Reflections on the Writing For Pleasure approach during Lockdown by Benjamin Harris

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By Ben Harris

Twitter:@one_to_read


Mini-lessons

There is very little difference to an ordinary mini-lesson in class. I create a video or provide a live lesson session where I show children a particular idea or technique. In the case of grammar, I use a ‘Teach – Create – Apply’ approach where a punctuation mark is taught through analysis of sentences using the mark, children then create their own sentences like these, and finally they are offered the chance to apply this knowledge (if appropriate) to their writing (see example below). 

We All Write

I have taken part and written as part of our class writing projects with the children throughout the writing sessions in Lockdown. I have shared photos of my writer’s draft book to show them my thinking and we have discussed these from time to time in our Author’s Chair sessions. 


Children Write + Conferencing

This has been the hardest thing to achieve. Where the conferencing in class is so dependent on the relationship built between me and the children, and on the child’s ‘on the spot’ need for conferencing, it has felt more difficult to address the needs of individuals in an online context. Each day, the children submit their work through the Google Classroom, via photos or documents, and I give feedback on this. However, it’s not as easy to have the 1-1 discussion and offer the listening and advice that a child-writer needs. It has most strongly highlighted to me the belief that writing is above all a social activity, and in no way a solely technical one.

There have been some lovely threads though, where conversations have been had, such as this one: 

Ben Harris

Jan 13, 2:06 PM

I’ve just read ‘Boat of Stars’ – wow! This is INCREDIBLY vivid – I really do love this and think it’s one of your best first drafts all year! WELL DONE! In Verse 4 your rhyme pattern changes from AABB to ABAB – is this deliberate?

PUPIL

Jan 13, 2:19 PM

Yes  it was deliberate . It was the first verse I came up with when planning and it felt like it worked at that point of the poem. Am I allowed to change the rhythm or would you advise I reworked that verse?

Ben Harris

Jan 13, 2:20 PM

I would recommend you read the poem out loud a few times to yourself and to your family. See if they notice the sound changing…don’t tell them in advance! If you’re happy with the sound (and I like what you say about the placement of this in the poem) then it’s up to you entirely – as all your writing should be! 🙂

PUPIL

Jan 14, 11:13 AM

I have re-jigged the last two verses of the first poem and would love your thoughts on it. I think it sounds a lot better now.

Ben Harris

Jan 14, 2:06 PM

So do I – Did you read these to your family? I bet they were super-impressed!

PUPIL

Jan 14, 3:02 PM

Yes I read them to Mum and she thought they were all very good!

Here is the child’s final poem (of which she was really very proud): 

Boat of stars!

Sailing in a boat of stars

A journey to space and Mars

Blackholes like a strong tide

The universe is so wide

The sails rich with variations 

A tapestry of constellations

The mast created from the rocks of space

A nebula is the base

Prepelled upon a solar flare

Your maiden voyage, do prepare

Aether theory thoughts did shatter

Still searching to find dark matter

Jupiter is in full form

Its terrifying big red storm

Moons of many shapes and sizes

Beware of asteroid surprises

With stars infront and stars behind

The planets are all aligned

Your trip across the dark expance

An intergalactic space romance

Author’s Chair

This session of the workshop has been added to our end-of-the-day meeting as a class. I have asked children if they would like to show and discuss their compositions. Children have in every session always volunteered (I’ve found this particularly interesting as the ‘virtual barrier’ potentially may have caused issue – but it hasn’t!).

I have presented my own screen and opened up the children’s photos or documents so the whole class can see the compositions. The child or I read the compositions and then I have opened the discussion by asking the children if there’s anything they would like to comment on. Most of the time, the comments have been less ‘critical’ than in class – the children have been (and always are!) very supportive, saying ‘I like the humour in this line’ or ‘I don’t think you need to worry about that bit’. In class, it feels a bit different to this, with more opportunity taken to disagree politely with each other, or to offer alternative views. 

Publishing

To keep children motivated and to see that their writing is for something during Lockdown (which is a potential barrier to the desire to want to write) I have made sure that the pieces we are  writing are included in a class e-magazine. The first issue which contained memoirs and recounts about things that were mysterious to them (ranging from where Pringles disappear to in the house to the difference between microwaves and conventional ovens) and poems inspired by NASA’s photographs of space. 

A page from the published e-magazine: