Introduction to The Writing For Pleasure Centre
Introduction to the session
In this session, you will be taken on a whistle-stop tour of Information & Me Books. This is a class writing project used by our Writing For Pleasure Centre schools. The session will show you how a project is typically planned and delivered and you will get the chance to start writing your own!
After the session, you can download all our Information & Me Book resources so you can do the project with your class.
Why do this project?
When children write about the things for which they are passionate and have a high degree of understanding, experience and knowledge, they bring themselves to their texts. Two genres begin to merge. We call this ‘memoiration’. The texts become a rich mix of memoir (personal narrative) and information. You’ll notice that not only do children make a connection with their topic but they also try to connect with their readership too. For obvious reasons, this project works best when children have already had experience in writing information and memoir books.
The importance of having a class publishing house
- DOWNLOAD our example of practice.
The importance of book-making
Purpose and audience. It’s essential that children are making books for others to enjoy. Books that they can show, tell (and sometimes read) to others. For children in the EYFS, the audience can be very immediate. For children in KS1 and KS2, you can start to think about audiences beyond the classroom.
The purpose and audience for the Information & Me Book you’re going to make today is to teach and entertain your pupils. I really want you to make a short picture book today that you can read and share with your pupils. I also want you to answer their questions about it and for you to tell them how you made it. You can then invite them to make their own that day too…
By the way, it doesn’t always have to be book-making…
The importance of studying mentor texts (also known as: examples or WAGOLLs)
Hey! We could do that in our books!
Let’s take a look at some mentor texts (DOWNLOAD the mentor texts here).
I would like you to look at the mentor texts I’ve provided and make a list of things you think you’ll have to do or include to write a great Information & Me Book. This list is our product goals.
NOTE: Here’s an example of what a product goals list can look like in the context of the EYFS/KS1. This example is taken from a Year One classroom who were writing animal story picture books. The class studied Rosie’s Walk before making this product goals list together.
Here is an example taken from a Year Three class who were writing Fairy Tales.
Generate your own ideas: Have an ideas party!
- I’ve introduced the project.
- We know the purpose and audience for these Information & Me Books.
- We’ve studied a variety of mentor texts and we decided on our product goals.
- It’s now time to start generate ideas for what we want to write about! I have to say, this is my favourite part of teaching writing with children. Just like the children in your class, I would like you to come up with a variety of ideas of what your Information & Me Books could be about.
NOTE: Here are some examples of how teachers have ideas parties with their class. The first is from a Year One class where small groups of children had an ideas party with their teacher on flipchart paper. The second example is taken from a Year Four class where again children were given flipchart paper on their desks and invited to have an ideas party with their friends. They were to come up with loads of short story ideas based on the different themes stuck in the middle of the paper.
Idea generation mini-lesson: Ideas heart
This mini-lesson comes from Georgia Heard’s book Awakening The Heart and is one of the best ways of getting together a bank of writing ideas, and it’s just as effective in Year 6 as in Years 3, 4 and 5. All you do is draw yourself a large heart shape and fill it with all the things you’re interested in and that matter to you – people, places, pets, experiences, ideas, issues. The great thing is that you can add to it at any time, whenever a topic or an idea strikes, and you’ve always got it there for future reference. Your best-loved topics will create strong emotions which can then drive a piece of writing. You can find out more by reading Ross’ example of practice.
I’ve found this a very useful ready resource for both me and the children, and I’ve shared mine with every class I’ve taught. Children showing their hearts to each other can often spark ideas in their peers. You can find out more about this technique by reading Georgia Heard’s book ‘Awakening The Heart’.
Here, Elisia shares with us her passions and interests. She has circled some of the ones she is particularly interested in ‘cracking open’ and turning into a piece of writing.
Here we can see Jake and Dolly ‘cracking open’ their interests and passions into sub-categories
These ideas hearts are examples of how children in KS1 can use them to generate ideas.
Working through the writing processes
I would now like us to start working on our Information & Me Books. Obviously, with your classes you’d give them many days and even weeks to work their way through these writing processes and you’d teach them lessons everyday to help them write successfully.
In KS1, we recommend children make picture books of about 6-8 pages. This can then develop into making ‘chapter books’ when they feel ready. ‘Chapter books’ are portrait A4 pages with a space for a picture at the top. The children learn to write about that picture underneath and to get a new page when they feel they need a new image and some new writing. Children have access to as many pages as they need. At the end, they staple their pages together and it becomes a ‘chapter book’. Please note, a chapter book can be as little as two pages long! It still counts!
Some of our affiliate schools are continuing this practice well into Year Three and even into Year Four. Please choose whether you’re going to make a chapter book or picture book today.
As adult writers, I’m going to leave you to write and work your way through the different processes on your own. However, I have supplied you with just a few examples of mini-lessons I would typically teach children over the course of this project. With your pupils, you would just teach one thing each day. Children learn to move through these writing processes on their own and in the process make lots of picture books over and over again.
Mini-lesson #1: Five finger planning
This mini-lesson originally came from Lori Rog’s book Marvelous minilessons for teaching beginning writing. I find this planning technique works best with non-fiction. Simply ask children to draw around their hand and five fingers. Next, ask children to write the subject for their non-fiction text in the palm of their hand. Finally, they can consider five things they might want to say about that topic and place them in each of the fingers. Children can draw or write them. Alternatively, with more experienced writers, these could be five subheadings for their text.
For this mini-lesson, it’s a good idea to share your own five finger planning before inviting children to give it a go during writing time.
Mini-lesson #2: General to specific
One of the things I’ve learnt about my own writing but particularly children’s writing is that it is often more meaningful and successful when it concentrates on something specific within a chosen subject. Children can often choose to write in too general a way and so lose out on expressing distinctive details. You can encourage children to write about specific people, places, things, moments or experiences rather than generally. For example, children can write about that particular autumn day rather than autumn days in general; that particular starry night instead of all such nights; your cat as opposed to cats as a whole.
Share a time in your writer’s notebook where you yourself have used this technique and explain how you went about it. You can then invite their questions. It’s particularly important to say how you went about finding the specifics within your topic. For example, did you use lists, webbing or doodles?
Mini-lesson #3: Let me tell you…
We forget that when we share things about our lives, we are often teaching people something about them too. Memoir and information sharing often combine beautifully. You can see this on the continuum below. At one end we can share cold, hard facts with our reader through a more traditional conception of an information text. At the other end, we can share anecdotes from our lives that just so happen to carry an element of information sharing and teaching too.
The following prompts show how children can share information in a more personal way.
- Let me tell you what happens when… I do my physiotherapy.
- Let me tell you what I did when… a baby bird fell out of its nest.
- Let me tell you what happens at… Dad’s garage.
- This is what I do… at football training.
For this mini-lesson, show children an information text you’ve written or ones children have written in previous years using these prompts. Ask the children whether they think it is more of an objective text or a personal one. What do they think about that? Which do they prefer? Why? Ask the children to use the prompts to come up with their own ideas for information texts they might like to write and share with others.
Mini-lesson #4: YES! I did it!
Children like to know what they have to do and how to do it. They also get a great deal of satisfaction and confidence in knowing they are doing a good job. That’s what checklists are all about.
The best way to introduce the concept of checklists is to show how you’ve used one with your own picture book making. Explain your process and invite questions from the children before giving them an opportunity to use the checklist for themselves during book making time. I would provide one word of caution. The best checklists are the ones you construct with your class collaboratively, in response to where your children are developmentally, and influenced by the particular writing project they are working on.
NOTE: Usually, this checklist would be based on what we discussed when we studied the mentor texts. The list of things we said we were going to do to make a great Information & Me Book earlier would be turned into a checklist for the children to use.
Mini-lesson #5: How do you know your book is finished?
Part of running an excellent writing classroom is ensuring that it runs smoothly and that children are as independent as they can be. This includes children knowing when they are finished and what they should do once they are finished. Below is an example of a poster created as part of this mini-lesson. It’s good to ask the children themselves how they know they are finished and to ask them what they think they should do when they have finished making a book or completed their piece of writing.
Publishing or performing
Certainly when you’re well into KS1 & KS2, at the beginning of any writing project, the class can get together to look at our Publishing and performing menu and decide where they want their final pieces to be published and for whom. They should then celebrate by having a publishing party.
- Other class writing projects in this series – LINK
- Our quick guide to teaching writing in KS1 – LINK
- Our BIG book of mini-lessons: lessons that teach powerful craft knowledge to 3-11 year olds – LINK
- Our writing development scales and assessment toolkit – LINK
I hope you enjoyed this session. If you ever need anything, please don’t hesitate to contact me – LINK