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Revisiting Slow Writing – how slowing writing might speed up thinking

2020-03-10T19:54:01+00:00June 19th, 2014|literacy|

Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast. Shakespeare It's been a while since I first wrote about Slow Writing and in that time it's rather taken on a life of its own. Today I had the interesting experience of someone excitedly telling me about this 'great idea' they'd been using to transforming students' writing, and guess what? Now, I don't want to suggest that I'm precious about it or that it's in any way 'mine', but it is one of the relatively few good original ideas I've had and I feel a certain sense of paternal pride in its increasingly viral [...]

The curse of cursive: Are we fetishising joined up writing?

2014-05-29T13:06:41+01:00May 29th, 2014|literacy|

Back in 2008 I had for a Head of English position. At one point during the morning, candidates were asked what aspect of English education was most important to them. I honestly have no memory of what I came up with, but I do remember another candidate saying that for him it was handwriting. He failed to make the cut. Handwriting really doesn't matter that much in most secondary schools. As long as pupils' writing isn't an illegible scrawl, teachers tend not to care too much about what it looks like. But this isn't the case in primary schools. My daughters both [...]

A new twist on Slow Writing

2014-05-23T13:49:51+01:00May 22nd, 2014|Featured|

Since first writing about Slow Writing back in May 2012 the original post has had almost 12,000 views and I've received regular emails and tweets from teachers who have been inspired to use and adapt what is in essence an incredibly simple idea. Last week I got just such an email from primary teacher, Michael Lomas. His tweak is so simple and so good I thought I should share it with you. Just thought I would fire off a quick email to let you know that I have been having a go at using Slow Writing in my Year 2 (age 6 and 7) English lessons after reading about [...]

Do we value pupils' writing?

2014-04-26T00:07:01+01:00April 26th, 2014|literacy|

Why do we ask pupils to write? There may be very many answers to that question but in my experience of working with teachers and observing lessons, overwhelmingly, teachers ask pupils to write in order to check that lesson content has been understood. This is of course a worthy aim, but do we value the actual writing? Leadership guru, John C. Maxwell said, "To add value to others, one must first value others." Likewise, to add value to pupils' writing, one must first value pupils' writing. In a lesson I observed last year, a science teacher had taught her Year 8 class about Marie [...]

A simple theory about writing

2016-09-23T13:39:51+01:00April 23rd, 2014|literacy|

The first thing to say is this is not in any way supposed to be a complete or unified theory - I'm well aware that there are many other important strands to improving pupils' writing and have written about many of them before. But I do think this theory (which has been bubbling away on my mental back burner for a while now) describes just one of the processes that can turn otherwise able pupils from poor writers into much more able ones. That said, I tend to get a bit over excited about these sorts of things and am often mistaken. [...]

Black space: improving writing by increasing lexical density

2013-12-10T08:40:46+00:00December 9th, 2013|writing|

Style ... is not—can never be—extraneous Ornament... ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’ On the Art of Writing, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch So, what is lexical density? Basically, all texts are made up of lexical words which carry meaning (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs) and grammatical words which act as the glue which hold the lexical words in place (Conjunctions, prepositions, articles, auxiliary verbs, some adverbs, determiners, and interjections.) It is the lexical words that explain information. As a general rule texts with lots of [...]

How to get students to value writing

2013-11-07T09:10:11+00:00December 31st, 2012|literacy, writing|

Sir, do we have to write in sentences? Yes, you bloody well do! Students do a lot of writing at school but, bless me, most of it's turgid stuff. In practically every lesson they're required to scribble stuff down in their excise books, even if it's only a learning objective and the date. Having spent a good deal of the past two terms observing lessons across the curriculum, I can safely say that most of the writing students do is an exercise in missed opportunities. And almost none of this writing is valued in any way other than for the content it contains. [...]

The mathematics of writing

2013-09-18T12:59:04+01:00October 30th, 2012|English, literacy, writing|

A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns… The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s must be beautiful; the ideas like the colours or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test. GH Hardy How are most children taught writing? Badly. Eight weeks ago I took over an AS English Language class in which none of the students had a clear understanding of the difference between a noun and a verb. How is that they have got so far through formal education with absolutely no explicit understanding of [...]

Slow Writing: how slowing down can improve your writing

2014-06-28T14:50:08+01:00May 12th, 2012|English, learning, literacy|

NB - my latest thinking on Slow Writing can be found here. Exam season is nearly upon us and English departments across the land will be gearing up to the Herculean labour of training students to churn out essays which, they hope, will earn them the much coveted A*-C grade in English Language. The AQA paper gives candidates just a meagre hour to write a short descriptive, explanatory piece and then a longer piece which asks them to persuade and argue. This isn't much time and most students default position is to race into it, cram in as much verbiage as [...]

Specifying a concept-led KS3 English curriculum

2021-11-27T10:57:53+00:00October 23rd, 2021|assessment, curriculum, English|

If we accept that we are using the curriculum as a progression model - if making progress means that children know more, remember more and can do more of the curriculum they've been taught - then that paves the way for us to move away from using unhelpful approaches like flight paths and age related expectations to make judgements about whether children are making progress. But what happens if it's not clear that knowing more, remembering more and being able to do more of the curriculum don't feel like progress? This, I think, is a big issue with the way English [...]

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