Having read Back & Forth: Using An Editor’s Mindset To Improve Student Writing by Lee Heffernan, I was inspired to create a class publishing house in my own classroom. This is a recount of how I went about it.
We are now about half way through the academic year and the children are settling into the idea that they can of publish personal writing projects into the class library. Writing is being undertaken at home and is also making its way into the class library. Children are increasingly talking about writing and are writing collaboratively too. Confidence has been built and a sense of writer-identity has been established. The children are beginning to believe they are writers and that they have many things to say and share with each other.
Earlier in the year, we had a mini-lesson where we looked to discover what ‘literacy clubs’ make up our writing community. This is where we find out what sort of special interest groups make up our writing community. The children described what they were experts on, what they were excited by and the things that interested them most outside of school. We created a class poster and placed it proudly on our working wall. This, over time, helped build our writer identity as a class.
For a while, the children would use this as inspiration for writing projects. They would write to other excited members of their ‘special interest group’ but also write to inform other community members of their interests. However, this seemed to die off a little moving into the second term.
At the time of writing, I’ve been fortunate enough to accept a publishing deal and after reading Lee Heffernan’s book, I took the opportunity to explain the process I was now going through and the relationship I was having to build with the publishing house and my ‘editor’. What I’ve come to realise is that a compositional editor is a very critical friend. They look to push your ideas and your writing to its maximum potential. They support and champion you but they also tell you when things need untangling. A publishing house, I’ve also discovered, has a certain identity, a certain statement of intent and a certain reputation for producing certain types of books. I decided to talk about it a little with my class.
We discussed which publishing houses were publishing our favourite books in the class library and we discussed that, in many ways, I was the writing community’s editor, and as a writer-teacher, the children were often mine too! But we soon noticed that we didn’t have a publishing house? We publish into the class library but what does our library stand for? What sort of texts do we want to publish for eachother? Importantly, what sort of texts do we need to publish for eachother? What’s our mission? We discussed this and created our own mission statement for our newly forming publishing house…Now we needed a name and a logo. The children got together and came up with a variety of ideas. We took a vote and agreed on ‘Banger Books Publishing: Books With Wizz And A Bang!’ Alongside it was a logo which we felt everyone would be able to draw and add to their published pieces easily.
However, there was soon some disappointment within the class. Some of the children became attached to their particular vision for their publishing house and felt that maybe their idiosyncrasies weren’t visible in our whole class mission statement. So with that, as a community, we decided that we could also have smaller, independent houses and that these would need mission statements, brand names and logos too! It was also agreed that these independents would have to be unique enough to not encroach on Banger Books Publishing.
The result was the poster below showcasing the independents and what sorts of books they are looking to publish on their label. I’m now creating opportunities for the children to meet with the editors in question when they feel they have something to publish with them. They can meet and undertake a conference together and share any revision or editorial ideas they may have for the child’s manuscript before it goes to press. I’ll also be around to offer advice and an independent voice.
Here is our initial list of independent publishing houses which make up our community of writers at present:
Delightful Disabilities People with disabilities have great abilities We are looking to publish: stories, poems, faction, memoirs and lots of other things about disabilities.
Paw Publishing Bring animals to life We are looking to publish high-quality texts which: have strong animals characters, have a strong environmental message.
Writing Is Life Writing that keeps you alive We are looking for memoirs that entertain, are well written and include lots of people and loads of info.
Horrible Horrors Bone-cracking books that will scare you to death We publish high-quality books that: are well written, that are powerful, have a meaning, which are scary, are entertaining and surprising.
Fantastic Feminism Books for rebel boys and rebel girls We want our books to include: an amazing girl! Something that the girl does to save the day, to be thoughtful, to have a moral.
Amazing Action Books that explode We publish high-quality texts that are scary with lots of action and are well written.
Poetic Poems Painting with words We publish high quality books that: are well written, very artistic, entertain readers, not boring, poems about the things you like.
Super Sports Super sliding swooping books We publish high-quality books that: are well written, about sport, are funny and are adventurous.
4RY Book Review Sharing the book love We publish high-quality reviews which inspire you to pick up a book and read.
Well, what I think…Publishing Sharing opinion, argument and discussion texts We publish opinion pieces on the things you think about and care about the most. We like topics which will create argument and reflection.
In terms of the writing for pleasure principles, the practice of setting up class publishing houses promotes the following principles:
- Creating a community of writers – children are currently feeling empowered to create their own inclusive writing community.
- Every child a writer – all children can access the publishing houses and feel they have some to say and an identity within the classroom library.
- Reading, sharing and talking about writing – This is where I’ve seen the biggest changes. It’s been wonderful watching children gather around a text and discussing what its strengths are and what it might need before it can be published. Hearing children be both critical and supportive friends and children working together to help a child pursue their personal writing projects has been inspiring.
- Explicitly teach the writing processes – It has helped children better understand the the recursive nature of the writing processes and what manuscripts have to go through before they are published.
- Personal writing projects – It has given a high status and created high expectations for personal writing projects.
- Balancing composition with transcription – It has ensured that children attend to both the composition and the transcription of their pieces before publishing. Revision and editing is now taken very seriously.
- Pupil conferencing: meeting children where they are – This process has helped me as a writer-teacher understand my role as a compositional editor and editor-in-chief of Banger Books Publishing. The way I talk to the children about their projects has changed dramatically. Having the mission statement written up on display has helped hone in on exactly their pieces need in terms of revision. It will discuss and offer advice on endings, making the writing significant, development of characters in ways I simply wasn’t doing in the past. We are talking about the quality of their manuscripts on a much deeper level now.
This blog post is another of a series of posts based on our Writing For Pleasure manifesto.
The research used to inform our Writing For Pleasure manifesto revealed the significance of four themes within the teaching of writing and overall revealed fourteen key principles to teaching writing for pleasure. The themes include: building a community of writers, teaching children to be independent and self-regulating writers, being a writer-teacher and linking reading with writing. A pedagogy which promotes these four themes and the principles within them will provide an affective and effective environment in which children become successful and engaged writers.
Our Literacy For Pleasure website and the #WritingRocks community aims to build a vibrant movement of writing for pleasure teachers who can:
- Engage with research and review their WfP practice.
- Access practical materials to support WfP in their schools.
- Develop research-informed practice and share examples of good practice with the rest of the community.
- Participate in online monthly Twitter chats through our #WritingRocks account.
To join our ever growing, friendly and engaged community of writing for pleasure teachers, simply follow this blog by clicking ‘follow’ either on the right hand side or at the bottom of this article. You can also join us by following us on Twitter at @WritingRocks_17
If you have an example of good writing for pleasure practice which you think could be shared with the rest of the community, then please contact us here.