GUEST BLOG: There is little success where there is little laughter. Writing jokes by Bee Hendry

‘What do you call a boomerang that just won’t come back? A stick!’

I grinned around the room. I heard a low rumble of faint mirth from my bemused teaching assistants. Blank looks from everyone else in my Year 1/2 class.

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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?

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Planning Purposeful & Authentic Writing Projects

WRplann

#WritingRocks  chat by  @thewritingweb

Have you heard of #WritingRocks, a truly welcoming special interest group open to anyone involved in any aspect of teaching writing in the Primary phase?  It is aligned to the Literacy for Pleasure blog, which explores how theoretical ideas and research might inform practical ways by which to potentially improve children’s motivation and outcomes in literacy. I love their Real-World Literacy approach to teaching writing, underpinned by the 14 interconnected principles of their Writing for Pleasure Manifesto.

Each of their regular #WritingRocks Twitter chats is focused on one of these principles.  As the founder of The Writing Web, I was incredibly flattered to be asked to host a chat earlier this month by Phil and Ross (the fabulous bodies behind for Literacy for Pleasure and #WritingRocks).

This blog post outlines what I learnt from the process and the key themes that arose from the chat on the 5th February 2018.

I drafted the questions in collaboration with Ross from Literacy for Pleasure.  He was instrumental in ensuring the order of the questions was coherent and that they were phrased in such a way that invited diverse and honest responses from potential contributors.

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What Teachers Do To Make Every Child Feel Like A Writer

Teachers must help children to perceive themselves as writers before they are able to write for themselves. – Frank Smith

The world is not divided into the people who know how to write and those who don’t. – Philip Gross

As part of our ongoing work on building a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy, we have been reflecting on the second principle of our Writing For Pleasure manifesto:

High Expectations: Seeing Every Child As A Writer (2)

Effective writing teachers hold high achievement expectations for all writers. They see all children as  writers and, from the first, teach strategies that lead to greater independence. They make the purposes and audiences for writing clear to children for both their class and personal writing projects. They teach what writing can do. They also promote the social aspects of writing and peer support in their classrooms.

What do you need to consider as a teacher to ensure you are creating an inclusive environment where all apprentice writers can flourish?

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A Cautionary Blog Post About Using Structure Strips

Please note that this blog-post is not anti structure-strip. As this post and the research that informs it will explain, they can be a highly-effective self-regulatory resource that children can certainly learn and build from!

When reading about writing, you are often faced with one of two extremes. At one end of a continuum is the belief that ‘language,’ including writing, cannot be effectively taught unless it is solely acquired through experiences and by being presented with a situation which causes an authentic reason to write.

At the other end is the idea that language is best learned through tutelage, rote-learning and explicit instruction in its structures, forms and conventions.

As is often the case with extremes, academic research and sensible practitioners suggest a moderate middle ground is required. Language is best learned through a combination of authentic experiences and explicit instruction.

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Teaching Writing: What Actually Is Authentic & Meaningful Writing?

Authenticity increases student engagement and achievement, particularly in teaching writing (Behizadeh, 2018)

According to Wray et al (1988), children are put off writing because:

  1. They feel they have nothing to say.
  2. They feel they do not write well and become discouraged by their final product.
  3. They do not write regularly enough to view the task as a natural progression from talking.
  4. They get tired of doing the same old task over and over again.
  5. Everything of interest which happens in schools leads to ‘now we’re going to write about it’.
  6. After all their efforts, nobody takes any notice of what they have done anyway.

It is often stressed that authentic writing experiences can improve children’s pleasure and academic outcomes in writing. Indeed, calls for authenticity can be found throughout literature and research (Dyson, 2003, Leung & Hicks, 2014, Flint & Fisher, 2014, Flint & Laman, 2012, Gadd, 2014, Grainger (Cremin), Goouch & Lambirth, 2003, New London Group, 2000, Wegner, 1999). Perhaps the best example though is Hillocks (2011), concluding in his review of 100 years of writing research that:

We now know from a very wide variety of studies in English and out of it, that students who are authentically engaged with the tasks of their learning are likely to learn much more than those who are not. (p.189)

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