I’ve been asked to run a workshop about how to inspire writers and help raise writing attainment across the primary-phase as part of a PD day at my school in a couple of weeks. I obviously have my own ideas, views and ways of doing so but I’m really interested to hear what others think. Particularly in relation to projects and using quality texts.

young writers

Therefore, I would really appreciate any input or ideas you may have that you think works well in developing children’s confidence, creativity and achievement with writing. I hope to use ideas from other schools in my workshop session/presentation. I would of course reference and give all credit for projects to the respective contributors. I’ll then upload the presentation to Slideshare for all to view and share.

So, what do you think works? Please consider posting below or, if you prefer, emailing me at martinwaller [at] multiliteracies[.]co[.]uk

Thank you in advance!

12 thoughts on “How do you inspire writers?

  • January 7, 2011 at 8:48 pm
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    I find that if you give children a real quality experience first then they will have no trouble writing. A few examples from my school recently:
    1. Teddy Bear stories P.1-3 – I bought around 20 little teddy bears all dressed differently in our local Oxfam shop. The teddies were Roman warriors, pirates, vets, chefs etc. The children examined and talked about their teddies. Next they did fantastic drawings of their teds. By this point they were ready to write. Each child wrote their own teddy adventure book with their drawing as the cover.

    2. Blog project P.6-7
    Each child has set up their own blog within GLOW (Scottish educations intranet). They are so excited to be able to write about their learning, hobbies..anything!

    3. Real context: P.4-5 Visit to Hampden Park, Glasgow – the kids had no difficulty writing reports after their exciting visit…

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  • January 7, 2011 at 8:55 pm
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    I think showing them that you like to write is important. I read the children stories I have written and it seems to inspire them.
    Drama is also a rich starting point to inspire imaginative writing.
    Showing quality examples and analysing what makes them effective.
    NaNoWriMo is also an amazing project, inspiring children to write and the prize is seeing themselves in print!

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  • January 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm
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    Read to the children so that they have examples of good stories. Studying fragments of grammar such as adverbial phrases is all very well but not if children haven’t come to enjoy stories as a whole in the first place.

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  • January 9, 2011 at 7:18 pm
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    I think it’s important not to put barriers in the way of children’s writing. It’s a hard balance to achieve as writing is such a complex task. I don’t believe in just letting kids spell words whatever way either and ignore punctuation and handwriting so teaching writing is a very complex tasks for a teacher.
    The teacher has to have an excellent support structure for the children to use in the class that is easy and will actualy make the task of writing manageble. The kinds of things that a teacher can do to put in the scaffolding are:
    1. provide easy access to Spell It! dictionaries (for ages 8-11)
    2. topic word lists
    3. use mind maps to gather ideas
    4. base good writing around lots of talk
    5. teach a self checking method
    6. raise awareness in children of success criteria for a good piece of writing
    7. peer assessment
    8. quality written feedback from the teacher
    9. a clear structure to help planning
    10. other lessons that teach skills, build vocabulary

    Hope that helps!

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  • January 9, 2011 at 9:44 pm
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    I think that it is important to look at this from two angles. The first is the side which those who have already commented looks at the engagement side of inspiring writers – this includes looking at how the stimulus for writing is provided to the children. This could be like the faked alien landing, the landing of reindeer in September who had got lost whilst training with Santa for Christmas etc. Next is how we then move the children into writing – drama activities which develop speaking and listening opportunities and oral rehearsal – where this often goes wrong is where teachers don’t make links between the rehearsal, drama and the writing process.
    For me the use of easi speaks and the recorder tool on the IWB are vital tools in allowing the children to develop their ideas.
    I once saw Mark Prensky speak and he invited people to counter the argument that the average 10 year old boy only sees three audiences for his writing 1) his teacher 2) his tray 3) the bin. We all laughed but no-one had an answer.
    For me audience is key – blogging and tweeting are both proving popular ways of developing pupil voice but I remember early in my career that we concentrated as a school on working with children making their own books. Paul Johnson was our guide on this journey – this was central to our approach as well as trying to build a passion for reading.
    If you ask many authors what they recommend for aspiring writers they simply say read so for me this has to be central to the idea of inspiring writers.
    Bags of reading, bags of talk and drama and giving the children an audience.

    The second side is about teacher attitude, inspiration and personal subject knowledge
    You can give the children as much of the above but unless the teacher knows what they are doing and what they want they are not going to improve the quality of the writing in their class. Teachers need to be confident in modelling the process of writing – the idea of making explicit the process that goes on in a writer’s mind as they build a piece of writing.
    Teacher’s need to model writing with a clarity of what they expect the writing to look like at the end – this seems as though it isn’t rocket science but it doesn’t happen enough. For example how many teachers approach a sequence with a clarity of the vocabulary which they want to impart to the children right from the start rather than starting this in the modelling stage.
    Finally (at the end of a long comment) I think that teachers need to make the writing process as pain free for children as possible – this is often undermined by the lack of patience shown in many classes. SO finally give them time to write.

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  • January 9, 2011 at 10:02 pm
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    Agree with Bill! Children need a real audience: we’re using Google docs very successfully, easily shared for teacher and peer review/support. Post finished work online. Also, pictures can support children, let them draw their story first, or illustrate it as they go. I feel we drop this part of children’s writing way too early. I’ve used creating comics as a support too, found it helped the poorest children especially – they basically created their own scaffold or writing frame. And don’t impose “only one chance” writing where children have to do it all in one go. Real authors edit and rewrite…
    This bit is easily done on computers. I used to frown on “typing it up neatly” until I observed that children actually go in there and edit when they do this, and not just for spellings either

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  • January 9, 2011 at 10:21 pm
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    I agree with the other cooments; having a meaningful auduence is critical. With my elementary students’ this is often accomplished through journaling. Blogs are more effective, so far, with my high school students. With these venues, I allow students to choose their topics so that they can connect their writing to previous learning and make an emotional connection. After the kids realize I read what they write, take an interest and connect emotionally; it helps motivate them. Bea Johnson does a wonderful job of articulating this in, “Never Too Early To Write.”

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  • January 21, 2011 at 1:31 pm
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    What an interesting range of ideas for you to consider. Here are some of my own:

    1. Yes, children need to know they have an audience
    2. They need to have some choice given to them in terms of subject, genre etc.
    3. Lots of exposure to texts – in reading times and story-times
    4. They need time too. Time to draft and, yes, be allowed to make errors in transcription as they become absorbed in their compositions – knowing, depending on their age and experience, that further down the line they will need to proof read. Children become aware that there is a process to writing – it rarely completed in one sitting.
    5. Process drama into writing has power to bring children into dramatic scenarios that demand that texts be written
    6. Oral rehearsal through storytelling allows oral drafts to be composed before the children touch pens
    7. Watching their teacher go through the writing process with them – teachers write alongside the children. A community is built up

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  • February 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm
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    Thank you for all your comments they are going to be a great help and I agree with everything that has been said. I’ll hopefully have the presentation ready to go on Slide Share in a couple of weeks!

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  • February 12, 2011 at 5:53 pm
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    Following on from ‘talk for writing’ with Pie Corbett when he visited my school, we have used many of his books for storytelling. We have layered storymaking language throughout the school so that year upon year children build on this. Each year group displays the storymaking language/connectives etc…. pertinent to their learning ability. We have also introduced storytelling actions from one of Pie’s books. These are used consistently throughout the school. Children have storytelling chairs in their classrooms and are so eager to sit upon it and tell their story. We are in the process of introducing storybanks so that year upon year children learn a new set of stories and build up a bank of stories they know by the time they leave school.

    @rachelorr

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