Roman story writing
Your class can write some epic Roman stories using this writing frame.
I’ve developed materials like this whilst running writing workshops for organisations like Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust and The Young Archaeologists Club.
Many schools use author visits at World Book Day to promote reading. Writing workshops will generate a similar buzz around writing at any time of the year. It’s a fun way to introduce (or finish off) your topic.
For info about my writing workshops and assemblies email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For my free .pdf ‘7 Tips for teaching story writing’ email email@example.com with ‘Tips’ in the subject line.
Need easier materials for younger pupils? Need tips for using this with SEN students? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
What is ‘Flash writing?’
I’ve noticed that there are two types of young writer:
• ‘Planners’ who love to map out their whole story in detail.
• ‘Jumpers’ who hate extended planning and feel the need to get going ASAP.
• Techniques like the ‘story mountain’ are ideal for ‘planners’ but they leave other children struggling to focus.
Catering for different creative personalities
It’s not just children who have different ‘creative personalities’. Some actors (like Dustin Hoffman) love to build up a detailed character from scratch, step by step. Other actors take a flying leap at the character and ‘find’ it in a flash of creativity. Many writers love planning and mapping out complex worlds. J.K. Rowling famously planned out all 7 Harry Potter books before writing book 1. However, other writers like Wolf Hall author Hilary Mantel describe ‘channeling’ their characters spontaneously. Mantel does not write her books in order, (often writing the middle Chapters before the beginning). There is no single ‘correct’ approach. Every writer needs to find a way that works for them.
In the classroom, I’ve noticed that too much planning can alienate the ‘jumpers’. They tend to drift away if they don’t get going. Schools cater a lot for the ‘planners’ and quite rightly stress the importance of having a road map to get ideas down (instead of rambling on randomly). However, when a child tells me “I don’t like writing” they often mean: “I don’t like planning.”
Many children are ‘jumpers’ who zone out during the planning.
The solution: ‘Flash’ stories
To get everyone off to a good start, I have developed ‘flash writing’. Armed with a simple framework (like the one above), you can move swiftly through the planning and get their ideas flowing onto paper.
I often do one example first on the board as a ‘demo’ getting them to vote on options.
1. Put the class into pairs. Give them the writing frame to each pair. Get them to pick one option each.
2. Tell them to write from the most exciting part of the story.
3. Tell them to write the story one sentence each. (Make sure you give them one sheet of A4 between two writers.)
After 5-10 minutes of planning you’ll get everyone writing (in pairs). Within an hour the class should be ready to share out their stories.
P.S. Seven Tips for Story Writing
If you like this approach, there are a lot of ways you can develop it and use it in class. You can introduce or practice new vocab or structures, practice dialogue or even use two flash stories (a few weeks apart) to assess their progress. Flash stories are also ideal for assisted learning (where the adult takes the part of one pair). For my free .pdf ‘7 Tips for teaching story writing’ please email email@example.com with ‘Tips’ in the subject line.
Feedback on my assemblies and workshops
Robin’s “Spartapuss” assembly was a fantastic combination of Roman facts, story telling and knockabout comedy, that, whilst entertaining the whole school, also cunningly prepared the ground for their own Roman story writing. It’s great to see that children have really been motivated to write for themselves and to read his books. ” Richard Smith, Deputy Head Trafalgar Junior School (April, 2011)
‘Robin has worked very hard giving us a lot of value for money on creating the workshops and on the behind the scenes thinking to bring the project to a head. Robin has been both creative and reliable and has thought through every step of the project. He is professional in all he does and works very well with children and adults alike.’
Dr Elizabeth Dollimore, Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust, Stratford-Upon-Avon.