Getting pupils into writing with digital resources

David Mitchell

David Mitchell is an award-winning former headteacher of two schools and now a freelance consultant who is possibly better known by his Twitter name, @DeputyMitchell. David introduced blogging at Heathfield Primary School, resulting in a dramatic impact on standards. Writing SATS level 5 scores at the end of Key Stage 2 rose from 9% to 60% in just 12 months with each child in Year 6 making on average double the expected progress for the last three years. In 2011, David founded QuadBlogging which has now seen over 500,000 pupils from 55 countries take part. David’s mission is to get as many teachers as possible using exciting and inspiring Web2.0 tools to engage learners of all ages.

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Originally published on 31st May 2016 Originally published on 31st May 2016

I love reading books, but fiction is a turn-off for many children. Lovingly crafted, descriptive paragraphs and character profiles have no relevance to their lives, and many are not interested. One of the problems is that fiction is long. Children are absent, miss a class and then are set to pick apart a paragraph on page 238. It doesn't work.

Many children don't have the experience of life to understand and imagine different situations. When I was a teaching deputy at Heathfield Primary School we were just half a mile from Bolton, but one third of the children had never been into the town itself. We wanted to widen their horizons and 'raise aspirational levels,' as teachers say.

We looked at blogging where children write"Blogging starts small scale. One child writes about experiences and the post goes worldwide." and publish their work online. When you receive a comment from someone you've never met, on the other side of the world, it gives writing a purpose. Blogging is powerful.

We were so successful that I began to get invitations from schools across the UK, in the United States and South Africa to go and show them how blogging could benefit their children. I found that our experience at Heathfield was not unique. A child's world can be very small scale, whether they are in Wimbledon, Minehead or a town in America, and fiction requires a leap of the imagination that many are not quite able to make. Blogging starts small scale. One child writes about experiences and the post goes worldwide.

In Primary schools, one of the big worries is how to fire up reluctant readers. Many of these are on the Pupil Premium register, and schools are given extra money to try out different approaches to improve standards. Often, these days I work with clusters of schools, academy chains and school alliances who will assess children before, during and after we have introduced blogging.

Instead of fiction we look at news stories which are short, current and relevant. Big sporting stories grab them. Maybe the local team the team has had an unexpected win - or a dramatic exit from a qualifying round of the Cup. Recently, pupils were excited about the Transfer Window and were following rumours about different deals. What could be more exciting than watching it on BBC Sports website? Last term children were following the story of Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini and the FIFA ban. A short article in a children's newspaper was more enthralling than a novel for many reluctant readers.

It needn't be sport that is the hook to reel children in. While the UK has been underwater this past winter, in Australia it's been 40° with bushfires. I like to connect classrooms around the world so children share their blogs and talk about what is going on in their area. Imagine being in Bolton and exchanging news with children who are only 15 miles away from a barely controlled blaze in Victoria?

Learning about current affairs, reading about real people reaches more children than fiction alone and opens up their horizons.

Do you utilise blogging in your teaching? Let us know in the comments below.

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