I'm going to start by saying that I am a huge fan of Pie Corbett. If you have never read or used his Talk for Writing methods, then get over to his page (http://www.talk4writing.co.uk) right now and don't come back until you have read the whole web site - all of it!
Pie Corbett’s approach to literacy is fantastic and I was lucky enough to work for a while in a school which fully embraced the T4W approach. However, word hasn’t completely got out yet, lots of schools are still not quite on board with his methods and I think this is a real shame (but I will talk more about that in another blog post).
The basic idea behind T4W is that children need to be able to say words before they can write them; they need to approach their writing knowing they can draw on internalised structures and rhythms. Having a bank of stories and pieces of writing to fall back makes writing so much easier for children to start their own work.
Before I worked as a teacher I had my daughter (still have her in fact!) and sometimes at the worst possible moment she would demand a story, and not just any story, I wasn’t allowed to tell her the three little pigs from memory, she wanted new stories she had never heard before and they usually had to include her name. I would always start the story in the same way. ‘Once upon a time…’ the stories I would have to make up on the spot and tell her were surprisingly similar to the stories I read and had read to me growing up, there was the 3 little Jessica’s and the big mummy, who tried to put them to bed but they hid in huts made of straw, sticks and stones, sound familiar? Or the story of the little, cute, Jessica who wandered through the park on her own to see her friend but on the way met a big bad school teacher (again before I was that big bad teacher). All these stories had lots of storytelling language and structures.
I didn’t know it at the time but this way of story-telling is very important for children, they need to learn by heart these stories to later produce them on their own.
It is worrying when parents would rather give their child an iPad or let them watch TV than read to them but we as teachers can’t control this, we can control how much story telling children receive at school and that is important.