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Teachers as Writers Full Research Report

By Becky Swain, Head of Learning & Participation, Arvon

We are delighted this month to be able to publish Teachers as Writers: A report for Arts Council England on the value of writers’ engagement with teachers to improve outcomes for all pupils.

We hope you’ll be sufficiently curious to take a closer peek at the detail of the findings. We would love to hear from you about anything that strikes you as helpful, or maybe surprising or unexpected. I’ve already got myself hooked on the appendices at the back that detail the research questions that we asked teachers, professional writers and students as part of the project.

The report shares research findings from the partnership between Arvon, The Open University and University of Exeter. This two year project reveals new insights on the value of teachers expanding their own understanding about writing and being a writer through working with professional writers.

As Professor Teresa Cremin detailed in a recent blog post, the report highlights consequences for classrooms, both primary and secondary, including:
• the significance of time and space to ‘Just Write’ (who owns the space to write?);
• the potency of the personal and drawing on life experience (who frames their content choices?);
• the value of investing more energy and effort in revising (whose choices are these?);
• the need to develop students’ autonomy as writers (whose writing is it anyway?).

Over the last six months, since we published the Research Executive Summary, the research team around this project have enjoyed leading writing workshops with teachers in schools from London, Merseyside and Oxford. Teachers have expressed how much they have gained from time and space to write together, alongside the chance to discuss implications for teaching writing in the classroom.

Thanks for everyone who has engaged with this work already as it’s been great to learn from each other’s practice. If you would like to connect with Arvon about the report, or our work with teachers, please do email becky.swain@arvon.org

And before we break up for the holidays, just a reminder that Arvon are now recruiting schools for The Craft of Writing – a project with schools that continues our partnership with The University of Exeter and Open University in 2018-19. Funded by Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Royal Society of the Arts (RSA), this project will explore further how the opportunity for teachers to work with professional writers might change their understanding of being a writer, how they teach writing, and improve children’s outcomes in writing.

The Craft of Writing is a rare opportunity for deep, sustained CPD in the teaching of writing that focuses on both writing standards and children’s motivation and engagement as creative and effective writers. It is a national project, but we are particularly keen that it benefit primary schools in the North of England. The project is targeted at Year 5 teachers and involves two significantly subsidised weekend residentials (at Lumb Bank, The Ted Hughes Arvon Centre near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire), three free CPD days and some funding for supply cover.

If you are interested in this opportunity to improve children’s outcomes in writing and motivate young writers, please email: Teresa.cremin@open.ac.uk or rebecca.coles@open.ac.uk or phone 01908 653212. The deadline for joining the project is until the end of January 2018.

Can writing be taught?

By Rebecca Coles, Research Associate, The Open University 

It is one of the premises of The Craft of Writing project that in order to teach writing, we must know what writing is. We must understand what one needs to know, and be able to do, if one is to write. The project will bring professional writers together with researchers to compose a ‘Framework of Craft Knowledge’ around writing. ‘Wow’ I first thought when I heard: ‘Is that even possible?’

But the craft of writing is already very much discussed, and not only by instructional texts. There is a fascination in popular culture too with how writers write. Continue reading “Can writing be taught?”

The Craft of Writing

By Professor Debra Myhill, Director of the Centre for Research in Writing, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean, University of Exeter

Writing is a craft, a hefting of ideas, phrases, images into shape; a weaving of words into worlds.  And writers know this.  One of the striking aspects of the creative partnerships that writers forge with teachers on the Arvon Teachers as Writers residentials is a sharing of their craft.  We were privileged to witness rich conversations between teachers and writers, exploring the teachers’ unfolding texts and discussing everything about the craft of writing, from the choice of a word to the narrative perspective taken.  Continue reading “The Craft of Writing”

What do you know about your writers?

By Teresa Cremin, Professor of Literacy in Education, The Open University

As the year begins, what do you know about your young writers? Indeed, what do they know about you as a writer – anything?

Many teachers will want to add to information transferred from last year and assess their students’ writing, offering a range of activities that seek to establish a baseline, and enable tailored targets to be set. Fair enough.  Such knowledge is needed. But is it enough?

I worry that these early formative assessment activities will focus predominantly on the writing skills, as currently defined by national assessment rubrics, and may not include attention to the young writers themselves: their attitudes, everyday practices and sense of themselves as writers. Merely identifying that more work on aspects of SPaG is needed will tend to frame both the year’s work and the children’s perceptions of what writing involves. Continue reading “What do you know about your writers?”

What if

By Nick Stimson, playwright, theatre director and Writer Co-Mentor on the Teachers as Writers project

Whether it be writing a poem, composing a song or symphony, labouring at a novel or a play, painting a picture or making a sculpture, or participating as an active maker in any creative art form, we have but one aim: to unlock and access the imagination. The complex skills and techniques we acquire along the way have only one purpose: to crack open that well-guarded safe that contains the imagination. Continue reading “What if”

A fun place to write

By Alan Durant, author and Writer Co-Mentor on the Teachers as Writers project 

I visit schools a lot as an author and I often ask the children if they have a special place they like to think and write at home. A few hands go up initially – “in my bedroom”, “under my bed”, “at the kitchen table” – then suddenly everyone wants to join in – “in my tree house”, “under the dining room table”, “in the attic”, “in my dad’s shed”. That’s the cue for me to tell them that for years I wrote in a shed at the bottom of the garden (“like Roald Dahl”) Continue reading “A fun place to write”

What really matters?

By Anthony Wilson, Senior Lecturer, Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter

I was on the phone to a writer friend the other week. In itself this is a rare occurrence: normally we communicate by email, text, and, what another writer friend calls the ‘quaint’ exchange of letters. In a year’s time we will be gearing up to tutor a week of poetry writing at Totleigh Barton, our first course together for thirteen years. We are very excited. But because Arvon rightly plans so far ahead, we needed to get our blurb together with about a week’s notice. Continue reading “What really matters?”

Your writing; your choice!

By Professor Debra Myhill, Director of the Centre for Research in Writing, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean, University of Exeter

This past week I’ve been lucky enough to spend a week in Australia, meeting up with teachers and teacher educators who share my interest in writing and the teaching of writing. It is always refreshing to get an insight into how teachers in other countries think and what their expectations are in the classroom. Australia has only just introduced a new National Curriculum as previously the various States determined the curriculum; they have high-stakes testing as we do; and they have concerns about the academic achievement of socially-disadvantaged groups, particularly the indigenous aboriginal groups.  Continue reading “Your writing; your choice!”

Anyone can be a poet

By Becky Swain, Head of Learning and Participation, Arvon 

Last week one of the questions asked in Teresa Cremin’s blog was, ‘Can time be made to create a final anthology of collected works by your class – a tangible artefact that celebrates your collective success as writers?’ Whilst our Teachers as Writers research project focused on working with professional writers to develop their narrative fiction, a class of Year 6 pupils in one primary school in Somerset did just that. Pupils worked with their teacher and a professional writer, Louisa Adjoa-Parker, to put together a stunning anthology of poems which they titled Anyone Can Be a Poet. Continue reading “Anyone can be a poet”

Just enough writing time?

By Teresa Cremin, Professor of Literacy in Education, The Open University 

With just three weeks to go before schools are out for the summer, can you make more time for writing and write alongside your young writers? Can you leave behind the end-of-year writing assessments/interim framework now? Why not give yourself permission to sit down amongst them and have a go at doing what they’re doing: freewriting, drawing, talking and preparing to compose the final piece of the year – preferably a piece of their own choosing. Continue reading “Just enough writing time?”