"Let's be honest - I'm changing the questions I'm asking of pupils as writers, because, as a teacher, I'm writing myself."
"I discover through writing and talking which pathway might be worth following, which voice communicates."
So, in fact, I need to qualify and add to what I blogged about a few days ago. Although the plan - draft - edit -proof-read - present sequence (NC 2014) may help to sequence, phrase and 'compose' ideas/ evidence/ argument already processed and garnered, what about discovery writing? What strategies might help writers to open up and to jostle, jiggle and juggle ideas BEFORE 'composing' them?
First, under the expert guidance of Emma Exelby, group leader, we wrote for 5 minutes exploring the 'sentence stem' exercises (Quick Writes). These involve having successive 'go's with 'I wish ..., I wish ....'; 'I remember ..., I remember .,.'; 'I like ..., I hate ..., I like ... I hate ...; 'At first ..., but now ... '. In our own notebooks we worked on these individually, digging down with the phrases to see what we could find. Then, trusting in other non-judgemental risk-takers, we shared and talked. What emerged?
I wish you had told me ... I like it when we communicate; I hate it when we're all at sea....;
...I hate teaching from someone else's lesson plans...
I remember the ivy round the beech. I remember the sound of the birds in the ivy round the beech. I remember using the ivy to climb the big beech behind the goal mouth one Sunday, with Paul - and how we could see all the way across the canopy, even to the town and the hills beyond.
I remember ... the tiny clues that all was not well ... and wondering why they did not bring their grandson to the wedding ...
The sentence stems provoked new thought, which, in the writing of them, evoked a new context. That context could then be probed and explored by the permission to have a few stabs at it, not to try and get it right first time. And, by holding in the mind's eye certain people and places, the writing started to gain cohesion and direction - and feeling. Clearly, the more 'closed' pairs of stems set up a dualism which later writing might have found limiting. However, at this early stage, BEFORE composition, this exercise seemed to help us circle and approach the, as yet, misty outlines of content.
The exercise invites thoughts to spill out in a number of directions, encourages us to zig-zag or to circle ideas, and allows us to descend layer by layer. Straight line thinking at this point would close things down rather than open them up. Certainly, trying to 'get things right' would be inhibiting and counter-productive.
Secondly, we used scavenger hunt to explore the stories which the Chantry chapel and its bookshop offered. Our prompts were
I returned home to do the ironing and hear Ann Cairns (of Mastercard) on Woman's Hour talk about the importance of diversity, and of cultivating different thinkers if society is to avoid repeating things like the banking crisis - which she attributed partly to restricted, overly single-minded, male, schools of thought. So ... hail the return of the blob - and let creative writing flourish in schools for the well-being of the UK economy!
Simon Wrigley, NWP outreach director