The Welsh Academi’s ‘Writers on Tour’ Scheme gives details of writers and what they offer in the way of readings of their own work and ‘workshops’.
A ‘workshop’ usually means that the writer will use starters to get the group writing and will then help them to recognise ‘the good bits’ and improve the quality of the writing.
Most writers have a set repertoire which will vary according to age and audience but is based on what they write/perform themselves so that they can illustrate points with examples from their own work..
Some writers are rude and naughty! Check what they write, find out whether they are used to working in schools and don’t take knowledge of school customs for granted.
To pay for a writer you can apply for match-funding from the Academi; a fast-track lottery grant; local sponsorship. School monies can be taken from the school budget, PTA funding and GEST – as long as there is a clear training outcome from a teacher/teachers observing the writer at work.
A writer is not supply teacher and must never be left alone with a class/group of children. Apart from insurance and discipline, how will the school be able to evaluate and learn from the writer if no-one observes?
Teachers are writers too and as well as joining in with children’s sessions, you could book a writer for your own INSET.
Jean Gill’s Workshops
I have worked in schools with youngsters from 7 to 18. I like to plan the activity beforehand by telephone because I will adapt what I do to what the school wants. I prefer workshops creating poetry or short stories but also write drama myself. I always start with warming up ice-breakers then a main writing activity followed by sharing what we have written and feedback from me highlighting the good bits and making suggestions for improvement.
A typical session lasts 1.5 to 2 hours and might leave work to be finished. I am happy for work to be sent on to me and I intend publishing poetry from workshops on this web-site.
Warm-ups might be list poems, found poems from words generated by the group, a group poem or Phil Carradice’s favourite ‘5 lies’.
Main stimuli have included the use of 40 plastic mirrors (exploring the theme ‘reflections’), a carrier bag of objects such as a trainer and an asthma pump, a variety of pictures in a home-grown collection or – equally successfully – oral instructions feeding line by line for the writers to adapt as they follow a given structure.
Ideas for activities can be found in the excellent books:
Impro for Storytellers Keith Johnstone
The Write Way – Phil Carradice
‘Can We Write it as a Play?” – Barry Simner
If you’re a teacher, I know you’re busy BUT
¨ Do introduce your writer as a star, as an important visitor; hold up copies of their books with respect; buy their books (preferably before the visit); lend them to the pupils.
I was once introduced as “This is umm errr and she’s VISITING us today … I must go the exam in the gym but the PE teacher will be here in a minute … you’ll be all right? … so good for their SATs … good … see you later”
¨ Don’t panic if Wayne doesn’t perform – doodles instead of writing – shouting at him and giving him detention will not make him remember the writer’s visit with pleasure. Keep quiet discipline but let the writer win the youngsters’ trust – some are better than others.
¨ If the visit will help their SATs that’s fine but don’t expect the writer to care about SATs or to work on a weakness that showed up in last years’ exams!
¨ Be (or pretend to be!) interested in what your writer writes; if you show you read, your pupils will get the message – and vice versa.
¨ Remember the unknown names today are tomorrow’s Shakespeares and our children are the writers of the future – let’s inspire them.
One boy said to me,” What’s your name again?” I told him. “Never heard of you.”
I replied, “I’m not dead yet.”