27 SES 07 B, The Teaching of Writing
The development literacy of has long been an enduring priority for educational development within OECD countries in general and in the curricula in different European countries (OECD 2016). However debates about the development of literacy raise both theoretical and practical challenges, which gravitate around assumptions about how we become literate. Many definitions of literacy and literacy development are used in the field of educational research. These range from concerns with building literacy through technical (some have argued mechanistic) approaches based upon phonics or letter and word recognition, to more inclusive and immersive approaches to language development, which aim to recognise the holistic nature of the human condition and the importance of sparking human thought and imagination in the development of literacy. As a complete overview of these definitions and approaches are beyond the scope of this paper, discussion is focused upon systemic differences in more inclusive and immersive approaches to literacy and language development. This paper argues that paying more attention to stages in ancient processes of human communication and oral storytelling could enhance more inclusive and immersive approaches to the development of literacy and language.
Across the field of human history, storytelling is one of the most highly developed and widely used ways in which we make sense of ourselves, each other and the world we live in. We have always been surrounded by stories. They still surround us today. We are literally and metaphorically drawn to stories. Stories educate us about the world. Whether we like it or not, we are included in stories, they always elicit some kind of response from us. We are attracted to characters in some stories and repelled by others. Stories can encourage us to revisit our beliefs and invite us to be more critical or more understanding of the world and other people who are different from us, they can also serve to confirm and strengthen our existing assumptions and prejudices. Often stories tell us about how the world ‘works’. Through the means of stories, written and symbolic language in songs, images, signs, art, artefacts, dance and drama, our ancestors have passed on to us what they believed in, their hopes and their fears, what they thought, what they knew, what they could do and (sometimes) how they went about doing it. Stories and language have helped us to acquire the knowledge, skills and crafts we needed in the past. They will no doubt play an important part in the acquisition of the knowledge, skills and crafts we need now and will need in the future.
This paper updates and builds upon a previous study exploring the role of oral storytelling in the development of children’s motivation to write. It describes how findings, concepts and theories from the earlier study have been taken forward . It highlights how stories might be used in more systematic and pedagogical ways to develop learners’ motivation and confidence to write. In particular, conceptual developments from the previous study bring to the fore how the use of oral storytelling and other creative resources might be capable of systematically harnessing ancient processes of human communication by stimulating, the development and articulation of abstract thought, the translation of abstract thought into speech, the translation of speech into drawings and the translation of drawings into writing. Potential implications for research and practice in the field of literacy and language development in education are considered.
This small-scale research project was conducted in an urban school in the North East of England. The school was located on a large housing estate mainly comprised of local authority housing. This small-scale research study explored the use of Rory’s Story Cubes as an app for IOS and Android devices and as a physical set of storytelling dice. The study explores if/how these resources enabled the development of children’s storytelling abilities and improve their motivation to write. This study also explored if the use of physical and digital storytelling resources influenced the quality and quantity of children’s writing. The research was conducted over five consecutive days. The research population consisted of twelve children, identified by their class teacher as reluctant writers, many of whom did not enjoy any tasks that required them to use their imagination. In the first three sessions four children worked in pairs (two pairs at a time). The research population included a child with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and a child with highly developed mathematical skills for her age whom the class teacher has identified as being particularly disinclined to use her imagination when it came to creative writing. The research population also included two children who were reluctant writers who had ben identified by the class teacher as ‘high- achieving’ in maths and for whom English was an Additional Language (EAL) and whose parents were from affluent professional backgrounds Data Collection 1. Classroom observations (paired small groups and whole class). 2. Audio recordings of children telling their stories using Rory’s Story Cubes in the form of physical dice. 3. Transcripts of audio recordings of children’s stories 4. Photographs of storylines produced by Rory’s Story Cubes in physical dice form. 5. Photographs of children’s poems produced using Rory’s Story Cubes in a digital form. 6. Qualitative and Quantitative analysis of linguistic devices used in individual children’s stories and poems. Analysis 1. During the course of this research emerging data sets were discussed and findings authenticated with the class teacher. 2. Following the data collection period, transcripts of audio recordings, written stories produced by paired groups and individual children together with poems produced by individual children were analysed to identify categories and frequency of linguistic devices being used. 3. Research field notes and classroom observation data were analysed to identify and discuss critical incidents. 4. Categories of data were then clustered and analysed thematically.
The findings of this small-scale research study support the work of Carter (2000), Corbett (2008, 2011) and others, who draw attention to the important relationship between speech and writing development. Overall, this research study lends qualified support to claims that the use of Rory’s Story Cubes in the form of both digital and physical media, progressively increased children’s motivation to write and improved their use of creative linguistic devices. Children’s increased motivation, deeper engagement in their learning and greater confidence in themselves as storytellers and creative writers, were evident in both the qualitative and quantitative data strands of this research. An interesting follow-up to the study would be to repeat the Rory’s Story Cubes research intervention as described in this article with more targeted interventions using Corbett’s (2011) Talk for Writing. This complementary use of the open-ended nature of the pedagogy underpinning Rory’s Story Cubes, coupled with the clear structures and research-informed principles supporting Corbett’s (2011) Talk for Writing, could help to identify if/how this combination of pedagogical interventions might lead to improvements in children’s language and writing development. Andrews and Smith (2011, p.2) note that ‘writing practices are getting out of touch with the multi-modality and practices of the digital age’. This study suggests that many of today’s writing practices are not only getting out of touch with the multi-modality and practices of the digital age, they are also losing touch with the multi-modality and practices through which our pre-literate ancestors became literate in the first place! The study concludes that if we underestimate the vital link between oral storytelling and writing in the pedagogical practices we use to develop children as writers, then we run the risk of losing much of the legacy of Homer and others who sparked the flame of literacy in our ancestors.
Bell, J. (2005) Doing your Research Project. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Carter, D. (2000) Teaching Fiction in the Primary School: Classroom Approaches to Narratives. Abingdon: David Fulton Publishers. Cohen, L. Manion, L. Morrison, K (2000) Research Methods in Education. London: Routledge Farmer. Coles, A, and McGrath, J. (2010) Your Education Research Handbook. Harlow: Pearson Eudcation Ltd. Corbett, P and Strong, J. (2011) Talk For Writing Across The Curriculum. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Corbett,P. (2008) National Strategies - Primary “Storytelling” Corbett, P. (2001) Fiction Writing:at Key Stage 2. New York: Routledge. Duncan, D. (2009) Teaching Children’s Literature: Making stories work in the classroom. Abingdon: Routledge. Fisher, R. (1998) Teaching Thinking. London: Continuum. Gregory, M. (2009) Shaped by Stories. Indiana. University of Notre Dame Press. Norton, L. S. (2009) Action Research in Teaching and Learning: A practical guide for conducting pedagogical research in universities. New York Routledge Perkins, M. (2012) Observing Primary Literacy. London: Sage. Vygotsky, L (1986) Thought and Language. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. Wellington, J. (2000) Educational Research: Contemporary Issues and Practical Approaches. London: Continuum Wittgenstein, L. ( 2007) Tractacus Logico-Philosophicus. New York: Cosimo. (First published 1922).
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