The conference had the purpose of helping looking at progression of clear and practical ideas in the teaching of writing, Mondale Events have been asked by the Improvement & Learning Service of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to organise this one day Conference and Exhibition.
The excellent facilities of the Mercure Hull West Hotel in Willerby, Hull were selected as the venue for this event and, alongside Sue Palmer, and Andy Taylor of the Fischer Family Trust, we ran workshops during the day, and delivered a keynote, to get folks up and bubbling with ideas to stimulate writing.
The day was open to all Primary Head Teachers, Teachers, Senior Leaders, Literacy Co-ordinators etc. from both the East Riding area and neighbouring Local Authorities.
Our workshop ‘Beyond a game’ explored virtual worlds and how easy is can be to create resources that engage, motivate, inspire and differentiate, for children of all ages and abilities. The focus was on writing and how technology can enhance, support and encourage writing of many kinds.
Mike Furbank, Head of Achievement & Inclusion, for East Riding, opened the day with some fascinating thoughts.
Writing is the way we communicate when we’re not there. When speaking, we can modify our emphasis and gesticulate. When writing, we have to pick the right words, to get our message across in a real context.
Children need a real purpose in order to encourage engagement with writing.
Teachers need, regardless of their route in to the profession, a real understanding of what grammar is. Not just conjugating verbs, but understanding REAL structure for real needs, to enable children to become skilled users of language and socially adaptable.
There is a need for a complex range of literacies, in a constantly changing world full of a huge range of literacies.
Grammar for Writing is still a useful tool but, more essentially, grammar needs to be taught in exciting vibrant contextualized ways if our pupils are to become emancipated, autonomous, users of language.
Teachers need to plan experiences that require an ever widening range of forms for an ever increasing range of purposes and audiences. – And – to make it real!
Phonic development is really important but not as a “standalone, every now and then subject”. It needs to be taught consistently, and in an exciting way, with a growing development and planned continuum.
Reading is an essential precursor to writing, yet writing is an essential precursor to reading.
Reading is a stimulus and builds sophistication in children’s writing.
Speaking and listening, comes alive when we expose children to new, valid, interesting and real, whether that is through ICT, trips, or other experiences.
Oral rehearsal boosts quality and confidence.
Peer revue and analysis is powerful in the “work in progress: stage not just at the end. Intervention early, helps children move forwards far more effectively than if it is just picked apart when it is complete.
A finely honed set of skills is near useless unless it can help, and be used, in real contexts and challenges.
Blogging, & other ways of publishing, planning, & preparing online, are fantastic opportunities to create authors.
Sue talked about the deterioration of children’s speaking and listening skills, and the cultural slide into a lack of communication.
Sue first thought about child development fifty years ago in Wigan, when she was talking about writing, and asked some children what they thought was the difference between talking and writing.
A little lad at the back put his hand up and said “Well Miss, talking’s right easy in’t?! You open your mouth and words flow out. When you’re writing you have to get out a bit of paper… and then you feel really tired”!
The mental effort of writing is huge. We have to almost slow our brain down to start putting things together to build a powerful text. Children have to rally all of the skills such as sentence structure. Writing is one of the most difficult things we ever get taught. Accumulative skills build over the years.
A burly Yorkshire teacher summed it up: “Look love, you’ve come here to do writing but children can’t write until they can talk. They can’t talk until they can listen, and they can’t bl@@dy listen”!
We have to help children to build the capacity to focus their attention and change the focus of that attention under their own steam or volition. You can’t learn anything until that comes.
You also need to be able to control your physical and behavioral skills. Social and emotional empathy.
Technology can bring powerful aspects to the writing development process. The power and potential of digital technology will double every eighteen months!
Sue stressed that she wasn’t knocking technology, despite the title of her book about Toxic Childhood. She adores her laptop and SatNav.
“But, when you think about how much we have learnt to live with in just the last twenty five years, it is unnerving to think about what we may have to learn and adapt to in the next.”
We are moving at the speed of electricity.
Children are NOT developing at electric speed. They still need the same environmental experiences if they are going to develop successfully. There are five key things for healthy development. Assuming a solid foundation underneath this):
- Boundaries for behaviour
- Language – we could be over emphasizing language though as 75% of most communication is non verbal, body language and so forth, that we are sometimes unaware we are reading.
- Education (although this might be the least important of the 5!)
- The fifth comes from within a child, an inbuilt development, In born essential: PLAY
The 1st four WE give to children. The play aspect, needs support in terms of times and facilities.
The best way is to explore and express your understanding in physical ways. Role play – Physical – Emotional – Social – Cognitive elements all entwined.
It horrifies Sue that children are required, by law, to write in sentences, by the age of five. Many of them lack experience of what enjoying writing LOOKS like.
How often do children watch us writing. Aren’t we mostly on a keyboard, or off doing something else, far more fascinating, and exciting maybe?
The way that language is gained in the first seven years, is mainly by imitation.
Second level symbolism: e.g turning the picture of a pen, into p.e.n., and then writing it down to communicate to others, comes next, not first
Imitation, is followed by repetition.
Tread a path until it becomes a neural highway, in the same way that walking through a cornfield could turn in to the M6 – hard to begin with but quickly becomes easier and “a route well trod”.
Imitation repetition only come with motivation
All learning is based in movement – motivation and emotion are both based on a root word referring to movement. Play can be an important provider of movement.
If a child is very lucky and experiences CARE is at an advantage. A child who gets lots of that in the first three years, will probably be able to do what the EYFS wants them to do. Probably most of them aren’t ready though. We need to build that care, and play, in to our schools.
Category: 1) Events and Training days