By Tobias Hayden
Today, during the third session of our class project (information texts), we experimented with a planning technique called ‘speedy books’. Having chosen our favourite ideas yesterday, we spent today’s thirty minutes of writing time turning them into mini-books, but with a difference: these were aimed at an EYFS audience.
What was the purpose of planning in this way?
1. To support the organisation and structure of our main texts.
2. To enable children to have the opportunity to plan with simplicity and with a genuine audience in mind.
3. To create an actual text that could be read and enjoyed.
Why not just use a box-up grid, or any other recognised planning technique?
Well, there are many legitimate and useful planning techniques out there, many of which are made available in a Writing for Pleasure classroom. But, since writing can be an idiosyncratic process, the more children know about the different ways that writers plan, the more options they have each time they think about creating a text.
For instance, I always teach children about different drafting approaches one of which is to be a ‘discoverer’ (children write a first draft and then this becomes their plan to write a second draft). And this is essentially what we were doing today; however, I think what separates today’s technique from the others is that in using it the children were creating a complete and authentic text which could be enjoyed by a real audience, and their ‘plan’ now exists as a book in its own right. We will see next week how it supports the drafting of their longer compositions.
How was it taught?
I shared my example with the children (see below) and we discussed it in relation to some simple product goals. It was left up on display, while a few others from The Writing for Pleasure Centre’s EYFS class projects were placed on the children’s tables to act as mentor texts – I often find that, even for a simple text like this one, I need to see examples while I am writing to remind myself exactly what I am aiming for.
Soft Play With My Girl
I created a template with boxes and lines, a decorative spine and a date stamp on a blank front cover. I limited it to five pages. The emphasis was on speed, so I wanted to ensure the format was already taken care of so the children could focus on their text. You could just as easily staple together some blanks pages of A4, but I wanted it to feel a bit special.
What did the children create?
Things In The Computer
My Day In The Mosque
Spiders Are Real
Were they successful?
These speedy books are peppered with… information! It is clear that children were writing from a position of strength and were able to focus on what they wanted to say on each page. And each of those pages says something new. The books also contain a good deal of subject specific vocabulary and, crucially, they are entirely original in conception reflecting children’s writing realities. Finally, they represent a valuable starting point for a longer draft thus fulfilling the purpose of a plan.
What happened during author’s chair time?
I found that today, perhaps because of the clarity provided by the simplicity of the speedy books, more children were able to participate in the discussion. Also, the comments (likes, suggested changes and questions) were drawing out more information from the author which automatically contributed to the beginning of the revision process. I could see how starting from this low floor would enable everyone to build up their text.
Wasn’t this a waste of time for the more experienced writers though?
Apparently not. I had thought that some children might be put off by the EYFS-nature of the process. However, the feedback was that the mini-lesson was overwhelmingly ‘very useful’ (24 out of 26 writers) with only two children evaluating it as ‘quite useful’.
What will happen in session four?
On Monday, we will have our speedy books out on our tables to act as our plan as we begin drafting into our class project books.
What will happen to the speedy books at the end of the class project?
They will be given to the EYFS classes to read and enjoy. Some will be given to younger siblings at home. I already have some in my bag for the weekend to take home and read to my daughter!