Stories to tell the world
Thank you, Ben Gunn. Thank you for teaching me another meaning of maroon, for saving Jim Hawkins and, most recently, thank you for publishing children's writing on your web page. Yes, Ben Gunn has his own web page, dedicated to publishing children's writing. Children from these islands and from far-flung reaches of the world create pirates - dashing, dastardly and downright dirty - and send their descriptions to Ben. He publishes them, short or long, basic or sophisticated, casting them off with an appropriately piratical observation. And the young people love it - writing the description, e-mailing it away and discovering their work on the web page.
The Ben Gunn page is part of an excellent site dedicated to Treasure Island http:www.ukoln.ac.ukservicestreasure that hoists an old-fashioned but wonderful story into the 21st century.
This website showed me the way to a new and exciting audience for students' writing. For years I have displayed work on walls, put it into attractive booklets, entered it in competitions, trying a host of ways to make it relevant and "real". But nothing has surpassed the buzz of activity, interest and genuine excitement created when publishing writing online. Students strive to produce something worth showing, and a welcome bonus is their interest in their peers' writing. "It's Danny's pirate!" squeals one voice and then the rest scramble to find it too.
It is not just school peers they are impressing. Websites are global publications, and students will often find their writing on the same page as writers from the United States, India or Japan.
There are sites to cater for a huge range of ages, abilities and types of writing. Here are some worth looking into: Kids on the Net, http:kotn.ntu.ac.uk encourages and publishes both fiction and non-fiction writing. Take a peek at the Kids' Castle and the Monster Hotel.
KidsCom http:www.kidscom.com features Write Me a Story, where children are given a character, a prop and a place from which to create a story. There are also pet pages, and space for inventions, opinions and even jokes.
Kids' Space http:www.kids-space.org is a well-organised site where children under 16 can send in stories and pictures, or create their own picture book. The folk tales page is a great way of sharing stories from all over the world.
Fan Fiction http:www.fanfiction.net gives writers the opportunity to write in the style of their favourite book. It can also be reviewed by reaers. It is not a children's site, but there are large sections on children's books.
http:kidswriting.about.comteensteenwritingmbody.htm is definitely for older students. There is a huge range of categories for writing as well as writing tips and activities.
Walkers Showcase www.walkersshowcase.co.uk is a new site on which schools may publish students' writing, pictures, music and other work. (Schools must first submit an application) The Scriptorium http:www.thescriptorium.netyouth.html is a virtual room for writers, and has a section for serious young writers, giving tips on how to present work, and creativity exercises. Work may be submitted for publication.
Campfire Story http:www.planetzoom.comcampfirecampfire.html-ssi is a rolling worldwide story where students may add the next paragraph.
Kids Bookshelf http:www.kidsbookshelf.com is another site where young writers can submit reviews, stories and poems.
Frodo's Notebook http:www.frodosnotebook.com is an online quarterly of essays and poetry by teens worldwide.
Brain Event www.brainevent.com, a US online magazine for young children and teenagers, accepts poetry, journals, stories and reviews. Registration (free) is necessary.
KidNews http:www.kidnews.com publishes a huge range of writing from round the globe, with pages on sports, opinions, news, reviews, etc. Schools are also invited to submit magazines of students' writing.
MaMaMedia http:www.mamamedia.comhome.html features What's the Story? where students can create an animated story in words and pictures.
Young Writer On-line http:www.mystworld.comyoungwriter is the sister electronic edition of the excellent Young Writer magazine. It does not appear to publish a great deal of material online, but does invite contributions.
Websites come and go, so do your homework before you book the computer room. Always go through the whole publishing process, perhaps with a student, so that you discover pitfalls before the whole class tells you. It will familiarise you with what should or could be on students' screens during the lesson.
It is usually possible for students to prepare their work using a wordprocessor before going online, when they can click on the link provided, and copy and paste their writing online. Often sites do not publish everything submitted, so ensure students keep a copy. Sometimes it takes a little while for the work to be published. But when it is, be prepared for the squeals.
Judith Kneen is head of English at Dene Magna School, Mitcheldean, Gloucestershire