.1. If the children are unused to writing activities start with a
game from the first few of SIMPLE STARTS.
.2. Make sure that AT LEAST ONE ADULT is going to be able to give
ALL their attention to the workshop.
.3. For all games involving writing it's important to be seperate
from other play activities. At the simplest this can be achieved by
sitting at a table in a corner, or building psychological barriers
with tables to define the workshop's area; by forming queues for
floor games; by creating verbal barriers by explaining to
sightseers the distraction they are causing - how this hinders
those writing and makes their own wait to play longer; and by
making lists so that interested children can go away until its
All these strategies have one aim: to reduce the
pressure of external distraction on the child and assist their
.4. Though with proper staffing and arrangement of the environment
all the games can be played in open spaces, if you intend to play
any games other than the simplest it's worth trying to actually
isolate the workshop.
This is because the general noise and movement are disruptive and make
writing harder than neccesary and so less enjoyable.
Isolation could mean a seperate room or a corridor blocked off by a table.
We've worked in large cupboards, changing rooms, kitchens and toilets.
A standing joke is that the Project got its name from always working in
windowless rooms. Most children appreciate the "special" nature of the
seperation and enjoy curious environments.
The main problem is tourism.
Working children will usually support you in sending away disruptive
visitors, but the harm may be already done. If you judge that
tourism will be a potential problem, try to get a room that either
has no direct access from the main play area or that is supervised
for other reasons, like a kitchen. Or try to get a room
with a door. I have had to rehinge and hang a
youth club door to achieve this - but it was worth it- the
resulting calm inside made the room different from anywhere else in
the club and appreciated, especially by the girls, for that very
In any case, it's usually helpful to start a list and let it be
known that only those on the list will be invited in. While you are
stimulating interest or while behaviour presents no problems you
can always leave the door open. If sightseers start preventing
others working then you can put them out and close the door,
explaining that they wouldn't like interruption if it was their
turn, that it's delaying their turn, that there are lots of other
places to shout and run, etc.
.5. If you find that circumstances cannot be controlled, which will
be rarely if you've sorted staffing and space out properly - play
a simpler game.
.6. Proper staffing for a workshop which is mostly brain work and in
which many may have additional difficulties with the manual skill
of writing, depends both on the game and environment. But to
encourage well thought out work, to give the level of assistance
that will overcome language and spelling difficulties, to actually
pass on skills involved in crafting a piece of writing, the ratio
of adult to children should not be above 1 to 3. This is because
each child must feel that what they are saying is important, that
they are not struggling unnecessarily with the mechanics of grammar
or even letter-formation, that they are being encouraged and
assisted to make their own decisions. This means listening, trying
to let their own words become the poem, offering possibilities,
choices of style, shape and direction.
To achieve this you need to restrict the numbers to as many as can be
treated properly, but they will write with greater ease and concentration
because of the respect and attention, and will finish their poems sooner
and with more pleasure than they would struggling on their own, and this
means that a steady stream of children can pass through the
workshop at the speed of their individual requirements rather than
being left, unavoidably, to their own devices as would happen in a