First up, one of my students was looking into what kinds of ‘games’ could teachers play with pupils when it comes to books? I put that up as a question on Facebook, and here are the answers:
Then, a teacher said on twitter that she was having difficulty getting her students to be interested in writing so I posted up the following tweets:
Provide a wide range of books, comics and graphic novels and non-fiction. They have time every day to browse, choose and read. What are writing-rich situations? Hot-seating freeze frames of key moments in stories, or poems? Writing letters to characters in stories.
What are stories? What are they for?
Stories were invented to carry feelings intertwined with ideas attached to beings we care about. They give us space for debate about what is right/wrong, fair/unfair, hopeful/despair-ful.
Writing a story:
If you want to write a story what happens if you start with a problem? Everyone think of a problem for…a dog, or a giant, or a swimmer or a mouse, a class of children, or an alien or a very poor person or a tree… etc. How does she, he, it, they solve the problem? Who helps? Who hinders?
Who tells the story?
‘I’ or an invisible teller? Who is this teller? What can the teller see? What does the teller know?
If you’re writing a story…investigate and discuss with the class:
How do writers show us how someone is thinking? How do writers switch point of view? Are all books the same in the way they do this? If not how do they differ? How do writers change point of view in a story?
How to write?
What are the essentials in your writing method? ‘Reveal conceal’? Investigate and discuss with the class:
How do writers appear to reveal what’s happening whilst at the same time keeping us guessing or wondering or fearing or hoping?
What are the essential ingredients for a good story? Jeopardy? Dilemma? Anxiety? Engagement of sympathy from the reader? Or what?
Quick or slow?
Some writing is spontaneous, free and quick. Some is slow, considered and reshaped. It’s not one or the other. It can be both or either.
Get the children keeping notebooks where they scribble jokes, ideas, sayings, thoughts, lines from songs, movies, books. Model this by doing your own on classroom wall. Writing can be a form of scavenging, assembling, shaping. Start with the scavenge. Listen out for nuggets.
Investigate a writer:
Get the pupils investigating a writer. Set up a whole school project around an author, or a book. I saw a whole term whole school (Primary) project on The Tempest!
Look at writers’ blogs, and websites. We put up news and writing ideas. We are up online talking about writing – how and why we write. Adopt an author for a week, month, term or year. Investigate what they write.
Keep getting writers of many different kinds into the school: local journo, poet, someone who has to write publicity stuff for the council, parent-writers. Get these people to talk to small groups and get them to do a workshop based on the work they do.
Whole school writing:
Create a whole school culture of writing. Have staff meetings to discuss what you each think is good writing and what produces it, nourishes it, sustains it?
Publish perform publish perform publish perform!
Top top top priority in publishing and performing or photoing or filming or blogging the children’s work. If you’re really interested in writing abolish exercise books. Make booklets, books, shows, PowerPoints, cabarets,magazines, penny sheets, bulletins to parents, blogs, vids.
What are you reactions to stories?
Investigate and discuss with the class:
What stories have you read where you’ve been really surprised or amazed? Why? How? What was it about the story that surprised or amazed you? Could you write something that amazed or surprised? How about scary? What is scary in a story? How do we do scary? Or funny?
What does it feel like to be sorry for a character? To hate or despise or be afraid of or laugh at a character? How does your fave writer get you to feel that? Can you imitate any of that in your writing?
How to start a story:
Find the story that the class have lined the most and investigate and discuss with the class:
eg the first page: how did the writer grab you? What pages made you desperate to read more? How did the writer do that? Why did you care what happened next? How did the writer get you to care about the characters?
Do ‘daydream writing’. Daydream for a minute. Do dash it down writing for a minute. See if we can shape it through repeating bits or words or creating a chorus. Use paintings or music to make up stories, plays or poems.
Start a story before the story
Start a story after the story
Thinking up prequels/sequels to stories/poems they like; doing improvs based on stories, then writing them up as plays; take a story and offer: change setting or time-frame or characters or create a sub-plot; read poems and say ‘we could write a poem like that!’