Top tips for promoting writing in your school

23 Jun 2022
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National Writing Day is such an exciting time of year because we get to find out what young people are telling us about their writing outside of school.

We’re facing the challenge of increasing writing attainment over the next 8 years. Most teachers can picture at least one pupil whose writing will not be improved by adding in more SPAG tests to their week... But maybe that pupil just hasn't found the type of writing that will engage them yet!

At the National Literacy Trust our definition of literacy is deliberately broad because we know that a narrow focus will not raise literacy levels for our target communities. That’s why we are committed to making sure that we support every type of writer through our research, school programmes and resources and we look forward to helping you improve writing in your school. Here are our top tips for getting started:

  1. Celebrate National Writing Day in your school and start/reinvigorate the conversation about supporting children to write in their own time.
  2. Read our research to learn more about the barriers children face in writing and what motivates them to write.
  3. Double check that you are providing writing opportunities for every type of writer and, if not, use our resources to plug the gaps.
  4. Provide pupils with a free writing notebook that is just for them and will not be marked – you could introduce Free Writing Friday in your school. Even better if teachers take part too!
  5. Remember that ‘good’ writing is about so much more than spelling, punctuation and grammar. Celebrate creative, compelling or original writing in assemblies, displays, and through your school’s reward systems.
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What type of writer are you?

Perhaps you're a list maker and enjoy getting things out of your head and down on paper? Or maybe you prefer a gratitude journal, or love writing notes to friends and family, preferably in handmade cards with mini doodles? Maybe you think there might be a novel in you so you carry around your writer’s notebook in case inspiration strikes? Or you might be campaigning to save your local library using social media, letters to your local council and articles in your local newspaper. You might even have been all of these types of writer at different points in your life.

It's important that we provide enough writing opportunities for pupils. Over the last few years the number of children who enjoy writing has been dropping, reaching an all time low in 2021. This year things are improving but there's still a way to go; our new research shows that 2 in 5 children aged 5 to 18 enjoy writing, and only 1 in 5 choose to write in their spare time. We wouldn’t accept these statistics if we were talking about reading and we mustn’t accept them for writing either. Children who enjoy writing and do so regularly are better writers and we have repeatedly found links between writing and wellbeing.

The good news is that the children who do write in their free time have told us clearly what motivates them to write. This is a fantastic starting point. Reflect on the opportunities for writing in your school – are your pupils getting the chance to explore creative writing, writing for wellbeing, writing for social connection, and writing for social change? Here are some of the ways we can help:

Creative writing

Primary schools across the country have been signing up for our Comics Rule! Summer Writing packs that pupils can take home over the holidays to beat the summer slide.

Secondary schools: take a virtual tour of the National Justice Museum in Nottingham and let poet Panya Banjoko lead your students in writing inspired by the venue. This is a taster of our brilliant Young Nottingham Poets programme!

Writing for wellbeing

What says wellbeing more than nature and poetry?! We bring the two together in our brilliant resources produced in partnership with the RSPB.

Writing for social connection

Earlier this year we produced Premier League Magazine Team which is aimed at bringing together your reluctant writers around a shared interest. We’re confident they will forget they’re even writing.

Writing for social change

If your pupils are angry about parking outside the school or concerned about their local playground, harness their conversations and set up a training school for journalists in your classroom, using our brilliant NewsWise unit of work produced in partnership with The Guardian Foundation and the PSHE Association.

Older students might be starting to think about how to express their feelings of injustice through lyrics or performance and our Monologue Jam lessons are perfectly placed to support them with this.