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critiquing year 5/6 story-writing

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Trapin1, Feb 24, 2011.

  1. Trapin1

    Trapin1 New commenter

    I'm an NQT in a year 5/6 and we have been working on narrative writing during last half-term. I found out about a short story-writing competition hosted by BBC radio 2 and thought it would be a good opportunity for the children to practice their skills. The story must be less than 500 words and be original.
    I have marked their writing over the half term and there isn't one that I consider worthy of entry into this competition. Some of the children have used some good similes, adjectives, speech and 'show-not-tell' in their stories and have used interesting openers and complex sentences, but my problem is that I seem to have a class full of children who cannot think of an original idea that does not involve zombies, aliens, ghosts, travelling through portals into other worlds/time frames(Narnia). Neither can they develop these into a story structure with a build-up, problem, resolution, etc, although they have done lots of work on this.
    My other problem now is how to feed this back. As a school we use a stars and wish marking policy and so I do always praise the good features of their writing as well as giving pointers for improvement. However, I did some marking while the stories were under construction and my feedback to one boy that he'd used too much dialogue so that his story resembled a playscript and not a narrative was met with 'That's offensive'.
    Any advice gratefully received.
     
  2. Trapin1

    Trapin1 New commenter

    I'm an NQT in a year 5/6 and we have been working on narrative writing during last half-term. I found out about a short story-writing competition hosted by BBC radio 2 and thought it would be a good opportunity for the children to practice their skills. The story must be less than 500 words and be original.
    I have marked their writing over the half term and there isn't one that I consider worthy of entry into this competition. Some of the children have used some good similes, adjectives, speech and 'show-not-tell' in their stories and have used interesting openers and complex sentences, but my problem is that I seem to have a class full of children who cannot think of an original idea that does not involve zombies, aliens, ghosts, travelling through portals into other worlds/time frames(Narnia). Neither can they develop these into a story structure with a build-up, problem, resolution, etc, although they have done lots of work on this.
    My other problem now is how to feed this back. As a school we use a stars and wish marking policy and so I do always praise the good features of their writing as well as giving pointers for improvement. However, I did some marking while the stories were under construction and my feedback to one boy that he'd used too much dialogue so that his story resembled a playscript and not a narrative was met with 'That's offensive'.
    Any advice gratefully received.
     
  3. Haha, that's a hilarious reposte by your pupil. He needs to understand what 'offensive' actually means.
    I'm doing this competition as an added extra for KS2 if they want to enter it. I'm going to give them brief feedback and then it's their responsibility to enter the competition.
    Regarding ideas etc, your children need to be exposed to more literature and stories I think. A lot of books, films etc will include topics that you have mentioned. Problem with it all is that this needs to start right at the beginning of school, stories that the children become familiar with are then ones that they can base their writing on. Do you read to the children still at the end of the day? I've got into this over the last half term or so (just moved back to KS2) and I'm currently trying to scare the **** out of them with ghost stories by Anthony Horowitz (editing the book as I go along as some bits aren't appropriate).
    What kinds of literature are you using with the children in narrative? Currently we are basing our writing etc on Michael Morpurgo's 'Kensuke's Kingdom' and getting some great writing from them. The children really need to be reading rich texts though in order to cherry pick from them. Myths were also great for writing - boys loved them as well because of the bloody thirsty element.
     
  4. I have had some good responses when I ask children to write in the style of a particular genre. So for example if studying greek myths as the children to come up with their own greek myths modelled throughout the writing unit. E.g. Read Heracles and the minotaur, discuss key features of the story. Hero, mythical beast, battles etc.
    Model writing each section of the story using a story mountain.
    Opening - could be setting or character description, action, dialogue, statement etc
    Build up - characterisastion
    Problem - The beast kidnaps princess, character has to solve a problem etc
    Resolution - how they solve the problem
    Conclusion - what happens to the characters in the end?

    Each one of these may take a few days to teach - openers can take a week - reading and looking at good openers - critquing them. Coming up with different ways to start a well known story such as with dialogue or action or description.
    Then allow the children to use a well known character in their story choose one from a film they have all seen or a book they have all read - like Harry Potter, when my class read the street child they wrote some stories and diaries about being in a work house etc and I allowed them all to be Jim Jarvis. They knew the type of things he would and wouldnt say and they knew what his characteristics were like so it was easy to transplant him into their stories.
    We need to scaffold children's story writing a lot - some children do not read quality texts often so lack some imagination.
    Try letting children put their own characters into a well know story e.g their own Giant into the BFG or their own Wizard into Hogwarts - if they do this then they already have the setting and other characters for theirs to interact with. They have only got to create parts of the story then and not come up with a completely original idea.
    Try it yourself think about writing a truely original story and it wont happen.
    Have you tried starting with a picture? Something odd in the school grounds? I put a box in the middle of the field with some mechanical and computer sounds coming out of it from an old battery oiperated tape player.
    The children wrote some fabulous stories about how it got there and what it was. Tell the children that they need to leave clues and cliff hangers for the reader.
    The most important thing that you can do is model write on the board and use guided writing and improvement techniques to improve your wirting as a whole class.
    I hope this helps.
    If you want any more advice or some creative ideas - drop me an email
    regencyrob@hotmail.co.uk
     
  5. Trapin1

    Trapin1 New commenter

    Thanks Regencyrob and Muffinthemule. I take your point about the need for the children to be exposed to high quality texts. Unfortunately my school is situated in a socially deprived area where many of my children are exposed to the 'darker side of life' shall we say and little parental interest; some even watch Shameless(which I love, but it's hardly inspiring for children's writing). After I had read some of the children's planning and ideas, I wrote my own short story based on an everyday-life event just to show them that they don't necessarily need fantastical characters or happenings to incorporate all the elements of a story. It's a bit late in the day for this lot, I think, but I have taken on board your advice and suggestions for next year.

    Still not sure how I'm going to break the news that their stories are basically c**p though!

     
  6. I also work in a deprived area and we do a lot of work on looking at model texts and picking out the basic structure. We also do a lot of story planning together and modelled and shared writing. It seems to be slowly seeping in. I looked yesterday at one of the books where they write once a week and could definately see progress.
     
  7. My class love shameless and celebrity juice!! We are in the poorest 5% in the country! This does not matter it's up to you to provide the quality!!
     
  8. Regarding the high quality text thing - you need to speaking to your Literacy co-ordinator, SMT about getting a system in place where children have exposure from nursery onwards. It's all very well in Year 5 getting them into great stories, but if they haven't had the basics then they need this.
    Do some searching on Pie Corbett for more on this, he makes a lot of sense and says that children in school should know around five stories per academic year off by heart so that they can base their writing on them.
    Re the myths mentioned above, we spent half a term on the topic, and then another three weeks creating play scripts based on them. One week of this was spent on them writing their own story, they were brilliant. Forty minutes or whatever in a lesson just isn't enough time to write a rich, long story and edit it, a week of writing got there and the children loved getting into their stories. Even my lowest ability child, working at a 1b, had some success with this.
    Oh, and modelling, not mentioned by me above, is also key. The writing process needs to be unpicked for children, and getting them involved and seeing that writing nice or good all the time isn't acceptable. My class will tell me now if they hear a word like this, that it is boring, glad something is getting through!
     
  9. As the children are Y5/6, how about getting THEM to critique each other's?
    I often get the children to peer mark with post-it notes (that are left in their books) with 2 good things and 1 thing to improve. I've also heard it called 2 stars and a wish Get them to decide themselves if they think their partner's story is good enough for the competition. I've done this with Y2s upwards so you should be ok with Y5/6 doing it.
    Children often are better at taking on board that it's not up to scratch when their peers tell them instead of the teacher.
    The experience the children get in the classroom is paramount if they are not reading at home. The Literacy co-ordinator should be aware of these issues and cater for it in the resourcesw you have in school. Guided Reading should be very important to raise their attainment as well as increase their passion for reading.
    Do you do storytime? Just because they are UKS, doesn't mean they shouldn't get that. If anything, it's all the more important you do it because they don't get it at home.

     
  10. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    Are they though, or just not to your taste? So you found the aliens, beasts, war, blood boring and so rubbish, but they like those sort of things.

    To be honest if my class of year 6 children produced work with the all the technical elements you mention I'd be dancing round the room with joy! Not worrying that the subject matter wasn't to my taste!
     

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