Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Spies are like Writers

1. Kids like spy stories

When I was in Preston yesterday I asked 140 children if they liked stories about spying. At least 100 put their hands up. They named fiction series like the Gallagher Girls, Alex Rider, Jayne Blonde and Spy Dog.

I was in the school to encourage children to read for pleasure. And - through that - to help inspire them to want to write more.

I normally work using sport to engage children with reading and writing, but, because I had a spy series out last year, I did some work with a teacher and class in Essex to create a literacy resource for children who are interested in spying.

2. How to create a spy ring

The Essex school and I created the Spy Pack. The Spy Pack is a toolkit for teachers to set up a spy ring in their school. Running a spy ring is fun. It also teaches children how to work together and be more observant.

But the Spy Pack's greatest impact is to enthuse children about writing.

3. Writers are like spies

There are six writing workshops in the Spy Pack. Each teaches a spy skill. One session is about reading body language, another is about bugging a conversation, another about creating a false identity.

This is how writers are like spies:

Creating a false identity = character development
Bugging a conversation = writing realistic dialogue
Body language = showing what people are thinking and feeling, not telling

That is the general idea. That anything you train your spy ring to do as spies is also teaching them how to write more effectively.

The pack is set up in a way to make it secret, exciting, special and with lots of physical activities that will help engage the children.

4. Intelligence

Several schools have used the Spy Pack. It's free.

One teacher who used it said: 'I was approached by a year 4 teacher telling the good news that all of the year boys in my Spy Ring had increased their reading levels. With the lowest gaining 6 months rising to 2 years and 6 months. This was fantastic news.'

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