Novel team

16th June 2006 at 01:00
Rhona Whiteford found children's interest in writing was sparked when they combined efforts

I have been writer in residence for some time at St Oswald's Roman Catholic Primary in Wigan, a vibrant and busy workplace. I was asked to focus on the more talented children of Year 6 and to work on fiction only.

The success of Children's Laureate Jacqueline Wilson, her popularity and the way she touches on what interests children made me think of introducing the idea of a child laureate to school. This grew into plans for a team of writers who would interest other children in writing by writing themselves and by organising activities.

The first writing team and its leader were chosen from my group of Year 6 children by the class teacher, literacy lead and myself, who had taught them for two terms. They were picked for their writing talent and enthusiasm. The appointment is for a fixed period to make it available to others in the year group. The writing team leader is a boy and there are two boys and three girls in the team now. The team, hold planning meetings in lunchtimes either alone or with me and when I'm not in school we communicate by email.

The pupils are given the following resources: pens and paper and stationery for writing and display, a large noticeboard and use of a computer and printer in the work area and access to email (all messages to them are vetted first by the teacher). They can ask for photocopying to be done, and have access to the library at break times and the Year 6 classroom and work area for meetings. They have been given assembly time to speak to the rest of the school about projects.

The team's writing products are as various and as energetic as their enthusiasm. One of their first projects was to publish a series of ghost stories and sell them in school. Illustrations were commissioned from Year 6 artists and all editorial decisions were made by the team.

Now the writing team's role is becoming known and appreciated around the school and we plan to put the team on the school website along with examples of their work. Interest is growing and there's a waiting list to be in the next team. It looks as if writing is becoming not only fun but, especially for older children, cool.

Writing team ideas

* Reporters are sent to school plays to write reviews and sports fixtures to provide coverage. Player profiles have been commissioned and work is published in the school newsletter and the parish magazine or posted on the writing team or sports board.

* Themed jokes and poems have been displayed round the building, each on a coloured card and pupils were invited to find them.

* Valentine's day verses were written on hearts and distributed round the school.

* A "finish the story" and other competitions have been organised.

* Surveys of school reading tastes has been done.

* Book reviews are commissioned. Hodder Children's Books has provided books as prizes and sent many of their latest posters and proof books for the writing class to review. This makes the whole class feel an important part of the book market.

* Authors are invited to visit and book fairs arranged.

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