When it comes to the provision of online/remote learning resources, especially in my subject English, I know I am hard to please. And so I should be. So should everyone, who cares. It has to be more and better than simply providing tasks that have loads of things to do and bright colourful pictures and so on.

I have already been critical of the English work provided by Oak National Academy, an organisation soon to benefit from around £5M of government [our!] money to continue its online provision. Difficult to access resources in their entirety [to get past a test, for example], my observations so far are on what I have been able to see – this corroborated by other like-minded English teachers. But I won’t revisit that now.

This next is an online provision I came across today, advertised on and therefore promoted by the GOV.UK. site. This resource for ‘creative writing’ is an image with writing prompts, these [well, again I’ll admit, I’ve only seen this one] providing poor examples of writing style as well as promoting the interminable ‘remember to use a few semi-colons in your writing’ meaninglessness that has been spawned by the devil of Key Stages 1 and 2 English SATs.

Anyway – here is my take:

chicken armour

It was definitely the time. It was time to ask questions. Simple questions in simple sentences.

‘What fucking scroll?’ the chicken asked anyone who was listening. ‘And who put this fucking armour on me? I’m a fucking chicken!’ the chicken complained. ‘I could tell you why I crossed the road if you asked, but I have no idea why I have been semi-anthropomorphised.’

No one answered; no one was there: only semi-colons and colons dotted about the field like unwelcome intrusions for visual effect.

‘That isn’t a ‘knot’ in my stomach,’ the chicken complained further, ‘because apart from being such a boring clichéd expression, we all know it’s because I’m being made to wear fucking armour around my poultry stomach – that’s a chicken’s stomach which isn’t meant to be constrained by clothing, military or no.’

The chicken was working up to a major diatribe.

‘And what is this nonsense: bright rays of morning sunlight glistened and danced across his midnight black armour? Who the fuck thinks light can ‘glisten’ or ‘dance’ on black? Black absorbs light. I know a chicken dressed in armour is the really serious mismatch here, but if you are trying to encourage students to write descriptively and perhaps even evocatively they should also be encouraged to write believably. It’s not like the description is meant to be a paradox. It’s the use of a varied vocabulary for the sake of it rather than meaning or impact.’

Those were the last words of the chicken. He was struck in the head by an arrow. In his armourless head. Right smack in his metaphor.


Could I do better? I think so. I’d be happy to have my and fellow writer Martin Phillip’s Writing Workshops material posted online for free access, including the Teacher Resource [already available for free download] as well as all of the book’s video and extension materials. The work in this book is all about treating students as writers and providing carefully considered advice and suggestions. It is also diverse and, we’d like to think, engaging.

But that would be a commercial decision beyond our control. Published by Cambridge University Press, it would require a lot of work, and external funding, to re-purpose for free distribution.

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