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Pirate's treasure

"Use interesting things as starting points for writing." That was the advice. So, my collection grew, bizarre and beautiful - leaf skeletons, coloured boxes, animal skulls, feathers, petrified wood, art postcards, tiny mirrors and magnifying glasses, jars of buttons, shells and polished stones. It became my favourite bit of teaching - looking for "good stuff"

to trigger writing. The crowning glory was a barnacle-encrusted leather boot found on Hastings' beach. I knew immediately it had to be a pirate's boot.

Every week the collection provided a writing focus. Sometimes we began by drawing, then brainstorming descriptive words. So, an old bicycle wheel led into simple images (like a spinning sun or a silver web). Other times we used an item as a trigger into a story. Each child chose a button - what piece of clothing did it belong to, who wore it, where were they?

One summer the caretaker found my writing box and, thinking it was junk, slung it out. So now I'm back to collecting, bringing little wonders from the world into class, making writing starting points both concrete and memorable. A teacher should never pass by a pirate's boot

Pie Corbett is a literacy consultant

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