The hidden magic that emerged at a school writing workshop
Dani was approached by Gordano School in Bristol to work with a class of history A-level students who needed extra support. It was a mixed class of students, most of whom were extremely articulate verbally but struggled to express and organise their ideas on the page.
Dani says, ‘I worked with this class over several sessions, helping them make the transition from the spoken to the written argument – in the context of their current topic.
‘The power of evidence is crucial when studying history, so I taught them how to produce and consider evidence and understand arguments in history.
‘The students worked in pairs and in small groups, which changed the dynamics of the group considerably. The more vocal students were less likely to dominate, and it gave everyone a chance to find their voice and express what they thought.
‘One of the activities I asked the group to do was to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10, in terms of how much they agreed with a particular argument. They then had to embody that position and really justify it.
‘It’s a fun process, and an excellent way to encourage people to clarify their thinking and explain their reasons. The students then work with like-minded people on the scale and are taught how to argue each point, develop counter arguments, and explore everyone’s differences.
‘It’s vital that we create the space for this kind of learning. The exam process doesn’t allow for such in-depth discovery work – it is impossible to organise such glorious noise in an hour-long exam!
‘The students were enthusiastic learners and while many of them were already wonderfully eloquent when talking, they could now understand how to express themselves on the page. They started achieving better results and it gave the teachers an insight into how to integrate this learning opportunity into their everyday lessons.
‘The hidden magic that emerged as a result of the workshops was the leap in confidence we saw – among both girls and boys. Some of the students hadn’t realised their opinions had value until they were in a setting that encouraged everyone to contribute. They found their voice and became much more confident at expressing and defending their views – which had an overall positive impact on all their other subjects.’