More Able Writers…

Just attended some fantastic training from Therese O’Sullivan (EMA consultant for Leeds – she is fab) where she shared some super ideas which got me thinking about stretching and challenging more able writers in manageable ways.

Here are some ideas I have used and some I have still to try…

*Numerical challenges – how many connectives can you find in this text etc…

*Time challenges – how many connectives can you find in 3 minutes…

*Lipograms – where a chosen letter is banned (don’t choose ‘e’ if you ever want them to finish!).  I have asked children to re-write the last paragraph without a specific letter – vowels are obviously the toughest.

*Syllabic poetry – tanka (5/7/5/7/7 syllables) and hendecasyllabic (11 syllables in each line) give a challenging framework for the children to express an idea in.

*Ways to start or end a story – I have asked them to start with questions (using ‘The Iron Man’ as an example)

*Ensure you use challenging texts as a model for ‘reading as writers’ – one of my favourites is ‘Skellig’ which has the brilliant example of an effective start to a story.

*Use guided writing groups to model more technical aspects of writing.

*Get your most able to type directly into the class computer / iboard.  This means that other children can see their writing and magpie ideas and processes – it also gives the writer an immediate audience.

*Use film – this can provide complex story telling structures.  Ask the children how an author would represent that on paper in words.  My favourite short film is ‘Francis’ which I have blogged about before.  How would you create the tension seen in the film on the page?  Use the music from films too as a creative writing stimulus.


*Use challenging ‘slow writing’ sentence challenges (see my previous blog on’Slow writing’).

*Use the most able as editors for others, buddy them up with those in need of some support (they seem to listen to the suggestions of their peers over the teacher!)

*Play with words.  Get them to investigate the history and origins of words (use etymological dictionaries).  Explore new words or phrases added to the English dictionary.  Collect homographs / homophones.

*Just found this ‘write a story in two sentences idea’ – brilliant challenge!


*Create a writing challenge box.  Pictures and ideas from Pobble 365 could be printed off and laminated as could ideas from my pinterest board ‘Stuff to Write About’ – there are some fantastic prompts on there from ‘’


Graffiti for learning.


I have been researching strategies to use to ensure more of my children actively take part in their learning.  My aim is for me to do less and the pupils to do more – try reading ‘The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook’ for some brilliant ideas – it doesn’t mean cut corners it just means that the individuals have to be participants…not empty vessels ready to fill with knowledge.


My school has invested a lot of time training in the use of Kagan strategies. This way of seating pupils ensures that independence is developed and more active learning is unavoidable.

However, I was after some quick wins…and that was when I kept stumbling across graffiti!


I first tried to use this approach in maths lessons (graffiti maths) and it was fantastic (I even had an outstanding lessons obs…in maths!!!). It is really simple.  I covered every table with sugar paper and provided each group with marker pens.  As a table they had problems to solve and everyone had to be able to explain how they solved it before moving on to the next question.  In this way the children coached each other so mixed ability groups work well.  I also ran it as a competition and moved chairs so everyone shifted around the table scribbling their working out on the large paper.  It is really easy to step back and see who is understanding what and where there are misconceptions which can be instantly addressed. The mathematical conversations that the children had were joyful to listen to.


You can also use graffiti walls in maths sessions…


Moving swiftly onto graffiti for literacy….


Divide children into groups of four – divide your large piece of paper into the same number. Write the topic in the centre. Using felt pens or markers children write or draw their ideas and thoughts in their section.  After a limited amount of time, as a group, they move to the next table, take a section each and add their thoughts and feelings. Once all table / groups have been visited share key points / ideas.  Through this approach all children participate and share their views.

Next we have graffiti walls.  A large piece of paper can be stuck to the wall with a word, an image or a quote at its centre. Each group of children is given five minutes to add their thoughts to the large piece of paper.  This gives the class a starting point for discussions, but it can be used as an assessment tool so you know what the children know which can inform your planning.  You can use more than one big piece of paper around the room – perhaps have different characters on each sheet, or different book covers for prediction or comparison.


Then there are graffiti tables – you could cover a small table with tacky-back so it is wipe clean or just cover with sugar paper.  It could be used as a focus group activity in response to something you have read or to collect descriptive vocabulary for a scene or character.

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Try it. It solves the problem of passive pupils, low motivation and independence. I would love to hear any of your ideas and successes.