Enthusiasm

Writing for Fun by Young and Ferguson

There is a lot in this book for busy teachers once you get past the dense academic openness, writes Louise Quinn, but too few examples of her recommendations put into practice.

As an English teacher, for many years I found myself both puzzled and frustrated by the lack of high quality writing instruction in classrooms. Too often I see writing presented as a task rather than a process, without effective explicit teaching despite the wealth of strong evidence regarding effective writing teaching.

So I was delighted to find that in Write for fun, Young and Ferguson set out to deliver just that, but with an alternate slant. The authors synthesize the global research in a pedagogy which advocates the importance of affective domains (feelings, emotions and attitudes) as well as an explicit quality teaching. Regarding the latter, they also want to underline its dual role of influence not only on cognitive development and academic success, but also on the way children approach the writing process with confidence, pleasure and enthusiasm.

As a fan of writing and proofs, I have found most affiliations with the summary of Young and Ferguson’s meta-analyzes of the types of writing instruction useful. They then integrate these findings into observational studies of outstanding writing teachers in different contexts. Together, these two sources of evidence are synthesized to create 14 interconnected principles for effective writing instruction.

The principles can be broadly grouped into teacher expectations and teaching methods (goal setting being the most effective practice); children being part of a collaborative writing community; promote authenticity, fun and motivation; and, finally, the development of self-regulation. Collectively, and when used successfully and flexibly, these principles have the potential to develop children and their teachers as lifelong writers.

After an overview of the evidence, the following chapters of Write for fun then continue by taking each of the 14 principles individually to dig deeper into their finer details. Throughout, Young and Ferguson strive to show how each principle is rooted in evidence before discussing their different facets, offering a list of practical strategies, and asking a few thought-provoking questions.

This structure makes the content of the book very accessible, but for me it was a source of equally high and low (plus) points. As a busy teacher, I welcome practical strategies, but I would have liked to see many more examples than the case studies provided by the authors.

When looking to implement educational advice, examples are always crucial

When looking to implement teaching advice in the real classroom, examples are always crucial, no matter what the topic. This is especially true because of the wide range of contexts in which teachers operate, and nowhere is more true or more important than when it comes to writing.

And because the evidence the book explores comes from such diverse areas of research, including self-regulation, cognition, and affective domains, it is all the more necessary for readers to have a real sense of what people look like. recommendations when meeting with groups of students. .

I found the sections on setting writing goals the most engaging. Their focus on the fundamentals of good writing – purpose, audience and genre – echoes a message common to any research synthesis on the subject. But what did Write for fun to stand out is the depth of its exploration.

Another particularly interesting section examines what constitutes high quality feedback and the controversial issue of how to provide it. I was surprised to read that excessive written comments can actually hurt writers in terms of enthusiasm for writing. Supporting the recent trend towards verbal and whole-class feedback, Young and Ferguson offer student lectures – essentially a one-to-one or small-group discussion with a teacher – as an effective and efficient alternative to overly heavy compositions. . This reflects the latest Orientation Report from the Education Endowment Foundation and gets a boost from me!

Write for fun is initially quite dense in academic content and theory, so it is not for the faint hearted. But it is worth reading. It comes to life when I dive into each individual principle and, as someone reasonably well versed in the proofs of writing, it has certainly challenged my thinking.

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