This morning started bright and early with two of my fantastic faculty as we made our way up to The Wellington College. After a really exciting weekend last year, expectations were high for the sessions on offer today. At times hard choices had to be made between personal preference and professional development but in the end I decided to attend ‘Improving Writing through blogging with 100 word challenge’, ‘Rigour, ability, awe and joy – the essence of great lessons’, ‘Deliberately difficult: how to focus lessons on learning rather than progress’, ‘Why are you shouting at us? The dos and don’ts of behaviour management’, ‘Boys will be…Brilliant! How to help your boys succeed’ and ‘High expectations equals high impact.’ Phew.
Session 1 – Improving Writing through blogging with 100 word challenge.
The premise for this was simple. Students construct short pieces of creative writing using 100 words or less. To inspire them with their writing Julia Skinner (on the website 100wc.net) sets students one of three prompts:
- A sentence prompt – minus the capital letter to emphasise to students that they do not have to use the sentence at the start of their writing;
- A picture prompt;
- Individual word prompts – a sequence of 5-6 words which can be used in any order, at any point in the story.
Students then post their responses on their classroom blog initially before attaching a link on Julia’s blog for all to see.
So what are the benefits of this?
1) Authenticity – a word that is being banded about quite regularly at the moment. By posting responses on the 100wc.net blog, students have a real audience for their writing.
2) Instant feedback – people (teachers, other students, volunteers) who read the blogs and the 100 word responses can comment upon the work they read. This helps students to develop and improve their skills as writers. Julia cited an example of a student who was a great writer but did not use punctuation despite the teacher’s best efforts. However, when two students, of a similar age, commented upon the work a light bulb went off in the student’s mind who then began to use punctuation throughout their writing.
3) Thinking about their writing – 100 words is not a lot of writing so students have to choose their words very carefully. They have to proof-read and they have to edit. Skills that are essential for our students to develop. This is especially useful for Gifted and Talented students who normally like to write reams and reams but in this task are asked to limit the words that they use.
4) Motivation – on the flip side for students who are reluctant writers, 100 words is not a lot for students to produce and can, therefore, reduce the fear factor!
A team of volunteers are also encouraged to respond to as many of the entries as possible (approx. 700 a week) and then certain entries are put into the showcase.
I really enjoyed this session because I felt that this was a realistic and an engaging task and something, I know, our students could work with. We are doing a lot of work at the moment to try and engage our boys and I think this will help. Julia referenced using sixth form students with the process of providing comments which is something I think we should consider but in addition I think tutor time might be a good arena in which to present this to students and encourage the whole school to get on board with this writing task. I look forward to getting started on this.