On Wednesday, I tried something that I have never done before. What made it even more risky was that I had a few people involved with the Cambridge Primary Review visiting my classroom during the lesson. It was a recipe for disaster, but it was fantastic.
Each week, Julia Skinner publishes a prompt on the 100 Word Challenge blog, which children are invited to enter on their class blogs. I have found that the children in my class tend to do this much better if we work on it in class, then they can finish it at home. It is now accepted that children will write better if they are writing for an audience, hence the explosion of blogging in the classroom, so I decided to use this within a lesson.
Would the children write better if they had an immediate audience and were able to receive feedback on their work before publishing it?
This is a question that I decided I wanted to address. An audience of children in their class is a redundant audience – children will always give good feedback to their mates and they know roughly what sort of level the other children in their class are. For this to work, the audience needed to be unknown to them and preferably the same age as them. I spoke to Michelle Brayford, a teacher at Brunswick House Primary School in Maidstone, Kent and she was enthusiastic about us having a joint 100 Word Challenge writing lesson.
So, at 11.30am on Wednesday morning, we called each other on Skype and our classes were able to see each other. We gave a brief introduction to this week’s prompt and asked the children to speak to the people around them about their initial thoughts. They were then able to share their initial thoughts about the prompt with the children in a classroom over 300 miles away, as well as with the children in their own class. They were then set off to work on their entries. This is when the magic happened.
The children were able to give feedback to each other about what they had written. They listened to each other and said what they liked, but also what they felt could be improved (we call this an ‘improvement sandwich’ in my class!).
The quality of the feedback was excellent and they really learned a lot from their peers. The fact that they didn’t know the children they were talking to really did mean that their feedback was truthful and honest.
I really hope that we’ll be able to do this again soon. Breaking down the classroom walls and working together is definitely the way forward!