Book title: Inspiring Writing in Primary Schools
Authors: Liz Chamberlain with contributions from Emma Kerrigan-Draper
Publication date: 2016
1. What is your overall impression of the book?
Inspiring Writing in Primary Schools invites teachers to reflect on writing, think about how we define it and how we share our passion for writing with children. It encourages the reader to consider their practice – from classroom displays and learning environments, to how we facilitate writing and make it more visible. Most importantly, it makes you consider writing as more than just key stage expectations and see it instead as providing an “opportunity to write for a range of real purposes and audiences” to enable students to become effervescent writers.
For me, this book offered a well balanced combination of research and classroom practice that puts children at the heart of a teacher’s decision making. Poignant research from a variety of sources is interspersed with ‘real’ examples from ‘real’ teachers – practical ideas that can be implemented into the everyday classroom and reflection points that bring children’s writing to the forefront of your thinking.
The author recognises the demands of the new curriculum, but the book’s high quality research and evidence-based practice allows teachers to explore the importance of using purpose, audience and context in writing, while acknowledging the relevance and impact that writing has on children’s lives.
2. Who do you think would benefit most from reading the book? What will they learn?
From trainee teachers, who are learning the skills and strategies needed to inspire children, to teachers, who are experienced in their craft but looking to reframe their thoughts and practice, and senior leaders, who are looking to raise the profile of writing in their school – I would recommend this book to them all.
I read this book as I moved from being a deputy headteacher in a small primary school to the same role but in a much bigger primary school with a large percentage of EAL children and 27 languages spoken. I wasn’t looking for someone to tell me how to ‘do it’; I was looking for ways to inspire me, the teachers I worked with and the children at school. Within a matter of pages, I knew that was what I had found.
I know this book will be one that I frequently return to, looking for advice, reminding me of the track I want to travel on with my children and inspiring me so that I can, hopefully, inspire others.
3. What did you think about the quality of the writing? Please consider the tone, structure and ideas. Does it suit the audience?
Chamberlain’s enthusiasm and passion for inspiring children as writers resonates throughout the book. The author is aware of the current constraints that teachers are under and, through a carefully structured book, provides readers with methods that not only work, but are also supported by research.
Chamberlain navigates the reader through the book using a metaphor of children ‘unpacking their backpack’ while ‘teachers develop a toolkit’ of understanding. Through this process, the reader is challenged to consider how they currently teach writing and how their own thinking can be developed.
4. Please discuss the research used to underpin the ideas. What evidence does the author use? Is it robust and up-to-date?
The text is studded with a vast array of research from a range of sources. These are as recent as 2015 – for example, Christina Clark’s paper, Young People’s Attitudes Towards Writing, for the National Literacy Trust – to older research pieces – such as Jerome Bruner’s 1966 book, Theory of Instruction.
At the end of each chapter all the research is referenced, allowing teachers to follow any lines of enquiry. The author also provides ‘Routes In’. These are useful texts and websites for the reader that can be powerful starting points for teachers.
5. What did you learn from reading the book? What ideas/approaches/practice will you change or adopt as a result of reading this book?
From reading this book I have learnt that teachers need to be confident in teaching writing. We need to understand what it means to be a developing writer and create the spaces and places for writing.
This book has also re-confirmed to me that conversations about writing are key. I have recognised that there is a need for ‘text rich classrooms’ but, I’ve also been reminded that reading, writing and speaking and listening are interdependent. The quote “reading and writing float on a sea of talk’ (Britton, 1983:11) has resonated with me and affected my decisions about how we teach reading and writing in school. I am now a keen advocate of the idea that writing provides possibilities for all children – our aim as teachers is encourage writers to connect their words so that their writing pushes boundaries.
6. Could you share a quote from the book that particularly resonated with you?
In this text there are so many to chose from:
‘reading and writing float on a sea of talk’
‘Shaping words into thoughts is complex. Writing is also no a ‘one-off’ activity…it is a process…a layered experience.’
‘Writing is not a subject.’
7. Please add any additional comments.
This is a beautifully crafted book that will appeal to many, regardless of experience. The positive, encouraging tone engages the reader, while the empowering themes allows the reader to realise the impact they have on a day-to-day basis.
This powerful, passionate and well structured book is a must-read and one I know I will return to again and again.