Over-rigid pursuit of singular objectives may restrict both a writer’s ownership and her imagination. Whereas, when freedom follows a structured exercise, there may be an unforced percolation of diverse ideas. Things fresh infuse, inform, and converse with things of long memory – and vice versa.
So, for example, in the Bedford writing group, a recent media narrative of snow – its danger and inconvenience - seeped into our writing. When Fran traced the stem of a brier rose on a stained glass window, she brought ‘the King across the water’, and blood on snow. Hilda’s perspective brought to mind both a longing for fresh starts and the wonderful promise of the blank page.: ‘Show me a field full of snow without any footsteps, a landscape with no boundaries …’
Other people’s writing involved conversations between:
- self and memory, self and other;
- past and present – open and closed attitudes;
- first impressions and second thoughts;
- stark to subtle contrasts.
That which began literal blossomed emotional and metaphorical: an affordance of re-writing.
On the 7th of March , I attended Michael Rosen’s writing presentation at the ‘History Works’ event in Cambridge. Michael described how pupils had also enjoyed the challenge of writing a ‘conversation’ between two adjacent objects – such as a sort of bragging contest between the Thames and the London Eye.
Michael has written about the effects of writing in his blog series:
As young people work, they will find their minds, bodies and materials changing. As agents of that change, they will inevitably change themselves. They will find out things about themselves as individuals – where they come from, how they co-exist with people and places around them – and they will pick up (or create) clues about where they are heading. They will also find new ways to talk about the arts. Demystifying them, if you like.
(MR blog 27.2.2018 Writing for pleasure – invention)
On the 10th of March I joined another teachers’ writing group (NWP MK) in Buckingham’s Chantry chapel. We exchanged ideas – names, facts and questions – to provoke other writer’s invention of character and plot. These outward shows woke inner lives as we wrote together (cf Weekly write 15).
On the 13th of March I visited Stamford Welland Academy’s Holocaust Education Event and learnt about their ‘Festival of Thought’ in June at which, amongst many other things, a new NWP group will launch. Writing gives a space for cultural conversations where values can be openly explored, and sympathies extended through imagination and witness.
On 17th of March, NWP Whodunit met at the Whitechapel Art Gallery and used ‘out-takes’ from a poem to springboard free writing. (Weekly write 16) This exercise was followed by visiting the exhibitions. Multi-layered writing resulted, whose mosaic of meaning shared a common ground. Afterwards we discussed other ways in which writing might start conversations with reading in schools.
Reading and writing should not be ‘torn asunder as if they were two separate entities’ (Tharby 2014) as Theresa Gooda observed in her fascinating research presentation at NATE's SE Teachmeet on 22nd March. (cf Poesis, Literature and Learning). In order to re-energise KS3 readers, Theresa, who is also NWP West Sussex group leader, advocated ‘back to back’ reading of books – immersing pupils more fully in the playful process of reading before requiring considered written responses. Increased library borrowing was one result.
Why might it be beneficial to learners to withhold ‘closure’ or ‘assessment’ in reading and writing? Perhaps it has something to do with prolonging the free-flow of ideas, opening up the process, exploring false trails and uncertainties, so that when written responses are called for they come from places more owned and realised by the readers and writers involved? Theresa’s evidence was that such approaches were more likely to increase engagement and motivation – more likely to grow readers and writers with the stamina and resilience that might last beyond, merely, the next test.
NWP outreach director