Carshalton Boys Sports College has been on a journey of school improvement over the past decade, including a new focus on literacy.
Drawing on the pupils’ growing passion for reading, a class of Year 8 students took part in our recent Alex Rider Secret Mission competition, which challenged students to write their own adventure story. Successful entries would win £200 worth of books for their school, an iPad and books vouchers.
Literacy Coordinator Emma Morris found out about the competition on Twitter and was excited to introduce it to her class. “It fitted in well as many of the boys had read, or were currently reading, the Alex Rider books," she explained. "It also tied in with a unit of work on adventure stories. The 500 word limit meant the competition was accessible to all, even less confident writers, and it was also boy-friendly.”
While the class was full of passionate readers who understood the importance of reading and attainment aall subjects, their attitude to writing was not as enthusiastic and few of the boys wrote outside of their school work and homework. Yet the popular Alex Rider theme gave them clear motivation to participate and many of the boys were highly engaged with the books.
“I like them as they use descriptive language and describe how the characters feel and they have unexpected twists," said one students. "They are also accurate in the things they describe – like the space station in Ark Angel. You can tell they were well researched.”
The competition was introduced to the class with a brainstorming session on the elements that make a good adventure story. The class read the opening of Stormbreaker together and were introduced to Anthony Horowitz’s story starter, which some of the students chose to use in their entries. While still fulfilling requirements of the National Curriculum, having a new audience and purpose for their writing provided a real drive for students to produce their best work.
One of the pupils commented:
“It makes you want to write better. Your teacher has seen your writing before and knows what to expect but this is different.”
The boys at Carshalton Boys Sports College submitted a collection of enthusiastic entries, full of descriptive language and intriguing characters. Emma also shared that many are writing more as a result of the competition and producing high quality work that will have an impact across subjects.