What is it like to be part of an EEF Research Study?

29 June 2018

Zoe, (Y5 teacher) is currently taking part in the Craft of Writing project. She attended the first residential weekend where published authors worked with the teachers to develop their confidence and identity as a writer.

I have interviewed Zoe and she has shared her thoughts about the project, the weekend and some tips for the classroom.

What are the aims of the project?

The main aim is looking at the impact of teachers being writers and developing a writer within the teacher. It seeks to answer the question, ‘If you develop the writer within a teacher will it change the way children are taught writing and will it then impact on their achievements?’ It is focused on bringing the craft of writing into the classroom, rather than just the mechanicals of writing.

Which authors were there?

Steven Voake and Alicia Stubberfield

Steve is a children’s author, he was a head teacher for 8 years and has written books for different genres. He did the creative writing side of it, looking at characterisation.

Alicia is a poet and a secondary school teacher. She used poetry a lot as a stimulus for ideas and as a way to play around with words and word order.

How did the authors support you?

They ‘taught’ us and developed our confidence in being able to just put down paper whatever we were thinking in response to the stimulus we were given. If we are able to open up that side of ourselves and see the potential in what you can achieve then we can take that back into the classroom, not as a teaching method but as an awareness of the whole process. They gave us techniques to get you to widen what you are thinking rather than just being prescriptive and I think that is what children need – having a notebook that is theirs and theirs alone.

We used poems a lot, we looked at how someone else has approached an idea and discussed how you could use their idea or develop your own from it depending on what was in your mind. Then they said, here’s 10 minutes to write – go where you want to go with it. Throughout the weekend, they kept saying don’t worry. Not worrying about having to share your work or having it critically analysed was freeing – it was all about celebrating your ideas – being a writer and having control and ownership over your work.

How did these processes help you? Did they help you understand how children might be feeling in writing lessons?

Absolutely. I was terrified of having to write something down and show someone my ideas. It made me reflect on my own practice – we ask children to write freely and then we pull it to pieces. I am know more aware of how that must feel and how awful that must be. It made me realise that whatever you put down has worth and there’s good to be found in your ideas. They can be edited and tweaked, but your ideas are valid. That was a massive thing to take away from it. I want to instill this belief into the children I teach.

What are you hoping to get out of this project?

I’ve already got a lot, I’ve already learnt that I can write which I knew I could but now I believe I can. I’ve always written in notebooks but thrown them away and thought ‘who are you kidding?’. I now see the value in what I produce and I want to give the children the same value in what they produce, for whatever level that are writing at. I want to be able to create an environment where children feel comfortable and at ease with writing.

What key ideas have you taken away from this weekend?

I have been thinking about how to include more creative writing during the week. I want the children to have a creative writing book that isn’t marked. I’m also going to use poetry a lot more in writing, not necessarily asking them to write poems but using poems as the stimulus.

What are your reflections from the weekend?

* Allow yourself to write without being conscious of it

* Allow children to investigate their own style and voice and to celebrate their brave choices

* Give children time and space to write, don’t dictate the outcome

* Let children own their writing but also give them time to review it, whether on their own or through teacher-pupil conferences

* Stop mentally ticking boxes when you read children’s work, just enjoy it as a whole piece

Are you excited about the project?

Incredibly. I didn’t want to leave. I was happy to get up and be breakfasted and ready to write by 9am and I want children to come to school like that, with enthusiasm for writing that day.

Posted on 29 June 2018
Posted in: Latest Research Evidence