“Boudicca was a tall woman, assassinating everyone on the battle field. She would wield a sword and a spear. Every day, her army would increase by dozens and millions. It was as if her soul was consumed by the darkness and she would not stop until her empire was global. Her heart was a black hole and her soul was armoured to the point of indestructability. She was ruthless: she would sacrifice half her army to win a battle.”

C, Year 4.

Yesterday, my children were asked to write a description of Boudicca in their literacy lesson. We have spent ages focussing on so many of the technical elements that the children don’t get the time to think about the words. So, yesterday was an opportunity for the children to show off their vocabulary, choosing the very best words they could for their work. My goodness, did they rise to the challenge. I have to say, the quantity of work produced by the children wasn’t as much as usual, but they made the most of the chance to show off. Once I started writing out their “wow words” to put on the wall, the stakes were raised even higher. It turned into a competition for some, vying to find the best word.

The young man who produced the piece above (we’ll call him C) is a bit of a reluctant writer. He likes to ponder, so much so that he often doesn’t have time left to write. He gets himself in a state if he doesn’t know what to write, and falls into a downward spiral of negativity which usually ends in tears. He’s a bright boy, with amazing general knowledge, but he often has a classic case of writer’s block. But something yesterday clearly resonated with him. The spelling wasn’t great, and the odd full stop was missing, but his head was down for the entire lesson, pausing only to share word after fantastic word.

For the first time, we had introduced the concept of Purple Learners in the lesson. I had asked the children to rate their effort from 0-10 and to say whether they were in the comfort, challenge or panic zone. Amazingly, C gave himself a truly well deserved 10, after having spent the whole lesson in the challenge zone. Yesterday’s task just showed what can be achieved when a child is completely engaged in his task.  However, while C thought this task was amazing, others struggled. It is never going to be possible for every task to suit every child. This is where it is important to know your children: for them to be engaged, they need to be enjoying the task, so you need to suit as many of them as possible. And for those whom the task doesn’t suit, they need to be supported. Strategic use of adults can help to praise and motivate those who might be lacking enthusiasm. It’s amazing what some recognition, a smile or a sticker can do to help with a struggling child’s self-esteem and to get them back on track. Knowing C, I have a feeling he might struggle more with tomorrow’s Slow Write, as he finds regimented structure difficult (in more ways than just his writing). I want to continue the high he will have from reading the comments on his work (and from being Star Writer), so I will make sure that I focus on is group for the lesson. I hope that C will realise the potential I have been telling him about for weeks – perhaps I will carry on my Roman-related writing for just a little longer!

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