Pursue personal writing projects

Giving young writers genuine choice is the best way I know to create an environment where they can flourish. -Ralph Fletcher

Description of the principle

It is essential that children are given time to write for a sustained period every day and to work on both class and personal writing projects. Personal projects should be seen as an important part of the writing curriculum since it is here, through exercising their own choice of subject, purpose, audience and writing process, that they have genuine autonomy and come to understand the true function of writing as an empowering and pleasurable activity which they can use now and in the future.  Teachers will hold equally high expectations for personal writing projects as for class projects. Personal projects  can provide the teacher with insights into children’s personalities and help build relationships, and can also provide evidence when assessing children’s development as independent writers.

What Writing For Pleasure teachers do

  • Teachers understand how essential it is that children are given time to write for a sustained period every day and to work on both class and personal writing projects.
  • Children are given at least one timetabled hour a week to engage in personal writing projects.  However, the teachers also encouraged personal writing to be pursued in little pockets of time throughout the week.
  • Children transfer knowledge and skills learnt in class writing projects and use them expertly and successfully in their personal ones.
  •  Teachers set up routines where personal writing project books go to and fro between school and home every day. This means that children can be in a constant state of composition.

Reviewing your practice: questions to consider

  • Do you child have a personal writing books?
  • Do you timetable regular and significant time for children to develop personal writing projects?
  • Do you provide children with resources and strategies for generating writing ideas?
  • Do you provide opportunities for children to write in collaboration with their peers on personal writing projects?
  • Do you allow children to pursue their personal projects if they’ve finished their class writing goal for that lesson?
  • Do you have high expectations and interest in both class and personal writing projects?
  • Do you design your classroom to ensure that children can pursue their personal projects largely independently?
  • Do you promote the use of writing journals at school and at home and create links between the two?
  • Are your children encouraged to work on any personal writing projects in any pockets of time available in the school day?

Examples from the classroom

Everyone’s An Expert

Idea Hearts: Getting To The Heart Of It

Setting Up Personal Writing Project Books In KS1

Supporting documents

Suggested further reading

  • Atwell, N., (2014), In the middle USA: Heinemann
  • Chamberlain, L., (2015). Exploring the out-of-school writing practices of three children aged 9 – 10 years old and how these practices travel across and within the domains of home and school. EdD thesis: The Open University.
  • Dixon, J., (1967) Growth In English Oxford University Press: London
  • Dyson, H., (1997) Writing Superheroes: Contemporary Childhood, Popular Culture and Classroom Literacy, Columbia: Teachers College Press.
  • Dyson, A. H. (2003) Welcome to the Jam: Popular culture, school literacy, and the making of childhoods. Harvard Educational Review 73: 328–361
  • Gonzalez, N., Moll, L., (2002) Cruzando el puente: Building bridges to funds of knowledge Educationl Policy, 16(4), 623-641
  • Graham, L. (2001) ‘From Tyrannosaurus rex to Pokemon: autonomy in the teaching of writing’, Reading, Literacy and Language, 35(1):18–26.
  • Graham, L., Johnson, A., (2012) Children’s Writing Journals, Royston: United Kingdom Literacy Association
  • Grainger (Cremin), T., Goouch, K., & Lambirth, A., (2005) Creativity and Writing: Developing voice and verve in the classroom London: Routledge
  • Graves, D., (1983), Writing: Teachers & Children At Work USA: Heinemann
  • Moll, L., Amanti, C., Neff, D., Gonzalez, N., (1992) Funds of Knowledge for Teaching: Using a Qualitative Approach to Connect Homes and Classrooms In Theory into Practice, Vol. 31(2), pp. 132-141
  • Olthouse, J., (2012) Why I write: What talented creative writers need their teachers to know In Gifted Child Today (35) 2: pp.117-121
  • Smith, F., (1988) Joining the literacy club Heinemann: Oxford

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