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?”

On choosing to write

By Becky Swain, Head of Learning and Participation, Arvon

During the Teachers as Writers (TAW) research, one of the professional writers made the following observation of the teachers who joined us for a residential creative writing week:

“When we encouraged them to really totally switch off their inner editor and just write – they were producing work that was really extraordinarily fresh and powerful because they lost all kind of inhibitions and self –consciousness.”

I saw first-hand that week some of the sheer pleasure that teachers found in freewriting – or what the group termed ‘Just WriteContinue reading “On choosing to write”

Tell the truth. Take your time.

By Ian Eyres, Senior Lecturer, The Open University

Before my involvement with Teachers as Writers I was for some years involved with a large-scale English teacher development programme in Bangladesh called English in Action (EIA). A couple of years into the project, a group of four or five EIA colleagues, including myself, became unusually excited by the results of one of our evaluation studies. Continue reading “Tell the truth. Take your time.”

On giving feedback

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

I found myself in the position of giving feedback to some writers recently. The writers were teachers who had signed up for two Master’s modules about writing. These comprised a critical look at how we teach writing, for which they needed to put together a research project evaluating their own practice via an analysis of pupils’ work; and a creative writing module consisting of a portfolio of creative pieces accompanied by a critical commentary. Guess which one I found harder to mark? Continue reading “On giving feedback”

The creative and the critical

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

Children’s author, Tim Bowler, once wrote:

Why is writing so tricky? Because it requires mastery of two conflicting skills: a creative skill and a critical skill. The former is of the imagination, the latter of the intellect, and they come from different brain hemispheres. To write well, we have to employ both to maximum effect.

I have always used this quotation with my PGCE group in our own ‘Teachers as Writers’ session, because it sums up so aptly an essential point about writing – that writing demands both creativity and criticality.   Continue reading “The creative and the critical”

I remember

By Lucy Oliver, Research Fellow, University of Exeter

‘Writing from the heart’ has been a recurrent theme throughout the Teachers as Writers project. Teachers and writers together have drawn on life experience, memory and emotion as resources for writing in their classrooms, sometimes to powerful effect. The poem below was written and shared aloud by Harry (Year 9) during one such lesson, co-taught by teacher and professional poet. Continue reading “I remember”

Let them write!

Teachers as Writers Research Report Launched Today

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

The report of the partnership between Arvon, The Open University and University of Exeter into Teachers as Writers is launched today!

This two year project reveals new insights about the value of teachers expanding their own understanding about writing and being a writer through working with professional writers. It 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?).

Professional writers, the research reveals, whilst also responsive to their publishers, exert considerable agency as authors. The teachers too found their authorial agency upheld as they generated, shaped and polished chosen pieces of writing- they were free to write, albeit supported by the Arvon tutors.

What of young people – is it time to let them free to write?

To read the Executive Summary click here:

Teachers as Writers Executive Summary (PDF download)