Developing writing's imaginative approach;Curriculum

5th February 1999 at 00:00
Liz Watson is making a sand pie. Water sloshes into the sand-box, there is the satisfying crunch and pat as the sand is packed into the pail, and the moment of anticipation as the class waits to see the result.

This is a writing class at Keir Hardie Primary, North Lanark-shire, and the Primary 2s and 3s are not going to make their own sand pies, they are going to write a story about it. The new system applies to all forms of writing: not just imaginative stories, but reports, letters, poetry, even recipes. "Last week we were making chocolate krispies," says Liz Watson, "so we were discovering lots of good words like 'scrumptious' and 'appetising' ".

With the mess out of the way, Liz Watson turns to the blackboard and gets the class to make a plan for their sand-pie stories. They discuss several headings: What I Need; What I Do First; After That; Next; Finally.

Then the children make a plan for their own story. Looking at the structure of the piece and what you are going to say in it is integral to this system. Whether it is a P1 class asking themselves, who is in their story, what happened, and how did they feel; or a P7 class discussing the sort of atmosphere they want to evoke, and whether they want to have a physical or emotional description of their principal character, this initial stage provides teachers with the opportunity to get specific grammatical or stylistic points across, and gets pupils started.

The next stage is for pupils to tell their story, using their notes. There is discussion of what has been missed out, and suggestions of words and phrases that might be used.

At Newarthill Primary, half a mile up the road, teachers are still adjusting to the new system. One staff member complains she finds the process - model story, followed by planning, followed by discussion, and eventually writing - to be terribly time-consuming. But the general feeling is positive. In the P6 classroom, a piece of card in the corner is titled We Like These Words and Phrases. Culled from the class's writing are some lovely expressions: "the sun laid a golden trail", "the wax drips down in slow, dull drops". If North Lanarkshire doesn't produce a published author or two in the next 30 years, some of us will want to know the reason.

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