Teachers' Tales

Water to the world: a Headteacher’s story

by Chris Willan
on February 16, 2018


Having only just started my Headteacher role at Water Primary, I heard promising noises from the good people of Twitter regarding Pobble. I decided to invite Henry Smith to our school to launch Pobble.

At the time, I felt our children’s writing was a little too prescriptive. The writing lacked imagination and the children lacked confidence. Writing was just something they had to do. We wanted to change this. We needed a hook, we wanted them to be inspired. We wanted the children to enjoy writing, to have a purpose and to be proud of it.

A few weeks before I called Henry, a good friend of the school – author Tommy Donbavand, who is brilliantly funny and brilliantly creative, agreed to be our ‘Writer in Residence’ and completed some sessions with our children. Tommy was clear: “Be like me, I love writing. This is what it looks like to be an author and have fantastic ideas. You can be silly, you can be funny, you can take risks.”

The children loved this, but they needed the experience of others reading their work. In essence, what does it actually feel like to be a grown up (published) author? What does it feel like when people (other than my teachers) say lovely things about my writing?

Children love to please, to show off, and everybody loves praise. Our children are no different. Children would literally bounce into my office, smiles beaming on proud faces, grasping firmly their latest diary recount. They wanted instant recognition, praise, whilst hanging on to my every utterance of praise.

Before, teachers could see their written work, I would see some of it, and parents would see it twice a year at parents’ evening. What about the wider world? Aunties? Grandpas? Beryl, who lives across the road, who is always fishing out their badly aimed footballs from her precious marigolds?

Pobble opened this world, making a huge difference to our pupils’ writing. “Mr Willan, Mr Willan, Auntie Doris from Australia has just read my work and has loved my use of commas to avoid ambiguity, but I have to be careful when including modal verbs to indicate degrees of possibility!” With a real purpose instantly came the engagement, and confidence soared.

Rewind to our very first Pobble launch. Henry was brilliant. Full of enthusiasm and energy. Straight away he demonstrated a highly effective model of purposeful and creative teaching, which inspired the children and staff. Exactly what we had hoped for. Everything I wanted to be as a teacher, he had. Creativity, kindness and humour being at the forefront of his model. In fact, the whole Pobble team have this in abundance. Obviously, it must be a Pobble requirement to have these attributes running through their veins. We have been blessed by visits from Henry Pobble, Simon Pobble and Nikki Pobble and each visit has been totally inspiring and memorable for the children and staff.

The Water Primary journey and the Pobble journey have intertwined seamlessly and at times almost synchronised. We have watched at close quarters how much Pobble has grown and how the whole platform has developed to incorporate all aspects of the writing process. It is no coincidence that since our partnership with Pobble, our standards in writing have increased, not only attainment but the depth, creativity and engagement. It fills me with great pride to see both the school and Pobble giving so much inspiration to children and families.

We are now using every inch of the Pobble platform. Teachers use Pobble for WAGOLLs and take lesson ideas from shared pieces. Pobble 365 is a daily fixture within all classrooms. The children excitedly jot down creative sentences, which are full of flair and style, desperate to read and show off. We share our writing superstars through our weekly Good News Assembly, and we share their writing non-stop through Twitter, Facebook and Newsletters. Over the coming months, we are going to ensure that our children fully interact with their pupil logins and comment on their own work and that of others.

I think this is the most pleasing aspect of our partnership with Pobble: our children care about their writing. They are proud of it. They are not afraid of making mistakes or taking risks. They are imaginative and creative. And, most importantly, they want to show the world their writing and, with the brilliance of Pobble, they now can. Our writing is ridiculously exciting.

Keen to know how Pobble could work in your school? Get in touch!