Janice, a teacher at Ridgeway Primary School near Sheffield explains to readers of Context - The magazine for family therapy and systemic practice how Alan's approach to narrative helped her class, and one pupil in particular, to produce spectacular results.
Improving Literacy: Creative Approaches Improving Story Writing at Key Stages 1 and 2 by Alan Peat (Nash Pollock Publishing 2004) - £12.99
As a Year 6 teacher with SATs to think about and coming under increasing pressure to improve standards of writing, I was delighted to discover a practical and easily workable systemic technique of encouraging children to write stories.
This method came to me courtesy of Alan Peat, an energetic and inspirational man, who spoke of his method as a whole school approach. which should begin in the Foundation Stage and work its way with the children through the school, therefore being firmly in place by Year 6.
I was a little unsure how my class would take to it but was thrilled with their response.
The method uses key words to keep writers on task and gives them a structure or frame to follow. The key words are:
By following this pattern, writers of any age will find that a story evolves without all the usual fog that can occur when you get into writing and are not sure where to go with it next.
As a method of teaching creative writing, I find this magical and the faces of my pupils now light up instead of glazing over when creative writing is mentioned.
The following example was written at home by a pupil who had previously been unenthusiastic about writing. Whilst having great ideas, he would get lost in the structure and, therefore, rarely get beyond the first couple of paragraphs.
The quality of his word is marvellous in itself, but it was the fact that he was inspired enough to take this on in his free time which prompted me to write this article.
I believe that anyone who is involved with children and is interested in creative writing may find this system useful.
Perhaps Josh's story will inspire you too?
Chronicles of Patchalis
By Josh Dawson, aged 10
The creaking of timbers and splashing of oars heralded the arrival of Patchaclis, son of Hector. Armour clanked as he jumped lightly onto the jetty. The solid oak planks groaned underfoot, as the crew of the Redflight lumbered across it; there were over one hundred crew members.
Hector rushed out of his palace to meet his son at the jetty. He sped past the one storey, clay brick buildings. Behind him the townsfolk began to emerge from their crude dwellings and follow the king, down the grassy, tranquil hillside towards the shore.
The sand shifted underfoot, and managed to find its way into every crack in the armour. It even filled and weighed down the soldiers' sandals. Patchaclis looked up and saw his father charging headlong down the slope, a mob of villagers behind him. Then his father was lost from sight as he clambered, slipped and tripped through the dunes, then he and the peasants were among them.
A wave of shouts, congratulations, praise and admiration almost bowled them over. Hands rained in on them, relations ruffled their hair, kind words from others and young ones playing out the parts that they had played on the rolling sea. Hector pulled Patchaclis to one side and said: "We are being evicted, so we are moving to the new land, Turkey."
So, without further ado, they began to repack for the long journey ahead. The peasants piled aboard. Then, finally, the King, clad in a purple cloak and with a crown sat neatly atop his head. The crown in question had one red jewel set into its centre. This ruby had been mined from the hillside which stood behind him.
The waves lapped the shore as the crew pushed off from the jetty. Some young ones ran about on the deck, whilst others took to splashing in the pools of water formed by the rolling waves. The adults, however, were serious and distressed and most were worried about leaving the home that they had been raised in. The only one who seemed relaxed was Patchaclis, but inwardly he was as watchful as a hawk, scanning the horizon for danger.
The day gently turned into twilight and a voice rang clearly from the crow's nest. 'Land ho, land ho'. Patchaclis burst from his cabin, pelted up to the mast and shot up with the speed of an arrow to the crow's nest. Sure enough, it was the coastline of Turkey. Patchaclis had once stopped to re-supply and repair here. "Keep a good watch", Patchaclis commented. Then he retired to his bunk.
It was freezing cold and the watchman had dozed off when a sudden jolt shook the entire ship. Then an ominous cracking of timbers woke the whole crew. Patchaclis ran to the prow of the ship, almost deafened by the hysterical shouts, and peered over the edge. He could just see, under the surface, a great reef. He turned back and rapped out orders smartly. "Every able bodied man down below. Get the children out and start bailing." Every man charged down to help. Moments later, a soaking man breathlessly wheezed, "Sir, we are taking on too much water." Patchaclis had only one choice. "Abandon ship and swim for shore!" The swim was tough and gruelling. They all made it, apart from one child.
Patchaclis lay exhausted on the beach. The sadness of a wasted life overcame him and he wept bitterly. Eventually he composed himself, for he, of all people, could not be seen to be weak. He went about the business of shelters and providing food for his people. For many days, they slept in makeshift tents, enduring hardship and hunger, but in time the house were finished. They grew crops on the banks of the stream and life became good again.
Patchaclis sat on his throne in the Great Hall (for his father was now long deceased) and pride overwhelmed him, for he had managed to re-build a life for his people, a whole new community, and their descendants live there still.
If you don't believe me, go to the east side of Turkey and they will tell you of Patchaclis and how they got there.