Monday, January 6, 2014

More ideas to develop a writing culture in school

I asked @JenniH68 to write a guest post for my blog and she obliged! Well that's to say she wrote the post on her blog (which has now become our collaborative blog!) Never Mind the Spag. Without being too gushy, I know that you will be inspired by Jenni's ideas on inspiring writing, whether they remind you of something you have done before or whether they are totally original ideas. 

There are some similarities / close alternatives that I value in my own practice that I will share afterwards. Some of these ideas I introduced as an infant teacher, but most have been used in KS1 and 2. Maybe you can add some of your own as comments below?

What I learned from Jenni before now is to use music videos to inspire writing and the thing that I really take from Jenni's post is the hairy troll bug -I'll hand you over!


 More ideas for developing a writing culture... Writing for real audiences cannot be emphasised enough. From parallel classes, younger and older children, to other schools in a cluster. We send copies of stories and books we have made to whoever has inspired them,from Allan Ahlberg- who, by the way, writes amazing personalised letters back- to music video directors; and we also made a child friendly guide book following a visit to Blickling Hall- we haven't heard back from all of them yet, but we know we have sent them and that real and diverse audiences are reading our writing. After listening to the incredible Mick Waters at the NCBC 'Reading for Pleasure' conference back in November, I have introduced an intermittent ' amazing news story' spot - still thinking of a catchier title! Like this one: (see above!)

  Hairy Troll Bug!

 Mick Waters argued that we need to keep the children reading 'controversial, fascinating texts which challenge you and make you think about things in a different way'. Reading an interesting or irresistible news story such as the one above naturally makes you look at a much wider range of texts. He called it 'Hot tub learning'- it's warm, inviting, fun and you don't want to get out....he went on to stress the importance of exploring and discussing controversial issues and encouraging the children to challenge each other's thinking 

As well as the pupils sorting their books themselves, how about getting them involved in choosing the books you purchase as a school. Persuasive writing anyone?

 I have also been banging on about this one for a L O N G time, but choral reading aloud needs to be brought back! Not just Pie Corbett style story telling as important and imperative as it is. No. Reading a text as a group or even a class. Why? We encourage good readers to be silent readers...however, they soon lose the ability to read aloud with appropriate expression, paying little or no attention to the punctuation. By reading a piece of narrative aloud, it makes you more aware, as a reader and a writer, of how to tell a story to that 'audience' we keep banging on about. Reading the Christmas Story as a class was actually quite magical just before the holidays. I have Y2/3 and they are not all by any means fluent, but, as part of a crowd, you pick up the good habits of others and can hear what those trickier words are....this improves confidence, broadens vocabulary and increases awareness of what a text should look and feel like on the page.

 Reading their own writing to each other is so quick and simple and peer marking and feedback Is often much more powerful than any adult opinion!

 I have an ' I wonder...' box in the classroom where the children can post random questions about anything, anonymously or named. We have recently had 'What are clouds made of?' which then prompted much reading and note taking about clouds, fog and mist, as well as 'I wonder why so many words are spelt wrong?' Good one, not quite answered that yet.... We also have notebooks and every week I try and stick a question or prompt in there for them to interact with me more informally. Sometimes it's to do with the topic, sometimes random. In their notebooks, the left hand page belongs to me- where I can write or stick a question, and the right hand page belongs to them- they can answer my question on either page, but I don't interfere with 'their' pages! They seem to love the idea we are sharing a book!

 And last, but not to the children about their writing like you actually enjoy it, and have actually read it for its own sake rather than just pointing out next steps all the time. I think I sometimes underestimate the effort they have out into their writing for me to then moan about marking it (not to their faces!). And I definitely think that we, as teachers, forget just how powerful and influential our opinion of their work is to them.

Jenni Porter

My similarities / close alternatives
  • Peer assessment. Another teacher will be doing the 5 sentence challenge for me this half term and so I thought it would be a great opportunity for peer assessment. We will start with this simple one 
  • We have a 'Why box' where the children can post questions. I've learned lots from these!
  • We have a heart shaped box and post-it notes so the children can write what they have loved/enjoyed learning
  • Choral reading (or as I call it 'story telling') not only to inspire writing, but for the joy of retelling a story. The one below was performed for our HT's parents when they bought our class bear back from Australia. They are year 2/1s. When I have used this before as a model for writing, the writing has been phenomenal.

I have tried author audience (Michael Rosen commented on our poems on twitter ones), but haven't been that successful. Perseverance is key! 

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