Agentic Writing across the Primary Curriculum: Using Dramatic Enquiry in a Community of Writers

Tom Dobson and Lisa Stephenson, Leeds Beckett University

National curriculum changes in England (DfE, 2013) and the accompanying testing of technical aspects of writing (DfE, 2015) have created a situation where the teaching of writing “has been objectified” with children “alienated from writing” (Lambirth 2016: 230).At the same time, there is a strong evidence-base indicating that the use of process drama to make “imaginary worlds” (Fleming, 2003) as well as the creation of a “community of writers” where the teacher writes with the children (Cremin and Myhill, 2013) can make the process of writing more meaningful for children.

This small-scale partnership project, located in a local primary school and in partnership with the Alive and Kicking Theatre Company, focused on training Key Stage 2 teachers to use process drama to make writing more meaningful for children across the curriculum.A wide range of data was collected through observations of taught lessons as well as the children’s and teachers’ writing journals and their reflections on the processes involved through both interviews and writing.

Data has been analysed using discourse analysis and thematic coding - initial findings pertain to three key areas:

Analysis of the children’s writing demonstrates that the use of process drama can give children more agency with their writing and overcome the problem of alienation.

Analysis of observational data and the children’s reflections demonstrates that engagement with process drama and a community of writers approach can help promote confidence in themselves as learners by providing them with an authentic voice.

Analysis of interviews with teachers and observations of their developing practice highlighted some key tensions between creative pedagogies, mandatory testing and teachers’ individual biographies.

For more information please contact either Tom Dobson[email protected]or Lisa Stephenson [email protected]