Stories across the Divide: A Cross-Phase Project Creates an Audience and Inspiration

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I confess to temporarily abandoning the Year 8 scheme of work to embark on this project, relishing the opportunity to write for a real audience with purpose! The 'audience' was a group of Year 5 pupils from a local feeder school and, when the idea of writing stories for junior school pupils was suggested to my Year 8 English class, it was greeted with enthusiasm. In fact, this writing project has proved to be a successful motivator for pupils in both key stages.

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To outline the project: KS3 students create and craft stories for pupils in KS2, basing a character in the story on a particular Year 5 child they meet early in the exercise. The aim is to cultivate creative writing skills in the older students who--as 'cool' role models--inspire the younger children and enhance their own enjoyment of reading.

Pre-writing research for homework included finding out which types of stories were popular with 9- and 10-year-olds. This took the form of internet research and/or discussions with siblings. The variety of responses from J. K. Rowling to Jacqueline Wilson, from those who loved fantasy to those who were only interested in 'realism', reinforced the importance of meeting the pupils and the personalisation of the story.

In the classroom, preparation entailed exploring different styles of narrative, for example: Michael Morpurgo's use of flashback in Private Peaceful; Roald Dahl's character description and dialogue in Danny Champion of the World. We studied the style of Anthony Horowitz, focusing on his story-opening technique used to hook the reader and to build suspense in The Man with the Yellow Face.

Noting that this writing targetted younger pupils, students tackled 'transformation of text', that is adapting writing for an audience of a different age group or gender (see also Teachit resources by Chris Warren).

By now Year 8s were raring to go! They had a genuine desire to ' hook the reader' to ' build and create tension' and they hadn't even met their audience yet! So the next task was to brainstorm ideas for appropriate questions about the 'main character'--interests, pets, favourite books, names of friends who would appear in the story. The whiteboard was awash with suggestions and for homework each student selected a number of questions to compile his or her own questionnaire. The visit to the junior school was duly arranged and pupils paired up. Where numbers didn't match, we offered two Year 8 students the challenge to include two pupils in one story. With questions at the ready, they gently encouraged the youngsters to respond and excited chatter resulted as it dawned on the younger pupils that they would be the focus of the stories.

Some offered more challenges than others; Adam's partner was 'really into football' but Adam is not an expert so this demanded some research and he decided to use a Roald Dahl technique, creating ' magic' goalkeeping gloves. Inevitably one Year 5 boy 'hated' reading so Tom's challenge was to inspire him to read and enjoy a sporting story.

At this point I decided to register the boys as Reading Champions (see the Literary Trust website). These older, 'cool' boys were role models, encouraging the younger lads to read, and should surely be recognised as such. …