Collaborative writing is one of my favourite methods of writing. I kind of made it up originally as a way for them to write endings, but here we’ve used it to kick-start writing. This way of writing takes the fear out of that blank piece of paper. The children begin in pairs, supporting each other and pooling their ideas. Even if one partner takes the lead, the other learns from their technique. Then, they do some fine-editing work. At this point, they often see punctuation errors as they cannot fluently read and understand mis-punctuated sentences at first. They also learn to really edit like a write, reading the sentences aloud and thinking of the way they sound, the effect on the reader, what can be cut and what order sounds best. Take a look at how I do it and the results:
Creating the Sentences
We brainstormed some different vocabulary that we could use for a shipwreck story. We decided to set our story in the 1500s so I showed them the opening scene of Disney’s Pocahontas to give them a visual to draw from and we added to our vocab bank.
In teams (the children work in mixed-ability teams of 4), they thought about the 5 senses and the emotions of the crowded dock as a ship prepares to leave.
(Okay, maybe not my best example of modelling neat writing, but I get excited and rush!)
That’s when I did my usual trick and changed my lesson because I had an idea!! I handed out hurriedly cut strips of paper then assigned each pair an item from our mindmap. Their challenge was to write just one sentence to describe it. Not just any sentence…a STONKING SENTENCE! I encouraged them to draw on all of the descriptive techniques they know – personification, oxymoron (they love a bit of that!), metaphor, simile, ‘show me, don’t tell me’ – and write the best sentence they can.
Select and Edit
For the next lesson, I photocopied every strip onto one sheet and gave each pair a copy. These formed the backbone of their opening paragraph. With their partner, they read, edited, eliminated and ordered sentences to form a good paragraph. They didn’t cut them out and physically re-arrange, because I want them to orally rehearse to listen for sense and style, but with a younger class this might be an idea.
The activity gave the children the opportunity to work together and share their skills, then to steal ideas and sentence structures from their peers. It was also a chance to practise their editing skills and the result was fantastic!
Next, the children practised these skills independently in a similar story, but this time it was their mission to Mars that ended in disaster, fitting in perfectly with our topic. It was amazing to see the children steal and adapt the techniques and sentence structures they had seen in this collaborative activity. Success!
If you try this, please share your results! You can either comment on here or post them on facebook, but I'd love to see how it goes!
Hi! I'm Mrs P: passionate primary school teacher!