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.”

Creating A Community Of Readers: The Power Of DEAR

This article is based on, and written in relation to, findings of educational research (Cremin, 2008, Pieper & Beadle, 2016 & Miller & Anderson, 2009). The tenor of this article is to allow the reader to reflect on children’s reading and is in no way a criticism of any school(s) policy or teachers’ practice.

This is a grass-roots account of how, in one term, two teachers have taken one class’s reading and made it a central, natural and pleasurable part of the life of a classroom.

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Genre-Booklets: Helping Both Children & Teachers To Write

What Are Genre Booklets?

Genre-based approaches to teaching writing…achieve spectacular improvements in student outcomes, from twice to more than four times expected rates of learning’ (Martin & Rose, 2007, p.1)

Our booklets teach children the meaning and purposes behind certain text-types. They make this information explicitly available to teachers but are also really child friendly.

The booklets share with children the characteristics of the different text-types. They cover the most popular genres across the curriculum and also children’s favourite genres. They explain the social goals of the text type without telling children exactly what to do! Instead, they help children enjoy and develop their own ideas and make their writing academically successful.

I’ve used these genre booklets and think they are utter genius. Brilliant, so thank you!

These booklets are brilliant. They are a ‘show rather than tell’ of how to write.

They are definitely worth every penny, so much work has gone into them! 

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Why The Over Use Of Writing Stimuli & Book Planning Could Be Damaging Children’s Writing Potential.

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This post was originally written in 2016.

I should start out by stating quite clearly that this is not an article advocating for the removal of stimuli or book-inspired writing projects from classrooms. Instead, this article will reflect on what contemporary writing research is telling us about how these dominant writing practices may need to be adjusted to be at their most successful and meaningful (Young & Ferguson 2020, in press).

We begin with some wise words from Donald Graves, writer, teacher, researcher and thinker: ‘Children want to write’ (1983 p.1). However, the provision of cross-curricular topics and other stimuli for writing could be inhibiting children’s desire to write and adversely affecting the quality of the writing they produce. Children are failing to realise that they can do more with writing than simply imitate it or produce ‘writing to order’.

Continue reading “Why The Over Use Of Writing Stimuli & Book Planning Could Be Damaging Children’s Writing Potential.”

Meeting Children Where They Are: Using Pupil Conferencing.


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Why Written Feedback Might Not Be As Effective As Verbal Conferencing

Traditionally, the teaching of writing has been a thankless task. For the writing teacher, it has meant long, long hours of marking and commenting on student compositions, with little reason for confidence that this effort would have any positive effect.” – Bereiter & Scardmalia

As Frank Smith (1982, p.203) states: writing is not learned in steps. There is no ladder of separate and incremental skills that if written down for a child they will automatically apply and so ascend. Writing develops as an individual develops, in many directions, continually, usually inconspicuously, but occasionally in dramatic and unforeseeable spurts. And like individual human development, writing requires nourishment and encouragement rather than a rushed scribbled jointing on a pupil’s writing piece.

Research (Fisher et al, 2010, Jean, Tree, & Clark, 2013, Oxford University – Education Endowment Fund, 2016 ) seems to indicate that swathes of ‘after-the-event’ written feedback is neither efficient nor effective. As Dylan Wiliam says, feedback like this is often the equivalent of telling an unsuccessful comedian that they need to be funnier. So how are teachers meant to provide meaningful and accountable feedback to their pupils despite the pressures of ‘after-the-event’ written feedback?

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In Teaching Writing – How Important Is It That Teachers Be Writers Too?


We have moved! This blog is now archived. You can visit our new website at http://www.writing4pleasure.com

This post was originally written in 2016.

When planning for this blog, I wrote down the following bullet points:

  • Do teachers write and share an exemplar text of the very thing they expect children to go on and write?
  • Do teachers take part in the writing processes when they write? If so, do they share their process with their class? For example, do they show them pages from their notebook? Their plans, drafts, revisions, proof-reading and their final publications?
  • Do teachers share hints and tips from their own writing process with their pupils?
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Why children should be encouraged to only ever use phonics as a helpful friend.

A Teacher’s Philosophy

I should start out by stating quite clearly that this is not an article advocating for the removal of phonics from classrooms. However, a teacher’s approach to the task of teaching reading is guided by what they think reading actually is. If armed with a viable definition of reading and an understanding of some of the instructional implications of their definition, teachers can use almost any reading materials to help children develop productive reading strategies.

Continue reading “Why children should be encouraged to only ever use phonics as a helpful friend.”