At Pobble, we take writing seriously — but that doesn’t mean we don’t like to have fun with it! We believe that in order for pupils to become successful writers, they have to be engaged, entertained, and enthused. The key is to capture their minds and imaginations, create memorable writing lessons that will stick with them in the future, and watch them draft stories with a smile on their face.
Here are four simple steps you can take to help teach narrative writing in any year group.
This section, the beginning, is extremely important — this is our first impression to engage our pupils and get their attention. How do we get them excited about writing? We start by creating a stimulus or a 'wow experience'. There are several ways to do this: present a picture, an object, or a video that somehow connects to the writing exercise. If, for example, your class is writing about the beach, then bring in a few seashells, a painting of a beach scene, or a video of some calming waves. Better yet, take them to the beach!
If you have the opportunity, we recommend taking the children on a real adventure as this will be the most memorable and exciting experience for them. Writing about dinosaurs? Go to a museum or look online to see the skeleton of a giant T-rex. Writing about Kings and Queens? Visit a castle. Writing about aliens and outer space? Recreate a crashed spaceship scene in the playground. If real trips aren't possible, try a virtual one. It should be fun, memorable, exciting, enjoyable — everything you want your pupils to feel about writing, make sure they feel during the “wow experience” you create for them.
Next, it’s time to create a vocabulary list (a word bank that they can use later in their writing). If you’re exploring a stimulus, you can do this while you do. This activity doesn’t need to take place in the classroom. It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t assume all children are familiar with simple vocabulary words. If, for example, a child has never been to the beach before, they might not know what seaweed is or what a conch shell looks like. This is your opportunity to identify any gaps in subject knowledge. Every child could have a clipboard and list the nouns they find, working in pairs or small groups to allow for collaborative learning.
Begin with nouns. Then, once you’ve finished, ask your pupils to think of adjectives to describe those nouns. If your pupils are a bit older, continue with verbs and adverbs. Once the list is complete, you and your pupils can start building complete sentences together! Modelling is key to enabling the children to understand an instruction.
Let’s take the alien example:
Possible nouns are: spaceship, stars, planet, solar system, human, outer space, moon, sun, etc.
Possible adjectives are: shiny spaceship, twinkling stars, round planet, bright sun.
Typically, in lower KS1 we’d stop at the adjectives however you can extend the learning by including verbs and adverbs: Shimmering brightly, the shiny spaceship flew quickly. This is an excellent chance to discuss sentence openers and how using an adverbial opener can uplevel a sentence immediately. Including SPAG during a literacy lesson means the children can apply any new terminology straight away.
At this point, once the pupils are excited about the subject and have a comprehensive word bank, we delve into a shared writing session. You’re writing with your pupils, standing in front of your class with a giant whiteboard while you jot down their ideas. Basically, you’re writing a story together with the entire class, helping them so they can eventually use the ideas and sentences you jot down together as a model for their own writing later on. This will help them spark off ideas of their own and inspire them to come up with their own storylines — modelling editing and improving your sentences as you go. Write a section at a time, begin with the heading/title. Always use modelling as an opportunity to discuss what makes writing effective. As you write the introduction, the children write theirs. You are writing together. Select children to read out their paragraph. How can they improve it?
Before the children write, they need to know the features that are included in the genre that they’re covering. To ensure they can regularly assess and be successful in their writing, they need the success criteria or checklist. Did I use correct punctuation? Do I have a strong opener? Did I use at least 5 adjectives? This develops independence in their learning as it enhances both their writing and self-assessment skills. If pupils are constantly wondering how they can improve their writing, they’ll end up drafting an excellent, fascinating story that they’re proud of. And that is the point, after all, isn’t it?
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