For the past 5/6 years, my school has been using Big Writing in literacy to provide a focused time for children to write. As time has passed we have moulded our approach to include other useful aspects of literacy. We now tend to use our Big Writing session as a final piece to a particular text type focus, unless it is an assessed piece and has to be a standalone lesson. Often we use a Big Writing lesson at the start of a text type to assess what the children already know or can remember from previous years. This is a great way of informing future planning. For example, if you were covering 'Instructions' and few children used imperative verbs, this would inform you to focus on this in your planning.
After a year or so of using Big Writing, I started to think about the whole writing process. It was advised that during the next Big Writing session children should be given time to read back on their work, look at the comments and, as a class, decide on some “goal scorers.” This is a good way of revising, but I felt it wasn't enough; also, if it was a whole week or two later, the activity is long forgotten by the children. I am sure if you ask any author they will always say that the revising and editing part of writing is possibly the most important. But how can we teach this and instil a reflective approach in children? Timed writing sessions don’t provide this quality time to reflect on your writing. It led me to make a resource which I have found invaluable ever since.
This delightful animated video, created by students at the French university for careers in design, Bellecour Écoles D’Art, is absolutely enchanting. Monsterbox is only about 7 1/2 minutes long, and tells the story of a young girl who is trying to find a home for her monster – and then another monster, and then another! There is no dialogue, but the graphics and characters tell the story perfectly.
Here are some of the ways that it could be used in the classroom:
Competitions are a great way to develop your child’s creative thinking and writing skills. They usually have a theme and a word limit and these help to focus a child’s writing in terms of a style or genre, its creativity around an idea and also gets them used to accepting a brief and planning a story around a maximum number of words. All tricky stuff but the type of assignments they should expect regularly as they progress through their school years and into work.
Here are details of current children’s creative writing competitions:
It's well known that many school children fear the ‘blank sheet of paper’ when asked to write about a particular topic. How to start, what tone to use, who is the audience, what purpose does this writing serve. The result is trepidation about writing, particularly by reluctant writers and often by boys.
How do we help children to feel more positively about writing and how can we provide interesting and inspiring stimulus for writing? One effective way is to create an authentic ‘event’ which the whole school is involved in. Perhaps an alien has landed in the school grounds, or the World Cup has been found hidden behind a tree in the playing fields. Use a few props to make the find look authentic and involve the whole school by asking all pupils to spend the day investigating the discovery and writing about it. Asking the children to write newspaper articles is a good way of providing an instant audience for their writing and having made the discovery in school makes the piece of writing incredibly relevant.
Every school in Cheshire is being given free access to thousands of pounds worth of innovative creative writing resources for Key Stages 1-4 to get young people more involved in writing. The documents, which include detailed lesson plans and innovative resources for teachers and pupils, have been compiled by Brit Writers, the largest creative writing project in the UK supported by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
The materials have been made available thanks to the financial support from Wilmslow-based Company Industry Insiders, who work with schools and colleges to deliver inspirational talks to boost aspirations and confidence in young people. They teamed up with the National Brit Writers Awards in a bid to inspire and motivate more youngsters to become involved in writing and to realise the importance that this has on everything they do as they grow up. In an age of mobile phones, blogging and social networking sites, many young people are growing up without the essential writing skills needed to find and excel in job roles and many teachers are struggling to find new and exciting ways to engage young people and make writing fun.