DISPLAYING ITEMS BY TAG: WRITING SKILLS

Pupils at Mayflower Community Academy are some of the latest inductees into a global writing project. By working alongside the team at LendMeYourLiteracy, the primary school’s teachers are enabling the kids to publish their writing work online, thus receiving feedback from other pupils around the world. According to the Plymouth Herald, the organisation operates in over 100 countries.

Teachers, parents and students alike have some apprehension and comments for debate on this vital document, which may be one of the first yet most important written pieces our children will have to produce. Schools and students nowadays have access to mountains of excellent advice and guidelines. Some of which is spot on for the majority of courses a student may wish to take.

A structured learning system is crucial for students nowadays. Faced with a myriad of information sources, they have to develop an effective strategy to filter and make sense of it. In this context, note-taking comes in an as a handy way to save and review the most important points and ideas.

Technology plays a huge part in our everyday lives, whether at school, at work or at home. Many of us rely greatly on being able to use our mobile phones and devices for a multitude of reasons. But the bottom line is we’re generally communicating with someone. Even young children attending nursery or just starting school are familiar with iPads, tablets and interactive whiteboards. So what of the simple pencil? Is it redundant, or is there still a place in the modern classroom? What does it mean to be able to write and what are the benefits?

One of the most common questions put to me when I do training on facilitating dialogues with teachers, especially when they’re secondary school teachers, is: “All this dialogue stuff is great, but how can we transfer all this on to the page?”, or words to that effect. I think the answer lies in the question itself: to transfer the fruits of dialoguing onto the page. But how?

Plenty of pupils love to write - why wouldn’t they? However, many of the UK’s schoolchildren have what David Mitchell, deputy head of Heathfield Primary School, aren’t getting anywhere near the audience that they should be.

As published in the September 2013 edition of our magazine.

After a grueling week with your wonderful Year 6 class surpassing their non-chronological reports, you think you have aced it! They have chosen their topic of choice, and it’s 10:50am on a Friday – it’s BIG writing time! The candle is burning… or more realistically, the interactive whiteboard is displaying the faint flicker of a candle flame. If you silence the class, you can hear the calming tones of Mozart tickling away at thought processes. It’s then, just as the children pick up their Big Writing pens that you utter those important words: “Don’t forget... consider your audience!”

Letting an essay assignment get to the head is common with students, so teachers are always looking at methods to reduce this problem. Innovate My School newcomer James Harlan discusses the suggestions he gives to students..

Writing your essay could be a task that hangs over your head like a dark cloud. Like a forthcoming rain, the deadline approaches so fast while you are being paralysed by the doom and the gloom. This is one hurdle you need to know how to overcome. It is often the first step that is the hardest to take but when you do so, you will see that the other things you need to do will follow like dominoes going down.

Plan

Stop worrying and start working. To do so, know what you need to do and break it down to steps you can take. That is planning. It is having an aim and plotting out what you will do to achieve it. Make your planning phase a short one. It is only the first step and there are many others after it that you will need to do. One best way to do this is with the use of a monthly planner. This way, you will be able to see how the remaining days before the deadline look like.

There are many different schools and theories on how to hone one’s writing technique. To discuss this further, Innovate My School regular Shaun Allison discusses a method developed by his peer Gav McCusker.

[English teacher Gav McCusker] has been developing a writing technique with his students that he refers to as ‘layered writing’. The inspiration for this was from great painters. In order to come up with an excellent piece of art as an end product, they build the painting up in layers. This slowly increases the complexity and depth of the painting with each layer. The following video clip demonstrates this nicely:

So how does the technique work?

Firstly, a discussion with the students about every artist needing a palette, in order to create a painting.

 

During this discussion, stress the point that the artist, like any craftsman/craftswoman, works carefully and slowly to do this – with concentration, patience and perseverance.

In recent literacy lessons I have been exploring the potential of the iPad to motivate children to write for different purposes. One ongoing target in our school is the emphasis on boys’ writing, so the theme here is going to be how one app has been used to encourage boys to write with confidence, in an appropriate style, and with a strong level of knowledge.

Having collaborated with David Andrews on the controllable vehicle project, it struck me how confident and knowledgable the children were in terms of speaking about their work, and this clarity and depth had a direct and hugely positive impact on the children’s writing. I wanted to see if using a popular gaming app would be able to make an impact on the writing of the children I teach.

As the end of this academic year draws ever nearer, our GCSE pupils may be in need of a little guidance in preparation for their forthcoming English exams. I can remember being unsure how best to revise for English when I was at school. It is not always as simple as learning facts and regurgitating them in order. Once you know that poem or that story, what do you do with that information? Once you have the names of all of the writing types and their language features under your belt, what do you do with them? Having spent the last year teaching pupils how to use SOLO effectively, I am now using SOLO as a tool to help them revise. I will share as many ideas as possible over the next few days including: reading, writing, contemporary texts, poetry and finally some in class, last minute revision ideas. I hope you find it useful.

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