Jonathan Rodgers from The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) is running a workshop on Inspiring Writing at Peters’ Love Literacy Conference this week: the workshop aims to give a flavour of our ethos and approach, and this blog post aims in turn to let participants know what they might expect. The CLPE is a long established, trusted charity dedicated to helping schools develop literacy learning that transforms lives. The use of high-quality literature at the heart of the English curriculum is central to all the work we do to develop children as lifelong readers and writers.
The workshop draws on our successful Power of Reading programme, now in its 16th year and having benefited in that time almost 5000 teachers and their classes. Power of Reading is all about developing inclusive whole-class literacy provision and key routines for writing that support children as developing writers. Well chosen texts provide rich language models and structures from which children can learn how writing works and the effect it can have on a reader. Reading aloud and sharing high-quality texts across a range of genres, reflecting a range of writing styles, produces confident young writers. We choose texts that are rich in vocabulary, and enable children to comprehend beyond their own reading fluency level. We’ll be using Moon Man written and illustrated by the late Tomi Ungerer, a book that tackles prejudice and people’s fear of the unknown in a deceptively simple narrative. The illustrations are both engaging and thought-provoking, and the text offers an excellent model of powerful and considered language.
We know that children who explore and hear a range of high-quality texts read aloud and have opportunity for critical discussion are better able to reflect on the effects the writer creates on the reader. Reading authentic texts aloud will help children to hear the patterns and types of language used for different forms and purposes and understand levels of formality appropriate to the intended audience. This teaches them much about the language and grammar structures appropriate for different audiences, purposes and forms of writing. In the session we’ll be examining grammar and vocabulary as used by a real author in a real book and seeing the benefits of such contextualised teaching.
During the workshop we’ll also talk about how using a text like Moon Man fits into a language-rich environment, focusing on enriching vocabulary, understanding what words mean and how and why they are used and ways language is used effectively for impact on a reader. This is because children who appreciate first-hand the impact of authorial choices on them as a reader, demonstrate a more assured use of grammatical structure themselves.
We know that children draw on their experience of reading when shaping their own writing. When they’ve explored a range of texts across genres, they form an understanding and appreciation of how language functions and how best to use this when writing themselves. We immerse children in a book and its language so that when they come to writing themselves, they bring that out in their own writing. The text uses a variety of powerful verbs to take the reader directly into the action of the story, and well chosen adjectives to help us empathize with the main character. Children will be able to see fronted adverbials used in action, to drive the story forwards and examples of passive and active sentence constructions.
Prior to writing, it is important to plan a range of experiences that help children tune into the creativity needed for writing: this develops their imagination and supports children to build ideas for their own writing in all forms. We encourage children to explore ideas through art, drama and role-play, music and movement and small world play, providing opportunities to write independently to develop these ideas into extended pieces. The workshop will showcase some of these artistic, creative and dramatic approaches; for example, freeze-framing, free verse poetry, and role play, and reflect on their impact.
It’s important that children understand that writing is a means of expression and a communication tool. Through sharing and discussing their likes and dislikes, the questions they have about a text and the connections they themselves make with it, children can think about the choices and author has made and the impact these have had on them as readers. Developing this culture of ‘book talk’ deepens reader response and allows children to explore the effect that the author of a text has created on the reader. We need to give children opportunities to reflect on their own texts in the same way. The teaching of writing is effective when children see the use in it; when there is real, authentic purpose; when there is an audience that authenticates their voice, whether themselves or another reader. In the workshop we’ll have an opportunity to try out a number of writing tasks— free verse poetry, thought bubbles, reporters’ notes, diary entries, persuasive letters— and explore how incidental writing opportunities build to extended writing over the course of a teaching sequence.
As a teacher, it is important that you are able to model writing ‘live’, sharing the frustrations and successes involved. Participants in the workshop will have the opportunity to reflect on this approach, and to engage in co-operative writing that includes the teacher as writer and allows children to be supported to develop their ideas, skills and writing style within the security of a large group and maintain momentum for writing. Working in this way enables teachers to develop empathy with pupils, giving them more space when they are writing and responding more sensitively and deeply to their own efforts.
The workshop will end with a look at the importance and value of publication: publishing their work for an audience gives children a purpose for their writing, it celebrates their learning, and it foregrounds the essential notions of purpose and audience. We strongly advocate a range of authentic types of publication in the reading environment. Inspired by Moon Man the children might produce newspaper reports, poetry, notices, posters, interviews, letters and information books.
We hope this blog has given an insight into our text-based curriculum approach. You can find a free teaching sequence for Moon Man and a range of other texts for year groups across the primary age range on our website at: https://clpe.org.uk/library-and-resources.
You may also wish to find out more about our Power of Reading website resource. This contains in-depth teaching sequences for more than 200 other high-quality texts helping you to plan and deliver a rich literacy curriculum with quality children’s literature at its heart.