- Because writing - and learning - had become stale, over-cautious, over-formulaic.
- Because level-assessment had put a lid on achievement - if you look only for those features you expect to find, you may not be open to the surprises which each child brings.
- Because there is strength in numbers - many things are easier if everyone joins in.
- Because they valued a safe space to hear themselves think and to learn more about the writing process, without being judged.
- Because some had lost faith in themselves and their ability to rekindle children's curiosity through their own enthusiasms.
- Because children didn't have the energy to reach the individual targets they'd been set.
- Because there were more exciting journeys to be undertaken into the unknown.
- Because stamina, engagement, challenge, team-work, responsibility, courage, resilience, confidence and independent thinking were qualities that needed to be cultivated.
- Because, somehow, improving the standard of writing, in some people's minds, no longer required that writing should be meaningful.
- Teachers and senior leaders felt the fear and did it anyway: they wrote and shared their writing - and found the experience rewarding.
- They found writing surprisingly emotional - and they empathised with children who found writing hard.
- They learnt that freedom is useful when you're trying to gather your thoughts and experiment. If you experience how confusing and distracting it feels to be 'over-directed' and cajoled when you're writing, you probably won't do this to others you're trying to help towards fluency.
- Teachers gave children their own writing notebooks, and the children (in classes from year 1 to year 6) became writers of their own stories, rather than scribes of other people's.
- Almost all children became more engaged as writers.
- At playtime, some year 5 writers asked, "Can we stay in and write?"
- Children talked more easily and intelligently about writing; they listened more attentively to each other's writing and were more prepared to work on improving the quality of their writing.
1. Teachers who write together discover aspects of writing which help them improve their own teaching of writing. By writing creatively with other teachers, with no obligation to share, teachers discover emotional aspects of writing and build confidence in themselves as writers. This collective experience is not only affirming in itself, but it also gives teachers the insight, confidence and motivation to improve their teaching of writing.
2. By reflecting on differences between a teachers’ writing group and their classroom contexts, teachers learn important messages about reader-writer relationships. This is particularly the case for how responses and feedback are managed in relation to writing for different purpose and in different text types.
3. Less confident pupils grow as writers when their teacher writes alongside them.
4. Pupils, particularly boys, benefit from regular opportunities to write freely (30 minutes a week). They become more confident and willing writers. They show greater independence of thought. They experiment more readily. They share their writing more openly and listen more attentively to each other. When freed from the requirement to look out for particular features and construction, pupils attend more to the ideas, purposes, attitudes, values and emotional effects of other people’s writing and are able to give more meaningful and constructive advice.
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NWP outreach director