Rebecca Griffiths works with four year-old writers in a Norfolk Primary school. She immerses them in language-rich play and story-rich art. Earlier this month, she told NWP group leaders about the play, map-making and set design with which she fired children's imaginations.
A furious red and yellow picture elicited the following explanation from Zak (not his real name) who drew it, replete with language constructions which might not have emerged from silent, solitary desk-work - and critically, the Zak's creative flow is unimpeded at this stage by pressure to 'get it right':
"There's a robber on the roof - alarm bells ringing. He's on the loose. The police need to get in fast. There's money on the roof, because he's hided it."
Later her children strengthened their stories with role-play and re-telling, moving cut-out characters across landscapes of their own design, incorporating props and re-writing lines of poetry which she had redrafted with their help. Finally, when they were ready, the children donned the patchwork, story-telling waistcoat and performed their stories and poetry. Compositions are strengthened by being voiced and enacted collaboratively before writers put pen to paper.
NWP research is following the writing journeys of 5-8 year olds in Buckinghamshire schools. What helps different children develop confidence as writers? What use do they make of writing notebooks? What difference does it make if adults (both parents and teachers) write alongside children? How do young writers' perceptions of the purposes and processes of writing change over time - and how does this compare to teachers' perception of their progress?
For example, Alice(not her real name) is an eager 4 year old who organises and regulates role play with a confidence derived from both home and school: "That's a pizza. That's Olivia. Come on, Olivia. This is our house. You have to knock on the door. Come in. I'm the other mum. There can be two mums. There can be three altogether. Would you like an orange?"
Throughout 2014, I will follow Alice's confidence and stamina as an inventor, a writer, an editor and a critical writing friend, as well as following the same writerly characteristics of children from a broad range of backgrounds. I will be working with Alice, her peers, her parents and her teachers, to identify the influences and milestones in her writing journey - and what writing means to her. I will also be running writing workshops for teachers and parents so that they can reflect on the nature and process of writing, and what it means to them and their children. I will report on the progress of these journeys in future blogs.
NWP outreach director