How to run The Write Book in your school
The main aim of The Write Book approach to writing is to inspire children to write by using a high quality fiction or nonfiction book as a catalyst. How you do this is up to you, but schools engaged in the pilot project did the following:
Discuss with your colleagues:
- What your goals for writing are with the project - e.g. improving descriptive writing, getting children to write more freely, writing in different locations, understanding the drafting process, writing dialogue etc
- Who you want to engage in the project - it might be the whole school, one particular year or even a small targeted group such as quiet girls, EAL children or reluctant boy writers. Also, who will lead the project? Who will disseminate the findings and successes to colleagues?
- When you want the project to take place -look at your year plan and think about where a writing project might best fit in with your existing plans.
- Where your strengths lie and where the expertise you can use is among the staff and pupils. Think about the interests, hobbies and existing knowledge and expertise you already have in the school that you can use. What are the children interested in? What skills and enthusiasms do the staff have? Are there any parents or community links that might be able to help?
- How you will run the project. How long will it be? Will it be a day of writing off-curriculum? Will it be a project run in the literacy hour over a whole term? Will it include some intensive periods of writing - whole days, as well as some lower level activities?
Choose your book
When you have a good idea about you want to achieve, with whom and how you propose to run the project in practical terms, think about what book might help you achieve your goals. What is The Write Book for your school/year group/class?
Choice of book is important! The pilot projects run by schools showed that children respond best to books that are anarchic, funny, highly illustrated, have a great story and/or have high production values. That is to say, they look good, feel good to touch - nice bindings, large sizes etc - and might have interesting additional features like pull-out cards, pictures, pockets etc, as well as featuring great characters, interesting themes etc. All the books used in the initial projects were from top contemporary childrens authors including Chris Riddell, Chris Van Allsburg, Neil Gaiman, Shaun Tan and Lemony Snicket as well as high quality nonfiction books such as the Dr Who Character Encyclopedia and Nobrow Press' gorgeous Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space.
To maximise your chances of finding just the right book to inspire writing for your children, make sure you know what's out there.
Use the Book Trust Bookfinder to find great recommendations listed by age and subject.
You might also like to visit a local bookshop and talk to the bookseller for the children's section about new releases. Tell them what you're looking for and see what they can suggest. Visit your local library and talk to the librarian about great fiction and nonfiction titles, or ask your school librarian to run a session in the staff room, showing you all her favourite books.
We would suggest that when you have chosen your book you obtain a copy for every child taking part in the project. The case studies from the eight pilot Write Book projects showed that the impact of every child having temporary ownership of a high quality book, and being able to take it home, dramatically increased their engagement with the project.
Plan your project
When you've decided on a book you think will inspire the children in your school, decide:
- Any physical outcomes - i.e. do you want to make a product of some kind - a class book, a film, a blog, a podcast? Heaton Park Primary School's Dr Who writing project made some fabulous Tardis books which children were incredibly proud of - and which were a great feature of their new library writing area.
- Any out of school writing activities. Sandringham Primary School's Midsummer Night's Dream project showed that their writing day in Epping Forest was a key part in enthusing children about writing.
- How to engage families in the project. Have a look at Claremont Primary School's brilliant pupil-curated family sharing event as part of their Space: The Final Frontier project.
- What resources or training you'll need as part of your project, if any.
- Ongoing activities - do you want to use the project to launch a lunchtime creative writing club? A school newspaper? A book reviewing project in the library?
After the project
Reflect on what went well, what didn't go so well and what you might change for next time, and amend your plans accordingly. You might like to run that same unit year on year or develop a new Write Book project every year, or for more than one unit a year!
You might like to conduct a questionnaire with pupils after the project to see what they thought about it and what they'd like to do for next time.
Present your project to your colleagues at an INSET day or in the staff room. Here's a presentation one teacher made about her project to inspire you.