Our final #WritingRocks chat of 2019 focused on how some of the key messages in Michael Rosen’s succinct and practical handbook: ‘Writing for Pleasure’ are reflected in and might inform our practice. It was a lively and supportive Writing for Pleasure masterclass. Thank you to everyone who contributed before, during and after the chat:

@lit4pleasure @one_to_read @TobiasHayden @therroneill @navangovender1 @vicky69368421 @KateHeap1 @DanSeanClayton @vicky69368421 @Marcelavb3 @BethRowe1 @Starringjodias1 @ChrisYoules @Susan_Creed @PortobelloBell3 @liloakers @MrsSmanwar @mr_o_connor

AND @MichaelRosenYes Himself!

You can follow the chat on Twitter by clicking on the link above each question.

 Question 1

One way is the ‘grammar of writing’. (Not just ‘Grammar’!) The way in which words are organised in a phrase, clause, sentence, paragraph, chapter…they can have deliberate placement or particular choices made. We do this differently in ‘speech grammar’.

  • The important thing is to make the comparison using transcripts of speech alongside the examples of continuous prose. It’s only then that we all see how different these modes of language are.
  • You also write about how with speech we make emphasis with our hands/bodies/intonation. It’s not just the words, is it?
  • When humans invented writing, they separated the ‘word’ from the body and attached it to signs and materials (e.g. ink and paper, or clay or papyrus). The word attached to the body is integrated with sounds, body movements and the language of facial expression.
  • Exactly. A grammar of speech is something we don’t examine enough. It’s a primal form of communication as well as being a highly elaborate one, and one with which young humans are most familiar and natural.
  • We are entitled to ask why is the grammar of speech so ignored in schools and elsewhere? It is our primary and dominant means of expressing ourselves and conveying information, ideas and feeling to others. But how do we do it? In ways that are very different from writing.
  • It annoys me on both educational and social grounds. There is a snobbery around writing being more ‘pure’ or elevated than speech. Yet the richness of dialect and accent have a burning immediacy that far transcends much dull written prose.
  • As @profneilmercer and others have shown, speech in groups has patterns that show how e.g. we try to influence others, how we learn from others, how we position ourselves in relation to a topic or to others.
  • And those examples you give are clearly signposted in *writing* in the National Curriculum but how often do these intents become slaves to ‘key phrases’ or ‘organisational features’?? Examination of how we do it in speech would be a better start in my opinion.
  • ‘Pragmatics’ exists as a strong academic discipline. I have a couple of excellent books on it. But outside of those who study it, hardly anyone refers to it. We try to cover aspects of it on @BBCRadio4 #WordOfMouth
  • ‏I’ve said before how your book ‘Did I hear you write’ changed my teaching early on in my career. I’ve always loved language(s) and the sound of them is what makes me excited. When you can HEAR a child’s individual voice in their writing, then something very powerful has occurred.
  • What I find interesting when talking to children about their writing is how they often leave out really interesting parts which I think encapsulate their voice. I wonder if it is because they feel it is not worthy of inclusion or they just forget some parts.

  • Originally from Canada, how I speak (and how I speak differently from others in Yorkshire) is a huge part of who I am. I feel hurt when I’m told I speak incorrectly. It’s so important to value the spoken language of a child’s family and celebrate the richness of variety in speech
  • ‏Yes! If you validate my words you validate me!
  • ‏@mendelo1 uses critical imagination as a means to engage with culturally responsive pedagogy. Students use their own ways with words to create vivid dialogues written in their own youth varieties of English (code switching and mosaicking language) set in recognisable settings
  • I’ve used this with student teachers and it’s fascinating to see how students get into writing complex stories that touch on real social issues by starting with people, voices, and places that they know. It also makes for a good laugh!!
  • The language of speech is personality and spark. We need to value that in children and help them to develop their personal expression.
  • Decades ago – Message’ books: children wrote anything -any question, comments, shared info. Free rein. And teacher replied/ added to discourse in each child’s message book. A written conversation.
  • Writing/Talking isn’t solitary even if carried out alone, since we are always in some way involved with our implied or future receiver. When we decide to write, as we write, and after we write, we are in conversation
  • We talk / write for these social reasons:

  • And the acts of speaking and writing gather up that socially created thing: the language(s) we know.
  • Whenever we talk about literacy we really need to look at ways in which most speech differs from most writing and in particular how everyday conversation differs from continuous prose.
  • So important to be aware of this. Would really alert teachers to the bad advice inherent in telling students to ‘talk in sentences’ and associated punitive language policies.
  • I wish it was part of our formation as teachers and teacher-trainers etc that every year we make transcripts of children/students talking to each other (with no teacher present) and compare these to what we ask of them to write.
  • Absolutely. What are we missing?!
  • ‏The way that speech can translate emotion differs from the way writing does. The speech carries tone, speed, volume, intonation, love, hate, anger… writing constructs the same emotions in a different way, through pragmatics, semantics, punctuation…
  • Interesting. We used to have a giant Anansi in Reception/Y1 and children would put independent posts on it with anything they chose to http://write.next day would be a dialogic response. Writing plays interesting to focus children listening to spoken word. transcribe idea
  • ‏@lit4pleasure got to work with @DSMprimary reception children recently. We showed the children how writing/mark making can be a means for carrying ‘conversation’ across space & time.
  • They loved it. They ran around the room sharing & talking about their stories with one another.

Question 2

  • We can show writers that writing can develop out of understandings of how writing works through narration, stylistics, rhetoric, structure, prosody and story-syntax. We can break each of these down into very usable questions and demonstrations.
  • You can play with structure and story-syntax by e.g. reducing the plot of story down to one or two sentences. I you change the sentences, you change the structure of the story and you can then create a new full-length story from that.
  • You can also discover structure by trying to tell a story with an almost identical plot-line but changing e.g. the setting, the time-frame, the gender or age of the characters. It’s a form of parody or palimpsest writing, a bit like tracing over a picture, but changing colours.
  • You can also get at structure by writing prequels and sequels to stories Or taking the viewpoint of a marginalised character and writing the story from that person’s point of view e.g. Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
  • Stylistics: we can look at, say, the first ten pages of a book and ask, what are fingerprints here? What aspects of this writing seem typical? Sometimes it’s good to do this by comparing one author with another who is very different.
  • These might be just how a writer controls sentence length, how a writer shows how their character has thoughts.
  • Prosody: for some writers this is central and crucial. Look, for example at Dickens and how his writing goes from long, discursive, often ironic or sarcastic writing, to sharp, snappy dialogue or highly alliterative poetic repetition.
  • These might be just how a writer controls sentence length, how a writer shows how their character has thoughts.
  • Rhetoric: it’s fun and useful to look at some of the most used forms of rhetoric: exaggeration (hyperbole), understatement (litotes), bringing things down to earth (bathos) etc. there are larger rhetorical devices to do with e.g. exposition, argument, conclusion etc.
  • One way to explore how writing works is to use my ‘detectives’ method: you ask the students to find ‘strings’ between parts of the writing. Anything that is linked to anything else through sound, image, meaning, grammar, has a string between them. You can draw these on the text.
  • What you describe here is part of a writer’s idea generation process and unfortunately this is a process that is too often not taught, not given time, or is undertaken by the teacher(s) and so children are not invited to contribute.
  • Narration: ‘who tells the story?’ What can the narrator see? How does the narrator get inside people’s heads? Who does the narrator ‘foreground’? who does the narrator marginalise?
  • We must find what children are passionate about. It will be different for every class, every year. Teachers need to feel free to follow the children rather than the other way around. Only when we follow their lead will we truly find their passions and best writing.
  • ‏I do agree 100%. But there’s also the giving an environment which the children will become passionate about too. We teachers shouldn’t be afraid of getting children excited about new stuff which we can provide in school. If they’re excited, they will want to write about it.
  • Absolutely! It’s a give and take, a relationship, where everyone is able to share their passions. However, we sometimes get so straightjacketed by the long-term plan that we forget the children have an opinion too.
  • Writing for pleasure is having such an impact on my class. They have produced chapter books. Albeit short chapters. But it is wonderful to watch them write. One child who is a very, very, very reluctant reader and writer talked me through his pictures then annotated. Amazing!
  • Consider getting involved! Here: https://writing4pleasure.com/get-involved-share-your-practice/
  • I often explain when I get stuck when modelling writing and how tell them how I often get stuck when writing at home to show that even when writing for pleasure, at times it may be hard and ideas might not be flowing.
  • Allow the children to explore and find their own voices, in search of their voices I found mine. I shared mine and heard theirs. Magical and powerful!
  • Too often ‘drafting’ is seen in schools as being ‘writing’. It’s often far too long, far too high stakes and far too restrictive.
  • A writer’s process typically looks like this:



  • Not like this:

  • This image was on my classroom wall in the early 2000s , before I realised that this prescriptive, neat sequence, (in terms of time, content & chronology) bore little semblance to what writers do in order to produce text.
  • You can read more about each part of the writing process in the first #WritingRocks chat of 2019 here: https://thewritingweb.org/pleasure-and-the-process-a-summary-writingrocks-chat-13th-march-2019/
  • The fib at the heart of e.g. the SATs English papers is that a text offers up a finite amount of meaning. We should look for ways that show that texts have many changing meanings, full of alternatives and suggestions.
  • I’m re-reading The Snow Spider at the moment. Last time I read it I felt completely differently. Two years on, I’m a different person (and the same person too) and the book is speaking to me in a totally different way. The glory of reading.
  • And aren’t we lucky that our lovely English language is very nuanced? Meanings are slippery and plural. What we need to be doing for young readers is modelling how they construct a sound interpretation of what they read, knowing that another reader might see something different.
  • And they get ‘massaged’ in independent schools. I know. I worked there.
  • Writing for pleasure rests a good deal on ‘reading for pleasure’ and ‘talking for pleasure about reading’! When books are giving us satisfaction, we often feel the need to share likes, dislikes, puzzles etc. We can nurture these.
  • Definitely inventing, for many children inventing a new word is so empowering, discovering words too!
  • Write about things that really matter to the children. A bag exploding with bicarb and vinegar, a play inspired by themes of Macbeth, a time you were tempted…These all produced individual and motivated pieces writing.
  • Showing them our pleasure in writing! I often try to write along with them so they can see how much I enjoy it.
  • We can use reading as a platform for writing in many ways: freeze-frames, hot-seating. These enable writing to come from the ‘if I was that person in the book…’ ways of writing.
  • We might be a bit biased but we think the principles of our Writing For Pleasure pedagogy might be a good place to start! https://writing4pleasure.com/explore-the-principles-read-examples-of-practice
  • Fundamentally motivation and purpose as they drive the ideas that feed into the principles listed

Question 3

  • Most recently, I’ve been reading #Brightstorm @vashti_hardy with a Y5 class. They loved it and with Christmas approaching, decided there needed to be a Brightstorm Christmas story. They’ve planned, shared and written with such joy because it was what they wanted to do.
  • Reading widely – both as individuals and as a class – is to writing what harvesting fruit and vegetables is to gardening. It is our chance to learn what we like, taste different things and be nourished.
  • Hearing strong narrative voices and internalising quality writing (as a reader) nourishes everything we do as writers. ‘The Explorer’ by Katherine Rundell lifted my class’s writing immensely as they got to know the characters and began to write dialogue in ‘their’ voices.

Question 4

  • Whole school texts (where I’ve seen them being used) seems to have a ‘multiplying effect’ ie multiplying teachers’ enthusiasms and interests, draws teachers together in the planning stage and in the conversations about how it’s going. People borrow ideas from each other.
  • I agree that when done like this, it is a wonderful way to engage with literature. However, using whole texts to teach can be very limiting when done badly. I’m thinking here about doing all writing based around one book with low levels of agency and volition for children.
  • In your example the difference is that connections are made with the text, which attends to idea generation. As this is a part of any writing process, responses through writing are personal, which in turn tends to lead to higher levels of motivation.
  • There’s also a multiplying effect for the pupils because they talk to each other about their different angles or ‘takes’ on the whole-school text. It also shows that the meaning or use of a text is not a single, monolithic fact but a shifting moving multi-faceted thing.
  • Multiple interpretations, the text develops branches, then leaves, flowers… it grows!
  • This is a beautiful thing.
  • I love the interaction and evolution of interpretations through class discussions – the little gasps and nods or frowns as someone’s idea tweaks the view of someone else.
  • So true then it becomes something that is accessible to everyone.
  • Real life example: we did this recently with @OliverJeffers A Child of Books. Every class in the school did something inspired by it. My class focused on the sea and the Moby Dick parts and wrote a class book all about whales, ships and sea-life. Their choice. Brilliant.
  • But again, it’s about listening to the children. Finding out what grabs them from the larger picture. Helping them to find their own voice in something which wasn’t *written* by them but *speaks* to them. And with that, we are back to the importance of Q.1!
  • We are keen to reinstate this @PPS_Shrewsbury In a previous year Meerkat Mail was used by the whole school. It feeds that community of readers and writers we are striving for – shared stories build bonds.
  • At one of my residency schools we started our ‘Wild Word Reserve’ encouraging the whole school to look at play around with collect and create a space where words are loved. It’s having a impact.
  • It must be so empowering for children to see themselves as real readers (over a book band), accessing same as the older children.