RECAP - 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, throughout the whole process, in order.
So, the children had read countless versions that I had written, experienced applying their learning surrounding expanded noun phrases and the uses of commas (required through varying our openers), and we were nearing the end of term. Needless to say, I was nervous about what this last stage would produce; had I wasted the last 2 weeks of learning time?
Naturally, the time was coming for the children to be completely independent; the proverbial stabilisers needed to be removed. But there was one final thing I wanted them to learn; PACE. As teachers, we try to find ways to explain things. From the sublime to the ridiculous, it's a world of acronyms, costumes and metaphors. To explain this one, I went for the latter.
Subtly, I had completed all of my writing in 5 paragraphs, and the notes I had made of the real ghost's plans (taken from 'The Canterville Ghost') split equally into 5 sections (funny that!) Every teacher knows where this is going; some sort of story mountain. When discussing the failed plans we had already read about, we had got into the pattern of identifying that each plan has a problem; this was my way in to help them plan their own chapter independently.
I have always called this...
To help them S-T-R-E-T-C-H their writing out, I designed a planning sheet that asked them to give the shorthand version of what would happen in their chapter, the anecdotal, spoken version, if you will; this gave me a chance to teach them what 'synopsis' meant.
Once that was out of the way, I could use the bottom section to ask them for the written version; the version that could make them millions of pounds if it were published!
To model how I expected them to use this, I wrote my own plan, on the same template, but only filled in 3 columns. By themselves, they planned the final 2. When it came to writing, I wrote and printed the first 3 paragraphs (featuring the notes I had made on the plan) and explained that they needed to write the last 2 paragraphs (using the notes they had made on the plan). In effect, we had worked together to write a chapter.
They were well rehearsed in articulating what was expected of them; the qualities that would make their writing more engaging, with a real focus on the effect on the reader.
The children were given time to think and space to share as they came up with their ideas and I tried hard to help them achieve. While these objectives will need constant revision (especially as they are designed to be mastered across 2 years) I really feel like they have made strong gains against their starting points so far! Next time we tackle narrative, I imagine expanded noun phrases will need a refresher, but my big focus will be dialogue. I am aiming to continue to drip-feed existing and new punctuation through my next non-fiction, always adding transferrable tools for them to choose from.
Without question, the best bit is their own realisation at how much better their writing became. Doing the writing at the start, and a piece with the same brief at the end, was the perfect way for the children to see improvement.
A great confidence builder and positive promotion of writing!