Writing Maps

Many of the best science fiction stories later become real life. Pre-eminent science fiction writer Jules Verne predicted the fax machine, and scientific sage Arthur C. Clarke foretold of a globe-spinning network of communication satellites.

The science fiction genre is full of possibilities, and one way to help children explore its creative potential is to use the Rising Stars’ writing maps, which offer simple picture prompts for story writing.

Science Fiction Writing Maps for KS2 is one of six new resources that promise to spark children’s imaginations, encourage talk and foster collaboration. Other resource packs tackle Adventure; Familiar Settings; Legends and Traditional Tales; Mystery; and Historical writing genres.

Each pack contains three A2 colour writing maps – all based on the same theme – with spelling, grammar and punctuation examples on the reverse. An A2 story planning poster, teacher’s book, and a CD-ROM containing maps and story templates are also included.

The teacher’s book is the place to start as it details how to use writing maps as part of a creative, six-step teaching sequence: Heads up; Jump in; Step back; Heads down; All together now; and Branch out. The steps aren’t necessarily anything different to what you might already do, but they are catchily titled and provide a sensible and logical structure to follow.

Each step contains a rich variety of openended ideas. They are not intended to be prescriptive lesson plans, rather things to consider and activities to try.

Step three takes you to model texts and these well-written narratives offer discussion points that centre on structure, settings, characters and vocabulary – although I was a bit surprised to see they hadn’t been differentiated for less confident readers. From here there are scenario cards on offer to use as possible starting points, as well as complication cards which encourage children to think about how they might weave problems into their stories. Children could easily add to these ideas themselves. Overall, the teaching notes are very comprehensive and include ideas for crosscurricular activities, drama tips, research activities and prompts for further reading.

The maps themselves are a triumph. They each take children to a different scenario and are full of wonderful illustrations rich in colour and detail and ideal for prompting chit-chat, idea building and flights of fancy. The illustrators commissioned to produce the art work for this series have all come up with something special – from the inside of a secret volcano base to a mysterious maze with hidden treasure. They can’t fail to spark creative conversations. You can show the maps as actual physical maps, or on the interactive whiteboard.

Anything missing? Well, I would like to have seen a video of colleagues using these resources and children’s reactions to them. If they have been tried and tested, then seeing is believing and also a great way to inspire their use.

Our Verdict

Verdict: take a flight of fancy

Stephen King once said that, ‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot’. The writing maps will encourage both, but these aren’t resources for dipping in and out of. They are to be used with stamina over a school year.

Using the maps as a springboard, children will be able to create their own worlds, write with imagination, and produce texts that sequence ideas within an appropriate structure for different purposes and audiences. They say writing is a lonely job, but this doesn’t apply when you are writing in a primary classroom with critical friends galore and resources like these to hand.

Pie Corbett