Think back to when you were at school. You know, the days of making daisy-chains at lunchtime, tig, blackboards and perhaps the odd flying duster! Do you remember a lesson or subject that jumps out at you as something you really loved and enjoyed? Why was that? Did you learn anything that has stuck with you until this day?
At Ink Wing Academy, we believe in immersing pupils in their learning through our ethos of Explore. Believe. Write. We believe that everyone is a writer with many stories to tell. Everyone has a voice and imagination to harness. Every child needs a learning environment that allows their voice and writing skills to blossom, thrive and grow. How? Through creativity, excitement, highly skilled teaching and a whole school ethos that embraces the belief of 'We are Writers!'
Here are our Top Ten ideas (of many!) that every school can embrace to promote a love, thirst and enthusiasm for writing in EVERY child.
1. Whole School Creative Planning
Make your plans interactive, engaging and meaningful. Boys especially need a purpose to write. If you have hooked each child before you start with a subject that engages them, they will be rearing to go and dying to get their words out! Hooks include objects like a Spaceship Landing cordoned off in the playground, or muddy giant footsteps through the school (the Gruffalo? A dragon? A giant?) or even just a letter to the class from a certain character linked to your plan e.g. A surprise letter sprinkled in glitter from elves to introduce 'The Elves and The Shoemaker'. Children are creative so embracing their creative spirit, curiosity, awe & wonder will hook them immediately. That's the secret. Motivation for all - accomplished.
This same strategy can be used for your class/ year group planning to continue to generate a buzz throughout the school. If you enjoy it, they will too! Be brave with your planning to try something new.
2. Whole School Reading Spine
Every school should have an exciting Literacy Reading Spine full of exciting and engaging text that hook, motivate and model excellent forms of writing in all genres. Pie Corbett has published a good Literacy Spine. https://images.scholastic.co.uk/assets/a/9f/bc/pie-corbett-with-page-no-1393983.pdf
There are others available too with more wonderful ideas. (Information available on request).
3. Ownership - Pupil led
What are your class interested in? Making toast or making slime?!?
If you are writing instructions or a report/ recount on something, why not make this imaginative and engaging, centred around what your class are interested in! Or make non-fiction, fiction. For example, write instructions on How to trap a shooting star. Then write a letter to the moon telling it what you did (hoping he doesn't mind!). That way, again, the words will be spilling out of them.
Have a Writer's Council i.e. 'Writers Inc', at school which has representatives from each Year Group. They can be in charge of Whole School, pupil-led fun writing initiatives e.g. Questions around the school about authors, extracts of good writing from favourite books or authors, a Digital School News Paper, 'Add the Punctuation' activity trail on laminated activities to do at breaktime (a stash of white board pens needed) or to simply read books to younger children on a particular day at playtime.
4. Use images and film clips to immerse writers
Children are visual and auditory learners. Inspire detail, words, grammar and understanding through visual prompts to enable them to generate words that they may never have thought of before! It works every time and inspires the hardest to reach. Asking questions around the image or film such as Who, What, How, Where, Why, Before, After', to encourage unique and imaginative ideas.
5. Write in the Environment
Explore and experience writing through nature. This inspires the hardest to reach too or those who learn through movement. Writing the start of a story? Writing a setting description? Go outside to get inspired! e.g. Writing a horror story? Visit a graveyard or local (safe) ruin. Thought Catch through the senses and feelings as you are there. This has a wonderful impact on writing and engages those who may be hard to reach.
Creating characters in a Fairy-tale or Fantasy Unit? Creating character descriptions? Go outside and make a tree person from twigs and petals. The detail and experience of making will enhance the writing and unique ideas.. Write on the ground with large chalks - be creative! It will have an impact.
6. Use Music, Art and Drama to Inspire
Auditory learners need to be immersed in music to enable them to learn. Music can inspire setting and mood, developing characters or events. This way, short burst writing activities could be done in other subjects such as Music and Art. Drama threaded into your Literacy Plans is a must to develop characterisation, setting descriptions, story-making and journalistic writing - the list goes on!
7. Nurture those who struggle
There will be a group of children who find writing hard. Staffing issues can be a challenge too but having a nurturing shared writing group for a task models successful writing but also makes each child in the group feel like they too have accomplished something. Use white boards as you do this for them to jot down their ideas. Use this as a scaffold for them to innovate from (hugging closely to the text if they need to as they learn). Those who struggle can record their work in a variety of different ways like a recording, a nifty App or through pictures/ a story map - or both.
8. Model a word-rich, risk-taking and word exploring environment
Modelling during shared or guided writing is so important and a key method of nurturing the writing process in every classroom throughout the school. If the pupils see the teacher as a word-smith - someone who is confident to experiment with words and ask for advice - the pupils will do the same. Games are also a great way to explore word play and improve skills. Display words and ideas on word walls and/or a washing line for the children to magpie/lean on while they write. This will promote independence and confidence as they become more independent and learn the true, complex skill of writing.
9. Writing Journals
All writers have notebooks to jot down in (I have a real pile!). KS1 & KS2 pupils should have their own Writing Journals where they 'magpie' words, phrases and all things writing. Once used to using them, KS2 pupils will become very independent with their Writing Journals and normally personalise them too. These are their books for them to refer to when writing as they are full of great ideas 'magpied' from listening ears (and writers have good listening ears!).
10. Celebrate Writing, always!
Whether it's excitement over a great word choice during shared writing or celebrating hard workers in assembly or publishing a class book, celebrate writing and words. This can also be done as a 'Write Away' day or chosen lesson (where it would fit in well), where children write on the floor or in candlelight (battery operated!) or with cool pens or under the tables. The list is endless!
Finally, call yourselves WRITERS! Think like a writer, read like a writer. Be Writers!
Embrace. Explore. Get excited. Enjoy it. Then every child will too.
Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. Developing a change and shift in how things are done, especially whole school, can take time to adapt, upskill and find what works well in your setting.
Would you like to embrace and nurture this ethos in your school? Ink Wing Academy will be running 'We are Writers: Story Makers' for KS1 & KS2 teachers at An Créagan, Omagh, on the 11th & 25th March 2020 respectfully. Get in touch to book your place https://www.inkwingacademy.com/teacher-cpd
Ink Wing Academy runs training for school staff on 'We are Writers', 'Unlocking Poets' and 'Inspiring Writers' and 'Creating Writers' for Whole School staff https://www.inkwingacademy.com/teacher-cpd