Massive thanks to this month’s contributors: @OvendenLaura @Bpatmore @WritingRocks_17 @damyhills @BethRowe1 @RogMcDonald @one_to_read @MrsSmanwar @SculptingMinds @clairlou972 @one_to_read @InspirePriEng @Lea_Forest_HT @SadiePhillips @Citygoldfinch @BethRowe1 @kalam_aziz @zoem1ll @keith_campion @EmilyEatsBooks @SonyiaJackson AND @TeresaCremin herself!

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

Question 1a

  • I like these – and would want to add others like knowledge of being an author.
  • I like this: “engaging in a writing task is as mentally demanding as playing chess” (Kellogg, 2008, pg 10). It really, really is. There is SO much to think about, so many skills involved!!
  • Yes, of course, you need a good grasp of the basics of grammar, a great vocab etc… but you also need to understand the writing process. You have to unpick the thought processes involved in writing & be able to communicate how you managed to put that paragraph together.
  • Most definitely. The bulk of writing teaching is much more than the assessment frameworks, and even the National Curriculum is selective. Writing as an art is multi-faceted, compendious, fascinating and evolving discipline. A lifetime wouldn’t be enough!
  • This is a great point and I think it links to @TeresaCremin & @damyhill’s more recent work around @tcraftofwriting. I don’t think teachers always feel confident in their writing composition knowledge or ‘craft’ knowledge. There are some really great books out there for increasing your craft knowledge though:

  • Agreed and I don’t think it’s off the point – it maybe their pedagogy doesn’t enable them to share their knowledge
  • My sense is that our subject knowledge as teachers often gets constrained by NC and assessment- but it doesn’t need to. Do others agree?
  • I write as a reader and I read as a writer. I make choices as a writer with my reader in mind. In order to make choices about vocabulary, grammar and structure, I need to know about it. So yes I do think teachers need good subject knowledge but always in the context of being an effective writer. It’s not good enough to just know about modal verbs- I need to know how I can use them effectively to persuade or show a character’s dilemma. Teachers need to know the why behind the NC!
  • Absolutely- authorial choices and intentions are key – but do we teach and enable such or are children mainly just playing the game called ‘doing schooled writing? ‘
  • Excellent and potent question!
  • Yes and to do so it can help if they become Writing Teachers- teachers who write and writers who teach! i.e. reflective professionals aware of their own writer identities
  • Absolutely! I don’t think many teachers do see themselves as writers, or write for pleasure in their own time, but to do so would undoubtedly have a positive impact on your teaching of writing (I have certainly found this in the last year or two!)
  • Depends what we mean by subject knowledge. Sometimes this is technical aspects but I would argue that it’s the content of the writing which is central. Develop subject knowledge through purpose, passion and imagination leading to empowered writing.
  • “I would argue that it’s the content of the writing which is central.” AMEN, Roger!!!! If the content is not central then what on EARTH are we writing FOR?!!
  • Most definitely. The bulk of writing teaching is much more than the assessment frameworks, and even the NC is selective. Writing as an art is multi-faceted, compendious, fascinating and evolving discipline. A lifetime wouldn’t be enough!
  • I’m a confident reader/writer, but only just starting to grasp teaching writing. PGCE barely scratches surface of how and why of structure. If I try to analyse powerful writing, or even improve my own poetry, feel out of my depth. Do I need an English degree to teach primary?
  • No! But reflection upon experience can really help and regular opportunities to write. @arvonfoundation residentials are stunning.
  • Maybe because I’m teaching now I’m reflecting so much more – it matters now in a different way hence feeling the hole in my knowledge. Maybe I’ll put a @arvonfoundation course on my Christmas list!
  • I think it’s partly about moving away from an ‘English literature’ or ‘literary criticism’ orientation towards more of a writing composition & ‘writing as a craft’ orientation that can really help.
  • I think you’ve already got what is so important: ‘I’m a confident reader/writer’. You can teach the children just by sharing / appreciating / empathising with them and remembering how YOU work as a writer. Teach them to be REAL writers! You can do it! Good luck!
  • Thank you. The understanding of audience/purpose is something I can now really communicate since PGCE (having written business docs for the right audience for years!) I do notice them listening more when I talk about any writing I do.
  • I agree!
  • My first thought was to mentally check off the Y6 expected standard and GDS requirements as my ‘subject knowledge’ but my deeper real knowledge of what can help children flourish as communicators and reflective writers is located elsewhere.
  • And, of course, you’re drawing on what you do as a writer – what being a writer involves …? Am I right?
  • Absolutely – I share my journals and book review books. I carry around a journal and make notes all the time. Children are often involved in seeing a note to a prompt or anchor poster process. I talk to them about drafting for the school website and proof reading etc.
  • Sounds fab- love to see this in action – do they have notebooks too? As per @davidjalmond?
  • They have vocabulary journals that morph into more generic journals. A number of children also choose to bring their own journals in and make notes in all sorts of learning contexts.
  • Interesting- journals which afford choice and time for Free Writing Fridays @CressidaCowell (and on other days) can really inspire children as we found in @tcraftofwriting. – Choice and space to imagine is key.
  • We ‘did’ free-write Friday last year in Y6. It was treasured (on the whole) by the children. We are restructuring our day and I hope to have an opportunity to reinstate. Found having some stimuli around very helpful (washing line of photos or Dixit cards, for example).
  • Yes, when they move from being told to choosing it can be tough! And we can all value scaffolds or writing triggers.
  • I found that a knowledge audit definitely helps establish areas for improvement and personal development plans help focus on improvements
  • So, do you have a survey or self-audit tool you use? Is this with staff?
  • I have a subject knowledge audit for teachers to review their strengths and areas to develop…happy to share (@InspirePriEng)
  • I have a writer’s notebook where I collect vocabulary and interesting ways of saying (from reading), develop ideas etc for use in our class writing. I share this with pupils and they have their own writers’ notebooks too
  • Great idea
  • We a have a ‘slimmer’ English curriculum than before but the emphasis on preparation for a decontextualised grammar test is disproportionate in many schools. @lit4pleasure’’s Writing for Pleasure Manifesto & being part of thewritingweb.org are aligned to the National curriculum.
  • But why ‘slimmer’?? I feel it is selective rather than honed or slimmed down. And I repeat, why is a ‘slimmer’ NC in place?
  • It’s ‘all’ hashed out in the Bew Review into KS2 assessment (2011): esp on pgs 61-2. Unfortunately, too many schools gear their teaching of writing towards ‘the tests’, whatever they might look like.
  • I think you need to know how to model and articulate your writing thought process. From ‘ooh I know I need a capital letter here to start my sentence…’ to ‘I want a really powerful verb choice here so my reader has a sense of…’.
  • I think modelling can be really helpful but it does need to be authentic- in previous research I’ve found teachers quite conflicted over this. Some found writing alongside easier and then reflecting aloud – do you do that at all?
  • Starting off mini-lessons with things like: When I write… Yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice that… When some writers… they’ll… Why do authors use… I’ve noticed recently that… I wanted to show you how I… I thought today we could try… We need to show that we can…
  • Cheers
  • As you know though, I used to love showing children my finished texts and discussing them with them. Answering their questions, asking their opinion, explaining my decisions, why I wrote it in the first place & then inviting them to try it for themselves….
  • Explaining your decisions- yes – modelling authorial intentionality.
  • Grammar, a wide vocabulary and a good understanding of the semantics of the English language. Plus, a rich and varied reading diet so you can draw on these examples to model good writing to the children.
  • A love of grammar where language is being played with is crucial.

Question 1b

  • We can learn so much about pedagogical knowledge from the wonderful writer-teachers that took part in our research into effective writing teaching! What is it Writing For Pleasure teachers do that makes the difference? Full report here.
  • Can you name a few features in the twitter feed for us?
  • We outline them here:
    • Created a community of writers
    • Treated every child as a writer
    • Read, shared, thought & talked about writing
    • Pursued purposeful & authentic writing projects
    • Taught the writing processes
    • Set writing goals
    • Were reassuringly consistent
    • Pursued personal writing projects
    • Balanced composition & transcription teaching
    • Taught daily mini-lessons
    • Were writer-teachers
    • Systemically pupil-conferenced: met children where they were.
    • Connected volitional reading to volitional writing
    • Enacted a reading for pleasure pedagogy
  • I think teachers need to 1st see themselves as writers, sharing their own authentic writing experiences/processes/struggles…modelling writing, dialogic focus, discuss grammar in context, embed vocab. in quality texts, give choice/ownership, as you would w/reading!

Agreed it’s a core argument in both these books- but it’s not a panacea and a systematic review I did with Lucy Oliver shows that the evidence is not yet secure that this impacts on pupil progress.

Question 2

  • It’s really simple. Any of these reasons children are moved to write counts as writing as far as we are concerned.
  • And following the extract…I encourage my children to choose all the time. The past two weeks: poetry inspired by Macbeth. Word choices, themes, forms, all sorts. It’s all in the mix and the variety and quality is SUPERB!
  • Choice and agency are simply central as in #readingforpleasure
  • Would like to explore Writing Rivers in the style of Reading Rivers – learn what experiences our children have of writing at home and value those. Important for gaining real perspective on formality of tone (Y6 hat on here): texts, emails, captions on Instagram etc.
  • Do – they’re fascinating – as are reflections on what shaped any given piece to help show provenance and complexity etc – there are no motorways! This is from p.9

  • A bit like a Reading River but Writing. Glorious!
  • Writing River example of practice from @SadiePhillips
  • You know what I think is a really undervalued form of writing everywhere? LISTS. I’ve found getting the children to make lists of stuff – all sorts of stuff – is a powerful bit of writing in itself. And can lead to other interesting bits of writing too…!
  • Interesting- an example?
  • I’ve done 1minute lists of stream-of-consciousness words associated with their chosen title for ‘Macbeth’ poems: ‘King’, crown, majestic, throne, sword, justice, goodness, care, people, country… and used these to form sentences / phrases / chunks of a poem afterwards.
  • But lists of favourite words…things you’d like to write about…things that have happened to you in your neighbourhood…a rich melting pot. I’m very influenced/inspired by @FletcherRalph
  • Hooray! You could even do a Me as a writer brainstorm?

  • That’s really interesting. I had a chat with a teacher recently who pointed out that children rarely see adults writing. Surely it’s the same as with reading. I try now to write more with pen and paper around my boys now – including shopping lists – rather than type
  • I often reflect on this when leading training. Mum was a social worker & I knew she wrote reports, as well as aerograms to folks all over the world. She did this when we were in bed – as is the focused nature of writing. I know we all write more (but differently) than ever before.
  • Have written a deep reflection on whether I am a teacher-writer and classes have reflected in a similar way with writing rivers but I LOVE the idea of mind mapping it out for the class to see/discuss/encourage them to do the same. If you want to reflect on yourself as a writer, there are some Qs bulleted on this blog.
  • “Students can go a lifetime & never see another person write, much less show them how to write. Yet, it would be unheard of for an artist not to show her students how to use oils by painting on her own canvas, or for a ceramist not to demonstrate how to throw clay on a wheel. Writing is a craft.” (Graves, A Fresh Look at Writing, 1994)
  • How we write/mark-make and the processes we go through will vary for different writing purposes – fiction and non fiction.
  • Poetry and on… and of course the stage in the process.
  • Oh yes – and perhaps poetry and the stage help as children and adults maybe too seem more responsive to reading their writing aloud?
  • Quite a fan of ‘journalling’ as a tool for recording thought processes – using this in maths as well as other contexts. We have a spelling journal and a reading journal where all sorts of magpieing and note-taking can take place.
  • Writing fishing nets – catch nouns from this picture/song/video/read aloud story (catch adverbs, abstract nouns, adjectives… Whatever). Big fan of a single splendid sentence, crafted with care and rehearsed until just right. Also a fan of spit it out and wipe around later…
  • Love this chapter conclusion from @TeresaCremin & @damyhill

  • Writing in my classroom is everything – making notes about a book, recording what’s been read, planning, magpie sessions … it’s so endless that I’m having trouble expressing it! BUT in any form it is valued and cherished so that children develop a willingness to approach writing!

Question 3

  • I think discussing another writer’s craft is a wonderful thing to do. That’s why I like @MichaelRosenYes & @J0e_R0sen’s recent series on Youtube. HOWEVER, the teaching of composition is more diff coz the teacher, whilst able to admire and point towards quality craft, is unable to describe the decisions, strategies / techniques an author will have employed to create the text – as they are studying an author’s work who is not present.
  • That it’s never going to be ‘perfect’ first time, that writing is messy, non-linear, that we all have days where it’s tough to put pen to paper and the ideas just won’t come, that we’re all human. We learn how they think, how they come up with ideas, how they play with words. We learn about their processes, the environments they write in, we learn about the ‘how’ of writing.
  • For me professional writers are an endless source of fascination and information- e.g. revealing as research shows that ownership is central and emotional connection to the writing too- then I ponder to what extent do we offer such in school?
  • I think this is something that is all too often missing from our talk with children. Do we only talk about ‘professional’ readers in school?
  • What do you mean by hobbyist writers? Aren’t we all writers? Sorry not trying to be difficult…
  • Definitely all writers – all of us use it for functional and/or job related reasons – at the very least. Others write for recreation or as part of their recreation – so not for money. E.g. A local historian, blogger, Meme maker, Slam poet, open mic comic, memoirists. People who write letters to the editor, self-published authors, amateur reviewers, gonzo journalists, family historians, people who write about their passions and share it for free. I present a little more about in my research report – page 50-51 – if interested
  • Two threads for me here. As teachers we should learn from writers who teach. For me, @PhilipPullman‘s writings on education have driven my ethos for nearly 20 years as a teacher. His words inspire me literally every day.
  • Can you point me in the direction of some of the @PhilipPullman educational writings? Would like to have a read. 🙂
  • Me too – I’ve read Daemon voices but likely missed some.
  • This weblink has articles not in that book. I think the Isis Lecture is incredible. I love it’s forthright passion. Nothing like it. The Isis Lecture was like an electric shock to me as a young teacher. It crackled and fizzed me to life right at the beginning of my NQT year. It has stuck in my memory ever since.
  • “One of the things the children have to do in this unit of work is to make a class list of “the features of a good story opening.” This is where it stops being merely tedious, and starts being mendacious as well.” Go for it Philip! Yes!
  • A gem on how books were starting to be used in schools: “But the whole book doesn’t matter very much either, because books exist in order to be taken apart and laid out in pieces like Lego.” It bears repeating even though we’ve (hopefully) moved on from ghastly ‘extract’ teaching.
  • There’s so much children can learn from professional writers and I think publishing professionals too. I love sharing my writing life with children – the creative, the practical, the social, the political … The pen is mightier than the sword.
  • Hearing a writer talk about their process as an author is inspiring. @hilary_mckay at RfP conference earlier this month was so insightful about the depth of background research she went into and how pleasurable that was. We should learn from that.
  • There was a twitter thread about editing and the graft, reward, hidden iceberg of what goes on once something is ‘finished’. I have found that really useful to share with my class.
  • Simply the ‘realness’ that someone writes for their living is important. My own 13yo wants to be a writer and used to say ‘my back up plan is…’ Then someone told him he didn’t have to think like that and that he could be an author – glorious.
  • @authorfy is a remarkably generous and valuable resource to illuminate writing and author perspectives.
  • Thank you so much for the shout out, Beth! I try to make the resources I would’ve LOVED as a child so I’m over the moon that so many teachers / parents / librarians / students enjoy the platform, too.