Pursue purposeful and authentic class writing projects

No pupil should be given a writing task which does not yield them enough fruit in their own terms, so that they can feel it is worth doing. – John Dixon

Description of the principle

Meaningfulness affects learner engagement and outcomes to a considerable extent. Writing projects are most meaningful to children if they are given the opportunity to generate their own subject and purpose, write at their own pace, in their own way, with agency over how they want to use the form, and with a clear sense of a real reader. Given these circumstances, writers are likely to remain focused on a task, have self-determination, maintain a strong personal agency over and commitment to their writing, and so produce something significant for themselves and in keeping with teacher expectations. In short, when children care about their writing, they want it to do well.

What Writing For Pleasure teachers do

  • Teachers and children should work together to consider the purpose and future audiences for their class writing projects. Because children are given the opportunity to generate their own ideas and have a strong sense of a real reader and a clear distant goal for the writing to be published, class projects are seen as meaningful.
  • Agency plays an important role within class writing projects. Children are encouraged to either generate their own individual ideas, share and work on ideas in ‘clusters’ or, as a whole class, generate an idea that they could all pursue together.
  • It is striking that the most effective teachers of writing regularly refocus their children on considering the future readership and publication of their piece throughout their projects.
  • Class writing projects are worked on over a number of days or weeks.

Reviewing your practice: questions to consider

  • How do you develop class writing projects that are undertaken over an extended period of time?
  • How do you plan class writing projects which look and feel like writing undertaken in life outside the classroom?
  • How do you ensure children believe the class writing project to be authentic, purposeful and meaningful to their development as a writer?
  • Is there a real reason for the writing to be composed? Is children’s writing being publish or performed for real audiences at the end of a project?
  • How do you elicit widespread enthusiasm and participation that is focused on developing the children as writers?
  • How do you demonstrate how a particular genre might be structured?
  • Do you show children examples of the type of writing you are expecting them to craft?
  • How do you afford children some agency and ownership over the topics/ideas they’ll use to complete the writing project?
  • How do you encourage children to harness their own funds of knowledge in their writing?

Examples from the classroom

Advocacy Journalism: Writing For Charity

Launching A School Magazine

Persuasive Letters: Straight From The Heart

That’s MY Book!

The Meaning Of A Life: Authentic Biography Writing At Home

This I Believe… Digital Storytelling

Opening The Door To Writing For Pleasure

It’s Time To Make A Change!

Mr Creighton, Can We Send Our Stories To Some Experts For Feedback?

I Want To Discuss This! Children Writing Their Own Discussion Texts

Having An Ideas Party & Taking A Writing Register With Year Four

Spinning A Web Of Great Story Ideas

Writing Persuasive Letters for Personal Gain in Year 4

Supporting resources

  • Our class writing projects – [LINK]
  • Our Writing Development Scales And Assessment Toolkit [LINK]

Suggested further reading

  • Ferguson, F., (2021) Are you for real? Bringing purpose and authenticity into the writing classroom for Teach Reading & Writing magazine [LINK]
  • Young, R., (2021) A love letter to genre teaching [LINK]
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F., (2020) Issues with the book planning approach and how they can be addressed [LINK]
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F., (2020) How writing approaches built on using stimuli are damaging children’s writing development [LINK]
  • Young, R., Birchall, L., (2021) Developing a sincere writing curriculum in KS1 [LINK]
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F., (2019) Make writing enjoyable for better pupil outcomes Primary School Management article [LINK]
  • Young, R., Ferguson, F., (2018) How memoir writing can produce children’s best work Teach Primary article [LINK]
Be reassuringly consistent

This chapter begins by exploring what is meant by authentic, purposeful, and meaningful writing and its importance in developing successful writers. Discussion is had about the needs of the pupil-writers and the needs of the teacher and curriculum. How teachers can pursue authentic and purposeful writing projects is then examined. The relationship between authentic writing and attention to purpose, audience, genre and pragmatics is also explored. The negative consequences of a lack of authentic and meaningful writing within the writing curriculum are shared, as are the links between authentic class writing projects and building a community of writers within the classroom. The chapter concludes with examples of effective practice from the classrooms of high-performing Writing For Pleasure teachers.

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How Real-World Writers works

This chapter describes how to plan a class writing project. It helps teachers realise the importance of choosing types of rhetoric or genres which will be meaningful to children’s development as writers. It discusses how the whole class should participate in the setting of distant and product writing goals related to the purpose and audience for the final written products. The chapter discusses and suggests how teachers can locate authentic places and situations for children’s writing to be published and performed once completed. The chapter then explains how a genre-week should be planned, including how to introduce a class writing project, look at and discuss exemplar texts, critique poor examples and techniques, produce class success criteria or product goals, and teach strategies for generating writing ideas.

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