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.

Getting Started

In this section we have highlighted a number of things we feel are important to consider when starting to plan a place-based project.

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.

An example of a stimulus and student activities

To help get you started we have outlined a simple activity that our teachers used with their groups. Here are some suggestions based on a local story - that of floods.

The Letter

The following tasks are based around the narrative prompt of a letter from the local council informing a householder that they must vacate their property.

The Corporation of Wales
Corporation Street
Your ref – 015367/B7

Dear Householder,
        As you are aware your property is in an area that has been flooded many times.
Despite attempts to improve the situation the Corporation has been unable to improve the flood defenses.

As a result of which you are formally requested to leave your home by 9:00 am tomorrow morning.

You will be collected on a Corporation bus and taken to emergency accommodation. Due to space restrictions you will be allowed to take with you one suitcase and one small item of carry on luggage.

What you choose to bring is your choice. Basic foodstuffs will be provided.

I understand that there might be some in our community who may be troubled by the contents of this letter, in which case you are urged to attend the meeting at 8:30 pm this evening in the Community Centre.


Brian Spicer

Developing the Story

You can use ‘melting freeze frames’ to go through a series of reactions as parts of a story begin to be explored

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?


For some students the act of creating a response to a story and re-scripting the story from within it is easy. For others it is more difficult. Here are some suggestions to support students’ to get going with their script.

In pairs

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.