Teachers' Tales

What happens during a Pobble Day?

by Charlie Carroll
on September 15, 2015


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“When you do a piece of writing,” I say, “here, in school, who is it who reads that piece of writing?”

A score of tiny hands thrust themselves up towards the ceiling. I choose the young boy who looks like he might explode if he doesn’t get to answer.

Miss!” he erupts with relief. “Miss gets to read it.”

The waving hands are returned to desks or laps.

“Yes,” I say, “your teacher. Your teacher is one of the lucky ones who gets to read your work. But is there anybody else?”

Emboldened by my suggestion – that there could indeed be more readers – hands fly back up again, fingers tickling the air of the classroom. I nod at hopeful faces.

“My mum sometimes does.”

“My dad always does.”

“The Headteacher. Like, if it’s good enough to go up on the wall or something.”

“My gran.”

“My friends. Me and Thomas read each other’s stories.”

“Mine are always the best,” Thomas says.

“My sister.”


(I like to give extra praise to the one who says that last answer, for they are exhibiting the kind of metaphysical self-awareness – an understanding that writer by extension must also be reader – which would have made Piaget proud.)

“So,” I say, holding up my own hand in imitation of theirs and counting off a list on my fingers. “Let’s see what we’ve got. One: your teacher. Two: your parents. Three: other members of your family. Four: other staff at the school. Five: your friends. Six: yourself. Have I missed anyone?”

Heads shake in cheerful solemnity.

“I want you to remember that,” I say. “I want you to remember that, usually, when you do a piece of writing there’s about six groups of people who will read it. Can you remember that for me?”

Heads nod with solemn cheerfulness.

“Thank you,” I say, “because I’ve got a terrible memory, and I’ll need you to remind me of that number later.”

This is always my favourite part of a Pobble Day (a day when I go into a school to work with the children). After this, we’ll play some creative writing games, and that’s fun because what they’ll create always leaves me marvelling at just how insightful and original they can be; after this, we’ll think about all the ways you can make your writing as brilliant as possible, and we’ll act out the importance of adverbs or the power of 2-adjective sentences and then we’ll write each of these techniques down on to the fingers of outlines we have drawn of our own hands; after this, we’ll choose something we’ve written today, something exciting and new, and we’ll develop it into something really special.

But before that, at the close of the conversation transcribed above, comes the part of the Pobble Day which I never fail to find any less than magical.

“So,” I say, “what did I ask you to remember?”

“Six!” comes the response to my call.

“Six what?” I ask.

Thomas’s hand shoots into the air, and it looks like it will carry him up through the ceiling with its force.

I give him a nod.

He takes a deep breath, cerebrally rehearsing the short speech he has been chosen to intone. “Six people usually read what I write -”

“Six groups of people,” Chantelle interrupts him.

Thomas nods at the correction. “Six groups of people usually read what I write.” He affects a thoroughly plausible imitation of my accent. “One: your teacher. Two: your parents. Three: other members of your family. Four: other staff at the school. Five: your friends. Six: yourself.”

“Exactly, Thomas,” I say, “exactly. But today you are going to create a piece of writing, and I am going to publish it. And do you know how many people are going to read your writing this time?”

Thomas thinks for a while, considering possibilities. “Ten?” he falters.

I show them the website’s view-counter and explain that over 30,000 people a month visit Pobble to read children’s writing. I show them the world-map, laden with scattered orange blobs which depict where around the globe each visit has come from, pointing out the dense globules which permeate Australia, Asia, the USA and the UAE. I show them an example of a piece of writing we have published from a Year 6 student, and show them the gobsmackingly wonderful comments he has received from all over the world, in praise of his linguistic skill. I tell them again that this is where their writing will be published; that this is where thousands of people from all across the globe will read their work; that this is where others they’ve never met will comment on and share and celebrate their writing, because that is exactly what their writing deserves.

And, when I’m finished, it’s all I can do to stop Thomas and his classmates from writing.