Give A Class ‘One’ Book To Write Through And You’ve Taught Them For A Day. Teach Them How To Use ‘Any’ Book And You’ve Taught Them For A Lifetime.

The goal of literary work (of literature as work) is to make the reader no longer a consumer, but a producer of text (Barthes 1975, cited by Rosen 1985, p.385)

This article is written with the intention to inform and provide reflection. With the Book Trust’s ‘The Write Book research summary coming out in March – we were excited to see what it concluded.

We have entitled our article after the saying that: you give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day – teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. That is what we have tried to achieve through our own approach to the idea of traditional ‘Book Planning’ or ‘Novel Study’.

Continue reading “Give A Class ‘One’ Book To Write Through And You’ve Taught Them For A Day. Teach Them How To Use ‘Any’ Book And You’ve Taught Them For A Lifetime.”

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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.

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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)

Continue reading “Teaching Writing: What Actually Is Authentic & Meaningful Writing?”

The Things That Matter: Writing Memoir

A few Saturdays ago, we were lucky enough to attend the Oxford Writing Spree, a day conference organised by teacher Ed Finch (@MrEFinch) in his own primary school, Larkrise, on the outskirts of the town. We were in the company of some excellent speakers and a large group of teachers, all interested in thinking and talking about children writing at home and in school.

We were there to run a workshop in which we would ask teachers to write a short memoir of an experience from their own lives. We had found in our Year 5 class that personal memoir was a much enjoyed and successful writing project, and we had decided to give participants the same kind of teaching and resources we had used with our pupils.

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The Sea Of Writing Ideas: 10 Ways We Got Children Choosing Their Own Topics.

Writing ideas.

When you write, ideas crazily spill from your head, tumble down your arm, into your pen and out along the crisp, white page. To us, the only way to see ideas is scribbling them down – but ideas are more than just words on a page.They are colourful, squirming, squiggly things that slide and slip through the nooks and crannies of your brain. Some of them crash against the walls of your head in roaring waves. Others come more slowly – each droplet of water a letter. 

Once you gain control of the sea – the droplets make out your idea.

– Year 5 Child.

Modeling topic selection is the best way to help children develop independent thinking and decision-making skills for composing – Heller (1999, p.86).

Research clearly shows that if children get to choose their topics, this strongly influences their enjoyment of writing and therefore the progress they make. Children may need initially to generate a whole raft of topics and ideas that they feel they could write about.

Continue reading “The Sea Of Writing Ideas: 10 Ways We Got Children Choosing Their Own Topics.”

Trials & Triumphs: Teaching Memoir Writing.

Week One

This half term we are focusing on teaching memoir. Memoir differs from what is commonly referred to as recount in a number of profound ways. Recount’s major role is often to ensure that chronological events are described within a conventional time order. However, memoir is very much in the business of storytelling.  A good memoir will have a topic which has meaning not only for you as the writer but also for your reader. This means children finding a subject which rouses emotions in them and which reaches out to their readers, creating the possibility of reflection and empathy. Memoir also affords young writers the opportunity to explore the literary qualities of stories they read through their writing about a personal experience. Memoir is a hugely rewarding genre to teach. It provides the best platform for children to feel they are experts in their topic before they begin writing, and gives them enough scope as a genre to be playful and try out many of the things they like writing best.

Continue reading “Trials & Triumphs: Teaching Memoir Writing.”