Jane Andrews shares some inspiring and interesting writing from Purwell School in this blog.
Children bursting with excitement and brimming with pride: isn’t that every teacher’s dream – reminding us of why we chose this profession? It was just such a scene that greeted me on my recent visit to Purwell Primary School in Hertfordshire. Year 6 had been reading Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide: To the Fantastic World Around You. There really is something for everyone in this beautiful book, from brownies to boggarts and fairies to elves. It is not only the striking illustrations that draw the children into this book, but the fascinating detail within the explanations of who these creatures are and what you might like to know about them.
The outcome for this report unit was the class’s own field guide to fantastical creatures. The journey toward this was so much fun the children didn’t want it to end. A home learning task that helped build the excitement involved making a dwelling for their chosen creature. This provided a wonderful purpose for the meticulous close reading required to create the perfect abode. You might notice in one picture that there are stones with holes in. This took one tenacious boy all weekend to source because they are necessary if you don’t have ‘the sight’. He also knows that there are ways around this – if you don’t have a stone with a hole, or ‘the sight’ – but those ways can draw ‘unwanted attention’. Just think of the ensuing discussion and providing evidence from the text, regarding ‘unwanted attention’ and its consequences. At this point, we know that we have the children fully engaged in their learning and it has a purpose – the cherry on top of this cake is that the teacher also has great assessment opportunities. Some of the vocabulary in the book is challenging but children were reaching for dictionaries and asking for clarification because they didn’t want to miss a thing. The focus on reading for meaning at the outset later transposed into eloquent writing from every child in the class.
The teacher embedded the grammar in the context of their reading and writing, showing the purpose of the skills of cohesion, clause structures and using the passive e.g. this magnificent specimen was observed …. Or describing the havoc a sea serpent can wreak by surfacing close to a boat. The Herts for Learning detailed Y6 plans provided the inspiration, the rigour and the standards required by the year 6 curriculum through detailed lessons and useful resources including models for writing.
It has always made my heart sing when I see creative outcomes (and the incidental ones along the way such as posters, letters, diary entries etc) displayed with pride. Knowing that your writing will be published in a book, used as a voice-over on a PowerPoint, Prezi, an app or written in a book you have made will inspire you to take even greater care when choosing the form for your writing, the words you will use and the order you’ll write them in. It will certainly inspire next year’s class when they see this book and, perhaps, challenge them to do better!