It’s that time of year again at our little primary school, when we gather the children and throw them into a time machine, a fantasty world or, in this case, an evacuee’s body and transport them to another place. Welcome to this year’s theme: The Midnight Garden.
After the previous years’ adventures into space, rescuing a baby Phoenix and, of course, last year’s royal reception for Prince Harry and the Duchess, Megan, I burrowed into my favourite books to come up with a concept fit for any young writer – an adventure based in the 1940s in a little school in Swansea where evacuees were sent during the war. Now, for obvious reasons, I will not be giving away much more of the plot. Instead, I would like to focus on the reactions of my intrepid writers as they traversed the fictional planes, creating their own fantasies based on the theme.
It was a pleasant surprise to find that one of the tasks, a letter home to the evacuee’s parents, evoked such strong emotions in some of the children. When creating a school based writing task or package for different levels of abilities and ages, evaluating how the writing task engages with my varied audience is extremely important. The teachers cannot deliver decent work without it. It is also a great way to open a child’s mind to their own realities and capabilities, giving them the freedom to write without inhibition and little guidance, and a good prompt. After reading this little one’s letter, I had to discreetly swipe at my eyes before giving her a rather emotional congratulations on completing the task to such a high standard. The special scented stickers I had ordered as a reward for every child to receive was aptly given to this little star. My gratitude to the teacher for expanding the prompt and giving her the tools to vocalise her inner emotions was huge for want of a better word. Bringing out the incredible writing skills of our students falls on every educators’ shoulders and not just on the creator of the task.
Today was spent with some of my year 4 students who excel in writing. After giving a brief summary of what I had in mind when creating the enrichment, I set them a 15 minute challenge to write a narrative on the discovery of the Midnight Garden, using comparisons and contrasts of the bleak existence of the school before its magical transformation. With very brief editing after the first draft, I set them with a further task of expanding their stories and up-levelling their vocabulary to produce a written piece that could be used as evidence for their standards of writing. My happy moment came when one of their teachers approached me, asking me if I had read the final draft of one of the children’s pieces. She was very impressed. I need more smelly stickers!
If this is life and life is inspiring children to write, showcasing their natural, wonderful abilities, I’m the luckiest cat in this alley!