They are 10 principles which we thought might inform a freer and fuller approach to 'writing for pleasure' (still an odd gap in the NC, while 'reading for pleasure' appears so prominently). We illustrated them and have used them to provoke discussion with teachers and pupils about writing. Many teachers have successfully used them to liberate reluctant writers and inform writing workshops.
- The right not to share
- The right to change things and cross things out
- The right to write anywhere
- The right to a trusted audience
- The right to get lost in your writing and not know where you're going
- The right to throw things away
- The right to take time to think
- The right to borrow from other writers
- The right to experiment and break rules
- The right to work electronically, draw or use a pen and paper
In 2014, groups of KS3 students enthused about the importance of 4, 7 and 9. They also valued writing outside, 'on location', responded well to it, but didn't often get the chance. Their teachers regretted time pressures and the lack of choice for students.
In 2000, Pat D'Arcy wrote her seminal critique of the state of writing in England in 'Two Contrasting Paradigms'. I have just added a digested read of her work to the site, with reflections on its continuing relevance in 2014. Her critique ends with a recommendation that the process of meaningful, personal writing should be more explicitly taught. 14 years later, Paul Gardner re-emphasises the same point in 'Who am I? Compositions of the self' (English in Education Vol 48 No 3 2014):
In the UK, this dual purpose of writing, the process of learning and the communicative function, is perhaps in danger of becoming lost in an increasingly prescriptive curriculum, which attempts to frame teachers as technical deliverers of language skills.... (this) dislocates (students) from the social contexts of their lives and the functions of writing to 'understand and be understood'. (pp230-231)
You don't need a referendum to know that language is culturally complex, or to realise the risks to young learners of distancing them from their local, social and personal contexts by insisting only on the speedy acquisition of one privileged dialect.
Peter Elbow, a writer whose thinking informs the work of NWP US and NWP UK alike, warned 40 years ago of the dangers to democracy of killing writing with 'correction' and failing to cultivate individual voices.
'The habit of compulsive, premature editing doesn't just make writing hard. It also makes writing dead. Your voice is damped out by all the interruptions, changes, and hesitations between the consciousness and the page. In your natural way of producing words there is a sound, a texture, a rhythm--a voice--which is the main source of power in your writing. I don't know how it works, but this voice is the force that will make a reader listen to you. Maybe you don't like your voice; maybe people have made fun of it. But it's the only voice you've got. It's your only source of power. You better get back into it, no matter what you think of it. If you keep writing in it, it may change into something you like better. But if you abandon it, you'll likely never have a voice and never be heard.'
'Writing Without Teachers'. New York: Oxford UP, 1973, 1-7
Attentive listening should be the marker of an inclusive 21st century writing classroom. If we want 'independent and resilient' learners (Ofsted's words in the 2014 framework for inspection), then we should attend to the stories they wish to tell and the ways in which they want to tell them.
But don't take my word for it, consider some of the facts of the changing world. Creative Writing is growing in online forums and at A level. There is a real appetite out there.
99 universities offer 476 degrees including Creative Writing - source: whatuni
Read also these words from the Principal Examiner in the AQA's A level guidance and ask yourself, what would you change in your expectations of children from year 1 to year 11?
One of the most important things to establish from the outset is that our students ... are acknowledging themselves as writers. We need to explore with them what this means and establish a good set of writerly habits. Although writing is often an isolated activity, we need to make students feel part of a writing community, both as a class and in the wider context of the writing environment. We will be expecting students to share work with one another and to provide constructive feedback. It is therefore imperative that our classes know each other and trust each other. A key priority for the first term is therefore team building and learning about each other
as writers. Our students should also be aware of their teachers as writers who will be working with them throughout the course.... In the first term we need to establish a mind -set that will encourage autonomy and reflective practice. Students need to be empowered to feel confident in themselves as writers and to take risks.
AQA guidance on first year of teaching A Level creative writing
Some NWP teachers are already successfully introducing children as young as 5 to the benefits of writing and reading journals. It would make a huge difference to the writing health of the nation if all children could enjoy the following characteristics of the A level experience:
- warm-up thinking/writing tasks
- listening/talking/writing on location, outdoors
- regular encouragement to experiment with their own thinking/ writing
- an expectation to log and link and reflect on their viewing, reading and writing
- guidance in how to listen and respond to the writing of others
- opportunities to revisit their own chosen writing
- help in undertaking writing from different stimuli, for different purposes, in different forms, under different conditions
NWP outreach director