If you have been inspired to have a go at a place-based writing project in your own schools and communities, this section includes advice and ideas from the teachers and pupils involved in Building a City of Literature.
The teachers in our project worked with a range of students. Which group of students will you work with, and how?
- Is there an existing group who’d be interested, such as an after- school club?
- Can you work with a whole class as a scheme of work?
- Will you invite pupils to participate, perhaps focusing on a specific group who you feel would benefit?
- Or will you offer an invitation to a year group?
Here, our teachers share their expereinces and advice on working with student groups.
Ask your students to think about some of the places they know and their history with that place. Here are some questions to focus on in this stage:
Where is our place?
- Identify a focus. Where are the interesting places or local landmarks in your local community? Or on the site of the school, perhaps?
- What urban legends might the students know about? Are there any that are linked to the school site, or its history? Are there any linked to specific places in the community? What might be behind these stories?
- Where are the places where people hang out? Why?
- This discussion could lead to lots of different ideas – do any stand out as relating to shared experiences? Any some people didn’t previously know about? Any that spark an interest to find out more?
Here, the teachers tell us how they thought about researching community.
Where are the stories?
Once you’ve decided on a place to explore, who can tell you more about it? Think about how you might work with:
- Community groups
- Local history groups (these are growing in many communities)
- Family members
- Long-serving staff at the school (not just teachers!) Perhaps alumni?
- Sometimes a story based on a particular place is easy to find and then script. At other times it might need to be worked at.
How do we get to the stories?
Sometimes a story based on a particular place is easy to find and then script. At other times it might need to be worked at.
Here are some ways the teachers and creative practitioners on our projects found ways into their story about place.
A letter arrives on your door step –
Frame 1: You open it.
Frame 2: It tells you that you will have to leave your house in the morning
Frame 3: It tells you there is a meeting tonight
Freeze frames can lead in to a role play based upon a particular local issue or event.
For some local stories there will be the opportunity to role play reactions to it, as in the following example –
Student Task in groups of 2/3/4
You are a family
Decide your roles
Roleplay your reaction to the letter
This could then allow the following ways in to a particular local story –
Hot seat the head of the corporation
Role play a family’s reaction
Teacher in role as the leader of the forum
What would you take in your suitcase?
One student silently reads the flood letter
Their partner speaks their thoughts
A character with a dilemma (eg – do I stay in my house?) has two voices trying to persuade them what to do.
A character with a dilemma (do I stay in my house) walks through two lines of students who give them advice (with reasoning) for what they should do.
Across the room from “Not Very” to “Very” students stand in a line in response to the question “How concerned are you about flooding in the area?”
Could be spoken / written. A character states what decision they have come to and why.
Two students in a circle (eg Corporation leader and a resident) engage in dialogue. Other students are stood around in a circle. If they see an opportunity to develop the dialogue they clap, the two actors freeze, the Clapper steps in, taps one on the shoulder (who returns to the circle) and the Clapper resumes the dialogue with their new ideas.
Students have a range of local photographs / images which they provide captions for and then justify to others.