Simple overview. Talk surrounds the process of writing

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Pie Corbett -

From storytelling to story writing – for Year 3 &

Year 4 Teachers

Thursday 26th February 2009

To develop as writers, children will need to walk through the Wheatfield many times.
Simple overview.
Talk surrounds the process of writing.

  1. Increase the amount you read to the children and the amount they read/listen to poems, stories, information – especially reading as a writer.

  1. Make transcription easy and automatic – so the brain can focus on composition.

  1. Talk the text – storytelling, debating, presenting, instructing, explaining, etc.

  1. Lots of Shared writing with the whole class – and guided writing targeted at specific groups to teach them what they need. Teach children how to craft writing.

  1. Use assessment to drive teaching. What happens on Monday determines the focus on Tuesday. Use marking to provide immediate feedback that is focused on improvement.

Spelling games.

  • systematic, daily phonics – pushed into writing and reading

  • link spelling and handwriting

  • Daily – from R to Y3 – segment and blend.

  • Which one?

  • Picture it.

  • Speedwrite.

  • Finish.

  • Countdown.

  • Riddles.

  • Muddles + Common words and patterns – plurals, starts, middles and ends – ly, ing, ed.

  • Shannon’s game.

  • Rhyme it.

Try using – train, wheel, bone, light, flies, soap, seed, snail, goat, cream, face, five, bowl, cake, hook, car, sock, back, shout, wood, led, bad, toy, day, gate, see, try, blow, true, game, gave, fine, moon, fool, boast, feet, cap, ash, rat, day, best, ill, bit, line, ring, ink, ship, shot, stop, hump, poke, mug.

Use their errors – common words and patterns + words needed for the text type.
Basic Craft of Writing games.

  • Daily – written or oral;

  • In relation to text type and progress;

  • Begin by speaking/hearing sentences, using colour and kinaesthetic methods – words on cards, forming big sentences, etc, before moving to whiteboards: -

  • Louisa’s connective game

Once upon a time one day first then next after that

after a while a moment later the next day meanwhile

soon at that moment suddenly unfortunately unluckily

luckily so although however as soon as now finally eventually

  • Gita ran home because….

  • Sound & action sentences

? = ugh (scratch head) ! = whee bang . = bang

, - raspberry “” = eee, eee

  • make a sentence

1 word - dog 2 words - shark jelly

3 words - zebra humbug because

  • boring sentences/improve a paragraph

The cat went along the wall.

  • sentence/paragraph doctor

He runned down the lain the men was behind him

A new boy wos comeing to our school, we were exsited when Mrs Khan tolled us that he was extra speshul. In assembly she said “so were all going to make him feel welcome, arent we.”
From How to win at football by Rachel Anderson.

  • finish

The old king…. …. and laughed.. .across the lake because…

  • drop in

Pie drove in his car to Bradford.
Adjective, adverb…. or clause

Pie, who was tired, drove in his car to Bradford.

Pie, chewing a toffee, drove in his car to Bradford.

Pie, disgusted by his family, drove in his car to Bradford.

  • join

The cart stopped.

The hobbit got down.

  • compare, e.g. strong/weak sentence

  • Oral and written imitation, e.g. varying sentence openings and sentence types.

Slowly, she crept into the room.

Angrily, he…

Reminder Sheet.

1. Vary sentences to create effects: -

  • Short, simple sentences – for drama and clarity: Tom ran.

  • Compound sentences for flow: Tom ran and Kitty walked.

  • Complex sentences to add in extra layers of information: As Tom ran, Kitty ate the cake.

  • Questions to draw in the reader: What was that?

  • Exclamations for impact: Run for it!

  • Sentence of 3 for description: He wore a dark cloak, shiny shoes and red trousers. The troll was tall, bony and very hairy.

  • Sentence of 3 for action: Tom ran down the lane, jumped over the hedge and collapsed.

2. Vary sentence openings: -

  • Adverb opener (how): Slowly,….

  • Connective opener (when): Last thing at night, …..

  • Prepositional opener (where): On the other side of the road….

  • Adjective opener: Tall trees towered over the river.

  • Simile opener: as quick as a flash…. Like an eel….

  • One word opener: Sad, …..

  • ‘ing’ opener: Running for home, Tim tripped….

  • ‘ed’ opener: Exhausted by the run, Tim fell over.

3. Drop in clauses: -

  • Who: Tim, who was tired, ran home.

  • Which: The cat, which looked mean, ran home.

  • That: The car, that was made of metal, melted!

  • ‘ing’: Tim, hoping for silence, crept into the staffroom.

  • ‘ed’: Tim, frightened by class 4, ate another cream bun.

4. The ‘ing’ clause.

  • Before: Laughing at the dog, Tim fell backwards.

  • During: Tim, laughing at the dog, fell backwards.
  • After: Tim fell backwards, laughing at the dog.

  • Stage direction for speech: “Hi,” muttered Tom, waving to Bill.

Practise – sentences types that relate to the text type and that will help progress. Provide spellings and sentence types on cards and mats, etc. and in display. List the key words and sentence features needed to make progress in your plans.

Shortburst Creative Writing.
Poetry is the place to start because poetry is about words. Writers need to be attentive to words and then the way they fit and flow together within sentences.

  1. Internalising Poetic Language and Possibilities.

Perhaps, right at the start, we should state that poetry lies at the heart of language and experience. It is where children learn to savour words, play with language and use it to capture and celebrate their world. The poem is central – and so too should be the child’s own pleasure in language for writers love words. Nothing else much will follow without these conditions. In the Primary Framework ‘Progression for Poetry’, it states:

Like many art forms, poetry could be said to have little purpose and yet every culture has song, rhyme or poetry as an essential aspect of its cultural inheritance because it goes to the heart of language, thought and who we are as human beings. Usually poetry matters most to the writer and then the reader. It may be written specifically to entertain but often will be written in order to preserve and celebrate experience. Poetry helps us to create, or recreate, imagined or real experiences that are deeply felt. Reading poems and making our own poems challenges, surprises, enriches and comforts.

Early poetic utterance emerges with the discovery of the power of sounds and words. Very young children play with sounds, rhythms and enjoy inventing words. As they grow up, children enjoy rhymes, inventing new combinations of words, riddles and other forms of word play. Such early language playfulness lies at the heart of poetry.

Children also soon discover that language has the power to recreate experience. For instance, a young child looking in awe at the moon on a cold December night may find that ordinary language will not sufficiently convey enough of the experience or what was felt - because it merely labels or reports the experience (I saw the moon. It was fantastic). In order to capture something of both the experience and what was felt, language has to be used in a different manner (the moon hung in the dark,/like a bear’s silver claw,/ and the stars speckled the night…). So, poetry helps us to explain ourselves to the world and the world to ourselves – capturing something of the essence of the experience as well as our response.
When looking at children’s poetic writing, the progression draws language and experience and feeling together:
Children write most effectively about subjects that they have experienced and that matter. It is the desire to capture and communicate to a reader or listener real experience and genuine feeling or to play with language that leads to the most powerful writing.
Poetic writing is enriched and deepened by attentive reading, listening to and performing of poetry. Without reading, writing may become proficient but it will never move beyond that. It is worth recalling that whilst at university Ted Hughes rose at 6 every morning to read a Shakespeare play before his tutorial. Hughes was a genius partly because he had the voice of Shakespeare within him - as part of his living linguistic repertoire. T.S. Eliot suggested to Hughes that when reading poetry, it should be read aloud – so that the mind both read and heard the poems.

Reading and performing helps us internalise language and possibilities – it increases our range of voices to call upon when writing. As teachers we need to put into the minds of children the voices of many poets and poems for them to draw upon when writing.

Children love reading, writing and performing poetry. It is essential to our well-being because it focuses upon creativity - and creativity matters, especially for those with chaotic lives because making beautiful things helps children feel good about themselves and their world.
It would be worth working out which poets are going to become the main focus for teaching over the four years in key stage 2, focusing upon a poet a term. This means that the children become familiar with a range of poets over time. Children could choose and read a ‘poem a day’ with the teacher reading once a week. This may only take up a few minutes a day – but the cumulative impact could be quite considerable.
It would be sad to think that children might miss out on Michael Rosen, Charles Causley, Val Bloom, Judith Nichols, Kit Wright, William Blake, Philip Gross, Walter de La mare, Shakespeare or Ted Hughes. Recent research by publishers suggest that teachers worry about performance poetry – which is strange because almost any poem can be performed. Also, teachers struggle to find poems from other cultures. Key anthologies include: One River, Many Creeks: Poems from All Around the World, edited by Valerie Bloom Macmillan Children’s Books); Around the World in 80 Poems, edited by James Berry and Katherine Lucas (Macmillan Children’s Books); Masala: Chosen by Debjani Chatterjee (Macmillan Children’s Books).

Establish a Poetry Climate.
The original ‘Writing Poetry’ flyer recognized the need for schools to establish a positive climate for poetry by suggesting:

  • access to up-to-date collections of poetry so that there is enough for browsing, taking home to read, reading a range in class
  • attractive displays that focus children’s interest, e.g. poetry posters (including children’s own poems) on display

  • poem/poet of the week/month

  • relating poems to other curriculum areas

  • selecting poems to perform, or tape, for other classes – ‘poets on loan’

  • inviting poets into the school

  • creating ‘poet trees’ with branches for different types of poem plus leaves with extracts

  • spreading enthusiasm for poems – recommendations by pupils and teachers

  • writing, reading and sharing poems as the teacher

  • celebrating National Poetry Day.

Digging deeper.
Poems are not like sums – they do not always easily add up. Some are straightforward enough but will trigger memories and responses nonetheless (such as Michael Rosen’s ‘Chocolate Cake’). When reading poetry, it is important to read aloud - for poems are as much about sound as meaning. The full impact is often a combination of the words and the sound and sometimes the layout as well. There are many poems that are easy to understand and lightweight that will be fun to read and chant but for teaching we need to be more interested in presenting poems with depth that will actually influence the imagination.

The point about ‘challenging poetry’ is that it does not have to be fully understood – it is there to be enjoyed and experienced. Children will not have the critical language, let alone faculties, to be able to discuss Shakespeare at any depth – but they can experience it – and often link into a true sense of the poem’s intentions. What has to be avoided is strapping the poem to a chair and trying to thrash a metaphor out of it! Too many poetry lessons are about spotting verbs and similes rather than deepening understanding and appreciation. Poems are not just to be understood intellectually. They present language as a sensation to be heard and experienced. And with some poems, it may be pointless to ask what does it mean because it is more of an event that appeals to what T.S. Eliot described as the ‘auditory imagination’.

The habit of reading and then talking about poems is one to be developed. The phrase ‘tell me’ being very handy as it invites extended thought. It is worth saying that rather than just chucking an activity at a poem, the teacher needs to think carefully about what activity might help to deepen children’s understanding and appreciation.
Here are some activities that may help children dig under the skin of a poem. It is worth increasingly asking the children to raise questions, make statements, talk poems through, explain ideas and describe memories and responses. Try to avoid putting children into the situation of ‘guessing what is in the teacher’s head’. Especially with poetry, the interpretation is not just in the teacher’s mind – a good poem will work on the reader in different ways. Sometimes it is just enough to know that you loved a poem. Choose activities to match the poem’s demands:

  • Prepare a group reading of a poem. Thinking about how to use voices, varying the pace, expression and volume to suit the meaning. Make sure the words are clear – add in percussive backing where relevant.

  • Read and discuss – likes, dislikes, puzzles and patterns.

  • There may be specific questions that are worth asking as they help to focus children on discussing aspects that may unlock a poem’s meaning.

  • Select the 5 most important words – defend your choice.

  • If you had £1 and words cost 10p – which words would you buy?

  • Jot down your initial ideas, memories, questions, thoughts, similar experiences, feelings – and share these in pairs.

  • What was the most powerful picture?

  • Annotate the poem – make statements or raise questions.
  • Use a colour to identify powerful words or surprising images.

  • Explain the poem to a friend.

  • Give children a poem without the title – what is it called?

  • Cut a poem up by verses, lines or words to be re-sequenced.

  • Omit key words and present a poem as a cloze procedure.

  • Write a poem out as prose – the children have to decide what pattern would look best upon the page.

  • Respond to the poem in another form, e.g. a letter, diary entry, message, newspaper article.

  • Illustrate a poem and annotate with words and images.

  • Use two colours – one for sound effects (alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhymes, hard/soft sounds) and another colour for pictures (similes, metaphors). Talk about their effect.

  • Paint the poem - set the poem to dance or music.

  • Act the poem’s story out.

  • Create a model of the poem or collect images and artifacts to create a mini poetry museum where poems are matched with images and objects on display.

Imitation reading game.

Read a short poem to the class. The game is for the children to listen carefully and then as soon as you have finished, they should write down as much as they can remember – filling in gaps, if they need. In pairs, they can compare results and then listen to the original again. This develops memory but is also interesting because different people remember different sections – or everyone remembers the same piece – why? Discuss the memorable aspects – was it rhythm, the image, the word combination, its impact?

Poetry Reading Interviews.

Children work in pairs - one in role as the poet (or poem) and the other is about to interview them. Read a poem. The interviewers then ask questions and role-play an interview. Hear some in front of the class. Questions can be about the poem – but also any other aspect that the interviewer deems interesting! This game might be handy after several weeks of hearing different daily poems by a poet.

Booktalk - Likes, dislikes, puzzles and patterns.

Put children into pairs to make a list about a poem of likes, dislikes, puzzles and patterns. Or, each pair makes a list of 5 questions they are curious about. Later on, list these as a class and see if other pairs can provide ideas or answers.

Exploring feelings in a poem.

Choose a key image from a poem - that made you feel something (happy? sad? bored?) and explore why:

The tyger made me feel sad because….

Miming Poems.

Mime a poem. Will the rest of the class be able to guess which poem? Again, this would be good to use when the children have heard quite a few poems by a poet and are building up a few favourites that have been performed a number of times.

Thoughts in the head.

Draw a cartoon or thought bubble for a character in a story poem. Hot seat the character or have them perform a monologue.

Writing about poems.

Model how to write about poetry and ask the children to use a simple pattern for a written response, e.g.

What the poem is/seems to be about.

Why I have chosen it- likes, dislikes and puzzles.

What the poem means to me.

What the poem reminds me of/makes me think about.

Poem’s pattern ,techniques and language used and their impact.

Final comment – most memorable aspect.

Building a writing repertoire from reading and enjoying poems.
When I first started teaching, I held a poetry session once a week. After a while, I noticed that the children were building up a repertoire from their reading and writing. Once we had met ‘alliteration’ and had some fun with it then it crept into other lessons, even when it was not mentioned. I realised that the reading and writing was helping the children acquire a bank of possibilities that they could use in their own writing. The original ‘Writing Poetry’ flyer recognized the importance of building a repertoire for children’s own writing:
As writers, pupils should build up a repertoire of forms and stylistic devices that they can call upon to create poetry. In many instances, pupils will be focusing upon crafting language within a focused and manageable length and in a known form.

But it is not only a matter of building up the more obvious techniques such as alliteration or similes. I noticed that children began to pick up on other ideas and re-visit them. For instance, we had a session writing about the moon and weeks later on, we drew and then wrote descriptions of our hands. A number of children recycled the moon image to describe their fingernails.

Obviously, through reading children may acquire basic writing techniques, such as:

  • Words – choosing the most powerful, expressive and appropriate words to illuminate. Words have to earn their place – avoid just chucking in an adjective for the sake of bulk or prettifying a sentence.

  • Word combination – being alert to the possibility of avoiding the obvious (the big giant) and choosing words to surprise, perhaps a shock of truth to arrest the reader, e.g. The cockerel lava….
  • Sound effects – these can be produced by using alliteration (very handy because it may force a more interesting choice, e.g. rather than ‘purple plum’ you might think of ‘panicking plum’!) Onomatopoeia will happen naturally if children choose words with care so is not really a technique to use…. but something to comment upon. Rhyme comes with a word of warning for young writers but can be used to gain effects such as humour or emphasis if used sparingly and only when it adds to meaning.

  • Creating pictures – similes (‘like’ and ‘as’), personification and metaphor are useful techniques to help the reader visualise, as well as making connections between ideas.

This idea of cumulatively building a writing repertoire should lie at the heart of any school’s teaching of writing. The original ‘Writing Poetry’ flyer suggested to children:

The Poet’s Repertoire.

  • Over time you will learn different forms that you can select for different occasions, e.g. raps for entertaining, haiku for memorable moments, free verse for serious poems and capturing experiences and ballads for story telling.

  • Being true to the experience that you are writing about is more important than trying to squeeze words into a form.

  • To write in any form you need to spend

time reading good poems written in

that form.

  • Read like a writer – notice how poets

achieve different effects.

  • Borrow simple repeating patterns from

poets and invent your own.

  • Invent your own forms and structures.

  • Be careful with rhyme. Forcing a rhyme

can lead to dishonest writing.

Go for the right word rather than a

forced rhyme.

  • Keep the writing concrete and detailed.

  • Use your own poetic voice. Try to

use natural language and invent

memorable speech – listen for this


n everyday speech.

It is through attentive reading and plenty of performing poems by heart that children begin to internalize patterns and possibilities. Much of this may happen without a child knowing that a rhythm or turn of phrase has become memorable and will influence their future writing. As children get older, their attention to the detail and their savouring of the language may well become more explicit so that approaches to writing and poetic inclinations become a more conscious part of their repertoire. Writers need to develop curiosity about what other writers do. How are poems created? How do they intrigue our imaginations?

Powerful poetic writing can occur in most schools, in most classes, given the right conditions. The key factor is the teaching – the children have the talent, for childhood is a time where the world is fresh and new – language is there for experimentation. I remember one of my children seeing the cooling towers by Nottingham and describing them as ‘cloud factories’. As we grow older, our language increasingly fossilizes and the deadening hand of cliché makes our speech formulaic and predictable. But children are different. In a sense, it is a special moment in time when language is used to bring oneself and the world into being. Each new word is tasted and precious – little ones often just repeat words to hear and savour their sound. The difficulty comes later on, as they learn the conventions of their culture. Perhaps our society no longer values the apt phrase, the elegant argument, the beautifully crafted anecdote? As teachers we should be the preservers and celebrators of the well-chosen word.
One of the problems that the old literacy strategy faced was that the objectives were too often seen as ‘one-off’ events rather than something cumulative that then needs plenty of practice. For instance, these objectives from the old framework were essential for all young writers and not just for the terms they appeared:
Year 3 term 1

T10 to collect suitable words and phrases, in order to write poems and descriptions; design simple patterns with words, use repetitive phrases; write imaginative comparisons.

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