By Louise Robinson
Do you spend hours trying to find examples of writing to use in lessons, only to end up writing your own? Like many teachers, I used to want to demonstrate features of a text or give my pupils something to edit and improve so I spent an age writing various different pieces to suit all the needs of my learners. Familiar? This was me before I discovered Pobble!
Once I had been introduced to Pobble however, I tried using a couple of texts from the platform and the reaction from my class was incredible! Instantly, they connected with the writer because they knew it was someone real and even better, someone of their age who made similar errors to them. As we deconstructed some of the pieces, they naturally found themselves both editing and improving the writing through high quality discussion and noting down words and phrases they quite liked the sound of to use in their own. It was magic and… I had my Sundays back!
Since then, I’ve found many different ways of using other children’s writing to engage, support and improve my own pupils’ writing. To get you started, here are a few ideas of how you can use texts in your lessons:
Using this piece of writing from Emmie opens up a whole host of learning opportunities — not just one lesson either!
- What is the text type? Justify your answer.
- Identify all the fronted adverbials that you think would be suitable for your own newspaper article.
- Provide an alternative fronted adverbial for each one that you found that won’t change the meaning of the sentence.
- Read the introduction carefully. Find a way of adding figurative language that emphasises the ‘fear’.
- Identify the examples of direct speech and turn them into reported speech.
- Identify the examples of reported speech and turn them into direct speech.
- There are ‘X’ spelling mistakes. You have ‘X’ seconds to highlight and correct them.
- Identify all the relative clauses used.
- Find the sentence, ‘A meeting will take place in the local church to answer any questions or concerns next Tuesday.’ Rewrite the sentence, including a relative clause that begins with ‘which’.
- Find the third paragraph. Read it carefully. Rewrite the paragraph using semi-colons.
- Punctuate the section where the Prime Minister explains the importance of using a gas mask and where the attacks came from.
Using this piece of writing from Rose opens up a whole host of learning opportunities — not just one lesson either!
- Identify the descriptive phrases and break them down into the senses. Ie ‘the sun was shining like a golden sunflower’ is what you can see.
- Discuss the simile. Is it appropriate? Justify. What other similes could be used throughout the whole piece?
- Are there any prepositions used? Identify. Discuss. How could prepositions be added?
- Is the punctuation correct? If it wasn’t a poem, should the punctuation be different? Each pair take a section each to punctuate and put it back together as a class. Is it better now? Discuss.
- Which words/phrases create the atmosphere? Would they want to note down any for their own writing?
- Using the piece, create a freeze frame in groups to demonstrate the tone/atmosphere.
- Change the piece to be written in the present tense. Discuss which words need to be changed.
Using this piece of writing from Maeve opens up a whole host of learning opportunities — not just one lesson either!
- Chop up the text into the different sections and have the sub-headings separate from the writing. Ask the children to match the sentences with the sub-headings to demonstrate why the sub-headings are important and it also develops the understanding of paragraphing.
- Using the descriptions given, can children draw the full ogre? Is there any description missing? What can the children add to build a full picture? You could then repeat this when they describe their own creature as a way of checking that they have used enough description.
- Spot the expanded noun phrases. Can they alter any of these for better or different adjectives?
- Discuss the simile. What does it mean? Do they understand it? Can they think of similar similes to describe other body parts?
- Spot the spelling mistakes and correct them.
- Are there any sentences that do not make sense? What must happen to them to fix them?
Training children to edit and improve their own work
As in most cases, when you are marking the books, there will usually be a handful of children who have not demonstrated a particular objective that you had either focused on that week or are expecting them to now use in their writing by now.
An example may be fronted adverbials. Find a text that either demonstrates examples of fronted adverbials and discuss with the children how they are used in a small group activity OR find one that does not and focus on improving this particular piece of writing by adding appropriate fronted adverbials. In the same session, ask the children to return to their own writing from the day before and notice what they could add. i.e. fronted adverbials. They can use what they have just discussed to edit and improve their own writing. Of course this can apply to most objectives.
Usually, we ask the class to think of as many words and/or phrases to describe perhaps an image or a setting etc and draw upon the senses to help with this. This is great as it gives children an opportunity to show you what they know already and to share those ideas with peers. What we do next is model to them better examples that we want them to use which then builds on that existing knowledge. What I do now is actually give only a few of my own ideas and ask the children to explore other pieces from fellow pupils to ‘magpie’ from them instead. This is a much more fun and engaging way for children to expand their vocabulary.
As you can see, there are so many different learning opportunities to be had by using writing from the Pobble platform. Here, I have only selected three pieces so imagine how much there is to learn knowing that there are over 250,000 pieces to use!