‘Pupils should be taught to write formal and academic essays as well as writing imaginatively.’ (NC English KS3/4 p.o.s 2013/4)
What do you think he means? I have imagined some different possibilities:
a) pupils should be taught to write ... writing imaginatively (a bit wordy, but ...)
b) pupils should be taught ... writing imaginatively (a suggested teaching approach?)
c) pupils should be taught ... imaginative writing (a grammatical tweak, perhaps?)
d) pupils should be ... writing imaginatively (Nice wish! Does this sound like Michael?)
e) ... that essays require no imagination (- is this implied?)
The same document contains instructions to teach writing skills which Michael, carelessly or cynically, seems to have ignored:
KS2 pupils should be taught to ‘evaluate and edit (writing) by ... proposing changes to vocabulary, grammar and punctuation to enhance effects and clarify meaning’.
KS3/4 pupils should be taught the skills of improving ‘coherence, consistency, clarity and overall effectiveness’.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that an administration which so blithely and illogically axed creative writing A level last year without apology or satisfactory explanation, should itself have difficulty writing coherently about ‘imaginative writing’. In the minds of people like Michael, there seems to be some confusion about what it is, and why and how it might be worth doing.
Luckily, teachers do know why – and how.
- Because writing enables the learner to hold and share what they have imagined, with themselves and with others.
- It supports reflection and intellectual growth.
- In a sense, there can be no writing which isn’t imaginative [cf e) above]
- By regular practice, experiment, instruction and reflection.
- Individually, privately, and collaboratively, publically.
- Freely and with structures, attending to one’s own voice and values as well as to others’.
On Sunday I joined NWP Halifax teachers' writing group, and on Monday I joined a group of Todmorden writing teachers. In both sessions, teachers’ wrote with freshness, energy and wit.
First we surfed each other’s chosen words – glitter / snick-a-snack / dirge / kepuffkin / sláinte / dischevelled / gizmo / glove / clod / Charentais / callipeter / snug. Then we wrote together, about what we had learnt on holiday – (even without objectives!) – and, finally, we reflected on our own writing histories. Several teachers remembered how their own voices had not been encouraged when they had been pupils. The emphasis on ‘receiving’ wisdom without question, had restricted their chances to enquire, connect and create, or to value what was provisional, distinctive and honest. Over-rigid attitudes had sometimes sapped confidence in the self and inhibited progress.
However, by cultivating curiosities and enthusiasms, by talking, reading and writing together, and by attending closely to distinctive voices, patterns, texts and effects, children can experience and absorb the world-changing force of imagination. We imagine new worlds. We learn. Things were not and will not always be as they are.
Imagination changes everything. It really does make a difference. Join a writing group.
NWP outreach director