During my first year of teaching, despite my infectious enthusiasm for writing and meticulous planning, writing lessons were not a favourite pastime for my Year 7-8 class. You would have thought I had asked them to suck on a lemon. My motivated students worked, the ‘if I have to’ bunch tried. My ‘at risk’ students spent the period thinking or sharpening their pencils. I bounced from student to student attempting to help, with little effect.
I desperately needed to
- Create enthusiasm.
- Develop a writing programme that supported healthy vocabulary development.
- Differentiate outcomes, every child encouraged and supported.
- Ensure that every student published their work, without exception.
Book shops are a favourite haunt, on one such foray I stumbled across a copy of the recently published Juicy Writing by Brigid Lowry. The book was inspirational; the following passage got me thinking. “Our writing comes from who we are. Every single thing we’ve ever seen, felt heard, known or tasted lives inside us. Some of it’s conscious, some half remembered, shadowy as a dream, while some is buried deep waiting to be rediscovered” (p.20). Every child has something to write about, regardless. I needed to find the trigger or as Brigid Lowry so aptly puts it, give them the right “starter”. I owe Brigid Lowry a huge thank you. If you are truly interested in writing purchase her book.
I hatched a plan. In order to integrate this new type of writing into any school wide programme, it had to be short, sharp and sweet. With a little shuffling I introduced Juicy Stuff, a once a week event.
Learning Outcome: Use descriptive language to add impact to your writing. (The wording of the LO can be modified to suit younger students).
- Write a minimum of five lines.
- Record ideas in a list format (see exemplar).
- Use at least one new descriptive word.
- Avoid using dead words.
- Make an honest attempt when spelling unknown words.
- Most importantly write from the heart.
Juicy Stuff Lesson Outline
- Share LO and Success Criteria.
- Share Juicy Starter and Teacher Exemplar (I actively discouraged the writing of full sentences). A copy of teacher exemplar glued in all students books.
- Record target words for lesson on whiteboard or alternative.
- Whole class, collect ideas and record examples on board (in similar format to exemplar) to support understanding.
- Individual work, write drafts in books, (no idea is a bad idea, crossing ideas out, erasing work discouraged).
- Teacher conferences with every student, supporting, correcting spelling, and offering positive feedback.
- Student publishes on template.
- Last five minutes of lesson, encourage students to share writing with class, (ensure class act appropriately).
- Writing published in self-made book, a valuable resource for reading. I have been asked many times, to explain my rationale behind this approach to writing. To do so here would take time. Therefore in this blog and subsequent blogs I will share my reasoning in the form of ‘Snippets’.
At Last Some Juicy Stuff
“I Like, I Don’t Like” (Brigid Lowry)
Today I want to share a ‘Starter’ I have used successfully, many times, with students from Year 3-8. The above learning outcome and success criteria apply. Follow the lesson outline, working to publication.
Choose 6 descriptive words from the attached list as your focus for the lesson. Discuss meanings; solicit student input, record class ‘I like, I don’t like’, on the whiteboard. (I never had a smart board or digital projector! Wow I used a lot of whiteboard markers.)
Most importantly, when recording students ideas, ensure that they are recorded in a prominent place. Allow reluctant writers, when working individually, to record words and ideas from the class examples. They will eventually take ownership of those words and surprise you. Watch this space!
- Teacher Exemplar
- Template to publish
During Juicy Writing students are not expected to use a dictionary. Yes, some do, which is great. My struggling writers would often waste an entire lesson looking for the ‘right’ word, producing nothing. It is better that I help with spelling and they experience success.