I’ve been experimenting recently with silo collaboration; that is, collaborating without direct contact. This has been done before by me in terms of rotational marking, where my class sit in a circle around desks, and have a minute to read and add one improvement to a piece of work before passing it on. This has worked brilliantly for me, and was highlighted by the ease to which two new pupils fitted in with this aspect of our class culture – everybody shares, everyone can improve.
I took this one stage further last week by trialling some rotational writing. The children chose a genre of writing, then wrote down a simple spine plot (both these concepts had previously been taught). I divided them into genre groups, and then Sitting in these groups, they begin their first sentence of their story. They then passed their paper and plot to the person on their left, and added a new sentence. They carried this on, in the heat, with a quiet concentration, for over fifty minutes. Every so often, their own story would arrive back to them, and hey would read through it, adding or changing words/phrases.
What resulted was a rich set of stories from the children, as well as some really satisfying collaborative work without any of the usual gripes. The quality of the writing was better than normal (generally), and there was also a lot more attention to plot structure than I normally observe. In fact, there was so little for me to do, they were so much in ‘flow’ that I joined in and started writing my own story!
I’m reminded when thinking about this about how we sometimes need a jolt in our linear thoughts to make new connections, in the way that you might solve a crossword with someone else. By encouraging the children to write together separately, they had heir own story extended, their own writing critiqued and also read other children’s writing.
Note: Pupils are aged 9. We worked outside in outdoor classroom, but had to move twice, and at one point Reception came out and started picnicking right next to us. My class barely noticed.