Aim: To improve literacy provision with a focus on developing a love of writing. Writing is equally important as reading, but is often not given the same impetus. By investigating the art of quality writing and giving pupils opportunities to explore, barriers to writing confidence can be removed.
Background: Deficits in basic literacy were hindering pupils’ access to the KS3 curriculum and making expected progress to achieve externally set targets challenging, and at times unrealistic.
Year 1: An after-school writers’ club was established with the idea of producing a book (‘Sam & Pam’) of publishing quality. Teaching staff from English and other departments attended to support and advise, and students looked closely at what makes a successful, popular story. A plot was agreed and the first two chapters drafted.
Across the school, there was targeted focus on writers’ technique, and pupils were given the opportunity to experiment and take risks with literary devices.
Year 2 : Sam & Pam writers made significant progress with the writing of the book, and the group became increasingly self-aware and self-managing. As the book took shape, pupils invested greater time and debated the characters passionately, having found both the voices of their personas and their own writer’s voice. The pupils themselves planned a half-term whole-day workshop to allow them to write uninterrupted.
A ‘Writers’ Society’ was founded that encouraged pupils to enjoy writing through playing creative writing games, and there was particular interest from KS3. Every member of the department received training on creative writing and collaboratively planned lessons. Pupils’ confidence was built through encouragement to share their work, either publicly or just reading to a friend. This established a sense of peer respect.
Year 3: With the increasing pressure of their GCSEs, pupils suspended work on Sam & Pam. In their mock exams, these particular pupils scored highly on their Transactional and Imaginative Writing questions. The group will reconvene after exams to complete the project. The pupils used teachers as a focus group to evaluate a chapter of the book, and produced a film showing the process of planning, writing and editing.
The department made steady, positive progress in reinforcing the link between great literature and the craft of writing through the reading of whole texts and exploiting extracts of great writing as models.
Evidence: Surveys, interviews, whole-school data.
Impact: Across the key stages, pupils who would normally be disengaged with writing were more focused and willing to use literary devices with greater frequency. There is greater appreciation for the craft of writing and pupils are entering competitions and being published in poetry anthologies.
Reflections: The main challenge has been a lack of quality time due to the demands of exams and the curriculum. However, despite this, and pupils having other commitments that took precedence, such as sporting events and school productions, a core group of pupils maintained the desire and enthusiasm to produce Sam & Pam.
Contact: Joe Greenaway, Subject Leader for English, firstname.lastname@example.org