English - For writing out loud

18th November 2011 at 00:00
The pen is even mightier when the stories it tells are spoken

The blinds are closed and the lights are out. The glow from a single candle casts menacing shadows over the Jabberwock collage, causing its eyes of flame to burn with malicious intent. Melissa widens her own eyes, lowers her voice and begins to read in her best writer's voice.

"In a scary, scary cave was a scary, scary tunnel. And down that scary, scary tunnel ..."

Many years ago, when I was a small, grubby and permanently dishevelled schoolboy, I dreamed Miss Rosewater would delve into the pile of stories we would write in our composition books every Friday morning, and select mine to read out to the class.

Don't get me wrong, I loved it when she wrote glowing words of praise at the bottom of my page. And I adored the gold stars that were her stamp of approval. But most of all I longed for her to read my words out loud.

Miss Rosewater was good at reading stories. And when she did, she read them in just the same way she would read stories about the Famous Five or The Borrowers. She varied the pace at which she read, she changed her voice to signify different characters and situations, she paused at the right moment in order to let our minds imagine what might happen next, she whispered when a whisper was called for, and when the tension was at breaking point she suddenly ... let out a ROAR!

Writing can be a lonely business. A story that is conceived in the imagination, and whose birth often involves messing up several perfectly innocent blank sheets of paper, is nothing if it goes unread. A tale unheard is a tale stillborn. If we want our children to enjoy writing, their writing needs to be enjoyed by others. In other words it requires an audience.

But an audience needs to be entertained, which is why I urge my children to put as much effort into telling as into writing stories. Read them aloud, in your best storyteller voice, as Miss Rosewater would. Practise, polish, rehearse, and finally perform them in front of your peers.

"... and in that deep, deep hole was a ... SPIDER!" shrieks Melissa, to squeals of laughter and tumultuous applause.

Novelist Terry Pratchett says: "Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself." That may or may not be true. But one thing is for certain: it's even more fun when you do it for others and write out loud.

Steve Eddison is a KS2 teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield


To understand the verbs of the Jabberwocky try teacherontherun's PowerPoint, which offers a useful explanation.

Encourage pupils to improve their story-writing with some step-by-step resources and worksheets from asadler79.

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