Planning Purposeful & Authentic Writing Projects
Have you heard of #WritingRocks, a truly welcoming special interest group open to anyone involved in any aspect of teaching writing in the Primary phase? It is aligned to the Literacy for Pleasure blog, which explores how theoretical ideas and research might inform practical ways by which to potentially improve children’s motivation and outcomes in literacy. I love their Real-World Literacy approach to teaching writing, underpinned by the 14 interconnected principles of their Writing for Pleasure Manifesto. Each of their regular #WritingRocks Twitter chats is focused on one of these principles. As the founder of The Writing Web, I was incredibly flattered to be asked to host a chat earlier this month by Phil and Ross (the fabulous bodies behind for Literacy for Pleasure and #WritingRocks).
This blog post outlines what I learnt from the process.
I drafted the questions in collaboration with Ross from Literacy for Pleasure. He was instrumental in ensuring the order of the questions was coherent and that they were phrased in such a way that invited diverse and honest responses from potential contributors.
I toyed with the idea of selecting pertinent images to encapsulate each question, as I find this is an effective method of raising the profile of tweets. However, after wasting several hours I chose to create a ‘postcard’, which summarised the session and could be used for regular promotion in the run up to the chat. I believe this was a successful approach, as was directing Twitter followers unfamiliar with Twitter chats to Literacy for Pleasure’s #WritingRocks Schedule and succinct How to Guide. Huge thanks to everyone who retweeted promotional materials to their
Having taken part in #WritingRocks chats before, I know that I find it incredibly difficult to ‘keep up’ with the conversation, especially as I’m prone to typos and generally draft Tweets and responses in a Word document first. (There is simply nothing more cringeworthy as the notification that someone has liked a tweet that promotes a writing business revealing that said tweet is riddled with errors…) So, in preparation for the chat, I drafted some responses to the four questions, including the #WritingRocks hashtag in the responses. #WritingRocks kindly allowed me to take over their account but I was also keen to respond to contributors from my @thewritingweb account. I was stumped. But the Internet Explorer and Google Chrome short cut buttons at the bottom of my screen inspired a solution: run one account from each web browser and juggle these with the trusty ‘drafting space’ the Word document offered. Finally, I felt, with the invaluable support of #WritingRocks, that I could make this work.
I felt completely prepared for the session, so put the kettle on ready to go.
Suddenly, it was three minutes until #WritingRocks was live and I was not ready! I hadn’t even considered that each question would need to be ‘introduced’ with a brief preamble. Cue, serious panic! I rushed to draft some suitable words to accompany the ‘release’ of the first question and select an accompanying image to ensure it was high-profile; Monday night is a busy night for Twitter chats. (Note to self: send this from the #WritingRocks account.) And so, the heady sequence of juggling screens and ideas began in earnest.
At 8:05pm, no responses had been posted (with the exception of #WritingRocks) and I feared we were all alone! The all-encompassing magnitude of my panic was crushing, so I posted some of my pre-prepared contributions as a distraction. (Note to self: send this from the @thewritingweb account.) I refreshed the page and was overwhelmed by the response to the first question:
Q1) 8 to 8:15pm Is there a case for children choosing their own writing topics? What might be the benefits?
This question received the greatest response, I’m not sure whether this is the norm with Twitter chats. However, I was so engrossed in the related conversations that I neglected to glance at the clock until it was 8:15pm. Argh, time to release the second question (Note to self: send this from the #WritingRocks account.) and I hadn’t prepared a preamble! I was inundated with simultaneous actions to complete: juggling screens and juggling conversations, whilst attempting to maintain a professional tone as my sense of panic amplified. What an exhilarating, informative scenario! I have collated responses to all four questions at the end of this blog post.
By the time, 8:45pm arrived, time to release the final question, I felt as if I might finally be getting into the swing of things. Although, much of my time was still focused on threads related to the initial question and my cup of tea remained untouched. It was only during the aftermath, when I spent nearly three hours ‘pulling apart’ the conversations, that I felt that I had the head space to sincerely engage with every valued contribution. I searched for contributions using the #WritingRocks hashtag and copied these into a Word document. It took like what felt forever, as if I was disappearing down the rabbit hole at times. There must be any easier way!
* Plug Alert! *
Hosting the Twitter chat in collaboration with #WritingRocks proved to be an invaluable way of promoting The Writing Web, a newly-developed service that supports Year 6 and 7 students in writing for their own audiences and purposes. Thank you #WritingRocks for the opportunity, I look forward to participating in your future Twitter chats!