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Writing on location

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By Brian Mosesauthor and poet

Writing on location can bring the sort of insights to written work that just aren’t possible in the classroom, says Brian Moses

Starfish are golden stars having a break from the night sky (Rachel)

This wonderful idea from Rachel came out of an exploration of rock pools during a class visit to the beach, where we found stranded starfish waiting for the sea to sweep back in. It is a perfect example of the quality of work and creative writing which can arise from time spent writing on location.

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Before you go out and about, equip the children with a strategy for making notes. Go through the senses and find words and phrases that link with each one. Eg, how does the place make them feel?

Consider the writer’s techniques – similes, metaphors, personification. Are there connections between this location and somewhere they’ve visited in the past? That is what writers do, they make connections. If the day is calm, then contrast it with a previous stormy occasion. Imagine what it would be like by night, or at a previous time in history.

The Sea: Other times it’s greedy and ravenous, snatching stones in its jaws as well as snatching lives of men. (Rhys)

Had Rhys not observed the way in which pebbles are drawn back down a beach by the sea, then he may not have written in this way, or made an effective connection via the word, ‘snatches’.

Hook the reader

Once words and phrases have been collected, consider how they might be used to best effect. Whether it is poetry or prose, the children’s writing will be all the better for an intriguing opening line; one that reaches out and hooks the reader.

Anastasia described the sea as:

A relentless whisper in my ear. That’s so right, and again, she had to be there to write like that.

Katchi’s first line was rather enigmatic:

The sea hates people for their dreams. He went on to write about the sea as a destroyer of dreams if anyone challenges it.

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