The Skeleton Model
'I originally devised the six skeleton frameworks as a way of making cross-curricular
links with literacy. But once teachers started using them, we discovered many
advantages - for instance, they help pupils structure their writing, they illustrate
different models of thought, and they provide a focus for paired or class talk.'
The six non-fiction text types
Recount - chronological retelling of events
Instructions - sequenced instructions
Non-chronological report - description of the characteristics of something
Explanation- sequential technical explanation
Persuasion - opinion or argument
Discussion - reasoned argument
A version of the article below by Sue Palmer first appeared in the December
2001 issue of Literacy Today (issue no. 29).
The idea is that the teacher selects a non-fiction writing objective from the
NLS Framework, then identifies subject matter in any curriculum area appropriate
to the particular text type. As part of their work on the topic, the class create
'skeleton' notes - a mixture of diagram and key words - which are brought to
the literacy hour to provide the content for their writing lesson.
For pupils reared in a multimedia age, skeletons are often more attractive than
traditional notes - building as they do on visual memory skills. The creation
and assessment of skeleton notes also provide many opportunities for highly
focused speaking and listening activities, which are an extremely useful precursor
to writing. And since skeletons alert children to the structures of thought
that underlie texts, this method of working may also help in the development
of generic thinking skills.
As well as helping make cross-curricular links, recording information on skeleton
frameworks has many other advantages:
- The skeleton often provides guidance on layout e.g. the categories on the
legs of a spidergram can usually be converted into subheadings in report text.
- Children can consider the best way to split their writing into paragraphs
before beginning to write, e.g. on a timeline they can mark paragraph breaks
with vertical lines (see diagram).
- With problems of organization and content sorted out in advance, children
are free to concentrate on the compositional and stylistic elements of their
- Many children who find writing difficult benefit from having a 'big picture'
plan of the overall piece, so they are very clear where they are going before
they start to write, and at every point in the process.
- Sometimes, when there isn't time to write, the skeleton itself can serve
as a record of what has been covered.
Sue Palmer's Skeleton models are available in Poster Book format from the TTS