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MECS Primary Writers' Project

MECS Primary Writers' Project

Thursday, 2 August 2018  | Mel - SP Teacher

MECS Primary Writers’ Project

What were we to do? We were at crisis point… the writing in the Primary School simply had to have an injection of vim and vigour. No more tired narrative! No more ‘I woke up and it was all a dream!’ No more groans when the teacher mentioned writing time!…

Okay, I wildly exaggerate the ‘crisis’ bit, but the Primary teachers DID want to add some spark and extra skill into our Primary Writing program. After careful research, and attending information and training Professional Development sessions, we have settled on a program called ‘Seven Steps to Writing Success’. 

This term sees the official launch of the program, with a whole Primary School Writing Project that we are calling ‘The MECS Primary Writers’ Festival’. This project will get all of the Primary classes ‘on the same page’ (pardon the pun), using the ‘Seven Steps’ program, as we embark on increasing our students’ engagement and skill in writing, as well as honing our own skill and enjoyment in teaching writing.

‘Seven Steps’ is designed to span across both Primary and Secondary and, after some of our Primary teachers presented a summary of the program to the whole staff, a number of our Secondary staff have also begun implementing elements of the program into their English classes.

Following is a very summarised version of the ‘steps’. The steps can be used across all genres of writing.

Step 1: Brainstorming and Plan for Success

This step teaches students how to brainstorm ideas for writing and then use a planning graph to plot a plan for their writing piece, so that they know where they are heading when they write.

Step 2: Sensational Starts

Start with where some action is. Hook the reader in! You can backfill to establish the context of Who? What? Where? after you have the reader wanting to read on.  See the example of my first two sentences of this piece.

Step 3: Tightening Tension

There must be a build up to a ‘big moment’ scene. There must be some kind of drama that makes the reader completely invested. In a Persuasive piece, you have to have that one best argument that is going to convince your audience hands down.

Step 4: Show, Don’t Tell

In this step, writers learn to give clues to the reader of what they want to say that gives the message in a more meaningful and interesting way, e.g. ‘The icy wind sent shivers through my body’ is much better than ‘It was really cold outside’.

Step 5: Dynamic Dialogue

Dialogue can add much to writing, even non-narrative, but it can be very boring. This step teaches how to use dialogue so that it enriches both character and plot.

Step 6: Exciting Endings

You’ve got to leave the audience satisfied. The characters need resolution. The Persuasive essay needs an impacting conclusion. This step explores the possibilities for different endings and ways to achieve them.

Step 7: Ban the Boring

Each class will have a list of ‘Banned’ things for their writing. For example, in my class we have no: ‘And then… and then…’ We also have no: ‘I woke up and it was all a dream’.

Teachers also make sure that we include lots of dynamic and interesting writing activities that show that writing is NOT boring.

‘Seven Steps’ is based on the idea that each step needs to be taught separately before you put it all together – we don’t get someone who has never played tennis before to go out and play a whole game (and expect them to do well) before we’ve taught them how to serve, play a forehand shot, backhand shot etc. Likewise, we shouldn’t expect students to be able to write whole pieces before they’ve learnt the individual components.

‘Seven Steps’ also heavily emphasises the relationship between talking, visual text (images) and written text – something we very much endorse in the Primary School. Immersing children in rich examples of excellent writing is another important part of the program. This both inspires, and models examples to our students.

We are very excited about this program, and have already seen an increase in engagement and skill in the short time we have been using it.

This term’s Writers’ project involves ‘Mystery Box’ challenges (like on MasterChef), where, instead of cooking challenges, classes are set writing challenges to submit to our judges, Narelle and Diane, to compete for a weekly prize. We also have ‘Character of the Day’ entries created by the teachers, Writing Ribbons that can be earned, weekly hot chip/Writer’s Jam sessions with Diane for those who produce Golden writing, a visit from a published author and, later in the term, a special ‘Character of the Day’ celebration day.

Already the enthusiasm has been very exciting. If Week 1 and 2 is anything to go by, the results will be wonderful! Come and see for yourself some of our work on the PUMP room windows.

Our Primary School theme this year is ‘Worshipping God in the ordinary’ (Romans 12: 1-2). Writing is very much a part of ordinary school life. God has blessed us with the ability to be able to communicate through writing. Already we have been able to see students using gifts God has given them in this area as worship to Him. It is wonderful to be able to celebrate with them in praising God for words and writing!


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