Writing For Pleasure: Primary School Management Interview

Do happy writers make better writers? Lucy Starbuck Braidley talks to two primary educators who believe so, and sees what leaders can learn from their findings…

If you’re looking to refresh, optimise or even radically change the approach to writing pedagogy within your school, the Writing For Pleasure movement can give you an interesting new perspective to consider.

The overall approach aims for children to make progress in their writing, alongside developing a genuine love and sense of satisfaction from the activity of writing itself – thus setting them up to be lifelong writers, as well as learners.

It’s an evidence-based pedagogy that places the child as an autonomous writer at the centre of decision-making about their writing. It enables children to write independently through explicit teaching of authorial skills, and its leading proponents say it’s getting results.

Born from boredom

The Writing For Pleasure approach is starting to gain traction amongst teachers and increasingly being implemented at schools across the country. As a school leader, what do you need to know about the approach and what it might be able to do for your school?

The Writing For Pleasure pedagogy was originally devised by Ross Young and Phil Ferguson, who at the time were both working primary school teachers. With many years of classroom experience between them, both were feeling frustrated by their attempts at helping children who struggled with writing, having observed that the traditional approaches they’d been using were having limited impact.

“We were both working in a school together, and were both bored with our teaching of writing,” remembers Young. “We thought ‘This isn’t working,’ and were starting to question the established pedagogy.”

While reviewing relevant research, they came across a broader issue – the presence of a clear link between enjoyment and attainment in writing – as later described in the duo’s Writing for Pleasure Manifesto:

“A recent survey conducted by the National Literacy Trust makes clear that for many years there has been a decline or stagnation in UK children’s enjoyment, volition and motivation to write both in and out of school; with 49.3% of children showing largely indifference or dislike for writing. Importantly, The National Literacy Trust also states that ‘eight times as many children and young people who do not enjoy writing write below the expected level compared with those who enjoy writing’”.

As Young explains, “We realised that much of what we did in the classroom had no research to back it up at all … We’re teaching children to produce ‘writing products’ to fulfil assessment criteria. The children are never actually taught the craft of writing, they’re never taught to be writers.”

High expectations

So what does a ‘Writing For Pleasure school’ actually look like? The Writing For Pleasure Manifesto goes on to outline what such an approach to writing pedagogy should promote – namely self-efficacy, agency, volition, motivation, self-regulation, enjoyment, writer-identity and satisfaction in writing.

Schools are further called on to provide substantial daily time for writing. Class writing projects can be organised with the aim of bringing whole classes together in learning and discussing the characteristics of a particular genre, while allowing children to choose their own writing topics. At the same time, the children are separately encouraged to pursue personal projects, writing in a genre and for a purpose of their own choosing.

The manifesto sets out 14 interconnecting principles that make up the Writing For Pleasure pedagogy, and is intended to act as a guide for school leaders interested in implementing the approach within their school. Those principles include ensuring high expectations for all writers across the school, and the creation of a community of writers within which writing is shared, talked about and celebrated, including writing produced by school staff.

Time saver

Reading this, school leaders and teachers might be concerned that the current curriculum allows little time for putting in place these and other Writing For Pleasure initiatives. Young and Ferguson claim, however, that the approach can actually save time in the classroom by unblocking children’s creative flow and reducing the need for teachers to instruct them on what to write before starting an in-depth piece of work.

“It’s a very efficient pedagogy once you set it up,” says Young. “40 years worth of evidence is now pointing towards this approach, and it’s grounded in academic research showing that it improves writing outcomes. If you get the children to generate their own ideas – individually, in groups or as a class – that’s a lot quicker than building in additional lessons for transferring content to the children that they then reproduce it what we call a ‘writing product’.”

In Ross Young’s view, a good starting point for school leaders would be to use the manifesto document to conduct an audit of current practice across their school. Reflections drawn from the audit should then provide useful insights that can feed into school development plans and ongoing CPD.

Independent skills

For the Writing For Pleasure team, implementing the approach across a school can play a key role in harnessing and building on the independent writing skills that children initially develop in EYFS. “Interestingly enough, children in early years are allowed to write about what they want. That then seems to be largely taken away from them once they come into formal schooling,” Young adds. “We basically make writing a lot harder for them.”

School leaders might also want to consider the extent to which ‘reading for pleasure’ is promoted alongside writing in their school, and the ways in which both are interconnected. Do your staff view themselves as writers? Do they use their experience as writers to enrich their practice?

Moreover, are the children explicitly taught about the how writers use different sources of inspiration? Are they encouraged to record and save their ideas, and if so, are they given opportunities to use and further develop those ideas during personal writing time?

It’s certainly food for thought. Careful consideration of these key questions could well mark the first steps of a journey that will radically change the culture of writing within your school for the better.

Cross-curricular writing – A poisoned chalice?

Cross-curricular writing might be very much in vogue in current educational practice, but some have expressed concerns over its potential pitfalls.

As Ross Young puts it, “The problem is that it’s difficult to give equal and simultaneous attention to (a) providing pupils with unfamiliar topic content and (b) helping them develop their writers’ craft. “One could say that the trend towards cross-curricular writing is failing to serve the curriculum in both the foundation subjects and the practice of writing, because the learning intentions in these two contexts are diluted and weakened.”

Lucy Starbuck Braidley is a primary school teacher and subject leader for English and PE.

For the original article please visit: https://www.primaryleaders.com/attainment-and-assessment/teaching-practice/make-writing-enjoyable-for-better-pupil-outcomes

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GUEST BLOG: Am I A Teacher-Writer? By Sadie Phillips

This is a guest blog by Sadie Phillips. You can read more by visiting her blog here.

If reading is the key to learning, then writing is the lock.

Or rather, writing is the medium through which we unlock potential and empower children (and adults). We still depend on writing as the largest indicator of success and progress in learning. Therefore, it should have just as much emphasis as reading in school. For example, if we are Reading for Pleasure daily, should we not also be Writing for Pleasure daily too? If we are explicitly teaching children how to read, are we explicitly modelling the writing process to them too?

“Students can go a lifetime and never see another person write, much less show them how to write. Yet, it would be unheard of for an artist not to show her students how to use oils by painting on her own canvas, or for a ceramist not to demonstrate how to throw clay on a wheel and shape the material himself. Writing is a craft.”

(Graves, A Fresh Look at Writing, 1994)

Here, Donald Graves reflects on his own life as a writer-teacher:

 

Cremin and Myhill (Writing Voices: Creating Communities of Writers, 2012) state that the roles a writing-teacher needs to adopt are:

  • an engaged and reflective reader
  • an authentic demonstrator of writing
  • a scribe for class compositions
  • a fellow writer, alongside younger learners
  • a response partner
  • an editor, co-editor and adviser
  • a publisher of their own work and their students’ work
  • a writer in their everyday lives

As part of a year-long CPD project, Raising Attainment in Writing (CLPE), I took some time to reflect on myself as a teacher-writer. This can be a useful exercise for all teachers and could involve the following:

  • Have you viewed yourself as a writer at different stages throughout your life? At which points? Do you still consider yourself a writer now?
  • Are you a reader? In what ways has reading influenced your writing?
  • What kids of writing do you engage in and which do you enjoy? (diaries, notes, social media, reports, articles etc.) It’s also worth considering writing that you don’t enjoy!
  • How important were your own teachers in your learning to writer? What did you learn from them? What did they do that inspired you?
  • Have you ever worked with professional writers? What did you learn from them?
  • What are your routines for writing? How do you feel about it throughout the different parts of the writing process?
  • How would you describe your style of teaching writing? What are your guiding principles or values? Is it your specialism or do you lack confidence? Can you think of examples where you’ve encouraged children to make progress in writing?

My personal history of writing

There have been many stages of my life where I have considered myself to be a writer. At school, I loved writing poetry and fictional stories. I was lucky enough to have many inspirational teachers throughout my years at primary (Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Robertson-Ewart) and secondary school (Mrs. Matheison, Mr. Crump and Mrs. Ross) who inspired and engaged and indulged my passion for writing. I can still vividly remember many lessons and writing projects throughout my time at school: performing Greek scripts (with our own accompanying music), writing war-diaries on tea-stained paper, reciting Shakespeare and poetry by heart. I can recall a poetry lesson where we had to emulate the voice of a young child, I still remember the feeling of enormous pride when my teacher commented on my use of the word ‘tree-cher’ (it was supposed to be a mis-heard word by the small child, who thought they were called ‘tree-cher’ due to the fact they were as tall as a tree). The fact I can remember in such detail is astonishing. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a terrible memory! I wish I had a copy of that poem now. Their enthusiasm as teachers was infectious.

As a teenager, I’d pour over lyrics by Eminem and Jay-Z (in the days when lyrics were printed on the sleeves of CDs), I kept a diary and I wrote notes to friends daily. I actually used to write a funny poem inside each birthday card for friends, it became a bit of a ‘thing’ and they almost looked forward to the personalised poem more than the present! I think this idea originated from my mum, who writes poems sometimes too. Most recently, she scribed a poem inside a book she gave me at Christmas. I always enjoyed reading her poems so much. It obviously inspired me to pass that joy onto others!

I went on to pursue a career in communications and completed a masters degree in International Public Relations, where I honed my academic writing style (although not my preference!). I used to hand-write letters and postcards to family members throughout my years at university and have always loved receiving post.

Just a few years after graduating, I progressed to marketing manager at Rick Stein’s where I found myself writing press releases, news articles, features, leaflets, website copy, emails and newsletters. I also wrote in my own time as a food and drink blogger during this period of my life and often reviewed cookery courses, restaurants and recipes. I was eventually shortlisted for the Carol Trewin Young Writers’ Award.

As a teacher, I now write for work (lesson plans, twitter chats, modelling to children, writing with children, writing letters, cards and notes to children, emails…) and for pleasure (such as messages and emails to long distance friends, this blog!). I am constantly writing notes in numerous notebooks and more recently using my iPhone notes or my laptop to quickly get ideas down. I even keep a notebook in my bedside table for ‘middle-of-the-night’ thoughts.

I suppose I have always considered myself to be a writer and I’ve always taken pleasure in writing.

Personal Routines for Writing

I do see writing as a process, but the elements that are most important for me personally are the pre-writing stages. I need time to read, scribble threads of ideas and notes, time to think and play and rearrange and adjust, I need time to explore vocabulary and time  to plan. If I am faced with a blank piece of paper, with little input or inspiration to write, I can become easily frustrated and lack ideas. I need something to spark my imagination or provoke thought before I can put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

I also love the opportunity to publish and share my writing with others, if it’s a person or group I know well (I’m much more timid in front of strangers!). First drafts are always messy! The process can vary dependent on the genre. Poetry often seems to flow out of me much easier than anything else. I love the fact that there are no rules!

Here’s a poem I wrote for my class on National Writing Day earlier this year (based on The Staffroom by James Cole). This is the published version which I wrote for inclusion in our National Writing Day Poetry book, which is still sitting in our book corner:

POEM

Teaching Writing

I definitely think my own personal experiences of writing affect the way I teach. I am always looking for exciting ways to engage the children in writing and as a result I do tend to give more time to the pre-writing part of the process. I’ve realised that perhaps I don’t place enough importance on (or give enough time to) redrafting and editing. I hope that my enthusiasm rubs off on the children in the same way that my own teachers’ enthusiasm did!

I try to always explicitly teach the writing process to children in my class and to give them authentic purpose and audiences for their writing. We have published and celebrated their writing in numerous ways, from performances, to publishing books on Amazon or handmade books in our class library, to sending letters and publishing a school magazine. I believe that if children can see the point of the writing, the end goal, they are more likely to engage in (and be excited by) writing. Publishing written work also highlights the importance of revising and editing – something we are working on!

For more details on my personal philosophies and strategies for teaching literacy, you might like to read previous blogs on publishinggetting to grips with grammarspelling in a reading rich curriculum, inspiring writing with quality textswriting for pleasure (or free writing), engaging ways to teach or build vocab, as well as ways to use working walls to inspire writing and, most recently, widening our reading repertoires.

Points for personal development

Reflecting on my writing practice and personal history has made me think about choice. I think I need to start giving children more choice about what they write and how they write it. At the moment, I use this technique for some, but not all, units of work. I can see that children enjoy writing when it is something they have chosen to write, rather than something they’ve been instructed to write. I am going to look at revising plans and units of work to incorporate more choice for the children.

As a result of this reflection, I would also love to spend more time writing with the children(although this isn’t always feasible!) as I know this shows them that I value what they are doing. I also know that they love hearing and reading what I’ve written. It also allows me to personally experience each task as a writer (so I can see how difficult it might be) and verbalise the process for the children (e.g. “I’m really struggling to think of a way to describe X, how could I generate some ideas?”). It also allows them to see that it’s ok to make mistakes and it’s ok to have a messy first draft!

Further reading which may be useful:

50 Ways Children Can Improve Their Writing

I’ve been wanting to write a post like this for a while.

My understanding of pupil conferencing (the process of talking and giving advice to children whilst they are undertaking their writing) has got much better, sharper and focused since I first wrote about it here. The list below takes in the most common  and valuable advice I give to my apprentice writers. Some of the advice here comes too from Gary Provost’s book 100 Ways To Improve Your Writing.  Like any good writer-teacher, everything below is advice I try and enact for myself too.

Anyway – I’ll leave you to read. I hope you find some of it useful.

50 Ways Children Can Improve Their Writing

  1. Read. Read a lot and read all sorts of things.
  2. Set up a writing club.
  3. Ask your teacher to become a writer-teacher so they can teach you how writers really work.
  4. Think about what you’re writing as you go about your day.
  5. Have a particular time in the day where you’ll sit down and write something.
  6. Copy something. Find some writing that you like and copy it, change part of it or re-invent it completely.
  7. Keep a journal but only write in it when you feel the need to.
  8. Talk to people about what you’re writing. Share your writing with people. Ask them what it might need. Importantly, find the bit they think is most interesting and focus on that.
  9. Always dabble and dabble often. Dabble around with little notes, words, phrases, ideas, pictures, lists, plans, descriptions and thoughts before you begin a draft or a plan.
  10. Know who you are writing for. Who might you be giving the writing to?
  11. Only write on ideas or topics you’re interested in. If you’re not enjoying it, abandon it and maybe you’ll come back to it another time or maybe you won’t. Either way, it’s alright.
  12. Find your diamond moment. In your mountain of an idea, find that one special diamond moment – the most important reason for writing what you’re writing and focus on it. Treat it with care, think about it a lot and make it shine.
  13. Don’t start too far upstream. Don’t start your writing too far away from the roar of the waterfall. Your diamond moment is often your waterfall. Don’t mention unnecessary boring things. If you do, make sure you cut it from your final piece.
  14. Try out different openers before picking your favourite one. Story openers can include: question, description, action, shock/surprise or monologue.
  15. Steal. Always be on the look-out for little phrases, characters, ideas you’d like to use as part of your own writing.
  16. If you don’t know what to write next, talk to someone. Tell them what still needs to be said. Otherwise, it’s often because you want to move on in time or place. You can do this by starting a new paragraph or by using a time or place opener. Meanwhile, over the other side of town, or After a few full moons.
  17. Get up out of your seat and perform your writing – act it out. Do this while you’re writing but also perform your writing once it’s finished. 
  18. When describing a setting think about: the weather, time of day and the historical period. What could your setting be compared to? If your setting was a person, what would they be like and how would they behave? What is your character’s mood and feelings towards this setting?
  19. Stop your writing when you have nothing else left to say and don’t feel bad about it.
  20. Stop and listen to what you’ve written so far. Do this all the time! Make sure you read out loud too! Check for ‘sticky bits’. These are bits that don’t come out of your mouth too smoothly. Fix them.
  21. Write with a friend. Write as a team. Write with your writer-teacher. Write with someone at home.
  22. Try to write how you would talk to someone.
  23. Show, don’t tell. Sometimes cut out words like is, was, are and were as these are telling words and replace them by showing your readers what is happening instead. The boy is walking up the hill instead becomes the red-faced boy, heaving, complaining and puffing away, really struggles to get himself to the top of the hill.
  24. Remember, you are often painting a film in your reader’s mind. What do you want them to see on the screen? Use both wide views and close ups.
  25. Pretend you are a mind reader. Listen in to what your characters are thinking and share this with your readers. As the narrator, try not to get involved in the story.
  26. Provide proof by giving your reader tiny little details – little things that only you have noticed about your characters.
  27. The climax to a story should be there to prove something.
  28. Dabble a lot about your main character in a story. Answer some of these questions before you begin writing: What are you disguising your character as?

    What would you compare them to?

    Sight: What do they look like

    Smell: What might they smell like?

    Touch: What is their mood like and what would they feel like to touch?

    Sound: What do they sound like and what might they say?

    Action: What might they do and how they might do it?

    Taste: If your character had a taste, what would they taste like?

    What do they spend their time thinking about?

    What’s their reputation? What do other people think of them?

    How do they live their life?

  29. Write down a couple of potential endings to your story – you don’t have to keep to any of them but it’s good to have an idea of how it could end before you begin. Strong endings include a message, feeling, action, uncertain or happy ending.
  30. Use hyperbole, exaggerate or even bend the truth completely when writing memoirs or prose poems.
  31. Use imagism. This is where you can’t say what you think or feel – you can only describe it.
  32. Be playful and silly with words. Use puns, alliteration and repetition. Don’t count your owls before they are delivered… Don’t cry over spilt potion and Terrible teeth in his terrible jaws? He has knobble knees, and turned-out toes or It rapped. It grated. It snarled. It scarpered. It shrieked. It growled.
  33. Compare a person, place or thing to something else. The teacher was a witch and A sea of chaos or Dark clouds raced across it like wild horses.
  34. Pretend that a place or a thing can behave like a person. The cruel waves screamed and swallowed the boat and Trees are scratching at the sky or I heard a plane threading the clouds high above us.
  35. Write using a variety of senses. What do you notice, hear, taste, taste, touch, smell and think?
  36. Remember, the first draft of anything is usually pretty rubbish.
  37. Think about and sometimes replace your nouns for nouns that pack more meaning into a small space. People becomes strangers, light becomes glare and beach becomes the water’s edge.
  38. Modify only one or two slots in a sentence. [The pilot] [took off] [his helmet] becomes [The battle-weary pilot] [struggled to remove] [his helmet].
  39. Use strong verbs. Sharpen what you actually mean when you use a verb by being utterly precise. Broke becomes shattered, hug becomes clutched and pushed becomes jostled.
  40. Give a specific image of something rather than a general one. Picture a cat. Now picture a black cat. Now picture a black cat with shiny silver paws. You can see the cat more clearly as it becomes more specific.
  41. Spend most of your time focusing and writing about your characters.
  42. Share your opinion. Say what you think. Share how you feel. Talk about what you believe.
  43. Use and share anecdotes. Share stories from your own life. Use these in your poetry, stories and non-fiction writing.
  44. Don’t use words you don’t know the meaning of and don’t use so many big words that your reader has to dash for the dictionary every five minutes!
  45. If you are going to share your opinion or an anecdote in your non-fiction writing – do it at the beginning or at the end.
  46. Spend time thinking about your title. Don’t put the first thing that comes into your head. Use your favourite line or create a title with a sense of intrigue.
  47. Re-read and improve. Some writers will re-read and improve their writing over a 100 times. You should give it at least a day though before you start. Never revise a draft the same day you finished it. Re-reading and improving can mean cutting, adding or replacing words, phrases, paragraphs or even changing the whole thing!
  48. Proofread your work at least four times using the CUPS technique. 1st for Capitalisation, 2nd for Use of vocabulary, 3rd for Punctuation and finally correct your Spellings.
  49. Write for the pleasure it brings you and/or for the pleasure of sharing your writing with others.
  50. Finally, don’t always listen to these tips. Writing is an art, not a science.

Research Report: What Do Children Think Of A Writing For Pleasure Pedagogy?

This is a summary report of a mixed method action research project. The research looked to ascertain children’s opinions of being taught through a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy. This is then compared to a dominant or otherwise ‘typical’ writing pedagogy. Finally, the merits and limitations of both pedagogies are considered. The research findings are based on a combination of quantitative (questionnaire) and qualitative (interview) data collected from children aged ten to eleven.

Last year, year five pupils at a local authority school in Brighton, UK were taught through what is termed a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy. These children then returned to a ‘typical’ pedagogy in year six. The children were asked to consider their thoughts and opinions on both pedagogies discreetly before being asked what both pedagogies could learn from each other.

You can download our report summary here:

What Do Children Think Of A Writing For Pleasure Pedagogy

writing for pleasure report

How To Get The Most Out Of ‘Free-Writing Fridays’

Why do we have free-writing Fridays?

I think and worry about this a lot. I have no doubt that most of us will think children enjoy these days – at least at first. We will also think it’s a good thing for children to do. I worry, though, because I suspect that many of us will be disappointed in or misunderstand the ‘results’ we get from such days. I worry that many of us will be concerned about the perceived ‘quality’ of what our children produce. ‘Results’ won’t match expectations. I also worry that many of us will ultimately feel guilty because we haven’t put a structure in place for this particular activity, and will fear that free-writing Fridays will end up just being a waste of time.

However, we as teachers aren’t justified in feeling disappointment, because what we are asking the children to do is really very difficult for them. Consider this. From their earliest years, children have always wanted to ‘write’ and they happily mark-make and come up with ideas for their writing without any problem at all.

Image result for emergent writing

However, once these children enter formal schooling, this desire is largely extinguished and the opportunity taken away. Over the years, we have instead ‘told’ them the following:

  • (a) That they don’t have anything worth writing about and so we will choose it for them,
  • (b) Then, we tell them how to write it.

All of a sudden, on free -writing Fridays, we do just the opposite and ask children to generate ideas and (possibly) see some of these ideas through to publication without proper support and instruction on how to write for themselves. No wonder children struggle. Because of this, it may look like personal writing time is ineffectual or that the children are losing interest. But it’s not the children’s fault! Believe me, children want to write. And they do want to write their own things. They have simply forgotten or have never been shown how to write for themselves, on topics which interest them, and for their own purposes.

What we should conclude if personal writing time becomes a disappointment is that our writing teaching may well need changing. It needs to change so that we are teaching children how they can write successfully for themselves. What we shouldn’t do is blame the children for what we perceive as the failure of free-writing Fridays. Children need instruction and, most importantly, modelling about how authors generate ideas for writing. That’s usually the crux of why children struggle and it happens because, during class writing projects, generating ideas is the one writing process that is not routinely taught. Instead, we do it for them.

So how to help children get the most out of personal writing project time? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Generate ideas together for class writing projects. Stop supplying subjects for class writing projects. Instead, allow children to do this important work! For too long, children have been recipients of writing projects as opposed to participants. Change this. There are a number of ways in which you can have children generate ideas. You could use some of the techniques real authors use. We’ve made these available for free in our Writing-Study lesson pack. You could use one of these techniques as a whole class. You could gather around some flipchart paper and together brainstorm ideas until you find one you all like the sound of. Alternatively, you can ask the children to use the technique in groups or in pairs and share their good ideas with the whole class. Finally, you can ask the children to try out these techniques on their own – in their books. The crucial point is that you are teaching children real author techniques they can then go on to use for themselves during personal writing time.

2 Model idea generation techniques at the beginning of personal writing sessions.

There are numerous techniques in our Writing-Study pack that both fiction and non-fiction writers use to generate ideas so why not try some of these techniques for yourself and model for the children how they can use them too? You can do this as a short mini-lesson at the start of personal project time. Easy!

  1. Start using process goals during class writing projects.

What are process goals and how do you use them? A process goal is an aspect of the writing process. They are typically called: generating ideas, prewriting/dabbling/planning, drafting, revising/re-reading and improving, editing/proof-reading and publishing/performing. When planning or teaching a class writing project set a process goal you want the children to complete and give them a deadline which runs over a few days – not just one session! Once the children have completed the class’ process goal, they can spend the rest of their time pursuing their personal projects. This means they don’t just write for their own purposes one day a week anymore. We have written about process goals in more detail here.  

4.Set up class publishing houses

Writing is a highly social act. Sometimes we write only for ourselves but often we write because we want to be sociable. Writing is often about both process and product. It is about enjoying crafting some writing but it is also about the satisfaction that comes with seeing a piece of writing through to publication! This is no different for children.The prospect of seeing their words ‘get to work’ is highly motivating. Why not allow children to have an end goal of publishing their favourite writings into the class library? They can do this through one of the class’ publishing houses. We established this last year, and you can read about how to do it for yourself here.

  1. Let the children be sociable

Let children write together – let them talk together. Speaking and writing are so closely related. Talking to someone or working alongside someone on a piece of writing can be really helpful. Allow children to work with others and to share and mould their manuscripts with trusted friends. Let children ask one another for potential writing ideas and let them copy one another. Let them work in ‘clusters’ on a similar theme. Let them do their own versions of writing they have read. In this way you will be helping them sustain their enjoyment of the writing.

  1. Write amongst the children

What better way to show children how to use personal writing time productively than to share with them how you use it yourself? You should be writing yourself with regularity. You should seek the advice of your fellow apprentice writers and you should be contributing to the class library like everybody else in your community of writers. By doing this, you’ll experience the joys and struggles that they often have too. You can address these and make the writing environment even more productive. You will also learn valuable writing lessons along the way and you can share these with your fellow writers – you may even learn a thing or two from them. It’s important that you too are sociable during these times. Ask the children around you to check your manuscript and ask for their advice.

  1. Let personal writing projects go home

In a reading for pleasure pedagogy, if you let children read enough at school they want to carry on at home. They get an appetite for it and they get ‘on a roll’. The same can be said for personal writing projects. If motivated, allow children to continue working on their manuscripts at home. Let personal writing books go to and from home freely – just as their reading books do.  

Peter Elbow & Free-Writing

Finally, just a quick note on terminology. We like to use the phrase ‘personal writing projects’ instead of free-writing. We also quite like ‘free choice writing’. We use this phrase because ‘free-writing’ is actually an incredibly useful and popular writing technique used by some authors. It was popularised by the writer Peter Elbow and it’s a technique we teach the children in our class. The technique is about writing – without delay – without stopping – for around 10 to 15 minutes. You can write with or without a topic in mind. It’s seen as a kind pre-writing activity. Once your time is up, you can search through what you’ve written for any interesting themes that you might want to develop further.

***

If you liked this blog post, you may also like to read about our approach to writing we call Real-World Literacy.

If you would like to receive updates from our blog, you can click the follow button in the top right-hand-corner of the page. Alternatively, you can follow us on twitter at @lit4pleasure or join our writing for pleasure community @WritingRocks_17

 

Writing For Pleasure CPD Review

Hi dear Writing For Pleasure friends!

This is just a quick post to share the CPD review from our UKLA Writing For Pleasure conference. It was created by the wonderful writer-teacher Sadie Phillips. You can find Sadie on Twitter @SadiePhillips

Sadie also has a blog at: https://literacywithmissp.wordpress.com/

Click on the image below to download her review as a PDF

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The Diamond Moment: One Of The Most Precious Writing Lessons You Can Teach

The Diamond Moment: One Of The Most Precious Writing Lessons You Can Teach

This is how I write. I take a moment – an image, a memory, a phrase, an idea – and I hold it in my hands and declare it a treasure – Lucy Calkins.

This was one of the most profound and long-lasting writing lessons I taught last year. It was something both myself and the children in my class would return to and talk about time and time again. By the end of the year, children understood and could articulate themselves when I asked: What is the ‘diamond moment’ here?

At the beginning of the year, I noticed that many of the children, whilst great at coming up with universal topics for writing – were unable to zoom in on the quality of the topic. It was too ‘universal’. Too large. Too general. When I finally gave this lesson – a lesson on finding the moment – the briefest of moments in a topic that are most significant to write about – the children’s writing transformed. It became part of our class meta-language and I hope something the children will keep as a lesson for a lifetime.

We must look for the significance within the experience – the personal response to it – not a bland recalling of events past. – Loane (p.5)

It was in our class writing project on memoir that the lesson was first taught. It was an attempt to focus the children on the personal and poetic significance of the experience they wished to to retell. In many ways, children took what would otherwise be the most ordinary of events and made them sound and read as extraordinary. It worked beautifully. It was about adding more than a ‘recount of a past event’. Where was the significance – where was the poetry? Where were the details? Where was the storytelling?

What was realised by myself and the children was that actually – you don’t need to have been to Disneyland or a Caribbean island to have something memorable to write about.

We can all see the difference between students simply telling something that happened to them and actually revealing something of themselves in expressing what it means for them. – Loane (p.45)

To this day, this writing project was the best I’ve ever conducted. What surprised me though was how the concept of searching for that diamond moment could be translated to all other genres.

It is not uncommon for any of us to feel that we have nothing in our lives worth writing about, but through immersion in stories, real and imagined, we see and hear the multitude of universal experiences being recorded. – Loane (p.5)

The idea of a ‘diamond moment’ began to be used in the children’s story writing and non-fiction projects. Children were able to turn massive epic sagas into short, snappy and wholly entertaining flash-fictions. Their non-fiction texts all of a sudden had a new sharper focus – explaining and sharing personally significant things – things that they truly cared about – to their readers.

If you liked this blog post, you may also like to read about our approach to writing we call Real-World Literacy.

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References:

  • Atwell, N. (2014). In the Middle: Writing, reading, and learning with adolescents, (3rd Ed) Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Calkins, L. (1998) The art of teaching writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Loane, G., (2016) Developing Young Writers: I’ve got something to say London: Routledge
  • Rosen, M., (1998) Did I hear you write? London: Five Leaves Publication