Bronze Age writing workshops
The Bronze Age is a period of history that is stuffed with story writing potential. Whilst researching the children’s series The Olympuss Games, I discovered that some of the fields near my home in Bedfordshire are crossed with the remains of ancient walls dating from the Bronze Age. Who could believe that 4000 years ago whilst the mighty Achilles was camped outside Troy getting the wooden horse built, some nameless king of the Beaker People was defending Ivinghoe Beacon.
China is also a great source of Bronze Age stories. The Shang Emperor and his legendary Terracotta warriors can inspire some great writing.
If you want to write your own Bronze Age story, the ‘flash writing’ story maker on this page will speed you through the planning part and help you get going. (Teachers: see the instructions below the story maker for tips on how to use it in class). I have picked the Trojan Horse for this example – as it is often taught in schools. If you’d like to write a story about the Vikings, the Romans or the Stone Age – click on one of the historical periods in the right hand navigation.
WORKSHOPS AND ASSEMBLIES FOR SCHOOLS
When I’m not writing books I lead history workshops for primary and secondary schools In the past I have run workshops for Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust and the Young Archaeologists society. I also visit international schools with Author’s Abroad. Teaching Greek myths through creative writing is great fun and I’m amazed at what the pupils can come up with when they write their own stories.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0844 884 1742 if you’d like to discuss prices and availability.
For my free .pdf ‘7 Tips for teaching story writing’ email email@example.com with ‘Tips’ in the subject line.
ABOUT MY BOOKS
If you’re not familiar with the Olympuss Games series – it’s set in a world ruled by cats! It’s suitable for children aged 6-8 years old. There are three books in the series: Son of Spartapuss, Eye of the Cyclaw and Maze of the Minopaw. Book four – Stars of Olympuss is out in 2016 but I am also working on the third book in the graphic novel series London Deep. The first book in this series was a Recommended Read for World Book Day in 2011. Anyone over 9 years old (including grown ups) might prefer the original Spartapuss series. If you want to find out more, check out my profile on Lovereading.co.uk’s author profile page
INSTRUCTIONS FOR TEACHERS
The thinking behind this writing frame: ‘Planners’ and ‘Jumpers’
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’ stories. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Tips’ in the subject line or call 0844 884 1742 to discuss a workshop.
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.