Product reviews for Opening Doors to Quality Writing

Christopher Findon, English Subject Leader, Alder Coppice Primary School -“ Testimonial for the Opening Doors to Quality Writing series' ERA 2017 submission
Opening Doors, rather marvellously, succeeds in doing exactly what its title claims. The resource not only opens doors for the educationalist reading it for the first time, realising that teaching English can be so much broader and adventurous than one thought imaginable, but it opens the world of reading and the joy of beautifully crafted language and worlds that children might never otherwise encounter.

The resource innovates upon traditional methods of teaching for expectation and differentiation. Rather than set challenge as an extension of normal learning, Bob rightly shows that challenge should be the expectation for all. By using questioning in an inverse of the norm, that is to ask the most challenging questions first, children are engaged and given scope for higher-level thinking. And this applies to a range of texts, including the classics advocated by this resource. By asking the question, -˜Why was the alchemist's family his most precious memory?' of a visual text in which the central character had spurned his family, my children engaged on an entirely different level.

Impacts are seen very quickly with these Opening Doors techniques: children across the class, whatever their perceived -˜ability', made superb progress. By placing the emphasis on the children and giving them access to high quality texts, and through questioning, the children's reading and writing blossomed.

All this is surprisingly easy to implement too; it requires some changes to thinking, but feels natural and in tune with the natural state of discovery, learning and exploration.

With learning as the central goal of teachers and children, this resource provides a powerful way to unlock the power of reading in our children and, with that, their creativity, command of English and their ability to fashion meaning.

In the case of my class, we used a high quality text to open the lesson. The children were filled with wonder at the language and the spectacle of it. Once this was established, I launched what Bob calls -˜javelin questions': the most challenging questions first. In so doing, the learning and excitement for learning was immediately apparent. Then, without any further tasks, the children were given the chance to complete a piece of creative writing, with the text as the basis.

The power of language was unlocked for my children. One child opened a short narrative piece with, -˜Once there was an alchemist: he gave up his family for riches,' containing a sinister foreshadowing of a story in which a wife unwittingly follows in the footsteps of her husband, burning cherished memories for wealth and power. Concluding the passage with, -˜Once there was an alchemist; she gave up his family for riches,' uses a powerful repetition that added gravitas to a tale, something unlocked by looking at high quality texts. Uses of metaphor occurred naturally (a burning, black demon crawled along the floor) and the internal rhythm of the tale was enhanced through exploring the rhythm of texts.

Using the term -˜Excellent responses will-¦' for the expectations ensured that all children were able to aim for a goal which was set at the highest level, ensuring progress for all.

This powerful resource gives teachers a highly impactful set of strategies for making a tangible difference to the children in their care. A school that embraced these strategies, and spent the time working them into the fabric of the school, would find itself and its children opening doors for many years to come.
Guest | 17/02/2017 00:00
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