National Literacy Trust’s Annual Survey Reveals That A Writing For Pleasure Pedagogy Is Needed Now More Than Ever.

The headline from this year’s National Literacy Trust’s survey into young people’s attitudes towards writing is unsurprising but increasingly concerning.

For a number of years now we have used the trust’s annual survey, which focuses on responses from over 40,000 apprentice writers, to make the case for a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy.

Throughout these years, we have seen that young people have either an indifference or a dislike for writing but this year it has climbed to over 50%. We also have 40% of children who only ever write when they have to. This is quite staggering.

Obviously, the only way you can stop apprentice writers from learning to write and liking it (in this densely verbal and social culture in which we live) is to teach it the way we currently teach it. Imagine for a moment that these statistics were related to talk and that 50% of young people were indifferent about talking and sharing their thoughts and expertise with their teacher and/or peers. This would be cause for a national crisis surely? You would also have to question how children are being put off so dramatically to do what comes quite naturally.

Daily writing levels have been falling since the survey first began and this year they have reached their lowest ever with less than 20% of apprentice writers writing anything that wasn’t directly for school purposes.

  • Again, despite our densely verbal and social culture, over half of apprentice writers are lead to believe that they find it hard to decide what to write.
  • 1/5 young people believe writing to be a difficult task.
  • Only around 40% of apprentice writers believe writing to be a fun activity.
  • Attitudes towards writing have been in decline ever since the release of the new National Curriculum in 2014.

Are pedagogies which are simply ‘schooling’ children and not based on effective practice having an adverse effect on children’s attitudes and educational outcomes?

In response, and working with the National Literacy Trust, we have produced a number of resources to help you build a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy. These can be downloaded from their website here: National Literacy Trust: Writing For Pleasure Resources

Writing For Pleasure is based on 14 research-informed principles which not only cover the very best effective practices but also happen to be the most affective ones too!

You can read our Writing For Pleasure manifesto here: Writing For Pleasure Manifesto

You can also download and read their full report here: Full Report

We invite comments below. Let’s start a conversation.

Please support us by clicking on the ‘Follow’ button in the top-right corner (or if you’re on a tablet or smartphone at the bottom of the screen).

You can also join and contribute to the Writing For Pleasure community by following us at @WritingRocks_17

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Join Us For Our FIRST Ever Writing For Pleasure Conference

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Dear Writing For Pleasure friends.

It is with great pleasure to announce our first ever Writing For Pleasure conference. It will take place on Friday the 13th of July at Canterbury Christ Church University. We have a truly unbelievable line-up to. We hope you’re as excited as we are!

We suggest you book your ticket now by visiting –> 

By emailing for a ticket directly here: primaryenglishresearchhub@gmail.com

Alternatively, you can make a phone booking here: 01303257280

Here’s the current line-up with even more wonderful people to be confirmed!

  • Tracy Parvin (UK Literacy Association President) will give an introductory talk.

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  • We will be giving a keynote speech about our Writing For Pleasure manifesto and going into detail about the 14 principles that make a Writing For Pleasure pedagogy affective and effective teaching practice.

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  • Piers Torday will be discussing what Writing For Pleasure means from the perspective of a children’s author.

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  • Our final keynote will be from Michael Rosen. He will be discussing his knowledge and expertise on what Writing For Pleasure can look like in the classroom. This is likely to be informed by his recent publication on the same subject.

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  • We also have workshops from Martin Galway. He will be talking about what we can learn from legendary writer-teacher Donald Graves.

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  • Jamie Evans will be discussing how you can use personal writing journals to promote writing for pleasure with children who may traditionally struggle with being writers in class.

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  • Nicola Izibili from The Writing Web will be doing a workshop on the power of verbal feedback and conducting pupil conferencing as a writer-teacher to improve children as writers.

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  • General Secretary and former president of the UK Literacy Association David Reedy will be doing a workshop on what writing is for and what writing involves. 

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  • We will also be joined by who will be doing a workshop on writing poetry with and amongst children.

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  • We will also be doing our popular workshop on how memoir writing can fabulously transform yourself and your community of apprentice writers.

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This conference has been made possible by our dear friends at the United Kingdom Literacy Association, Primary English Research Hub , Dr Rebecca Austin and Jamie Evans. A big thank you to everyone. Can’t wait to see you all in July!

 

 

Writing For Pleasure Has Had A Research Grant Awarded! Participants Wanted!

Hi #WritingRocks colleagues. We have some really exciting news for you all! Our dear friends at The Goldsmiths Company have recently awarded #WritingRocks a research grant.

The grant means that, as a community, we can begin to explore, document and share teachers’ Writing For Pleasure practices from across the country!

The grant provides us with an amazing opportunity to:

  • Visit you at your school.
  • Talk together about your writing teaching.
  • Team-teach alongside you.
  • Do some CPD with you and your school (to discuss how you could enhance your Writing For Pleasure pedagogy further).
  • Talk with your apprentice writers about their writing and their feelings about being writers.

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for any UK based KS1/KS2 teachers who feel that they teach writing in such a way that it reflects some (but not necessarily all!) of the fourteen principles of our Writing For Pleasure manifesto. These principles include:

  1. Creating A Community Of Writers
  2. Every Child A Writer
  3. Reading, Sharing And Talking About Writing
  4. Purposeful & Authentic Writing Projects
  5. Explicitly Teach The Writing Processes
  6. Scaffolding New Learning & Setting Writing Goals
  7. Being Reassuringly Consistent
  8. Personal Writing Projects: Writing Everyday
  9. Balancing Composition With Transcription
  10. Teaching Self-Regulation Strategies
  11. Being A Writer-Teacher
  12. Pupil Conference: Meeting Children Where They Are
  13. Literacy For Pleasure: Reading And Writing Connecting
  14. Successful Interconnection Of These Principles

If you’d like to see a copy of the Writing For Pleasure manifesto, you can download it here.

If you, or a colleague you know, might find this interesting then please do drop us an email at literacyforpleasure@gmail.com

The deadline for applications is 31st July 2018

Please will you all share this post as much as possible on your social networks, we’d really appreciate it!

Many thanks,

Ross Young

UKLA National Committee Member

https://ukla.org/

National Literacy Trust member and contributor

https://literacytrust.org.uk/resources/writing-pleasure/

Explicitly Teaching The Writing Processes And Writing For Pleasure

Explicitly Teaching The Writing Processes And Writing For Pleasure

This week’s #WritingRocks was about explicitly teaching the writing processes to children with a view to them creating and then using their own personalised process independently. This is because research has, for a long time, advocated for such an approach when teaching apprentice writers:

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  • The first thing to state is that Writing For Pleasure teachers are likely to know that there isn’t really a single agreed upon writing process.
  • With this said, Writing For Pleasure teachers will also know that many children are unaware of typical processes involved in writing and they may not, at first, be able to control all aspects of the writing process at once.

 

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  • Writing For Pleasure teachers will therefore teach the writing processes and the vocabulary surrounding them (generating ideas, planning, drafting, revising, editing, publishing, sharing and performing) explicitly with a view to increasing children’s flexibly and independent use of them. Particular focus will be given to the recursive nature of these processes too (see below):

 

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Any writing classroom that fails to eventually recognise and promote the recursive nature of these processes and instead looks for children to undertake these processes in order and without socialising with other writers and on demand will ultimately run into difficulties.

  • Writing For Pleasure teachers will ensure that their writing environment, direct instruction, resources and displays are always looking to promote self-regulation, self-efficacy and a development and personalisation of these writing processes.

Processes

  • Direct instruction will involve children seeing writer-teachers using a range of practices (including: modelling, coaching, giving expert information and guidance, questioning, and explaining) with the goal being to lead children towards constructing high-quality texts.
  • Once experienced enough, children will learn to re-read their work as they compose, they may change their plans as they compose, they might revise as they draft and perhaps they undertake editing on a sentence they’ve just written automatically and unconsciously. Additionally, children will learn to be discerning about their writing and whether a project is worth perusing through to publication or not.
  • A number of studies have recognised the benefits of a process-oriented approach to writing instruction. The writing process approach, with its links to the writing-workshop movement (Graves, 1983; Calkins 1998; Atwell, 2014), focuses on writers and how to do the things that writers really do – just in a classroom. The process writing approach is best defined as being the marriage between the best of ‘writers’ workshop’ with direct instruction and the concept of ‘self-regulating strategy development‘.
  • Process writing ensures children engage in phases of idea generation, planning, drafting, revising, editing, and importantly, publishing, sharing and performing. Publishing will be a particular focus because of its connection with feeling a sense of satisfaction from producing a final written product.

Obvious Links To Other Writing For Pleasure Manifesto Principles:

The explicit teaching of the writing processes promotes Writing For Pleasure in a number of ways:

  1. It promotes the idea of self-efficacy because it helps apprentice writers to picture themselves realising their writing intentions.
  2. It promotes a feeling of agency. Once experienced enough with the different processes and what they involve, children can control their own writing process.
  3. It can increase children’s motivation. They can see where their writing is leading to and they will be better able to set themselves specific writing-process goals which they will know how to achieve.
  4. It massively supports children’s self-regulation. Over time, apprentice writers will certainly gain a feeling of independence from external intervention and scaffolding.
  5. It will increase their writer-identity. Developing writing processes alongside a feeling of belonging and having an affinity with writing, allows children to feel part of a community where they can talk, craft and undertake the behaviours of a writer in a feeling of safety and understanding.

As an approach, it also reflects other principles outlined in our Writing For Pleasure manifesto including:

  • Purposeful and authentic writing projects because these sorts of projects allow children to negotiate all the different writing processes over time.
  • Reading, sharing and talking about writing because children can begin talking about their own writerly behaviours and their ‘ways of writing’.
  • Building self-regulation because it encourages teachers to provide resources and scaffolds which help children negotiate the writing processes and ultimately shows apprentice writers how they can take an idea through to publishing largely on their own.
  • Personal writing projects allow children time and space to develop their own processes for writing, about things they are motivated to write about and largely at their own pace.
  • Setting writing goals allows children to feel a sense of achievement by completing specific process milestones towards the distant goal of publishing a writing product.
  • Balancing composition and transcription because it ensures you are teaching children how to compose with automaticity which frees them up to think about and attend to transcriptional issues.
  • Being a writer teacher because a writer-teacher will have a better understanding of how the writing processes work and how they deal with them themselves.
  • Pupil conferences because, as a writer-teacher, you’ll be better able to share feedback and advice about the writing processes from a position of expertise and understanding.
  • Literacy for pleasure: reading and writing coming together because when apprentice writers are afforded the opportunity to write authentically, through the writing processes, they begin to exhibit sophisticated reading behaviours. Being afforded such opportunities to write results in high levels of pleasure in reading, with children often seeking out texts that are likely to serve and support their needs as writers and lead them to better understanding these texts as a result.

Further Reading:

If you found this article interesting, you should also read:

Please support us by clicking on the ‘Follow’ button in the top-right corner (or if you’re on a tablet or smartphone at the bottom of the screen).

You can also follow us and contribute to the Writing For Pleasure teacher community @WritingRocks_17

References

  • Atwell, N., (2014), In the middle USA: Heinemann
  • Calkins, L. (1998) The art of teaching writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Corden, R. (2007) Developing reading–writing connections: The impact of explicit instruction of literary devices on the quality of children’s narrative writing. Journal of Research in Childhood Education 21: 269–289
  • Danoff, B., Harris, K. R. and Graham, S. (1993) Incorporating strategy instruction within the writing process in the regular classroom: Effects on the writing of students with and without learning disabilities. Journal of Reading Behavior 25: 295–322.
  • Englert, C. S., Raphael, T., Anderson, L. M., Anthony, H. M. and Stevens, D. D. (1991) Making strategies and self-talk visible: Writing instruction in regular and special education classrooms. American Educational Research Journal 28: 337–371
  • Freedman, A. (1993). Show and tell? The role of explicit teaching in the learning of new genres. Research in the Teaching of English, 27(3), 222–251.
  • Graham, S., Harris, K. & Chambers, A. (2016) Evidence-based practice and writing instruction: A review of reviews, in: C. MacArthur, S. Graham & J. Fitzgerald (Eds) Handbook of writing research (2nd edn) (New York, Guilford Press).
  • Graham, S. and Sandmel, K. (2011) The process writing approach: A metaanalysis. Journal of Educational Research. 104: 396–407
  • Graves, D., (1983), Writing: Teachers & Children At Work USA: Heinemann
  • Grossman, P. L., Loeb, S., Cohen, J., & Wyckoff, J. (2013). Measure for measure: The relationship between measures of instructional practice in middle school English Language Arts and teachers’ value-added scores. American Journal of Education, 119(3), 445–470.
  • Harris, K. R. and Graham, S. (1996) Making the Writing Process Work: Strategies for Composition and Self-Regulation. Brookline, Massachusetts: Brookline Books.
  • Harris, K. R., Graham, S. and Mason, L. H. (2006) Improving the writing, knowledge, and motivation of struggling young writers: Effects of self-regulated strategy development with and without peer support. American Educational Research Journal 43: 295–337
  • Hoewisch, A. (2001) “Do I have to have a princess in my story?”: Supporting children’s writing of fairytales. Reading and Writing Quarterly 17: 249–277
  • Jasmine, J., Weiner, W., (2007) The Effects of Writing Workshop on Abilities of First Grade Students to Become Confident and Independent Writers In Early Childhood Education Journal, 35, (2) pp. 131-139
  • Langer, J. A. (2001). Beating the odds: Teaching middle and high school students to read and write well. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 837–880.
  • Larson, J. and Maier, M. (2000) Co-authoring classroom texts: Shifting participant roles in writing activity. Research in the Teaching of English 34: 468–497.
  • Lipson, M., Mosenthal, J., Daniels, P., Woodside-Jiron, H., (2000) Process Writing in the Classrooms of Eleven Fifth-Grade Teachers with Different Orientations to Teaching and Learning In Elementary School Journal. 101, (2), pp. 209-231
  • Goldstein, A., Carr, P., (1996) Can Students Benefit From Process Writing In NCES, 1, (3), p.96
  • Peterson, S. S. (2012) An analysis of discourses of writing and writing instruction in curricula across Canada. Curriculum Inquiry 42: 260–284
  • Rooke, J., (2013) Transforming Writing: Final Evaluation Report National Literacy Trust: London
  • Seban, D., Tavsanli, Ö., (2015) Children’s sense of being a writer: identity construction in second grade writers workshop In International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 7(2), 217-234
  • Sexton, M., Harris, K. R. and Graham, S. (1998) Self-regulated strategy development and the writing process: Effects on essay writing and attributions. Exceptional Children 64: 295–311
  • Taylor, M., (2000) Nancie Atwell’s “In the Middle” and the Ongoing Transformation of the Writing Workshop In The English Journal, 90,(1), pp. 46-52
  • Wyse, D., Torgerson, C., (2017) Experimental trials and ‘what works?’ In education: The case of grammar for writing In British Educational Research Journal, 43,(6), pp. 1019–1047

Planning Purposeful & Authentic Writing Projects

Planning Purposeful & Authentic Writing Projects

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#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.

I toyed with the idea of selecting pertinent images to encapsulate each question, as I find this is an effective method of raising the profile of tweets. However, after wasting several hours I chose to create a ‘postcard’, which summarised the session and could be used for regular promotion in the run up to the chat.  I believe this was a successful approach, as was directing Twitter followers unfamiliar with Twitter chats to Literacy for Pleasure’s #WritingRocks Schedule and succinct How to Guide.  Huge thanks to everyone who retweeted promotional materials to their followers!

Having taken part in #WritingRocks chats before, I know that I find it incredibly difficult to ‘keep up’ with the conversation, especially as I’m prone to typos and generally draft Tweets and responses in a Word document first.  (There is simply nothing more cringeworthy as the notification that someone has liked a tweet that promotes a writing business revealing that said tweet is riddled with errors…)  So, in preparation for the chat, I drafted some responses to the four questions, including the #WritingRocks hashtag in the responses.  #WritingRocks kindly allowed me to take over their account but I was also keen to respond to contributors from my @thewritingweb account.  I was stumped.  But the Internet Explorer and Google Chrome short cut buttons at the bottom of my screen inspired a solution: run one account from each web browser and juggle these with the trusty ‘drafting space’ the Word document offered.  Finally, I felt, with the invaluable support of #WritingRocks, that I could make this work.

I felt completely prepared for the session, so put the kettle on ready to go.

Suddenly, it was three minutes until #WritingRocks was live and I was not ready!  I hadn’t even considered that each question would need to be ‘introduced’ with a brief preamble.  Cue, serious panic!  I rushed to draft some suitable words to accompany the ‘release’ of the first question and select an accompanying image to ensure it was high-profile; Monday night is a busy night for Twitter chats.  (Note to self: send this from the #WritingRocks account.)  And so, the heady sequence of juggling screens and ideas began in earnest.

At 8:05pm, no responses had been posted (with the exception of #WritingRocks) and I feared we were all alone!  The all-encompassing magnitude of my panic was crushing, so I posted some of my pre-prepared contributions as a distraction. (Note to self: send this from the @thewritingweb account.)  I refreshed the page and was overwhelmed by the response to the first question:

Q1) 8 to 8:15pm Is there a case for children choosing their own writing topics? What might be the benefits?

This question received the greatest response, I’m not sure whether this is the norm with Twitter chats.  However, I was so engrossed in the related conversations that I neglected to glance at the clock until it was 8:15pm.  Argh, time to release the second question (Note to self: send this from the #WritingRocks account.) and I hadn’t prepared a preamble!  I was inundated with simultaneous actions to complete: juggling screens and juggling conversations, whilst attempting to maintain a professional tone as my sense of panic amplified.  What an exhilarating, informative scenario!  I have collated responses to all four questions at the end of this blog post.

By the time, 8:45pm arrived, time to release the final question, I felt as if I might finally be getting into the swing of things.  Although, much of my time was still focused on threads related to the initial question and my cup of tea remained untouched.  It was only during the aftermath, when I spent nearly three hours ‘pulling apart’ the conversations, that I felt that I had the head space to sincerely engage with every valued contribution.  I searched for contributions using the #WritingRocks hashtag and copied these into a Word document.  It took like what felt forever, as if I was disappearing down the rabbit hole at times.  There must be any easier way!

Here is a summary of the conversation that took place on the night.  Thank you to everyone who contributed at the time and joined the conversation after the event, using the #WritingRocks hashtag.  I was encouraged to learn that those who participated in a Twitter chat for the very first time found it a valuable experience.

I have learnt that there is a real appetite for providing children with opportunities to write for their own audiences and purposes.  It was fascinating to learn about others’ approaches to realising this in their classrooms and the associated challenges.  Ultimately, the consensus appears to be that enabling children to choose the content of their own writing, increases their confidence, motivation and enjoyment.  Children have to know that their ideas are valued and we, as teachers, need to employ relevant strategies to support them in developing child-generated content.

* Plug Alert! *

Hosting the Twitter chat in collaboration with #WritingRocks proved to be an invaluable way of promoting The Writing Web, a newly-developed service that supports Year 6 and 7 students in writing for their own audiences and purposes.  Thank you #WritingRocks for the opportunity, I look forward to participating in your future Twitter chats!

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Q1) Is there a case for children choosing their own writing topics? What might be the benefits?

  • Several contributors highlighted the importance of children writing from a position of expertise. If children choose to write about a familiar topic they are passionate about / that matters to them, this will impact positively on their engagement levels and motivation, leading to better writing outcomes.
  • As educators, we must step aside, for children to understand that they have ‘permission’ to lead the learning. Encourage and acknowledge that they are experts or have a keen interest in a subject or topic and nurture this knowledge towards making good choices about writing
  • Writing is a tool of communication and content and form of authentic communication is determined by the writer.
  • Children who are already experts in a subject will have a lot to write about, making it easier for them to practise the skills they need to develop and refine to become better writers. This might be a more efficient method of teaching writing than having to ‘teach the stimulus’ so often.
  • Children in the EYFS are actively engaged with their learning, as they have a sense of ownership of it. Teachers suggest that this is harder to achieve in KS2.
  • Don’t teach children one Teach them how to use any book for writing. Many teachers ask children to create a bank of ideas, which they draw from in planning sessions, whilst this is not individual choice per se, there is benefit in sharing why certain ideas were selected.
  • One contributor invited children to share and display their interests on a class poster, demonstrating the fact that their ideas are valued and that they can write for and learn from each other.
  • Blogging with an active audience appears to be a solution to offering true freedom of choice and authentic opportunities to make connections. It is imperative that children know who they are writing for and why, as this sense of purpose will inform every subsequent choice they make as writers.
  • Giving children an insight to the different choices a writer has throughout the writing process is always powerful and should include making decisions about content. Some teachers create a ‘toolkit’ as they write, as authentic writing is an organic, creative process.
  • Like adults, children have got to be given the chance to find their spark if they are to achieve real independence as effective creative writers, so that their writing is imaginative not prescriptive. The children who find it most difficult to come up with ideas are the ones who are never asked to.  Perhaps therefore we as teachers can be disappointed with children’s outcomes when given choice at first, because they haven’t been taught how to do it and had enough practice.  Quality fiction and non-fiction texts, as well as practical and creative experiences can provide a possible impetus for children who find it difficult to generate their own ideas.
  • Having choice contributes to children’s enjoyment, motivation and confidence, which is a great baseline from which to create meaningful writing.
  • Some teachers have experience of initiatives such as Free Write Friday. They acknowledged that these can provide opportunities for children to write for pleasure and develop their writing fluency.  It is important that the stages of the retained writing process are employed in such instances, if children are to recognise the importance of editing and publishing.

Q2) How could we help children have confidence in self-choice? Would we as teachers feel a loss of control and would that be significant?

This question received a limited response, however:

  • @Rosemarycalm had a wonderful and positive perspective on teaching writing,suggesting that if you scaffold and model in the early stages the children will be more confident to innovate as the year goes on. Then teachers should feel proud to hand over control.
  • How often do we genuinely model generating and developing ideas, as opposed to presenting children with a bank of ‘fully formed’ resources from the outset?

Q3) How can we find safe and supportive audiences for children’s writing? 

  1. Build A Community Of Writers.
  2. Every Child Seen As A Writer.
  3. Reading, Sharing And Talking About Writing.
  • Build a community of writers by teaching children to give and receive constructive feedback to their peers; a supportive forum ultimately starts within your class.
  • Photocopying work and sending it home is often very appreciated. Spend time teaching the children how to critique each other’s work so it is supportive.
  • Children could create a micro publishing company in partnership with library: logo design, branding, publicity etc. Anthologies in library with info about methods/techniques for enabling kids to write There is lots of scope for purposeful writing and promoting the connections between reading (and libraries) and writing. As a bonus, there’s a receptive audience for their writing as part of the deal!

Q4) How can we successfully promote and value children’s Home Writing?  Do Class Writing and Home Writing ever merge and if so, how is this managed in class?

  • The potential of home writing can often be missed. It can reveal so much about a child’s interests, choice and motivation.
  • Blogs can work well as a crossover between Home writing and class writing. Many excellent teachers encourage blogging in their classes but they often decide what they want the students to write about, devising carefully thought out ‘invitations’ to blog. The Writing Web model demands students choose and develop their own blog content.
  • One school has set up an email account for parents to screen shot work and send it in.
  • Contributors emphasised the importance of providing children with the space and time to share their Home Writing, whilst acknowledging the associated timetabling constraints. Modelling our own home writing too.

If you liked this blog-post, you should also read: Teaching Writing: What Actually Is Authentic Writing?

Teaching Writing: What Actually Is Authentic Writing?

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). 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)

But what do we mean when we say or hear that children should be writing authentically and can all writing projects really be inherently authentic for all children all of the time?

Well, Behizadeh, (2014) in her wonderful work, does try to offer a definition of authentic writing as:

‘a child’s judgement of the connection between a writing project and their life.’

However, according to Behizadeh (2014), writing too often resides within a task or text chosen by the teacher, rather than residing with the student themselves. Behizadeh even shows that teachers can perceive their assessment tasks as being authentic writing projects (not knowing that their students think quite differently)! So whether a writing project is authentic clearly depends on who is being asked…

  • Splitter (2009) argues that authenticity is actually subjective and that children deserve to be persuaded and not just told why they are undertaking a class writing project. Their learning in writing should also be linked to their world (p. 143).
  • Purcell-Gates, Duke, and Martineau (2007) claim that it is the purpose and genre of writing that determines its authenticity. Specifically, a project is authentic if the genre exists in the world outside of school and the purpose for writing is the same as it would be if the child was writing it outside of school.
  • Gambrell, Hughes, Calvert, Malloy, and Igo (2011) claim that authentic writing projects are ones similar to those encountered in the day-to-day lives of people. This is opposed to school like activities such as completing worksheets and answering teacher-posed questions.

What Can You Do In Terms Of Your Classroom Practice?

  1. Discuss with children what they believe to be authentic reasons for writing?
  2. Begin to see writing projects as being on an ‘authenticity continuum’ rather than either/or. This might help you consider how you could make a writing project more authentic. You could also give more ‘leeway’ to the children when planning your class writing projects.
  3. When introducing a class writing project, understand that children need to be persuaded of its authenticity and not simply told.
  4. Teach class writing projects with a view to allowing children time to use them at a later date for personal writing projects. These personal projects can be undertaken at school, home or both.
  5. Provide children with personal writing project time.
  6. Allow children to use their ‘funds of knowledge’ from outside of school in their class writing projects instead of always providing the ‘funds of knowledge’ yourself.
  7. Create a community of writers where writing ideas can be generated collaboratively and made available for all children to use if they wish to.
  8. Understand that children will need to be taught the skills of generating ideas for themselves, particularly if they have been brought up on a diet of ‘back to basics’ writing instruction (Ketter & Pool, 2001).
  9. The best authentic writing experiences, according to Behizadeh (2014), are ones which merge both writing as a pleasurable experience for the writer with writing for the pleasure. This involves the writing having an impact on others.
  10. Therefore, allow children to regularly publish to their class/school library and beyond.
  11. Begin to reflect on the erroneous assumption that although children may enjoy authentic writing more, they won’t learn and demonstrate the skills required in the curriculum. The reality is children’s need for authentic writing can be honoured and they can succeed in a high-stakes writing assessments. Research demonstrates that authentic writing instruction is effective writing instruction (Dombey/UKLA, 2013, EEF, 2017, Gadd, 2014, Goouch, Cremin & Lambirth, 2009, Graham & Perin, 2007, Morizawa, 2014). Indeed, The National Literacy Trust (2017) states that ‘seven times as many children and young people who enjoy writing write above the expected level for their age compared with those who don’t enjoy writing.’

Our Real World Literacy Approach

Perhaps then our Real-World Literacy approach is a balanced approach. Using our Genre-Booklets and structure-strips, we set class writing projects which allow children to learn about typical purposes and genres used in the outside world. Once taught, the children are given regular time in which to undertake personal writing projects, using the resources and skills taught in these class projects – this is where they can use these learnt writing purposes and genres in even more authentic ways.

References

  • Behizadeh, N., (2014) Xavier’s Take on Authentic Writing: Structuring Choices For Expression And  Impact In Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 58(4) pp. 289–298
  • Dombey/UKLA, (2013) Teaching Writing: What the evidence says UKLA argues for an evidence-informed approach to teaching and testing young children’s writing UKLA: London
  • Dyson, A., (2003) Popular Literacies and the “All” Children: Rethinking Literacy Development for Contemporary Childhoods In Language Arts Vol.81, No.2
  • Flint, A. S., & Laman, T. T. (2012). Where Poems Hide: Finding Reflective, Critical Spaces Inside Writing Workshop In Theory Into Practice, 51(1), 12-19.
  • Gambrell , L. B. , Hughes , E. M. , Calvert , L. , Malloy , J. A. , & Igo , B. (2011). Authentic reading, writing and discussion: An exploratory study of a pen pal project. The Elementary School Journal , 112 ( 2 ), 23 – 258 .
  • Goouch, K., Cremin, T., Lambirth, A., (2009) Writing Is Primary: Final research report.London: Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
  • Hillocks, G., (2011). Commentary on “Research in Secondary English, 1912–2011: Historical continuities and discontinuities in the NCTE imprint” . Research in the Teaching of English , 46 ( 2 ), 187 – 192
  • Ketter , J. , & Pool , J. (2001). Exploring the impact of a high- stakes direct writing assessment in two high school classrooms . Research in the Teaching of English , 35 ( 3 ), 344 – 393.
  • Leung, C., Hicks, J., (2014) Writer Identity and Writing Workshop A Future Teacher and Teacher Educator Critically Reflect In Writing & Pedagogy 1756–5839
  • Morizawa, G., (2014) Nesting the Neglected “R” A Design Study: Writing Instruction within a Prescriptive Literacy Program Unpublished: University of California, Berkeley
  • National Literacy Trust, The, (2017) Children’s and young people’s writing in 2016 London: National Literacy Trust
  • New London Group (2000) A pedagogy of multiliteracies: designing social futures In Harvard Education Review, vol.66, pp. 60–92.
  • Purcell-Gates , V. , Duke , N. K. , & Martineau , J. A. (2007). Learning to read and write genre- specific text: Roles of authentic experience and explicit teaching . Reading Research Quarterly , 42 ( 1 ), 8 – 45 .
  • Splitter , L. J. (2009). Authenticity and constructivism in education. Studies in Philosophy and Education , 28 , 135 – 151 .

Building A Community Of Writers: Creating Enabling Writing Environments

The quality of writing in our classrooms grows more from the tone, values, and relationships of our classroom communities than from anything else. – Lucy Calkins.

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

Creating A Community Of Writers (1)

When writers see their teachers as positive, caring and interested in pupils’ lives, they are more likely to engage in writing at a high level of achievement. The aim is to create a community of writers, in which teachers write alongside children and share their own writing practices, and children are shown how to talk about their own and their peers’ writing in a positive and constructive way.

What needs attention when trying to build a community of writers in your class or school? This obviously means creating an environment where writers can flourish.

Below, we have offered some questions that might be worth reflecting on. If you’ve written about writing environments yourself or would like to contribute, you’re welcome to use the comments section below.

Finally, at the end, we have provided a small list of books which are great reading if building a community of writers sounds like something you’d like to learn more about.

What do you do, teach, or provide to create an enabling writing environment?

  • Do children have sufficient time to write?
  • Are they encouraged to write at home and use this in class?
  • Do they have access to rich literature and other modalities of writing?
  • Do the children get time to learn from and share their writing with each other?
  • Does your discourse sound like writers talking to each other?
  • Does the environment encourage publication?

How do high-quality writing environments help children’s learning and your teaching?

  • Children become engaged writers
  • Children become self-sufficient and self-regulating
  • Children see links between reading and writing
  • Children see links between writing and the outside world

How would you like to develop your community/family of writers further?

  • Access to high quality school/home writing notebooks.
  • Invite parents and the wider-community into our writing environment more often.
  • Have some parent helpers – publish some of the children’s pieces of their behalf for the class book-stock.
  • Create greater opportunities for children to publish to a wider audience.

Do you promote Ralph Peterson’s eight components of learning communities?

  1. Ceremonies. Where you hold meetings to foster a writing identity for the class and discuss potential writing projects.
  2. Rituals. Activities which express value and commitment to writing and being a writer.
  3. Rights. Children have access to a agreed principles which are shared and supported by the whole writing community.
  4. Celebrations. Festive activities which highlight children’s writing achievements. This can include spur-of-the-moment celebrations.
  5. Talk. Talk is an essential part of community life and an important learning tool.
  6. Play. Students engage in play when writing; creating writing projects collaboratively; playing with language and with forms of writing. Play is a spirit and an attitude whilst children work on their writing.
  7. Routines. Students learn procedures for working in an orderly and reassuringly consistent way. They take responsibility for regulating themselves as they write.
  8. Residency. Children begin to feel a sense of belonging and membership in the writing community – where their writing identity and voice is valued, supported and developed by teacher and peer alike.

What can people read to find out more about creating rich writing environments?

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 writers’ classroom! Only £1.17 on Amazon!

Life in a Crowded Place: Making a Learning Community by Ralph Peterson

According to Peterson, in this book, ‘the classroom community is a more important factor in students’ academic success than any particular instructional method.’

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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