As I have previously written, Pie Corbett's system of 'Immerse, Imitate, Innovate' when planning for writing, is one of my favourite approaches. For me as a teacher, it makes complete sense (although not the only approach - one size doesn't fit all, remember!) To present my interpretation of what he means, I am going to explain the unit of work I planned, provide photos to illustrate what the children did, and I'm hoping you'll see the learning journey they went on in the process - each set of photos shows the work of one child, in order.
I usually try and use a key text to inspire all of our writing; this time it was an adapted version of Oscar Wilde's 'The Canterville Ghost'.
My English class and I would read some together everyday; we had already completed some learning about persuasive writing, using the mysterious, colour-changing bloodstain and seemingly useless 'Potts' Clean Away' as our starter for designing and advertising a new cleaning product.
As we read, I made notes of key facts and characters on a flipchart. This was always visible, and every lesson would start with a re-cap.
As with all planning, I needed to know what I was expecting the children to LEARN through doing this; in my opinion, there needs to be something transferrable and long-lasting, rather than several superficially-impressive pages with overly modelled writing of a quality they could never replicate independently.
- use expanded noun phrases to convey information; in narratives, describe settings, characters and atmosphere
- use commas to clarify meaning or avoid ambiguity in writing (I wanted to introduce the use of the comma as a way to sensibly break up the clauses and a signal to breathe to avoid stumbling over what's written)
Writing needs an inspired context so, using the book as a stimulus, I wanted the children to write the next chapter; Sir Simon, a ghost trying to scare the Otis family out of the house, comes up with his next plan. Each chapter was already about each of his failed plans (you can see at the bottom of the flipchart that we had kept track of his attempts so far) so we were quite simply writing another idea. As teacher, I'm not overly bothered what the idea is; I need to see some expanded noun phrases and the beginnings of using a comma appropriately!
The Immersion came in 3 stages:
1. First of all, I had the children write a completely unsupported 'chapter'. Some teachers call this a 'Cold Write', and I likened it to the 'Entry Point' I have been using in Maths. I was hoping it would serve as a great device for demonstrating to the children the improvement I was praying they would make, by having it available to read and compare at the end, once they had learnt what I was going to teach them.
2. "Because I was so inspired by their writing" (genuinely, I was really impressed) I wrote my own version of a chapter, filling it with the noun phrases and uses of commas I was planning to teach them. "After reading all of yours, I have included some features in mine that I think would really help you." I used the ISPACE openers strategy to introduce some variety too. They read and annotated my copy.
3. Using spooky music, my own version of the chapter, and a series of extracts from a range of books, we spent time imagining all of the 'expanded noun phrases' and different ISPACE openers (which would extend our sentence and likely require a comma to be used) that we could use. We searched, shared and displayed these, constantly referring to them during the recap at the start of each lesson.
To be continued...