Able young authors get Snappy

13th August 2010 at 01:00
Creative writers in East Kilbride used a novel approach to books and the moving image to push storytelling to another level

Far from being elitist, St Leonard's Primary in East Kilbride has found that working with the Scottish Network for Able Pupils (SNAP) brought about a more inclusive approach to learning, with all pupils and staff benefiting.

Creative writing and moving images formed the two halves of a recent project with the Glasgow University team. For each part, seven P6 pupils were chosen and a remit given. "We chose the kids who, we felt, would benefit more - the ones who in class were normally writing screeds more," says their teacher, Edel Scott.

Working with children's author Val Thornton, Ms Scott concentrated on developing her assessment of the children's writing, while the pupils were encouraged to take their writing a stage further, exploring fairy stories at a deeper level and stretching their imagination more than they would normally.

Meeting at lunchtimes, the team were to write and produce a book, with everyone playing their part.

"We had to create a book with five stories from each of the seven pupils," says Rachel McCusker, 10. "I wrote one story about going back in time to meet my great great grandpa. I decided to call him Billy. Another story was about the seven wonders of Scotland. The finished book looks big and bulky and it looks good. It is much more professional than I thought it would be."

Time constraints meant some of the writing had to be done at home, but this was not a problem. "It was infectious," says Ms Scott. "They couldn't get enough of it and the parents were delighted.

"The kids were responsible for editing, redrafting etc. They really enjoyed the process and it showed that they hadn't hit a plateau in their writing. It gave them the breathing space to move forward. Like all children, they want to improve, so it is very valuable."

The other children heard about what their classmates were doing and wanted to do their own writing, she says. "Some sent writing off to a competition. We found outlets for the others. We also did our own class book. The project was pretty inclusive."

For the moving images part, depute headteacher Eileen Tompkins was the tutor. With assistance from Scott Donaldson of Scottish Screen, and DVDs produced by the British Film Institute, the seven pupils learned about character setting, animations, and how films are made, before making three of their own three-minute films.

Stephanie McCusker, 11, says: "My partner was Nadine and we made an animated movie about a volcano on an island. We did it in our back gardens and took lots of shots, so it looked as if there was movement. We also did the voice-overs. It was hard work but fun to do and when I saw it at the end, I liked how it had turned out."

The teachers were amazed at what the children came up with when given the chance to take risks, says Mrs Tompkins. "It raised expectations of what they can do themselves."

The moving images work led on to a visit to the BBC studios in Glasgow, where some of the other children got to join them in making videos for the BBC website.

"The project has given them the opportunity to review what they have learnt, and to identify successes," says Mrs Tompkins. "It has stretched them personally and helped them improve. They have come out with a greater understanding of the key features of writing."

The teachers had the chance to work with a writer, and look at how they assessed writing, as well as techniques for assessing work that is harder to mark, while the writer focused on how to give guidance to these pupils.

The project is now finished, the pupils have had a Celebration Day for their work at Glasgow University, and headteacher Des Timmons is pleased with how it has gone.

"The children involved were so enthusiastic and it was encouraging to see how they enjoyed the writing. It brings literacy alive," he says.

"The impact of the moving images was huge. The children were totally motivated by it, and it caught the imagination of the staff. The parents are enthusiastic and everyone is talking about it."

scoted@tes.co.uk.

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