Students get creative in just 100 words a week


A weekly creative writing challenge launched by a retired Bristol headteacher has attracted more than 8,000 entries from secondary and primary schools over the last academic year.

Keen to encourage children to enjoy creative writing, Julia Skinner started the 100 Word Challenge blog for under-16s in 2011.

It proved an instant hit with teachers and pupils alike. During the first week of the challenge she received 60 entries and the figure rapidly built to hundreds per week – from schools as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and Canada. She then recruited a team of 50 teachers to moderate and comment on the children’s writing, using strict guidelines.

During term time (38 weeks of the year) Ms Skinner posts a weekly writing prompt on the 100 Word Challenge website and asks youngsters to write a creative piece of 100 words. The children’s work is then posted on their class blog and linked to the 100 Word Challenge blog.

“By setting a limited word count with a focused theme and a guaranteed audience beyond the class teacher, children have far greater motivation for writing,” explained Ms Skinner, who was a primary headteacher for 13 years and is now chair of governors at a pupil referral unit.

“Reluctant writers feel safe with only 100 words to write, while more advanced writers can really extend themselves with the word restriction. The challenge appeals to children right across the ability range and I have had the privilege of reading some amazing pieces,” she added.

Some teachers set the challenge as homework and encourage their pupils to comment on other youngsters’ work. Others include it as part of their literacy classes.

Over the coming year however, Ms Skinner is keen to see more secondary schools taking part. “I would like more entries from older children,” she told SecEd. “It’s the ideal exercise to do in 20 minutes, perhaps during tutor time or as a writing activity.”

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