Author Archives: Neil Phipps

Slower Writing, or A Game of Consequences

This post is crossed-blogged from


So, I’ve got a group of Year 10s who have a Controlled Assessment to complete. They are bright, targeted mostly Bs with a couple of As and Cs in the mix. We’ve been looking at different stories and analysing effective techniques, and today my aim was to push that deeper into their own writing and reflection.

Inspired by @redgierob and his¬†Literacy Shed Story Starters, and @Learningspy’s Slow Writing task (, the lesson went thus:


I placed A4 sheets of paper around the room, each containing only the first line of a story. The pupils had two minutes to read them all before standing at one. I then issued an instruction: they were to only write the next sentence of the story, and that had to be a complex sentence. Cue inevitable discussion about different types of sentence. The pupils had to really think about this one, before we moved on.


Once they had written their first, they moved onto a second sheet: here, the instruction was to begin with an adverb. On their next sheet, three simple sentences all under four words long. The next sentence had to contain some character point or detail, and be a compound sentence; and so on. I gave them 90 seconds thinking time at each sheet before asking them to commit to paper, which felt like a really long time, but they could have actually taken longer, as the task became more complex the longer the stories became.


After a lot of pondering, some clarification over sentence types and some discussion over clues in the text, the pupils then chose one final story for themselves. This sheet was the one they evaluated, wrote feedback on and discussed as groups and then as a class.


The lesson finished with them then taking the principles they had learned this lesson and writing the opening for their story.


All in all, it was an interesting lesson which threw up some surprising discussions about genre, immersing the reader and when writing needs to be tight or loose. Hopefully the pupils’ work will improve as a result!



Killing them softly

This week I entertained some Year 6s from nearby primaries. I have the group for the afternoon sessions with the objective being to train them somewhat into becoming journalists before we all put together a newsletter for a forthcoming Community Day.

Simply, the afternoon had the following format:

The group arrived and I introduced myself and the Year 10s who are helping out. We were due to speak to a fellow English teacher about her experiences in journalism, but when we got down to her classroom the site was not what we expected!

In the middle of the room lay the body of Miss Ellis! The look on the faces of the pupils was fantastic. There followed some discussion about how, as journalists, we should report this matter and what kind of things a journalist does. It was quickly established that we would need to work with the facts and speak to people to answer the four basic questions: who was she? What happened? Where did it happen? How did it happen?

I’d cued up some staff to help. The class broke into three teams. One returned to the crime scene to think about what photos are required; one team visited a friend of the victim who wanted to gossip but also had some valuable information about who she was; and the final team visited a co-worker who saw someone acting suspiciously before the crime. The teams went off to find this information before returning to the classroom to discuss the facts so far.

Another member of staff was cued to enter as the class were preparing their articles and considering what information was still required. This staff member delivered some information from the police and the class shared what they knew in return. They still were desperate to speculate, but had to keep reminding themselves that this was not their job.

The session ended with them selecting some good photographs and writing up their articles in teams. A short session such as this one worked, but already we are talking about how we can expand on this basic idea in the future and bring the Science department in for some forensics work.

I know staff in other schools who have done similar crime projects in the past, but this was my first time. It was surprisingly simple, yet completely engaging for the pupils and I look forward to expanding it further across a range of lessons in the future!

PS It was the chocolate killer wot did it.