English - Once upon a time ..

23rd September 2011 at 01:00
It's story-writing that fires young minds - and targets can go hang

I light our Big Write candle, which for health and safety reasons is in a tray of sand. It flickers to life and fills the air with the scent of wild raspberries.

Amazing adjectives in multi-coloured splendour adorn my working walls. Action-packed adverbs glow adventurously from the whiteboard. The only sound (excluding that of one student kicking the wall) is Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers.

In this surreal atmosphere of almost calm, my children are eager to begin their Big Write. Their special, shiny Big Write pens are poised like sharp, glistening stalactites over their glowing, snow-white Big Write sheets of paper. I glance at the clock and in hushed tones tell them: "You may begin."

Big Writing, developed by former teacher and Ofsted inspector Ros Wilson, is working its way through the nation's primary schools faster than a sickness and diarrhoea bug. Its mission is to give writing the X factor: to scrub it up, dress it up and push it into the spotlight.

By concentrating on technical areas of the writing process and by regularly using the trying and testing (and time consuming) method of analysing every piece of writing with the Criterion Scale, children's work can be rigorously assessed and targets for improvement established. But could this be where Big Write is going wrong?

No matter what the future holds for KS2 SATs, teachers will still find themselves living through testing times. The pressure to achieve targets will urge us to teach exclusively to success criteria (or, where Big Write is concerned, to tick boxes on the Criterion Scale) ahead of our core task, which is to inspire in children a love of writing.

Well, not on my watch. At the end of this session we will gather around our Big Write candle and read our stories aloud. We will applaud every effort and ignore every missed success criterion. That this might set a child's imagination ablaze is a fire risk worth taking; the danger is that one careless breath might put it out.

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher in Sheffield.


In the forums

Visit the forums for chats about whether Big Write will increase the marking overhead and read early-years practitioners' debate on whether Big Write is suitable for nursery.

Also in the TES forums, teachers are discussing their favourite GCSE prose texts.


See the resources for Big Write and let us know what you think.

Literacy Miss has shared a Big Writing PowerPoint resource which serves as a useful introduction to the method and rationale behind it. kruss007's Big Writing Frame Persuasive Writing resource has some inspirational themes.


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