07 May 2015
There aren’t many weeks in the school year where I’m not spending a session in classrooms with young people, getting them to write poetry or think about how to tell a story. It’s one of the loveliest things I am involved with, and one that actually improves my own writing.
It’s all about thinking very carefully about what I do, or what I know works in the writing of others, and trying to break down ‘my practice’ into a selection of skills or perceptions which will help the Year 3s or Year 13s in their endeavours.
It’s also not about getting a ‘right answer’ from individuals in the group. I’m looking for ‘their answer’ or one that is true to what and how they want to write, for I genuinely don’t have an idea of what a poem or story should be like. I suppose I’m wanting my writers to find their own voice, and to grow in confidence.
There is no sidestepping natural creative talent when you find it. Not everyone is talented as a writer, but, as with any skill, improvements can be made with enough awareness and practice. And there’s a definite correlation between writing skill and those who read a lot; reading feeds vocabulary and writing techniques and, apart from being a fun activity, inspires too.
A recent challenge to get Year 3 children to think about rhythm made me experiment with Longfellow’s hideously catchy Hiawatha, as well writing in iambic pentameter. It was a great exercise in being aware of what I know and do and then making it accessible to a group.