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A Fiesta of Writing

‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.’ Ernest Hemingway. For some of the boys in the Junior School, I am sure they would find truth in Hemingway’s words. Writing can be hard.

Sometimes it can be draining, frustrating and seem like a never-ending task. Our goal this year it to make writing for our youngest boys in the school a less daunting experience, whilst enhancing their ability and desire to write.

Writing is a skill that we all use, from emails or text messages to informational texts for the use of others. Interestingly, it is a process that we rarely reflect upon as adults—and one that is seldom discussed. One of our goals around the teaching of writing in the Junior School is to be more intentional about showing our students that writing is a process and improvement is journey.

To encourage our boys to write, we have begun ‘stop, drop and write’ in classrooms throughout the week. This is an activity that encourages quantity in writing as well as beginning the task immediately. We are allowing the boys to be the arbiters of their own work by having them choose what teachers read, highlighting that sometimes our work would need major revisions before being of a standard we want anyone else to see. Seeking to improve the quality of their writing, we are giving structures that encourage precision and allow them clearly express themselves. For many students the imposition of a structure conversely gives them more freedom in their writing.

Another key component of improving student writing is increasing the breadth of the vocabulary they are using. We are engaging students in discussions with the aim of transferring some of the language particular to a topic into their writing. At Junior School assemblies we are introducing writing challenges—some for the teachers and some for the boys.

Our goal is to foster student improvement in writing through clear sentence and paragraph structures that have purpose, conversation to stimulate vocabulary and normalisation of the process of writing. Our journey on improving students’ writing might not lead to them following in Hemmingway’s footsteps, running with the bulls in Pamplona or in the trenches reporting on wars, nevertheless his quote reminds us that writing may never become easy, but by practising the fundamentals, we can all improve.

Gavin Baumber, Junior School Learning and Curriculum Leader