Bring creativity back!

July 21, 2019
This half term I have thoroughly enjoyed going into classrooms with a very talented artist to have fun with some year 4 and 5 children as part of a research study with Oxford Brookes and the University of Reading.

Anyone who has a knowledge of the workings of a primary classroom will know that gradually, year on year, the creativity is being sucked out of the timetable as more and more is expected of the teaching staff and children from an increasingly structured curriculum. 

It frightens me and I worry that we are swapping the freedom and exquisitely endless imaginations that come with childhood for a schooling based around writing rules and grammatical prowess.
Most teachers I know crave more time for creativity in the classroom and to give the opportunity to their pupils to forget the rules now and again and unleash the full power of their imaginations.
  
Of course grammar is important and of course we need to teach our children structure and rules but I passionately feel that this should only be a part of the way we teach. 
Since I first started my teaching degree in 1998 I have seen huge changes in the way we are expected to teach and it doesn't sit well with me.  There is an obsession for getting things on paper, setting objectives and making those the holy grail of success. 
I have taught wonderful story tellers who constantly fall short when it comes to putting their ideas on paper.  Children who can vocalise fantastic worlds and create stories I would be delighted to have come up with myself.  They have sat with me and not stopped talking, their eyes shining and their speech speeding up as the ideas pour from mind to mouth.  It is one of the true joys of working with children and I smile every time it happens.

The trouble is, the same children so often stumble when it comes to writing those stories down.  They are so caught up in the objective and checking they have used the correct sentence starter and included the right type of clause or the proper ratio of speech versus action that the raw story that caught them up verbally is now lost and a mediocre copy of what has been modeled by the teacher is neatly written in their books - objective met, smiley face in book.
Each time this happens a tiny part of that imaginative rush is lost and that is something to mourn.

It is the main reason I left teaching and why I now love going into schools as a creative with the sole objective of firing up those wonderful minds and allowing them to find creativity however they choose.  

So when I was contacted by a wonderful lady from the University of Reading and asked if I would take part in a study of how creativity can be used to teach not only writing but also new maths concepts and an additional language, of course I jumped in board!  
And guess what?  It worked!
  
The teachers in the schools we visited commented again and again on how switched on and involved the children were.  They were engaged, settled, amazingly well-behaved, attentive....and they learnt. 
The official results are not in yet but I already know from talking to the children and participating staff afterwards that they had grasped brand new maths concepts and many could translate these into Polish too (our chosen second langauge).  Why? Because they were having fun and they were given the option to learn in several different ways.  They were not afraid to experiment when they were writing about the crazy characters they had developed as part of the task because the writing had no specific SPAG  learning objective.  So they let loose and had a go.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this study and I can't wait to read the official results once the project has been assessed and the findings written up.

In the meantime I am looking forward to more creative writing sessions next year when I will have the absolute pleasure of tapping into other young imaginations and seeing where they take us!


 

University Research

May 20, 2019
I am so excited to have been asked by a study team at the University of Reading to help with their research into the creative teaching of language.  I will be going into Year 5 classrooms with a fantastic graphic designer and illustrator - Tamalia Reeves - to see if it's possible to teach maths vocabulary through story writing and illustration. What a fantastic opportunity to maybe throw some questions up about the way the curriculum is currently being taught in our primary schools.  I have t...
Continue reading...
 

school visit fun

April 5, 2019
I have been lucky enough to have been invited into some amazing schools this term to talk to the children about creative writing and how to start building stories of their own.
Since I relaunched these sessions and introduced new Powerpoint presentations - adapted for each school - as well as some lovely new resources to help get those imaginations bubbling over I have been thrilled to see how they have been going down with the children and staff of the schools I've been visiting.
It never ceas...
Continue reading...
 

The power of a network and great writing friends

November 22, 2018
Last weekend some of my critique group and I packed our bags and checked into a fantastic Air BnB in Winchester in preparation for the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference.  
It felt like living the best parts of student life again, funky attic apartment with plenty of floor cushions and bean bags, wine in the fridge and nothing to eat but toast and biscuits!
This in itself was a real treat as my crit buddies are genuinely some of my best friends.  I thi...
Continue reading...
 

The big re-launch!

November 6, 2018
I have been so busy writing, editing with my old agent, finding a new agent (still playing the waiting game there!) and connecting with other writers that I have let my creative writing workshops slip.
Over the summer I was updating my website and I looked at the 'school visits' page wondering how relevant it still was having not down a visit in just over a year. 
 
And then it hit me....WHAM... on the back of the head at tremendous speed.  Why have I not been in schools - other than my teaching...
Continue reading...
 

The Waiting Game

October 15, 2018
The waiting game is something often talked about when it comes to the path of an author.  Waiting for inspiration or the perfect time to get on with that first draft of the first book (spoiler there is no such time I'm afraid), waiting for critique feedback, waiting for agent response, waiting for the publisher to get back to your agent.  Everything seems as though it is on a go slow in this wonderful, crazy, unique business.

Over the summer I submitted some work to two agents.  Waiting for th...
Continue reading...
 

Huge decisions and the highs and lows of writing.

June 10, 2018
I have noticed how often social media and blogs are filled with the positive aspects of the life of a children's author.  Agent signings, book deals, places in various charts, award shortlists or big wins, that sort of thing.
This is brilliant to read and I find it hugely uplifting and cheering but also not all that realistic.  For every author who has achieved these great things there have been struggles along the way.  Rejection letters, missing out on the shortlists and awards then there ar...
Continue reading...
 

I'm on a list!

May 12, 2018
One of the things I adore about being part of a fabulous writing community is sharing the successes of other writers.  I genuinely love spotting a friend's name on a long-list, or finding out someone I admire has won a competition.  One of my wonderful writing group friends was recently short listed for the Times Chicken House prize and when she told us all, our shrieks of delight made everyone else in the bar stop talking and look to see what the excitement was all about!
The other bonus of t...
Continue reading...
 

London Book Fair 2018

April 13, 2018
Yesterday I got up early, paid an extortionate amount of money for a peak rail ticket to London and headed up to Olympia.  From previous experience I put on my comfiest shoes and easy to remove layers, both of which I was very glad of by the end of the day.
Olympia is a pretty huge place and so the first thing I did was pick up a map and try to get my bearings.  I had a moment where I felt like I needed to put the map on the floor and stand on it to get a better idea of where everything was (m...
Continue reading...
 

Book Launches

March 27, 2018
The thing with book launches is that, before I go, I am always filled with utter joy and excitement at the birth of another children's book as well as being pleased as punch for a friend who has made it to the bookshelves.  Some of these books will go on to win prizes, huge critical acclaim and top best-sellers' lists everywhere whilst others bumble along well enough without making particular waves.  Whatever the end result, every book that makes it to the shelf has already jumped over so man...
Continue reading...
 

Bring creativity back!

July 21, 2019
This half term I have thoroughly enjoyed going into classrooms with a very talented artist to have fun with some year 4 and 5 children as part of a research study with Oxford Brookes and the University of Reading.

Anyone who has a knowledge of the workings of a primary classroom will know that gradually, year on year, the creativity is being sucked out of the timetable as more and more is expected of the teaching staff and children from an increasingly structured curriculum. 

It frightens me and I worry that we are swapping the freedom and exquisitely endless imaginations that come with childhood for a schooling based around writing rules and grammatical prowess.
Most teachers I know crave more time for creativity in the classroom and to give the opportunity to their pupils to forget the rules now and again and unleash the full power of their imaginations.
  
Of course grammar is important and of course we need to teach our children structure and rules but I passionately feel that this should only be a part of the way we teach. 
Since I first started my teaching degree in 1998 I have seen huge changes in the way we are expected to teach and it doesn't sit well with me.  There is an obsession for getting things on paper, setting objectives and making those the holy grail of success. 
I have taught wonderful story tellers who constantly fall short when it comes to putting their ideas on paper.  Children who can vocalise fantastic worlds and create stories I would be delighted to have come up with myself.  They have sat with me and not stopped talking, their eyes shining and their speech speeding up as the ideas pour from mind to mouth.  It is one of the true joys of working with children and I smile every time it happens.

The trouble is, the same children so often stumble when it comes to writing those stories down.  They are so caught up in the objective and checking they have used the correct sentence starter and included the right type of clause or the proper ratio of speech versus action that the raw story that caught them up verbally is now lost and a mediocre copy of what has been modeled by the teacher is neatly written in their books - objective met, smiley face in book.
Each time this happens a tiny part of that imaginative rush is lost and that is something to mourn.

It is the main reason I left teaching and why I now love going into schools as a creative with the sole objective of firing up those wonderful minds and allowing them to find creativity however they choose.  

So when I was contacted by a wonderful lady from the University of Reading and asked if I would take part in a study of how creativity can be used to teach not only writing but also new maths concepts and an additional language, of course I jumped in board!  
And guess what?  It worked!
  
The teachers in the schools we visited commented again and again on how switched on and involved the children were.  They were engaged, settled, amazingly well-behaved, attentive....and they learnt. 
The official results are not in yet but I already know from talking to the children and participating staff afterwards that they had grasped brand new maths concepts and many could translate these into Polish too (our chosen second langauge).  Why? Because they were having fun and they were given the option to learn in several different ways.  They were not afraid to experiment when they were writing about the crazy characters they had developed as part of the task because the writing had no specific SPAG  learning objective.  So they let loose and had a go.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this study and I can't wait to read the official results once the project has been assessed and the findings written up.

In the meantime I am looking forward to more creative writing sessions next year when I will have the absolute pleasure of tapping into other young imaginations and seeing where they take us!


 

University Research

May 20, 2019
I am so excited to have been asked by a study team at the University of Reading to help with their research into the creative teaching of language.  I will be going into Year 5 classrooms with a fantastic graphic designer and illustrator - Tamalia Reeves - to see if it's possible to teach maths vocabulary through story writing and illustration. What a fantastic opportunity to maybe throw some questions up about the way the curriculum is currently being taught in our primary schools.  I have t...
Continue reading...
 

school visit fun

April 5, 2019
I have been lucky enough to have been invited into some amazing schools this term to talk to the children about creative writing and how to start building stories of their own.
Since I relaunched these sessions and introduced new Powerpoint presentations - adapted for each school - as well as some lovely new resources to help get those imaginations bubbling over I have been thrilled to see how they have been going down with the children and staff of the schools I've been visiting.
It never ceas...
Continue reading...
 

The power of a network and great writing friends

November 22, 2018
Last weekend some of my critique group and I packed our bags and checked into a fantastic Air BnB in Winchester in preparation for the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference.  
It felt like living the best parts of student life again, funky attic apartment with plenty of floor cushions and bean bags, wine in the fridge and nothing to eat but toast and biscuits!
This in itself was a real treat as my crit buddies are genuinely some of my best friends.  I thi...
Continue reading...
 

The big re-launch!

November 6, 2018
I have been so busy writing, editing with my old agent, finding a new agent (still playing the waiting game there!) and connecting with other writers that I have let my creative writing workshops slip.
Over the summer I was updating my website and I looked at the 'school visits' page wondering how relevant it still was having not down a visit in just over a year. 
 
And then it hit me....WHAM... on the back of the head at tremendous speed.  Why have I not been in schools - other than my teaching...
Continue reading...
 

The Waiting Game

October 15, 2018
The waiting game is something often talked about when it comes to the path of an author.  Waiting for inspiration or the perfect time to get on with that first draft of the first book (spoiler there is no such time I'm afraid), waiting for critique feedback, waiting for agent response, waiting for the publisher to get back to your agent.  Everything seems as though it is on a go slow in this wonderful, crazy, unique business.

Over the summer I submitted some work to two agents.  Waiting for th...
Continue reading...
 

Huge decisions and the highs and lows of writing.

June 10, 2018
I have noticed how often social media and blogs are filled with the positive aspects of the life of a children's author.  Agent signings, book deals, places in various charts, award shortlists or big wins, that sort of thing.
This is brilliant to read and I find it hugely uplifting and cheering but also not all that realistic.  For every author who has achieved these great things there have been struggles along the way.  Rejection letters, missing out on the shortlists and awards then there ar...
Continue reading...
 

I'm on a list!

May 12, 2018
One of the things I adore about being part of a fabulous writing community is sharing the successes of other writers.  I genuinely love spotting a friend's name on a long-list, or finding out someone I admire has won a competition.  One of my wonderful writing group friends was recently short listed for the Times Chicken House prize and when she told us all, our shrieks of delight made everyone else in the bar stop talking and look to see what the excitement was all about!
The other bonus of t...
Continue reading...
 

London Book Fair 2018

April 13, 2018
Yesterday I got up early, paid an extortionate amount of money for a peak rail ticket to London and headed up to Olympia.  From previous experience I put on my comfiest shoes and easy to remove layers, both of which I was very glad of by the end of the day.
Olympia is a pretty huge place and so the first thing I did was pick up a map and try to get my bearings.  I had a moment where I felt like I needed to put the map on the floor and stand on it to get a better idea of where everything was (m...
Continue reading...
 

Book Launches

March 27, 2018
The thing with book launches is that, before I go, I am always filled with utter joy and excitement at the birth of another children's book as well as being pleased as punch for a friend who has made it to the bookshelves.  Some of these books will go on to win prizes, huge critical acclaim and top best-sellers' lists everywhere whilst others bumble along well enough without making particular waves.  Whatever the end result, every book that makes it to the shelf has already jumped over so man...
Continue reading...