7 minute writes….getting creative quickly!

For many years I used the start of the school day as ‘thinking time’ – an opportunity to get the creative juices flowing, even if it was for ten minutes.  I shared a writing prompt – a picture or words – and let my class write.  The children’s ideas could be shared with their table or as a class, but their was no pressure as writing could be refined at a later date.  These exercise books  became the equivalent of a writer’s notebook, where a multitude of ideas were stored.

These were the days before the creation of Pobble 365 (an amazing tool!) and I took great delight in saving thousands of images on Pinterest (it was an addiction at the time).

The evidence can be found in the link below…don’t judge me…

A couple of my favourite sites for my daily prompts were –

https://promptuarium.wordpress.com/category/writing-prompt/

http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/

I also stumbled across this quick video on one of the links and it clearly explains exactly what I was aiming to do but they refer to it as a ‘7 minute write’ which I like better than my ten and will use from now on!!

And now, just to indulge, I will shared some of my favorite images which have been the catalyst for some amazing writing….

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I hope you enjoy them!

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The perils of greater depth…

During our most recent Year 6 cross-trust moderation there was one common sticking point….one little statement on the ‘interim’ framework that even those of us who have been teaching for longer than they care to remember (where did 20 years go – wasn’t that long ago I was the cool-kid on the block?!) struggled to find evidence of or even know how to effectively plan for it:

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Luckily, I work with some amazing teachers where the true joy of collaborative working is experienced regularly and fabulous ideas and resources were pooled and shared.  I will share some of the more useful approaches below as I am pretty sure many more of you are struggling too…!

Firstly, if you have the financial means, a subscription to ‘Grammarsaurus’ is invaluable. New resources are added regularly and they often tackle meaty EGPS issues in child-friendly, easily accessible ways.

https://grammarsaurus.co.uk/portal/category/key-stage-two/ks2-writing/

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One of the most inspiring CPD events you can attend is any run by Alan Peat.  The man is a font of knowledge plus he is extremely interesting and a brilliant teller of stories.  He is running events which focus on writing at greater depth…

http://www.alanpeat.com/conferences/

He is also well worth a follow on twitter or Facebook as he has shared super ideas on shifts in formality…

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Remember it is about managing several shifts within one piece of writing and also across a range of texts…

Here are some features to identify in reading and use in writing:

  • the subjunctive – I wish I were… If I were you…
  • passive constructions – It is widely believed that…
  • use of ‘one’ – One should consider…
  • technical vocab
  • Nominalisation – The arrival of the VIP caused much excitement. (use nouns rather than verbs or adjectives)
  • Abstract nouns – Darkness crept in
  • Stack your verbs – I propose to change….I demand to see
  • Avoid contractions
  • Avoid slang
  • Use colons to add detail to an independent clause (use it to summarise or detail why)

Opportunities in writing:

  • Newspaper Reports can provide great opportunities for these shifts.  Formal statements can set the tone for the report which can then be contrasted against the informality of a direct quotation from a witness.
  • Diaries are another useful text type for shifts.  Reflection can add an element of formality to an otherwise personal, chatty and immediate piece of writing.
  • In letter writing personal reflection can also add formality and contrast.
  • In narrative the contrast between informal direct speech from characters and the narrators more formal tone can be effective.

I am sure more ideas and inspiration will occur to me, feel free to share your thoughts below.

 

 

Dragon Tales – a compendium.

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My first ever blog post, years ago, was all about dragons.  Since then I have stumbled across endless magnificent examples of dragons and dreamed up new ways to use them in my teaching.  Dragons are the most perfect topic to use across the whole of primary school –  last week, in nursery, I introduced the children to George the friendly dragon and we flew around the classroom, zooming, soaring and breathing flames.  They made Chinese dragons and learned about New Year celebration.  Whereas in Year 6 we watched video footage of the awakening of Smaug and played with words and sentence structures in an attempt to build the palpable tension Bilbo feels as he begins to stir from his deep slumber.

Dragons go well with Vikings…

The beautiful scene above invites children to draw and make their own particular breed of dragon.  The whole classroom could become a giant dragon’s nest of baby dragons.  I have pinned lots of art ideas as I think it works well as a stimulus for writing, giving children a real sense of ownership of their dragon.

Paper plate dragons -super easy and fun art and craft project to make with the kids!:

Upcycle: Milk Jug Wizardry! DIY dragon:

If you need a non-fiction dragon book to model some information text writing then look no further than the ‘Ology’ collection of books…

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I tend to use these as a model for my Talk 4 Writing ‘washing-line’ about the Beeston Bull Dragon.  If you search for Pie Corbett and dragons you will get a link that will explain the processes he uses to teach non-fiction texts through fantasy.  I bought ‘Talk for Writing Across the Curriculum’ which beautifully explains how to use these interactive and very physical approaches to teaching writing.  It has had a really positive impact on engagement with writing throughout my school…

Instructions!:

I often use this very funny book about dragon ownership as a starting point for instructions on how to keep a dragon as a pet.  Other instructional writing can be ‘How to trap a dragon’.  Again Pie Corbett does a really good explanation of this in his book (see above).

Dragon’s egg make for a beautiful descriptive writing stimulus as there are lots of textures involved as well as shades of colour.  I use paper mache with the children to create enormous eggs which look stunning all together on a giant nest…or you can leave one lying in the playground and see where the children think it came from and what will hatch out of it…

All this gorgeous dragon’s egg takes to make is a plastic egg, a hot glue gun and some paint! Dragon loves, Game of Thrones fans and those who like fantasy in general will LOVE this! It’s sure to be a conversation piece if displayed anywhere in your home.: MUST DO THIS! Accio Lacquer: What Does One Name An Egg Such As This: Make your own Dragon Eggs. An easy alternative craft for Easter/Eostre/Ostara.:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My absolute favourite documentary to use for information text writing is ‘Dragons – a fantasy made real’. In this programme, which can be watched in 10 minute or so sections on YouTube, (my secret crush) Patrick Stuart, in a highly dramatic style, narrates the finding of a body (dragon) and how scientist can now explain how it flew, breathed fire etc. It is spellbinding.

I detest the film version of ‘Eragon’, but love and devoured the books. A good read for Upper Key Stage 2 pupils.  I do use clips from the film and still images to model descriptive writing of Saphira.

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A greatly under-used narrative poem is ‘The Lambton Worm’.  It has origins in the North East and is best listened to in an appropriate accent.

This tells the story of a young squire returning from wars abroad to slay the ‘worm’ that was killing people in his home village.

This can link well with the story of ‘St George and the dragon’.  Sometimes I feel we don’t look at the origin of patron saints enough…I am pretty sure my children in Year 6 will be hazy as to who the patron saint of England is let alone the story of how he became so famous!

http://resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/stgeorge2.html

Above is a clear, easy to understand version from Woodlands Junior School.  I have made a mental note to show this to Key Stage 2 in an assembly next half term.

Here is my pinterest board with hundreds of ideas, links and images to help you plan an exciting dragon topic…

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!

http://primary-ideas.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/two-sentence-stories.html

 

*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 ‘writingprompts.tumblr.com’

Stuff to write about…

Another link to help last minute new term panics.  Thousands (yes literally…need to get a life!) of stimulus for creative writing.  Each could last 10 minutes or be worthy of a week or more teaching.  Have fun.

To infinity and beyond…

I am collecting together resources for my Year 5 and 6 Space topic – To infinity and beyond!  It is a topic I always get ridiculously excited about…obsessive in fact!  I love every element of it and I could probably fill a full year with all my ideas and excitement.

I have used Pinterest to organise my thoughts over time.

Click here to see board.

‘#SuperBloodMoon’ shines bright across the world http://bit.ly/1FCFnC2:

Above is the absolute best video of the wonders, horrors, dangers and realities of space. It is the most vivid representation of the vastness of space and the clearest explanation of time travel – the deeper we travel through space the further back in time we go and if we could look back at Earth through a hugely powerful telescope we would see dinosaurs….wow!

My children were transfixed.  I forgot I was teaching…

The International Space Station produces lots of videos about life in space and children are always keen to know how astronauts go to the loo!!! Commander Chris Hadfield was particularly informative and entertaining.

Commander Sunny Williams gives a fascinating tour of the ISS including an explanation of how they sleep and how they go to the toilet!  I like to show this video as it proves to my sometimes passive Year 6 girls that women can and should have the same aspirations as men.

Recently, we watched with anticipation the journey to the ISS of British astronaut Tim Peak…We will be following his time in space very closely through Facebook and Twitter – a great audience and purpose for children to write.

Infographics; The Solar System; Saturn; Description and observation tips:

For those who enjoy researching and collecting facts there is the creation of planet fact files or top trumps (there are various free apps that can be used on iPads).

There is also more of the science stuff – a day on Earth.  What is night and day?  Does the Sun move?

Then there is the historic elements of man’s journey through space, culminating in the infamous Moon landings…

There are lots beautiful books about space…

10 Awesome Books About Space for Kids (plus a GIVEAWAY!):

I love the endless possibilities that space provides…

I will be blogging about the fantasy elements of space over the next few days…releasing my inner geek.  Live long and prosper.

 

 

Boxing Clever.

Are you looking for a new and effective way to teach children how to tell and write interesting, well structured stories?  I came across this idea by Alan Peat many years ago, but recently discovered this really clear video of him explaining the concept.  The best thing is it costs nothing (well a handful of gift bags, but you could use leftover Christmas ones) and can be used as on oral approach for children as young as Early Years.

Enjoy!