Wroughton Infant School in Wiltshire found that its key stage 1 pupils' average levels in writing were much lower than their scores in reading. In particular, the boys were achieving significantly lower results.
This was in line with a national trend: in 2011, 73 per cent of KS1 pupils achieved a 2b or above in reading, compared with just 60 per cent in writing. The teachers at Wroughton sat down and formed a plan to engage the children with creative writing.
The initiative that the teachers came up with was to transform a school corridor, which was usually used to display work linked to the curriculum, into a themed "topic corridor". There the children could create an inspiring environment filled with their work, art, photographs, books and even sound effects. External businesses that could help to enhance the children's learning were also approached.
The pupils helped to decide the theme, which was "jungle", and staff say that the project not only captured the children's imaginations but also the imaginations of teachers, parents, visitors and the local community. All were invited to think up schemes for the project.
The pupils decided what to contribute from their writing, art and DT work and the school ran a jungle poetry competition, which was judged and reported on by a local magazine. Winners' photos from a jungle dress-up day were displayed in the corridor and parents came in to help out with jungle days, which involved practical outdoor activities and team-building games, followed by writing.
Jonathan's Jungle Roadshow visited the school, which gave the children an opportunity to handle real rainforest animals such as tarantulas and snakes, and at the village carnival the school presented Wroughton Infant School on Safari, which even included a Land Rover built from a shopping trolley.
Wroughton partnered with primary school in Africa to learn about the jungle, and a jungle-themed production, The Emerald Rainforest, which addressed the problems of the diminishing rainforest, was performed at the end of the year.
Finally, every pupil wrote on the theme of "the jungle" in a variety of different genres and styles - for example, a non-fiction leaflet on animals, a jungle adventure story and accounts of their various "jungle experiences".
Tips from the scheme
Let pupils be as immersed as possible. The more input they have into the project and planning, the more passionate they will be.
Involve external organisations. By collaborating with Jonathan's Jungle Roadshow, local magazines, other schools and parents, the project gained more depth and expertise. The time out of the classroom was also inspiring for the children, who felt as if they were truly working outside of the curriculum and stretching themselves.
Explore all different sides of the topic. Try to find links with every subject, not just writing. Incorporating art and science will always engage pupils.
Evidence that it works?
In just one year the school's writing performance soared, from 77.3 per cent of pupils achieving a 2b or above in 2010 to 90 per cent in 2011 - the school's best ever result. Staff and parents reported that the children's enthusiasm grew due to their practical, first-hand experiences and engagement with the entire project, which was nominated for outstanding literacy or numeracy initiative in the 2012 TES Schools Awards.
Approach: Improving children's writing by creating a jungle-themed corridor
Name: Wroughton Infant School
Age range: 5-7
Type: Community, mixed
Ofsted overall rating: Outstanding (2008).