National Writing Project Launch, 11th October

The National Writing Project UK launch on the 11th of October saw the inaugural meeting of the first NWP group in Scotland.  Emily Gillies, NQT English at Springburn Academy, reports on the event. Inquiries about NWP Glasgow can be directed to Lisa Hamilton at gw17hamiltonlisa@glow.ea.glasgow.sch.uk . Lisa has written about NWP on here own blog, here .

On Wednesday, October 11th I had the pleasure of attending a National Writing Project UK event at Springburn Academy. The event was a launch for not only the first National Writing Project group in Glasgow but indeed the first in Scotland, and was an exciting opportunity to learn a little bit more about what the National Writing Project does, as well as learning about some practical approaches to teaching creative writing in the classroom. The event was well-attended by a mix of both primary and secondary teachers, and offered opportunities to share good practice and to discuss and reflect upon what we had learned.

Simon Wrigley, one of the co-founders of the National Writing Project UK, opened the workshop by explaining the philosophy behind the project and stressing the importance of creative writing, for both pupils and teachers. We were then asked to think about our own experiences and memories of writing, and encouraged to share these with the other members at our group, which opened up interesting conversations about the emotions associated with writing. We reflected on how these experiences – positive or negative – have influenced our adult relationships with writing, thus highlighting the importance of allowing children to have opportunities to write creatively in an encouraging, positive environment.

We then engaged in a free writing activity, in which we wrote about one of our memories or experiences for five minutes, without stopping to plan, review or edit our writing. These five minutes flew by and afterwards, we were once again encouraged to discuss and reflect upon the activity, with many in my own group describing the experience as “freeing” and “cathartic”. I very much enjoyed this writing technique as it forced me to write without worrying too much about whether it was “good enough”, which I believe is one reason I myself am hesitant to even begin writing in the first place. Many of us found that, once we had started writing, the ideas flowed very easily and the most difficult thing about it was writing quickly enough to get everything down on the page within the allotted time! We were not forced to share our work but simply to read back on it and reflect on the experience of writing itself.

Almost the instant we started reflecting on the free writing activity, I could see how it would be a useful activity to use in class. I have a National 5 class who are very reluctant to begin writing their Personal Writing pieces for their Folio, for numerous reasons, including not knowing where to start when it comes to writing about a personal experience. However, I feel like an activity such as this, where pupils and teachers are all engaged in the writing process together, where there is no pressure on creating the “perfect” piece of work, and where pupils are not forced to share their writing unless they absolutely feel comfortable doing so, is the ideal jumping off point. I will certainly be using this with my National 5 class and have plans to use it as a starter activity in BGE classes as well.

 

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Get Write In! competition

NATE and SATE sponsored the Get Write In! creative writing competition for looked after children.  SATE National coordinator Raymond Soltysek chaired the judges, which included Scottish Makar Jackie Kay.  A record of a wonderful evening can be found at HERE .

Peter Thomas, chair of NATE, reflects on the event:

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It was a pleasure to represent the National Association for the Teaching of English at an inspiring event in Edinburgh’s beautiful Our Dynamic Earth centre on 15th August. The event was the Awards evening, where the winners of the Get Write IN! competition were announced. This creative writing competition was organized by CELCIS (Centre for Excellence for Looked-after Children in Scotland) based at the University of Strathclyde with the help of Raymond Soltysek, Chair of SATE (Scottish Association for the Teaching of English).

All contributors in the junior and senior sections were children in home or foster care, and the Dynamic Earth Hall was filled with them and their very proud carers. Volunteers in superhero dress provided stimulating games and challenges at tables around the hall, and there was a fine buffet and musical accompaniment to make the occasion special.

Jackie Kay, Scotland’s national poet was the star of the presentation, and well suited for the role. She spoke movingly and wittily about her young experience in care, and her struggle to become a writer. There could be no better role model for the youngsters in the room – especially as she read a poem called Care Leaver written for the event. Raymond Soltysek provided an eloquent reinforcement of Jackie’s description of writing as a form of self-defining and discovery, and the message from these two was a ringing endorsement of creative writing for all children, as well as those present on the evening. It was good, also, to have the event supported by the Mark McDonald, Scotland’s Minister for Childcare and Early Years. I had to reflect, regretfully, that England cannot boast such a splendid competition, or such government support.

The winner of the junior section was Joseph Ness and the winner of the senior section was William Cathie, both of whom wrote movingly about the impact of significant events in their lives. Both winners’ work was read out by Jackie Kay, and all the finalists had their work published in a booklet – a sign of success and approval that was well received by entrants and their carers.

The whole evening was a highpoint in a city in the middle of its annual Festival – a testament to the quality of care in Scotland, to the power of creative writing as an extension and development of self, and to the commitment of CELCIS and the University of Strathclyde to the motivation and celebration of young people’s achievement.