(one for the phonics experts to puzzle over!)
You know, we ought to get out more. Writers, that is. Outdoors is the full sensory deal - the abrasive touch of sandstone; the scab, sag and rattle of the chain-link fence; the eye-bright, sky-blue speedwell at the edge of the school field (if it's not been sold). And, of course, physical proximity grounds vocabulary and provokes metaphor.
Try 'Scavenger hunt', if you haven't already. It's an exercise to help writers see the world afresh through a prism of ideas, and is as effective in school classrooms and corridors as with teachers' own writing groups (the picture shows writing teachers scavenging on the roof of Goldsmiths: 10.5.2014). Stuck behind a desk is not always the best option for writers, though it can seem the safest.
And then there's parks and houses, and galleries and museums. People-watching and listening, (NOT eaves-dropping!) supply fascinating detail and provoke the imagination. An NWP teacher tells me how she's embedded regular trips into her writing programme - stopping to do series of word-lists - first in the garden, then in the house; now by the painting, now by the window. The writing improves when writers trawl together for vocabulary on location. Spoken and written information texts can be interwoven in order to challenge writers to contextualise their imaginative writing, and to explore different language registers. By sharing the variety, young writers become less afraid of being different and more prepared to experiment.
Writing develops through moving to and fro between the world inside oneself and the world outside. Certain words reflect this movement in a writer's behaviour:
insert (sewn in)
inspiration (breathing in), instil (by drops), instruct (pile up, build), inform
impulse (driven), instinct (pricked in)
inscape, instress (cf GM Hopkins)
imply (show not tell?)
expunge (pricked out), edit (put forth)
extemporise(on the spur of the moment)
experience, experiment, (a sense of 'peril' - trial, risk or danger = how to become 'expert')
educate (from educe - led out/ drawn forth), exhibit (held out)
explicit (unfolded), elicit (magic!)
And I have to report having heard a cuckoo - loud, clear and repeated - near the Great Ouse at Eaton Socon this last Sunday!
NWP outreach director