What *does* improve children’s writing?

2019-12-08T14:39:13+00:00December 1st, 2017|writing|

In my last post I discussed evidence that suggests grammar teaching does not lead to an improvement in children's writing. Although it seems implausible that grammar teaching would not be positively correlated with writing outcomes, there's a lot of evidence that is strongly suggestive that what I prefer to believe may not in fact actually be true. I've written enough about cognitive bias to know that I am predisposed to look for evidence that supports my preferences and dismiss evidence that contradicts them. The point of evidence is that it forces us to confront the extent to which our intuitions map [...]

Do all good ideas need to be researched?

2015-05-10T18:22:35+01:00May 10th, 2015|research|

We used to think that if we knew one, we knew two, because one and one are two. We are finding that we must learn a great deal more about ‘and’. Arthur Stanley Eddington After my presentation on Slow Writing at the researchED Primary Literacy Conference in Leeds, I was asked a very good question by Alex Wetherall. Basically - and I hope he forgives my paraphrase - he asked whether it would be worth conducting some 'proper' research on my good idea. I said no. It seemed as though this came as something of a surprise to the research literate audience. [...]

Slow Writing eBook – contributions wanted

2014-08-07T14:58:37+01:00July 31st, 2014|Featured|

Hey all! In a flush of Twitter inspired enthusiasm, @redgirob, @bryngoodman and I have come up with a crazy idea. What if we put together a crowd sourced, not for profit eBook detailing the various uses, applications and examples to which my idea of Slow Writing has been put? Hang on, I hear you cry, what bleedin' 'eck's Slow Writing? Where've you been? For any cave dwellers, you'll be pleased to know I've written several posts about it: Slow Writing: how slowing down can improve your writing Black space: improving writing by increasing lexical density The art of beautifully crafted sentences A [...]

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 [...]

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 [...]

The art of beautifully crafted sentences

2013-10-18T08:30:59+01:00October 17th, 2013|English, literacy, writing|

I came across this post on Doug Lemov's blog earlier today and instantly decided to rewrite my Year 8 lesson to make use of the ideas within. The idea is, like all good ideas, a very simple one: that pupils should be taught explicitly to construct beautiful sentences. Now, I like a good sentence as much as the next English teacher. Here's one of my all time favourites, courtesy of Sylvia Plath from The Bell Jar: The lawn was white with doctors. The sparse elegance of such an utterance fills me with delight and satisfaction; it communicates so much, so simply. [...]

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. [...]

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 [...]

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