Introduction to The Writing For Pleasure Centre
Introduction to the session
In this session, you will be taken on a whistle-stop tour of Story Picture 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 Story Picture Book resources so you can do the project with your class.
Why do this project?
Making picture books is the most obvious writing project of them all. It’s a familiar and much loved genre. Children will already know a lot about picture books and how they work from their years of book-making in Nursery and Reception. They give children freedom to write as little or as much on a page as they like. One word or a whole paragraph. The format lends itself to writing a new idea on each page – an early form of paragraphing. They are an artefact to be picked up, handled, passed round, displayed, treasured, taken home and given as a gift. They ensure children see themselves as real writers because they are making books just like the authors they love.
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 Story Picture Book you’re going to make today is to 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…
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 Story Picture 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 Story Picture 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 Stories 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: Idea Webs
Children really enjoy creating idea webs. The idea is simple. You take two characters, two settings and two problems from a collection of books you know and love. You then build a map around them. You draw lines and try to make connections between them to create an original writing idea. It can throw up storylines that you might never ever have thought of!
The best thing to do with this mini-lesson is to do one together as a whole class first. Then you can invite children to have a go in groups, pairs or on their own. It’s good to provide some time for children to share the ideas they generated with the rest of the class.
Idea generation mini-lesson: Change something about a text you love
We can learn a lot about writing by making a new version of a text we love. Children like to do this too. I’m not suggesting that you read A Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and then ask all the children in your class to rewrite it a little by changing the animal or the items of food. That would be a waste of everyone’s time and children would learn little. What I am suggesting is that we tell the children that they can go ahead and change any book they love in any way they like. Children doing this for themselves are likely to produce much richer and more creative outcomes than if they were limited by a teacher’s choice.
Here are just some ways you can change a text you love:
- Change the character(s)
- Change the setting(s)
- Change what happens
- Change the ending
For any writer-teacher, this mini-lesson is easy. You simply need to show them a book you love and show them your new version of it. Tell them why you love the original book and explain how you changed it to make it something new. You could then invite children to take a book from the class library that they love and make a new version of it by changing it in some way.
Working through the writing processes
I would now like us to start working on our Story Picture 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: Planning Rivers
The ancient Egyptians used symbols to share meaning in around 3,000 BC and it wasn’t a bad system. It’s an idea still used by writers today. Below are some examples. Children are invited to plan their writing using symbols, pictures or other images. Some children put the plan on a line or in a river. Others like to use arrows to show how they go from one point to the next. Planning rivers can be used for any type of writing.
For this mini-lesson, simply show children how you’ve used a planning map to plan a piece of your own writing. You can then invite them to do the same during that day’s writing time.
Mini-lesson #2: Teleporting location markers
This is essentially an extension of the kind of mini-lessons we provide in our minibook Grammar mini-lessons for 5-11 year olds (Young & Ferguson 2021). Location markers are helpful because they are like strings which can keep our texts in place. They help us maintain cohesion. They can also help children out of a bind when they are unsure how to move their writing on. Suggesting the use of a time marker during pupil-conferencing can often be all the help they need.
For this mini-lesson, simply show children your own use of location markers in some of your own writing. You could also invite children to look at the location markers used by other authors in the classroom library. Finally, talk about why they are useful and invite children to use them during that day’s writing time.
Mini-lesson #3: What’s in a story?
This simple mini-lesson reminds the earliest of writers what’s involved in writing a good story. They can include: WHO is there and WHERE they are, the ACTION, their FEELINGS about the action, and what the characters TALK about.
For this mini-lesson, show children a picture book you’ve made that includes all of the above. You can then ask them what the WHO, WHERE, ACTION, FEELINGS and TALKING was in your book. You can then invite them to make sure they have these things in their picture books during book-making time.
Mini-Lessons #4: What you want to say, then How best to say it
Many adult writers first need to put down on paper what it is they want to say before they can think about how best to say it. This is something we can share with children.
In this mini-lesson, share how you will sometimes write down a sentence – just to see what it is you want to say before you read it back and think about how best to say it. You can then invite your class to give it a try during that day’s writing time.
Mini-lesson #5: Use the senses
Writing using the senses is a great opportunity to paint with words. We can use the senses to bring our writing to life for our readers. As well as the five senses children already know about, I like to think there are two additional ‘writer’ senses: thoughts and feelings.
I highly recommend having a poster of these senses up in the classroom for you and the children to refer to during pupil-conferencing. For example, I had the following words displayed in my classroom with a relevant symbol or picture:
In addition, encourage children to look for excellent examples of painting with words using sensory detail during reading times. These could be collected in a class magpie book. Children can also be encouraged to note down any excellent examples in their writer’s notebook. Finally, always be willing to share how you have painted with words using sensory detail in your own writing before inviting the children to try it out for themselves during that day’s writing time. Children certainly consider painting with words whilst drafting, but I’ve found that they find it particularly enjoyable to play around with words and sentences when they are revising. As a final aside, I would beg you to let your class know that you can have too much of a good thing. We don’t need all seven senses represented in our writing at one time nor do we want to overdo it! Some senses (for example taste) are not always appropriate for the subject we are writing about. We want quality over quantity.
Mini-lesson #6: Prove it!
Sometimes when we say it directly, we lose the intrigue and appeal of what it is we want to say. Anton Chekhov famously said: ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass’. The easiest way I’ve found to apply this technique to my own writing is to search for where I’ve used the words is, was, are and were, as these lead me to tell. By replacing them, I naturally begin to show. For example: The boy is walking up the hill instead becomes The red-faced boy heaves, complains and puffs his way to the top of the hill.
Another way to look at it is to read your writing back and shout out ‘prove it!’. The boy was sad… Prove it!
The best thing to do with this lesson is to show children how you have used this technique yourself in your writer’s notebook. Explain how you went about it and answer any of the children’s questions. You can then invite your young writers to have a go for themselves during writing time. In my experience, this mini-lesson is most effective when the majority of your class are revising their pieces.
Mini-lesson #7: Strong endings
You know when you’ve written a good ending if it gets a reaction from your reader. They might smirk, laugh out loud (if you’ve done really well), be thoughtful, or even tisk or roll their eyes. What’s important is that you leave an impression on your reader. There are different types of narrative endings and these can be shared with children. They include:
I often ask children to try out writing a variety of endings using some of these different types before choosing a favourite. They can also discuss them with their colleagues at their tables too. For this mini-lesson, the best place to turn is to the books in your class library. Ask the children to get them out of their trays and look at what type of endings the author has used. Perhaps they find some that don’t match my list above? That’s great! You can add your own too. I’ve spent quite a lot of time on this mini-lesson and have returned to it many times in an academic year. I’ve always dedicated part of my working wall to making a poster where children provide me with examples they’ve found from their own reading.
Mini-Lesson #8: ‘Cracking open’ boring words
We all do it. In our excitement to get our thoughts down, we will write the words that come to mind immediately. This is fine and a good way of drafting fluently. However, it is always worth revising your draft afterwards to notice just how often you may be using the same words. Sometimes I use my Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words & Phrases to help me, but online thesauruses are excellent too. Otherwise, I will ‘crack open’ the word by drawing a circle around it and writing alternatives.
The best thing to do with this lesson is to show children how you have used this technique yourself in your writer’s notebook. You can explain how you went about it and answer any of the children’s questions. You can then invite your young writers to have a go for themselves in their own writing that day. This mini-lesson is most effective when the majority of your class are revising their pieces.
Mini-Lesson #9: 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 Story Picture Book earlier would be turned into a checklist for the children to use.
Mini-lesson #10: 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