What happens as a result of belonging to an NWP teachers' writing group?
Tessa, y6 teacher, Bucks TAW/NWP 2012-2014)
"I definitely give the children more freedom to experiment and try new things; this has enabled me to really understand them as people, what makes them tick.
With more freedom I have found more examples of good, exciting writing (it is scary when an eleven year old writes better than you!). Before there was a tendency for the children to write what they thought I wanted - all teachers are at heart control freaks!
I will now write with the children and they can see that writing is an evolving process, not just a finished product.
TAW has actually changed my whole approach to teaching English and I am proud it is beginning to filter through the school."
Daniel, y4 teacher, Bucks TAW/NWP 2013-2014)
"I am more reflective ... it has put me 'in the children's shoes', experiencing the same excitement when rewarded with an idea, pleasure when sharing and hearing others share, and unity when the group is being positive and supportive about each other's work.
The most valuable thing I have taken from TAW ... is the good example of how to encourage a group to be open and constructive in their writing, and particularly in their sharing of writing ... I encourage the children to support their peers on their own writing journeys."
Janet, NWP Whodunnit, 2013-2014
"It's the enthusiasm and the love ... I love the exercise of words in the air. We often use that to start our writing sessions. I'm convinced that it has broadened students' vocabulary. They think about word-choice much more now when they write."
Katherine, NWP Whodunnit 2013-2014
You have to be totally on board .. they're still surprised that I write with them. They're intrigued. They don't see people writing - although they see the product... they're liberated by not being daunted by it. I don't find the blank page so scary now and I write more outside the group - more than I have for 20 years."
Lindsey, NWP Whodunnit 2013-2014
"It really reconnects you to your subject - it is vital to be connected - you're trying to get kids to love what you already love... I shared my own writing - I had enthusiasm from what I'd found exciting ... I got creative writing from this boy who'd never liked writing before."
Elaine, NWP TWIN (Nottingham) 2013-2014
"Universities are full of people who are anxious because they feel that they cannot write. Writers need good, attentive readers."
Teacher Testimonies 2010-211
'The project has significantly changed the way I teach writing. It has provided inside knowledge of the challenges faced by a writer, as well as the tools and fortitude needed to be successful. A major change for my teaching of the subject has been the dialogue I have encouraged around the writing process.' Daryl, Bucks TAW
‘The project has changed my attitude to writing in that it has made it far more real to me. Instead of being an idle scribble, a vague intention and an indulgence, it has become necessary and valued and a part of what I do. A writing group is such a god-send because it provides a self-sustaining forum of positive readers who help to break down the fears that shadow creativity.’ Emma, Bucks TAW
What do teachers say about the personal and professional effects of belonging to a writing group?
What have they learnt about the writing process
by writing in a writing group?
"Writing takes time, purpose and commitment. Lose any of these three and the whole thing grinds to a halt. I think ideas have to percolate for a while before good writing takes place. I need time to decide what I’m really trying to say. If I’m not sure of the overall purpose or ‘moral’ of what I’m trying to write, I just can’t seem to find the words. Finally, if I’m not fully committed to finishing the first draft, the whole piece is lost." (Nina, Bucks TAW)
"The time pressures that were there before remain the same, but I do think that the real pressures that force into silence are more deeply embedded and are profoundly related to fear and insecurity and a sense of inadequacy. A writing group ... is such a god send because it provides a self sustaining forum of positive readers who help to break down the fears that shadow creativity." (Louise, Bucks TAW)
"(Belonging to a writing group) .... has changed my attitude to writing in that it has made it far more real to me. Instead of being an idle scribble, a vague intention and an indulgence, it has become necessary and valued and a part of what I do. The chaotic nature of its 'happening' has remained the same, and it is still my intention to put aside a definite time of day, as Brande recommends, to keep refining and focusing my writing. I have felt I have been able to cast off some of the negative judgements I brought as baggage to my writing, and I feel that I have been able to pass on some of that freedom to the students I teach." (Ria, Bucks TAW)
"I have never been part of a group and have never indulged in writing exercises and I have thoroughly enjoyed participating in them and have used them with pupils and friends alike. I believe that this has lent a learned, ‘expert’, more academic edge to our course and I value that as well. The research and we have been exposed to has been nourishing, not the least, in feeding us the reassurance that what we see daily in the classroom through practising these methods, is, in fact, borne out by long standing and respected research and analysis. I feel ... (belonging to a writing group) has equipped me with specialist knowledge and empowered me to impart that knowledge to others, along with a lot of fun." (Jo, Bucks TAW)
"Sometimes I set my alarm and get up early when the house is all quiet and sit up in bed and write. I am driven by completing a piece of writing in that I like it to be rounded. I am driven to write by random snippets of conversations I overhear. I am determined to write a longer more complex piece of work." (Sam, Bucks TAW)
"My writing has evolved over the past year but not in the way I thought it would. I initially thought that I would 're-discover' my writing and be able to use it to impact on my teaching immediately; this has not happened in the way I had initially hoped but in fact it has had a more profound effect on me." (Chris, Bucks TAW)
What do teachers say the effects of NWP have been
on pupil attitudes and behaviour?
"Enjoyment of writing journals (writing notebooks) appears to be universal. One girl was horrified that I might introduce this secret to other year groups, seeing it as a special privilege of reaching Y5. Others have given me tips that I should tell teachers that it allows them to explore characters- through drawings, rehearse ideas from lessons, develop new plots… " (Cass, Bucks TAW)
-"I love to write alongside my ‘band of heroes’ (Y5 support group); even the TA has her own writing journal. The way their eyes light up when we read out our offerings." (Michelle, Bucks TAW)
"Being part of (a writing group) has had a significant impact on my own teaching. I have managed to sneak in creative tasks in all year groups (yes, even if the syllabus or scheme of work does not allow for it!) and this has had a positive outcome. Most students, even those who claim they ‘can’t do creative stuff’ have enjoyed the process nevertheless. The fact that they don’t necessarily have to share with one another or that it is not being assessed, gives them freedom to explore their own creativity." (Tom, Bucks TAW)
"My experience of (belonging to a writing group) has enabled me to have a greater scope of evolving ideas for writing. The value of sharing creative ideas has impacted tremendously in the classroom where I have recognised that the sharing is such a valuable process and needs quality time in the curriculum. Speaking and listening skills are key to improving the children’s writing. The children have especially enjoyed free writing as it is not restrictive." (Brett, Bucks TAW)
"Writing journals have been extremely important for year 7, but we haven’t had the opportunity to visit them regularly enough. I am the form tutor for this group again next year and I’m planning to build in opportunities during form time for journals. The VLE (online virtual learning environment) has proved to be a fantastic hit. " (Amy, Bucks TAW)
"One of the most rewarding parts of my year has been getting a boy in my class to enjoy writing again. In September he would do anything to avoid writing. Now, he writes in his spare time. I’m not sure this would have happened if I hadn’t been sharing my experiences of this boy on the site and getting feedback and advice from others. I truly believe that one of the best ways to develop as a teacher is to learn from other teachers and this project has helped me to do that." (Viv, Bucks TAW)
"A major change for my teaching of the subject has been the dialogue I have encouraged around the writing process; the children have responded well to talking about their writing habits in a similar way to teachers on the project sharing their writing behaviours. I have made sure that children have more time to write and, also, time to discuss and evaluate their contributions." (Annie, Bucks TAW)
What research are NWP teachers currently conducting?
NWP is conducting some longitudinal studies of children's writing journeys 2013 - 2014. In particular, these studies will focus on the effects on different children of being surrounded by teachers and parents/carers who write. NWP will be interviewing and observing 24 Buckinghamshire children ages 5-7, and 12 children aged 8/9, looking at differences between free and structured writing, and the factors which support the growth of confidence and competence. NWP is also looking at the effect over three years (2014-2017: y9-y11) of free-writing on confidence, voice, progress and standards with a group of 6 students in Milton Keynes.