This year, I have chosen some of the key research that underpins @lit4pleasure‘s Writing for Pleasure Manifesto to inform our monthly chats on Twitter.  You can view the entire 2019 #WritingRocks schedule here. Last month, we kicked off the series of chats by reflecting on the writing process stage by stage, which in itself highlighted what a complex process this writing business is.  Thank you everyone who shared insightful research findings, resources, challenges and nuggets of wisdom gleaned from their own practice: @MrMJLane, @janey_avery, @MrsG____,SadiePhillips,  @one_to_read,  @klootme, @mr_o_connor, @Write_Example, ‏@MrMJLane , @MissBTJS, @Raychvicbuck, @LHteaching, @MissHCritchley, @MrsSmanwar, @perkinsinschool, @5GsPlz, @navangovender1,

And as always, thank you to Phil and Ross at @lit4pleasure for their invaluable support and encouragement before, during and after the event.If you would like to read the ‘Pleasure and the Process’ chat in its entirety on Twitter or focus on one particular part of the writing process, you can access each section by clicking on the hyperlinked question numbers in the subheadings below.  Otherwise, here’s a summary of our discussion:

Question 1

  • Being immersed in a topic / novel / real life experience (or ideally all three interrelated) is a positive starting point for this, leading to some great writing outcomes. How can we ensure children have ‘ownership’ of this info?
  • Take advantage of meaningful cross-curricular links.
  • There’s a danger of ‘feeding’ children too much of the content and am interested in how we support children in building their own ‘expertise’ around the subject matter of their writing.
  • Model how to plan. Explain the choices you make as an adult; why ideas may need to change or be parked for another project. How planning makes space for the future reader in the writing.
  • Planning sometimes emerges from writing, having a clear plan can curtail writing; allow creative experimentation to ‘find’ what you want to write and in which direction it might go – free writing is great for this.
  • Encourage them to draw on their own experience.
  • Allow them to write in writing books that are not marked.
  • Appreciate it is a slowly-grown process from daily practise.
  • I overheard a child sharing the advice that had helped him moved forward with another child: “If you’re stuck, keep writing ‘I don’t know what to write’. I got sick of that, so just started writing what we did.”
  • Expose them to quality texts and vocabulary.
  • Make use of exciting props, objects, sounds, video, images.
  • Children must have confidence in what they are writing. I would encourage anything which supports recognition that their own ideas (and therefore content) matter. Often, children worry that there is some sort of content they ‘should’ be writing about.
  • Sometimes, we can position ourselves as the ‘gatekeepers’ to what is acceptable in terms of content. How do we communicate these expectations consciously and subconsciously?
  • I think another interesting thing to consider alongside the child’s own responses to an experience or idea is that if it is a *shared* experience (e.g. field trip) then there are good support and ‘ideas contrast’ opportunities to be had too, with peers and teacher.
  • Collaboration around a shared resource / collective experience is so powerful, especially when it comes to constructing / manipulating sentence structure orally. Groups can consider the best way of communicating with a specified audience, for a specific purpose.
  • Use a boxed up planner.
  • Develop a vocabulary bank.
  • Orally rehearse.
  • Plan as a small group.
  • The journalistic approach of 5Ws and an H.
  • Mind mapping.
  • Outlining (intro, body, conclusion)
  • Different planning formats and strategies lend themselves to particular text types. This is illustrated brilliantly by Sue Palmer’s planning skeletons – available online in editable Powerpoint format.
  • In Best Practices in Writing Instruction(Steve Graham, Charles A. MacArthur, and Jill Fitzgerald) it says we better serve children if we let them choose subjects for writing from their LONG TERM MEMORY. Which makes me question writing through newly taught topics or books.
  • I am a massive fan of the immersion model, however the short-term nature of school topics does leave me questioning if some children are able to make authorial decisions about knowledge they have a surface understanding of.
  • Can we not just take advantage of the individual things children are expert on – if we are talking about non-fiction? Can we not take advantage of children memories and experience – if we are talking about writing personal narrative?
  • Spending a few days reading and analysing lots of examples of the genre before writing their own.
  • Helping children make creative links when idea generating. Either via specific challenges or by making sure they have access to lots of different texts, learning areas and experiences.
  • Expose them to a little, then let them plan before flooding with ideas to hopefully allow those that wish to take a tangent in their way, then those that struggle can magpie what they wish from the coming models. A tricky balance!
  • By drawing the distinction between ideas and planning. Create ideas and then use these to inform planning. Use the planning process to sequence raw ideas. Use the idea stage to follow ideas and the blind alleys of inspiration
  • Talk is key; the ideal vehicle for pulling these excellent strategies together and extending children’s vocabulary and sentence structure.

Question 2

  • One way the Power English #writingforpleasure approach supports children in their drafting is to give names to the different approaches writers take to drafting. We have: discoverers, planners, drafters (or vomitters!), paragraph pilers or sentence stackers. Read more about it here.
  • Having a ‘writing role’ that you’re playing almost gives the writer permission to get deeper into the process.
  • Two of the finest writers, Joan Aiken and @PhilipPullman, have two completely different approaches: one a very detailed planner, the other writes to see how the story leads. How much of this do we as teachers consider these differences?
  • I find shared writing is the easiest way into this. Children are happier to redraft as it’s not quite theirs.
  • Give clear purpose & audience so they are motivated to succeed.
  • Talk / ‘conference’ about their writing during the drafting process.
  • Allow time to think and time to write.
  • Allow time to share/discuss/feedback. Write with them!
  • I do agree with a certain kind of modelling. I would love for children to see the teacher write themselves, but not so much with the aim that the children slavishly imitate that model.
  • Again modelling the processes as opposed to modelling what to do with the content – moving away from teaching the stimuli/content towards teaching the actual generalities of writing!
  • Children must see that writing is a craft which like any art is one which takes time, effort and thought. Not some kind of ‘luck’ that you can pick up (or not). I regularly talk about how many skills I teach are ones I still find challenging as an adult!
  • Developing a culture of sharing and effective self and peer assessment is needed. From own experience and experience working with student teachers, this is not an easy process and takes time to hone.
  • Promoting a classroom environment where chn feel like a community of authentic writers in a writer’s workshop. This is in contrast to a class that sees themselves only as producers of writing ‘products’ to only serve assessment.
  • Children reading to the class asking for what THEY want feedback about: “I’m trying to do X, does this do that?” etc. They love it. And the feedback is excellent and empowering. I learn loads listening to them.
  • I think we have too many teachers for whom writing was maybe not their strength at school or for much of their lives but they are still expected to be able to lead a shared writing or modelled writing session well enough to have kids achieve ARE or above standard.
  • A challenge is that children might feel that their first draft will be their only one. Afraid to make mistakes. Hard for students AND teacher to get past this.
  • Pride and resilience is a big part of this. It’s almost like they need to be mature enough to accept that they must rework things to ensure they are the best they can be. Not an easy thing for my more immature learners to do well.
  • Definitely a challenge for younger ch. Easier to explicitly model sentence by sentence. I liked using @janeconsidine ‘s plans when I had younger children.
  • Research states that setting ‘process goals’ is important – the setting of rough deadlines for parts of the process. But should be subject to change & allow children to write at their own pace. So for example, ‘by the end of the week, your draft should be complete’.
  • Short-term goals related to specific parts of the process provide motivation. Long-term goals, aligned to publication for their audience(s), provide writers with vision and purpose (and further motivation, when publishing time comes).
  • Important to remember that writing does not start with pen on paper or finger on keyboard. Often it starts with talk but sometimes it starts with lots of thinking -often while doing something else. We need to give children much more time to write – to let ideas ferment and grow.
  • The drafting part of writing can be the scariest. Children can feel worried about putting pen to paper, and questioning if it’s good enough. Lots of encouragement and ‘mistakes are good’ discussion. We talk about writing being an act of courage. We explored this quote from James Michener, which is displayed in class: ‘I’m not a very good writer, but I’m excellent rewriter.’
  • Taking the emphasis off the secretarial aspects is key, here. Putting your ideas onto a piece of paper (to be judged by others) is certainly an act of courage for even the best of writers.
  • According to Frank Smith, in Writing and the Writer, asking chn (particularly inexperienced ones) to attend to composition & transcription at the same time means you’ll be onto a loser because their cognitive loads just won’t be able to handle it – and both end up suffering.
  • That is why internalising a story pattern or the underlying story beat can reduce cognitive overload
  • Yes, @Talk4Writing and story mapping is a powerful tool for this. I personally this approach to learning the ‘tune’ and structure of non-fiction texts in KS2.
  • The planning stage is collaborative and has a clear focus on the kind of language the children need for their writing, then just let them write. No success criteria, no secretarial expectations, just write.
  • It is a difficult thing to do well but so valuable and effective when the teacher does it expertly. Very often overlooked in terms of CPD or training
  • Emphasise the reality that perfection is rarely achieved on a first try, and that they should not expect this to be so. Can be difficult with the more reluctant writers!
  • Modelling our thinking out – loud, mistakes and u-turns. The challenge is finding the balance of embracing mistakes and having high expectations.
  • Lots and lots and lots of modelling followed by a chance for the children to be creative themselves! Providing all children with higher level vocabulary is always a big win too!
  • Modelling with the teacher writing out a whole version of the text. Write the start of a section as a class then, as children write, the teacher takes time to finish the model. Children can see the teacher building, crossing out and crafting the draft.

Question 3

  • Discuss and model how to Read for the Reader. The teacher narrates their choices of revision to the class model. Verbalises the weighing up of words, phrases, sentences and sections. Teaching the difference between just crossing out and how to create 2nd draft.
  • Give them very specific strategies and techniques that writers consider when they revise a piece. You can find a lot of them in our Writing Study pamphlet here if people are interested.
  • Talk about the social function of the text they’re producing so that revising (be it in relation to meaning, register, style or grammar) makes sense in the context of the genre and use of the text.
  • Assessment examples including tables with formative/summative criteria. Formatively, learners get to think about how to be a critical friend and provide constructive feedback. Summatively, the process gives learners access to the ways readers and examiners think
  • Peer assessment tools can be useful here. Tools being the operative word! A good old table with criteria for formative assessment is really valuable (and helps to develop the vocab of assessment for both teachers and learners in participatory ways).
  • Model revising a sentence and then they do one. We take it sentence by sentence.
  • Photocopy their work and model how you would edit it 1:1. By sharing the process with Year Six children, I have found they then understand what need to do and why so they can repeat the process themselves.
  • The visualiser is also a wonderful piece of tech to enable the immediate exploration of children’s writing as a class.
  • Motivation is important here. Why should they revise? What’s the point? Final step of publishing is the carrot
  • That sense of ‘I know why’. Writing for the pleasure of experiencing that satisfaction of delivering your purpose to your readership. No better feeling!
  • Seeking out authentic audiences for published work is key. If you think of a book / poem / article you’ve really engaged with, it’s unlikely you’ve seen the writer through the entire process. Other readers have done this with ‘reading remits’ specific to the stage of the process.
  • Allowing children to read out work and get feedback from peers/then allowing them to redraft if needed. I often have children who want to completely change parts of their work, giving them the freedom to do so means that the work they produce is far more considered.
  • Internalising and the use high quality models
  • Model editing conversations for the students where you read their text to them and give critical feedback; ask questions about intention, highlight the positives, question how they want to affect their reader.
  • Develop understanding of how to discuss writing; develop a shared vocabulary and language to talk about writing.
  • Focus on the grammar and punctuation taught in phase 1. If improving think about audience and purpose: better vocabulary, detail, impact on reader. If editing, focus on grammar and punctuation: eg. Past tense verbs, correct pronouns. Small steps, modelled by teacher.

.Question 4

  • Knowing that their work will eventually be published & that there will be a reader is particularly motivating at the editing stage – they try harder the bigger the audience!
  • Focus on missing punctuation and spelling errors only. “Listen to a partner read your writing; if they don’t read it correctly, punctuate it so that they do.”
  • Reading their work from the ending to the beginning is an absolute classic for finding errors. I use it ALL the time. Go sentence by sentence backwards. Means you avoid read for meaning – just for corrections.
  • This tip along with many others can be found in our Writing Study pack: Power English
  • Just bought Atwell’s ‘Lessons that change Writers’. Was looking at the cover and found this quote in the background: ‘Proofreading for spelling is hard work. It is time consuming and boring’. How refreshing it must to have this truth stated for children!
  • But when the proof-reading is with purpose (as @lit4pleasure ) just wrote about, then the ‘hard work’ pays off 100-fold!
  • Editing stations featuring appropriate scaffolds that support writers can be quite effective too. One focus at a time e.g. punctuation station, dictionary corner etc. reduces cognitive load.
  • Don’t be precious about ‘neat’.
  • Buddy up stronger and weaker spellers.
  • Teach importance of strong verbs and precise nouns over adverbs and adjectives.
  • Teach punctuation’s controlling effect in writing.
  • Precise choices not checklist tick offs.
  • Remind them to read over their writing regularly.
  • Lots and lots of modelling
  • Really coaching them that writing can be a ‘messy’ process – and that that is ok!

Question 5

  • Set up your very own class publishing house
  • School-wide celebration of writing. Teachers submit pieces of writing from their class. Every type. Prizes (notebooks and books) based on submissions. Emphasis on effort and those who wrote at home.
  • Celebrate their hard work!
  • Hosting a film festival at the cinema
  • Use a fancy pen.
  • Make opportunities for publishing and performing as authentic and meaningful as possible.
  • There’s a great project school of ed called Wits Teacher’s Writing Hotspot from @WitsUniversity: Student teachers vie to have their collaborative stories published online @FunDzaClub for learners to access
  • Publishing a book on amazon
  • Writing letters and actually posting them!
  • Publishing for the book corner
  • Tweet it for authors to read.
  • Put it on the school website so parents (and other visitors to the site) can read it.
  • Make a class books.
  • Displaying each child’s work.
  • Use A3 paper and listen to what they want to do with their writing.
  • Print to publish books so final pieces in one place; English books are the work books, the method. Progress and development of final pieces side by side and tell the story of the developing writer. Ch. choose to publish a piece in their book once ev 4-6 weeks
  • Child choice is key here. Different formats, media, audiences will motivate children differently – even if the genre/text type is the same, does it have to be published/performed in the same way?
  • Blogging via @HeyPobble or @TheWritingWeb means children can share their writing with the world safely, raising the stakes for ensuring their work is high quality and accurate.