So, it all started with a question in a school hall on a Teacher Day not so far from here.
“How many of you consider yourselves readers?” Up shot the hands, nearly everyone, nothing unusual there.
“How many of your consider yourselves writers?” Few hands and an uncomfortable silence. It’s stark, in a room full of teachers: less than a handful consider themselves writers.
Listening in to the ensuing conversation, they do write. One writes a diary “Yes, but it isn’t really writing is it? It’s for me” Yes, it is writing. You are a writer. “Is texting writing?” Yes, it is writing, scroll through mine and my best friends messages and it’s a story of our days and important events. We then went on to a writing activity and I began, in analogue form, this blog. So, reader, here’s your question;
“Are you a writer?”
Let’s start with this past week, write a list of everything you have written. For me it’s a blog post, texts, emails, to do list, shopping list, menu plan, Facebook updates, tweets, have I missed anything? I probably write more now than I ever have! And so do you, you are a writer, we all are, sometimes it’s about perception. Do we perceive these activities to be valuable writing activities? They are writing to inform (e.g. Facebook), to entertain (e.g. twitter), to persuade (e.g. emails).
It is important that the children see these things, see us as writers but first you need to acknowledge that you are a writer. Over on Facebook, when I asked about writing, Hannah from BookHappy said this “There’s writing (the everyday kind) and ‘writing’ the high quality stuff that we aspire to but find it difficult to achieve.” You may not write perfect prose and elegant verse but you are a writer. Louise Dobson said “I have an unpublished children’s ‘book’ in my bottom drawer! Keep wondering whether to re-edit and try again. I try to write when my classes are writing and I share what I’ve written. This is very important I think that the children see you as a writer…” we agree, and Louise, that book, it’s a book, not a ‘book’. What an amazing thing to have done. Miranda said “I love to write and I find it very therapeutic. I have a recurring dream, just as I’m drifting off to sleep, that I’m writing an article for a newspaper. The language is very eloquent and opinionated! I regularly dream about writing articles about the stock market- I don’t know anything about economics so I don’t know what’s going on there!”
So we teachers are writing, but not everyone, so here are a few ideas for how you could gently begin to write and encourage your class to write and if you have any other ideas pop them on a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.
Teachers as Writers, a few ideas (you don’t need to do them all! Pick one you think you could do).
1) Class blog, write a class blog to communicate with parents and children. This has real advantages, gives the children and you a real life purpose and keep parents informed and may even get them joining in! Try to ask a question at the end of the blog to draw responses too.
2) Write when the children write; make the deal. For example, during guided writing could you sit with the group and write, model asking them for support when you get stuck and model good practice.
3) Write a round robin story one line at a time, using flip chart paper or a wallpaper roll, put up a starting sentence, the children can add a sentence at a time, anyone can join in, but as a teacher, make sure you add a sentence to it every day, it could grow all year if you did it on a wallpaper roll!
4) Make a big thing of writing, tell them when you are writing a note, making a list, don’t hide the everyday writing away.
5) Model writing, not just in English, do you model writing in science, history, geography?
6) Give children pieces of your writing as models, or to edit and deconstruct.
7) Start a class diary that you and the children can contribute to.
8) Send the class postcards from everywhere you visit even if it’s just for the day, it doesn’t take long and also gives you a conversation point.
9) Start a notice board so that children can contribute notes about exciting events or things they want to tell the class.
10) Value the writing that you do, be confident and write.
Further detail and information:
Writing is Primary – Useful research document looking at supporting teachers writing to support pupils
Teachers as Writers: Learning together – Research document
Writing West Midlands – A useful organisation to get writers into school and for encouraging teachers as writers
We have some links with Theatre Absolute and are currently looking at a joint venture to put on Writing Gyms for teachers, keep an eye on the VLE, Facebook and Twitter for details.
Charlotte Reed – Primary English Consultant and Writer
With thanks for contributions to this blog by the Head and Staff of Richard Lee Primary School Coventry, Hannah, Louise and Miranda for their contributions via Facebook.