Writing, whilst second nature to most of us, is a difficult skill for children to master. The key to helping them develop that magical potential from an early age is to make writing exciting and to make it matter. Once that bridge is crossed, there’s no turning back and you’d better buy some extra pencils! Here are some of my favourite tricks:
A prompt or (better yet) a prop helps focus and engage pupils on the subject. Prompts can really be anything linked to the topic: from a map, graph, video or piece of music, to a costume, book, photograph or story. A good ‘hook’ or prompt can be such a rich source of conversation and vocabulary before you begin to write. In case you’re ever short of a good one, visit Pobble 365 or Oxford Owl’s Big Writing Adventures – both are packed with stimuli to get children fired-up about writing.
Boost their confidence
Few people have perfect handwriting, spelling, punctuation and grammar. Even the most seasoned of writers are prone to a bit of scribbling and the odd mistake. Pobble gives you access to thousands of pieces of children’s handwritten work. Show your class ‘real’ writing and ‘what a good one looks like’ from children across the globe! It’s important for them to know how versatile writing is; this can really boost their confidence.
Thinking time and self-assessment
Allowing your class thinking time can be difficult when you’re on a tight schedule of the school day. However, even the most seasoned of writers needs time to deliberate. Encourage note taking, jotting down ideas and continuous reiterating to stimulate experimentation. Providing a checklist when writing enhances both their writing and self-assessment skills. They’ll end up drafting stories that they’ll be proud of.
The power of praise and feedback
Find good things to say about the children’s writing. Ignore minor errors, particularly at the stage when your child is just getting ideas together. Stress that their writing is appreciated and useful. We find that pupils put huge value in feedback and encouragement from their peers. Pobble’s peer feedback module will support your pupils in structuring constructive, well-considered comments. The results will be amazing!
Celebrate and share
Writing can be a Herculean task for some children and some perceive the rewards as minimal. Well, let’s fix that with the power of an audience! Class displays are a great start, but what if you could offer your pupils an audience of peers, parents and people from all over the world? That’s where Pobble’s global community comes in!
Write for pleasure
Learning to write to a certain level is almost essential if children are to fulfil their potential in life. However, it’s worth emphasising that writing can also be an important way for children to express themselves. Many KS1 classrooms have mark making areas, but do children in KS2 have the same opportunities? To encourage spontaneous writing, make it fun and appealing (funky crayons and glittery pens make all the difference!). It gives your pupils a valuable opportunity to share their voice.
A whole-school approach
We spend far too much emphasising that writing has to be done. Take time to ensure it’s presented as a fun and valuable skill. Keep it enjoyable and engaging. A whole-school approach to celebrating writing normalises it as a valuable activity. When children realise that writing isn’t a chore, they are likely to show interest in picking up a pen to write. It will become a natural part of a child’s daily literacy life.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Teachers, rest assured that you’re not alone on your mission. Even though it’s your class and you are usually left alone with them, you are surrounded by a huge network. Try a collaborative approach to teaching: reach out and ask for help, ideas and inspiration. Social media can provide inspirational, valuable CPD. Networks like Twitter and Pinterest are jam-packed with brilliant teaching ideas.
About Henry Smith @HenryPobble
Henry spent the largest part of his life inspiring children to take up their pencils and write. As an English teacher in rural India, a literacy coordinator at his school in Leeds and as a co-founder of Pobble, his goal hasn’t changed much: to make writing ridiculously exciting.
Pobble makes writing ridiculously exciting! Teachers use the Pobble platform to find the best teaching resources, give pupils a global audience for their work and to assess and moderate writing.
The literacy platform was started in 2013 by a group of teachers based in North Yorkshire, England. Since then, Pobble has gained the support of prominent education leaders and has received praise from bestselling authors such as Anthony Horowitz and Michael Morpurgo.
Today, Pobble showcases over 100,000 pieces of writing, published by tens of thousands of proud teachers from all over the world. And this is just the beginning…
If you would like to try a free mission with Oxford Owl’s Big Writing Adventures, register for free here.