‘You Choose’ – a whole school writing initiative – our journey so far!

November 8th, 2015

I am writing this blog for two reasons:  

  1. Share good practice
  2. To repay others for their kind contributions – I feel Mr Michael Tidd (https://michaelt1979.wordpress.com/) and  Mrs Jo Payne ( http://www.mrspteach.com) deserve a medal. I don’t know where they find the time, but teaching needs people like them to inspire and lead the way!

The story so far…..

I took on the role of Assistant Headteacher in September 2014 – this coincided nicely with the launch of the new curriculum!  Our data showed that writing, especially boys’ writing, was an area which needed addressing. Speaking to other teachers from other schools, I knew we were not alone, and the term ‘boys and writing’ was commonplace. 

My own son, who was in year four at the time, was the inspiration behind the ‘You Choose’ ideas. He came home from his school one day with a writing project on the ‘Ancient Egyptians’ –  he had been given the choice to research and then write about any aspect of the Ancient Egyptian era. I thought, as a teacher, this was a lovely project – he thought otherwise!

“Why can’t I write all about Jeff Hardy?”    (An American TNA wrestler – someone , who at that time, my son was obsessed with.)

It was at this point we had a chat about his writing and my son recalled a picture book called ‘You Choose’ by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart, it had been a firm favourite with all my boys (I have three) and it is based on the principle that the reader can ‘Choose’. 

you choose

Needless to say, I told him he could write about Jeff Hardy, and he took both pieces of work into school.

jeff hardy

In the next staff meeting I shared my story and the ‘You Choose’ writing project was born. As a staff we decided to hold a ‘You Choose’ week each term and each one had a different theme. The first was in the Autumn term 2014 and the theme was ‘favourite person’ . Before the half term holiday, the children were asked to research their favourite person as a homework project – it could be anyone from a sports personality, pop star, or even their grandad. 

On returning to school after the holiday, the week was dedicated to writing all about that person. As teachers we needed to be able to ‘teach’ and the way we did this was by having our own ‘favourite person’  and using our writing as a model for the children. I chose Paul Cookson, the poet, and wrote a persuasive letter and non-chronological report about him. We shared my writing and used both pieces as models to create the steps to success for the children. I feel passionately that as teachers we should actually write more ourselves as it provides us with a valuable  opportunity to experience, first hand, the challenges faced by the children.   

The children created first drafts in their English books and ‘purple penned to perfection’ before writing their final draft onto ‘special’ paper  – we have adopted, as a school, the same philosophies  as Ron Berger  ( https://www.edutopia.org/user/255536). If you have never heard of this man simply google ‘Austin’s butterfly’.

We ordered large display boards (A1 cardboard sheets)  for each child and towards the end of the week they began to create their own presentations in preparation for the final showcase. 

I am very aware that ‘audience’ is an equally important factor for the success of any writing project and at the end of each ‘You Choose’ week we hold a huge showcase event, inviting all the parents, carers and the local press.

Every event so far has been amazing and the best part about it, is the look of pride on the children’s faces as they ‘show off’ their amazing written work.  Reluctant writers are enthused and the children who love to write are given the opportunity to do what they love.

We are now in our second year of ‘You Choose’  and the cycle has began again – for teachers it is hard work, occasionally stressful but the outcomes are tremendous!

Autumn 2015 – ‘You Choose’

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Comments appreciated.




Budding Headteachers

October 15th, 2015

After a fantastic unit of work on persuasive speeches, my very talented year six class take to the stage to address a hall full of prospective parents. My apologies for the poor film quality but I had to compress the files to allow them to be published.

Miss Conroy

Miss C Hill

Mr Berry

Mr Maloney

Mr Park

Miss Fairhurst

Mr Kelly

Miss Martindale

Miss Jenkinson

Mr Currie

Mr Atkinson

Miss Ellis

Miss McCormick

Miss Bernard

Mr Stack

Miss A Hill

Miss Hodgkinson

Miss Hall

Mr Saadah

Mr Anderson

Miss Foster

Miss McConnell

Mr Turner

Mr O’Neill

First of many…….

October 15th, 2015

I have not wrote on my blog for a while but a new school year has started and I have taken on the challenge of teaching year 5 and year 6 English! The marking is intense but so far it is going well. I am hoping to share the work of both my fabulous classes this year so watch this space…..

Ernest Shackleton

February 7th, 2015

After a busy half term,year five have shared what they have learned about the famous explorer Ernest Shackleton. Their year one audience was captivated!










Reading buddies

January 16th, 2015

The potential for children to learn from each other has been evident this term with the introduction of our reading buddy scheme. Not something new, but something which is easy to implement and which has already proven to be a powerful tool in our school’s quest to inspire children ( especially boys) to read.




Once Upon a Starry Night

December 28th, 2014

The notion of giving  children a ‘real’ purpose to write is something I am keen to implement in my own class and across the school.  I try to plan creatively, incorporating subjects well rather than forcing incongruous links. Resulting in, at the end of the Autumn term, each pupil producing their own book containing a narrative poem of the Christmas story. Each book incorporated the children’s own ‘Van Gogh’ inspired artwork and each child was given the opportunity to read it to a younger audience.

Van Gogh inspired cover.

Van Gogh inspired cover.

Editing process


‘You Choose’ – Motivating a whole school ( especially boys) to write.

November 7th, 2014


This is my first blog of the new school year and my new class contains a large proportion of boys. I have three boys of my own and know the challenge first hand of getting boys ‘really’ interested in writing . I was determined, as literacy coordinator, to inspire the children at Saint Bernadette’s to write by letting them choose what they wanted to write about. I launched a ‘You choose’ week providing an opportunity for the whole school to write about a person they admired. The week was hectic and at times stressful but the resulting showcase which was held today was incredible and the positive comments from the parents and children made it all worthwhile. We mounted all the children’s work on their own individual boards and displayed them in the hall and around school – it looked amazing! Take a look at the photographs and judge for yourself! image         image


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Today’s 100 word challenge!

May 5th, 2014

Write a paragraph describing your dragon’s lair, remembering to use all your senses.

Bank holiday challenge!

May 3rd, 2014

We are soon to launch an extreme reading challenge in school – could you be the first to have a photograph taken reading your favourite book in an ‘extreme’ location? WARNING – nothing too dangerous please!

A sample of wonderful work by Miss Tara Lowe!

April 29th, 2014

Dolphins are mammals that live in oceans all over the world, and are the most intelligent sea creatures that have huge personalities. They live in big groups, called Schools, and some have over a hundred dolphins in them. They are fast swimmers and amazing acrobats. Their speed helps them to catch fish but they love to play, perform tricks for each other and copy them. Dolphins can jump out of the water, and ‘dance’ on the surface of the sea with their back tail. Spinner dolphins can jump up to 3 metres out of water and spin as many as seven times in the air in one go.

Capable of swimming two hundred and sixty metres below the surface of the water, they stay in the sea for a staggering fifteen minutes before coming up for air. Even though they live in a marine environment, it is impossible for them to breathe under their aquatic habitat. When a female dolphin (cow) gives birth to her baby (calf), it is vital that the mother gently pushesher calf up to the surface or else the vulnerable little newborn will drown. Calves do not know how to take their first breath – sometimes another dolphin will help the mother to support the calf. Once at the surface, the calf must learn how to breathe. When it takes its first breath of air, it will remember to do this in future. They are mammalsthat nurse their young with the milk produced by the mother dolphins. They usually give birth to only one baby, and can become pregnant every 2-3 years.

They use their own clever knowledge to fend for themselves by using a technique called echolocation or sonar. This is where the dolphin makes sounds; the vibration of the noise hits an object and bouncing back telling the dolphin where its prey will be. It is also how they navigate around the ocean. The warm-blooded animal eats fish and squid as they are carnivores (meat eaters).

The biggest dolphin known to man is in fact the killer whale; its more sophisticated name is the ‘Orca’. Living in groups formed by ten to twelve individuals, this is more commonly known as a ‘pod’; they stick together and help each other to catch their meal. These ones are not friendly and fun to be around as normal dolphins are.


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