

  • write in third person perspective

  • write in past tense

  • use the passive voice

  • name important people who were involved

  • include details of who/what/when/where/how/why

  • select the most interesting events

  • include quotes of what people said

  • use time connectives ‘First/Next/After that’

  • sum up the events and say why they were significant

Recount Writing Checklist (imaginary)

I can…

  • start with a hook to grab the reader’s attention

  • write in first person from the perspective of a character

  • write in past tense ‘saw/heard/felt’

  • use time connectives ‘First/Next/After that’

  • write in chronological order

  • use adjectives, verbs and adverbs to add interest

  • use imagery (similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, personification)

  • use the senses (touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight)

  • include personal thoughts of the character

  • sum up the events and say why they were significant

Non-Chronological Report Checklist

I can…

  • use a title which states what the report is about

  • introduce the topic

  • organise information into categories

  • use headings at the start of each section

  • use subheadings to add further information within a section

  • start each paragraph with a topic sentence

  • write in present tense (unless historical)

  • include facts

  • use technical/scientific language

  • use bullet points/fact boxes/tables/pictures/diagrams to display information

  • connect related facts using conjunctions

  • include a glossary of key terms

Explanation Writing Checklist

I can…

  • use a title starting with ‘How/Why…’

  • introduce the process

  • use time connectives ‘First/Next/After that’

  • order my ideas in a logical sequence

  • explain each stage of the process

  • explain how one thing leads to another (cause and effect)

  • write in the present tense

  • use the passive voice

  • use diagrams to display information

  • link conclusion back to the introduction

Narrative Writing Checklist

I can…

  • use a title

  • start with a hook to grab the reader’s attention

  • describe the setting/s

  • introduce the main character/s

  • introduce a problem that needs to be solved

  • use adjectives, verbs and adverbs to add interest

  • use imagery (similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, personification)

  • describe a series of events

  • build up tension, leading to a climax

  • show character growth

  • resolve the problem

  • end with a moral or lesson learnt

Note: Many of these can be broken down further e.g. for setting - name of location, time, place, weather, what can be seen/heard/felt and so on.

Descriptive Writing Checklist

I can…

  • use adjectives to describe the person/animal/place/object

  • use precise nouns

  • use powerful verbs

  • use imagery (similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, personification) to create a picture in the reader's mind

  • use the senses (touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight)

  • create an atmosphere

  • show not tell

Autobiography Writing Checklist

I can…

  • start with an introduction which hooks the reader

  • write in first person perspective

  • write in chronological order

  • write in past tense (apart from last section)

  • include key dates

  • include key life events

  • include achievements

  • include future aspirations in present/future tense

Biography Writing Checklist

I can…

  • start with an opening that hooks the reader

  • summarise the main events of the person’s life in the introduction

  • write in past tense (apart from last section)

  • write in third person perspective

  • use the passive voice

  • include key dates

  • include key life events

  • include achievements

  • includes quotes from or about the person

  • include what the person is doing now (if applicable)

In the future, I’ll develop this further by splitting it into year levels and linking to further information on teaching each genre.

What else would you find helpful for teaching Writing? Flick me an email @ kath@attheminute.com and I’ll get onto making it!

Happy teaching and learning!

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