This extends comprehension, builds vocabulary, develops critical thinking skills, and develops the ability to construct sentences, paragraphs, essays and other writing formats.

The writing assignments teach students how to structure a piece of writing: the role of an introduction, how to use a sequence of paragraphs, and write a conclusion. They include how to summarise, how to persuade, to write a letter, and more. Vocabulary development is heavily emphasised.

These assignments have been conceived as small group activities, with perhaps three or four students of mixed ability. Students bring different thoughts to the table that can be considered by the group. Generally, each student is inspired to think more deeply, to consider more options. The more capable students support others. Any sense of incompetence and failure is dissipated. They learn from each other. There are multiple evidence-backed reasons to make this a peer group activity.

There are reasons too why this activity is based on decodable books. All the information the students need is in one place, and they are short and easy to read. Making the text available to a whole class is straightforward, and decodability means a limited word list, and thus ample scope for vocabulary development.

Take time over each assignment. A group taking two or three lessons to produce a very well-crafted page of writing is infinitely more valuable than an individual writing a rambling unstructured piece. Students should use the online thesaurus www.thesaurus.com to choose appropriate words. The online version will give alternatives, examples of target words used in a sentence. It has space for so much more than the print version. This is an outstanding tool for developing vocabulary.

Handwriting matters. Research tells us that it builds connections in the brain that typing does not. Students can either use the online template for planning, and then handwrite a final copy, or handwrite the drafts, and type the final copy into the online template. I strongly recommend that some handwriting is included.