As part of the WordUP project, we had been avidly tackling the literacy problem. And while we were targeting young people, we also thought about engaging with teachers as they were one of the primary sources to inspire the children. Teaming up with writer Steve Voake, we decided to run monthly sessions with local teachers in Frome to show them about various engaging writing activities that they could take back to the classroom.
A night at the Teachers as Writers session
Late afternoon at the Three Swans pub in Frome, five teachers arrived to be lead by acclaimed children’s author, Writing for Young People lecturer at Bath Spa University and former primary school teacher, Steve Voake. With a pint in hand, the teachers headed upstairs to a dimly lit room that overlooked a night lit street. They gathered at the table by the window and took out their notebooks, sipped on their pints and relaxed into their chairs as Steve Voake flipped open his journal and began the session.
The first thing at hand was what the teachers had been getting up to in regards to encouraging writing and reading amongst their students. One by one the teachers explained the different ways they had been tackling the literacy problem in their classrooms and how it had been going for them.
Once that was discussed, they dived into the meat of the meeting. Voake went through a variety of writing exercises from getting the mind focused on writing, turning a word into a character, to writing from the perspective of an animal. Voake made the tasks fun and engaging, enabling the teachers to interact amongst each other as well. The idea that writing was a solitary endeavour was not the case here. The teachers wrote about each other’s life stories and read it back to the people who told them about it, some of the tales having been tweaked and exaggerated. They found it interesting to see the different methods to engage with writing and the ways to approach it.
The session helped the teachers learn a bit more about writing, as well as be able to express what they had learned to their students when they got back to their classrooms. Those two hours seemed to go back so quickly, the sun had set and their pint glasses were empty, and by the time they checked their watches the session was due to be over but everyone was still buzzing to keep going.
With the tools the teachers acquired during the session with Steve Voake, they found new ways to implement them into their own curriculums as a way to inspire their students to become more engaged with reading and writing, the way they had been during their two-hour Teachers as Writers session at the Three Swans in Frome.