Joining The Literacy Club: The #WritingRocks Summary

‘Joining the Literacy Club’ by Frank Smith (1998) #WritingRocks chat 17th April 2019: A Summary

This month’s #WritingRocks chat focused on contemporary psycholinguist Frank Smith’s ‘Joining the Literacy Club’.  HUGE thanks to everyone who contributed to the whirlwind of practical suggestions on how to join the literacy club, in the spirit of Frank Smith, including the ‘lurkers’ who we know learn so much from being a part of this online #writingforpleasure club.

Continue reading “Joining The Literacy Club: The #WritingRocks Summary”

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Writing For Pleasure Practice: Creating Class Publishing Houses

Writing For Pleasure Practice: Creating Class Publishing Houses

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.

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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.

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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.  

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Here is our initial list of independent publishing houses which make up our community of writers at present:

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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 processesIt 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.

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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 want to support your school’s development of writing for pleasure, please check out our Writing For Pleasure manifesto and our other materials on The National Literacy Trust website.

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.

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?

By reading, amongst others, Gadd’s wonderful work on what is critical in the effective teaching of writing, we are able to offer some questions that might be worth reflecting on below. If you’ve written about children being writers yourself or would like to contribute, you’re welcome to use the comments section below.

Finally, at the end, we have provided references which are great reading if ensuring every child is a writer sounds like something you’d like to learn more about.

How do you make children feel like writers in your classroom?

  • Establish positive relationships with all learners (Burchinal et al 2002; Cornelius-White, 2007).
  • Allow all children an opportunity to share, perform and/or publish their writing products (including class and personal writing projects) with their peers.
  • Employ mixed-ability, interest-based groupings and opportunities for sharing and for the discussion of writing amongst peers.
  • Believe that despite their circumstances, all children have interests, passions and idiosyncrasies which contribute to their funds of knowledge and that these funds of knowledge can be used by children in their writing (Dyson, 2003; Grainger, et al 2013; Leung & Hicks, 2014).
  • Tend to believe more strongly than other teachers that all learners can achieve if they receive appropriate support from the teacher.

How do your class writing projects make every child feel like a writer?

  • Plan writing projects to ensure children have some ownership and agency over their project.
  • Provide opportunities to learn new material.
  • Give all children challenging writing projects to undertake.
  • Set up specific writing process goals that all children in the class can achieve.
  • Monitor the expectations you communicate to learners on a near daily basis.
  • Ensure a supportive and social learning environment in which to write (children who feel emotionally secure and can communicate effectively with their teachers are better able to devote their energies and attention to writing – Burchinal et al 2002).

Do you have any resources or strategies that help children feel like authentic writers?

  • Provide writing strategies and helpful writerly advice through verbal feedback (pupil-conferences) to aid children’s writing.
  • Provide instructional strategies and resources which promote self-regulation, greater independence and adoption of a personal writing process.
  • Give access to high-quality writing examples and a rich classroom library.

How do you model writerly behaviour and how do you talk about writing with your children?

  • Provide: smiles, head nods, positive body language, eye contact, friendliness, clue giving, repetition, rephrasing, more praise and less criticism to all children.
  • Talk as writer to writer.

How could a mastery perspective towards writing make children feel more like real writers? 

  • See writing more as mastery through repeated practice and so give children more time, space and opportunities to develop their writing.

As a result of these types of interactions and expectations of children, Cornelius-White (2007) claims that teachers should see an increase in children’s participation, initiation into the writing community, satisfaction in their learning, motivation to write, higher self-esteem, and better social connections with their fellow writers.

What can people read to find out more about ensuring every child is a writer?

Growth Through English by John Dixon

A summary of a great meet up (before twitter meets existed) at Dartmouth between UK and US teachers in the late 1960s. This Dartmouth meet up looked to reflect on the teaching of apprentice writers and is an absolutely fascinating and thought provoking read in today’s context. 

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The Myth Of The Deprived Child by Herbert Ginsburg

A book which holds the highest possible regard and expectations of children regardless of their circumstances

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Writing Voices: Creating Communities of Writers by Teresa Cremin & Debra Myhill

An absolute must read for anyone interested in creating communities and rich environments for writing to take place.

Build a Literate Classroom by Donald Graves 

The gold standard of creating writers and a writers’ classroom! Only £1.17 on Amazon!

In The Middle by Nancie Atwell

A seminal text on creating a climate for writers to flourish – perfect for KS2 and KS3.

No More ‘I’m Done’ Fostering Independent Writers In The Primary Grades by Jennifer Jacobson

A perfect text for creating communities of writers in KS1/LKS2 – really accessible read.

Joining the Literacy Club: Further Essays into Education by Frank Smith

This text is a bit more heavy going but is infinitely fascinating and thought provoking

References:

  • Burchinal, M., Peisner-Feinberg, E., Pianta R., Howes., C (2002) Development of Academic Skills from Preschool Through Second Grade: Family and Classroom Predictors of Developmental Trajectories In Journal of School Psychology, Vol. 40, No. 5, pp. 415 – 436
  • Cornelius-White, J., (2007) Learner-Centered Teacher-Student Relationships Are Effective: A Meta-Analysis In Review of Educational Research, Vol. 77, No. 1, pp. 113–143
  • Dyson, A., (2003) Popular Literacies and the ‘all’ children: rethinking literacy development for contemport childhoods Language Arts 81:100-9
  • Grainger, T., Goouch, K., Lambirth, A., (2003) Playing the game called writing: children’s views and voices. English in Education, 37(2):4-15
  • Gadd, M., (2014) ‘What is critical in the effective teaching of writing?‘ The University Of Auckland
  • Leung, C., Hicks, J., (2014) Writer Identity and Writing Workshop A Future Teacher and Teacher Educator Critically Reflect In Writing & Pedagogy Vol. 6 583-60
  • Rubie-Davies, C. M. (2010). Teacher expectations and perceptions of student attributes: Is there a relationship? British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(1), 121–135.