English - Creative tips for writing

12th October 2012 at 01:00

What it's all about

When I was at school in 1976, Mr Jackson's writing lessons started with: "Your title is `The Journey'. You have an hour. Tonight, I will check it. Tomorrow, you rewrite it."

What did 1970s teachers do during inspections? I don't recall drastic switching to four-part lessons with mini-plenaries and an invasion of wildebeest to maintain engagement, writes Fran Hill.

Recent Ofsted noises indicate that a solid period of uninterrupted writing in an English lesson is acceptable - but what to write?

Autobiographical writing furnishes pupils with a ready-made storyline. I find "My first ." narratives a rich source of ideas. Also, turning an experience into a "letter to my future self", telling it from several points of view can add interest. Verbal preparation - recounting to a partner who makes notes, then interrogates for extra information - discourages generalisation.

Collaboration gives writing an anticipatory edge. Two pupils plan a story, then write the first paragraph together, then write individually and are not allowed to confer. Comparing their finished stories helps them to identify elements of personal style.

Timed writing in stages adds pressure, but also structure, and works well for extended description. Pupils could describe a supermarket using the five senses, or at different times of day or from different perspectives.

Writing a draft at length, checking, correcting and rewriting is not cutting edge. But while they are doing it, you can wander round and teach individuals: something you cannot do while coordinating an invasion of wildebeest.

What else?

Try Temperance's autobiographical writing scheme of work. bit.lymylifemywords

For a creative approach to redrafting, try Claire Kelly's PowerPoint. bit.lydrafttime.

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