Developing A Sincere Writing Curriculum In KS1
The Writing For Pleasure Centre and Louise Birchall
When you walk into Louise’s writing classroom, you soon realise that children always have something they want to say and share with you. This means they always have things they want to write about too. All writers, but particularly the youngest ones, write best when someone shows them how they can use topics they really care about, and things from their everyday lives, to craft meaningful and successful texts. This is what we explain as nurturing writers by inviting them to use their existing funds of knowledge and funds of identity (Young & Ferguson 2020, 2021).
Funds of knowledge and funds of identity can include children coming together and using any of the following to help them generate ideas for their own texts:
- Their out-of-school learning experiences, talents, passions, hobbies and interests.
- The computer games they play, the things they watch on TV (and online), the things they read, and other things from their popular cultures.
- Objects and other artefacts from home.
One of the reasons Louise teaches writing so well is because she has a genuine fascination and wonder for the knowledge and identities her five year old writers bring into the writing classroom. The children have an almost unbounded need to express these things with others through writing. At five, it’s already part of who they are. This is because Louise’s class writing projects guide children into applying curriculum objectives by allowing them ample room to appropriate and use literacy from their childhood worlds (Dyson 2010).
Louise has created what we term as a sincere writing curriculum. Her writing classroom invites children to write about the things they’re moved to write about most (Young & Ferguson 2020). This allows her to focus on the needs of the curriculum and to teach her learners all the things that will help them craft their best texts. Louise knows that when children have agency over their writing topics, and are motivated for them to do well, they are far more willing to engage with and apply the curriculum objectives (Young & Ferguson 2021).
(Young & Ferguson 2021 p113)
|Classroom writing has a long research history that validates writing as a process and places the writer at the center of the writing experience |
– Marva Capello (2006).
Louise: Developing a sincere writing curriculum isn’t something you can do in advance. Getting started requires patience and a fair amount of watching, listening and asking. As a writer-teacher, you need to be ready and willing to adapt to children’s sometimes spontaneous inspirations. Spending time building strong relationships with the children in your class will encourage them to feel secure about sharing their knowledge and identity with you and others. We make lots of lists. We make lists of things we find funny, interesting and curious. We write lists of things we like and engage with most. We write lists of questions we want answers to. Over time, these lists build and build and they can become your writing curriculum. A curriculum developed alongside the children. This sort of collaboration leads to more meaningful outcomes and children who have confidence in their own voice and writer-identities.
Tips to developing a sincere writing curriculum:
– Provide time for children to talk about what they might like to write about. Write these up as lists on flipchart paper. Listen carefully to everything the children talk about (Lamme et al. 2002). Show and tell is just one really valuable resource for getting to know what is important to each child.
– Watch what children choose to pick up and read. Source similar types of texts and place them in the classroom library. Alternatively, invite children to create their own texts to put into the class library.
– Explain that in class writing projects, they can create the same kind books they love to read.
– Encourage children to ask questions and invite them to contribute to what class writing projects could involve (James 2020).
– Over time, build your classroom as a community of writers. Involve children in decisions about how the classroom should be organised and what they need from you to craft the best texts they can.
– Creating a writing centre means children know they are free to help themselves to writing equipment outside of writing workshop time (UKLA 2021).
– Value the things children value.
- Capello, M., (2006) Voice and identity development in writing workshop Language Arts 83(6) pp.482-491
- Dyson, A.H. (2010) Writing childhoods under construction: Re-visioning ‘copying’ in early childhood Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 10(1), pp.7–31
- James, S., (2020) Let’s make a ‘Guess Who?’ book! Writing character descriptions in Year Two [LINK]
- Lamme, L. L., Fu, D., Johnson, J., & Savage, D. (2002). Helping kindergarten children move towards independence. Early Childhood Education Journal, 30(2), 73-79
- UKLA (2021) Literacy in Early Education Leicester: UKLA
- Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2020) Real-World Writers: A handbook for teaching writing with 7-11 year olds London: Routledge
- Young, R., Ferguson, F. (2021) Writing For Pleasure: theory, research and practice London: Routledge