There are eight teachers from local primary schools and a cross-phase consultant. They have free-written and shared for six months, attending to and valuing each others’ distinctive writing voices and views.
Writing together has fostered, reassured and strengthened creative identity. Some teachers have started to adapt and apply similar strategies in years 5 and 6 – and found the young writers receptive and engaged.
The group has particularly enjoyed collaborative writing exercises such as ‘gifting’. So we adapted Weekly Write 8 - and went outside.
First, inside, we free-wrote for 10 minutes from a common stimulus and then, without sharing, we trawled our writing for those words and phrases which we thought might stir responses or open possibilities for others in different contexts. Each of us then chose one word or phrase from our own writing to ‘gift’ to the group. These were copied down by all of us and used to guide us in a writing ‘treasure hunt’: our task was to walk out into the sunshine and ‘find’ our own manifestations of these words/ideas.
This was our list of things to find – with examples of one person’s findings:
- Alone – a single read bead at the other end of the abacus rail
- Outrage – stuck to a paving slab, a sticker which reads, ‘I helped tidy up’
- Argument – hawthorn, brier and hazel in quiet argument with the playground netting
- A different route – a herring-bone pattern of red bricks set in a triangle at the turning of the path
- Colleagues – Adele’s hair and scarf lifting in the breeze
- Expecting – unpainted stones, waiting in a tub of water
- Answers – white rose petals answering the question of each bud
- Velvet tenderness – shrill green and rusty moss, softening the kerbstone
- Silver lining – beneath the cast-off jacket of bark, the exposed wood peels in silver flakes
Then, one by one, we read out the evidence we had each found for ‘velvet tenderness’ – a kind of instant class poem. This included clouds, pigeons, petals, the grass soft between your toes, and the love that pegged the clothes to the line: things observed, imagined and recalled.
Then we chose an item from our list as a starting point for our writing - and wrote again. And then we shared. There was - a piece written entirely in questions, a third-person narrative, a reconciliation, a awakening - and an empassioned piece about failing, meeting and exceeding expectations! It was wonderfully restorative.
It was a reminder that ‘world is crazier and more of it than we think, incorrigibly plural’* - and that collaborative writing can be a way of illustrating Louis MacNeice’s observation.
* From ‘Snow’ by Louis MacNeice
NWP outreach director