Many teachers across the country are taking charge of their own professional development. This is always good, and, in some areas, there might now be little alternative. If you want an example of rigour and challenge, this is one: teachers willingly giving up their own time to deepen their craft. This strengthens them in their judgements in favour or against the latest initiative, because they are far more familiar with the writing process, and can speak from experience about what may, or may not, be effective.
And of course this strengthens them personally as well as professionally. It's so reassuring to hear people talk about the provenance of their own writing and how their attitudes and values come across in their voices as they read aloud. It reminds you why you came in to teaching.
The implications for the classroom are plentiful:
- take the children outside (a fuller sensory experience);
- challenge them to search for connections with what they have been reading;
- extend their vocabulary;
- stop at particular points and ask them to sharpen their senses, and jot down observations and feelings - for themselves and, maybe, in role ... ;
- return to the classroom and allow some 'free writing' for 5 minutes.
- let the conversations begin: what are the similarities and differences between our observations and expressions? Recall a word, expression or voice in someone else's writing that you liked. Where would you like them to 'tell you more'? What surprised or puzzled you about their writing? What are they happy about with their writing? What do they plan to do with it next?
If the teacher and teaching assistant write alongside the pupils, the learning experience is fuller. There's no need for everyone to share everything; it's important to give all writers some ownership of their work. And that should extend to what you are ready to share - and what might still require more thought: you have the authority, because, after all, you are the author!
Simon Wrigley, NWP outreach director