Many thanks to Viki Allen for allowing us to reprint two posts from her education blog, Mrs. Allen Vs. the iPad.
As lead for writing in my school I have been looking for something to promote writing in a different way. I’ve done lots of staff meetings on shared writing and grammar, and introduced apps for sentences and punctuation. We’d had author visits in the past–however, the authors would come in, share a funny story or two, sell you a copy of their book and then go. I really wanted to have something that could be followed up on over the course of a year. That’s how we ended up working with Pobble.
In the classroom
On the 8th of October we welcomed Jonny, one of Pobble’s teachers, to our school. He ran two sessions, the first with a mixed age group of lower-attaining pupils. Two keen writers from years 3-6 with an ability between 2b and 3b in writing were selected to be published–I caught up with the two from my own class at break time and they were absolutely buzzing. It was lovely at lunch to hear the children proudly telling their friends and anyone else who was listening that they were going to be published authors.
After lunch Jonny took his second group, consisting of higher ability writers from across the school, and I was lucky enough to sit in on part of the session. There was lots of opportunity to share ideas and showcase what they had written; despite the age range, from 7-11, it was almost impossible to see from the writing who was a year 3 child and who was a year 6.
Fast forward two weeks from that date to the end of term 1, and our school portfolio had over 500 views. As well as the 60 pieces produced on the day, we added around 20 pieces from across the school, the first of which quickly picked up 168 views. By Christmas, we had just tipped into 3000 views, with over 60 published authors from across the school.
What is brilliant is seeing the pride students express at knowing that our school is now truly on the worldwide map.
Engaging the community
I started giving a weekly update on the number of views in our celebration assembly, as well as drawing parents’ attention to the work through the school newsletter. Certificates are given out each week in assembly, and we now have a display (a work in progress at the moment) in one of the main corridors. To say it has a high profile in the school is an understatement.
Having taken control of the school Twitter account, I am now able to widen the audience for our children by sharing links to their work so these numbers will keep growing.
In December, while planning his follow-up visit, Jonny and I discussed the possibility of our school being the host school for a cluster day in January. For me this was a real opportunity to put our school on the map. For years we have been invited to take our children to other schools where such events have been hosted, but never have we felt in a position to offer this ourselves. We ended up hosting writers from 4 local schools and publishing the work of over 80 children; the work produced was of an unbelievably high standard, and the children were absolutely buzzing when they finished.
Having taken control of the school Twitter account, I am now able to widen the audience for our children by sharing links to their work so these numbers will keep growing. I’ve signed up to be a guest commenter on the website, so I now spend some time each week reading a range of writing from children all over the country and the world, gaining ideas and giving children praise and encouragement for their efforts. As a school, we also continue to schedule further visits throughout the year so we can keep writing in the forefront of our minds.
A visible impact
Later in the year, Jonny held another session with the lower-attaining students he had met in his first visit. For me, the impact of Pobble was most evident when talking about the children in this group. Since October, the transformation for this group of children has been in their motivation to write. I see this in the children from my own class, where at the start of the year I was fighting a losing battle with writing. Now, I can barely get them to stop.
It became a competition, not only amongst the class members as to who would be selected each week, but also who would be the first person on a Monday morning to ask ‘Who’s on Pobble this week?’
Using resources from the website, I changed my approach to grammar, punctuation and spelling sessions, using Pobble 365 to inspire my pupils to write in a range of genres, each week creating a piece that, if strong enough, would be the chosen work for publication. It became a competition, not only amongst the class members as to who would be selected each week, but also who would be the first person on a Monday morning to ask ‘Who’s on Pobble this week?’
I was asked by a teacher from another school, what is the impact of Pobble? I can’t put my finger on one specific thing, though I can say that that overwhelming motivation to share writing you are proud of drives the children. This site, the staff and teachers, the resources and support have enabled me to offer something to children I would not have done before: The understanding that writing can be enjoyable and maybe someone, somewhere in the big wide world might want to read the piece you have worked so hard on.
And every child who gets chosen to share their work has a moment of feeling a little bit special when they say “I’m a published author.”
This post originally appeared as two posts, and has been edited for length.