The writing framework criteria for Year 6 is hardly the most inspiring document in the world, and that’s a massive understatement. Indeed, the teaching of literacy (and grammar, in particular) is one of the ‘driest’ aspects of the English curriculum.

Of course, the creativity and imagination of teachers never ceases to amaze. One of the main benefits for teachers practising their craft in the digital age is that it’s now much easier to network and share great ideas.

One such great idea – and a superb way to boost literacy skills and engage pupils – is the ‘Lost Pens’. The brainchild of Adam Parkhouse, a primary school teacher and deputy head from Norfolk, Lost Pens even has its own Twitter account – and teachers up and down the country are turning to this highly imaginative concept for inspiration.

The ‘Lost Pens’ shows the value of gaming in the classroom

Tapping into the interests of pupils, such as incorporating elements of gaming into lessons, is nothing new in itself – but rarely has it been done as effectively as Lost Pens.

The Year 6 writing criteria is dry and dull, but this Upper Key Stage 2 teacher has managed to transform it into a fantasy game.

The classroom is transformed too. Kids enter in September to find writing scrolls on their desks. Over the course of the coming months, pupils are set various challenges and are trained to become ‘masters of the pen’ in the fantasy land of Calligra.

Kids battle monsters with their writing. They fight to snatch back the lost pens from the clutches of the evil baron, so that they can achieve victory by finally holding the gold pen aloft in their own glorious grasp.

It’s the world of the game that the kids believe. In reality, they are being led skilfully through the Year 6 writing framework and finding their own voices as writers at the same time. The kids see Lost Pens as a crucial part of English lessons, on a par with reading or spelling.

The story of the Lost Pens

Lost Pens was conceived in 2016 as a way of addressing the revamped writing framework and enabling pupils to cope with the increased focus on punctuation.

Crucially, Parkhouse aimed to do so in a positive way by tapping into his own passion for gaming and the pupils’ love of fantasy characters and stories.

Various writing features, from the correct use of tense to fronted adverbials, are assigned points and pupils, as with many games, have different levels to progress through. Along the way are various rewards and incentives that can be earned.

The impact has been remarkable, with standards improved and reluctant writers engaged. The concept has evolved but has become a significant part of Parkhouse’s teaching. The teacher himself is unassuming and decidedly modest about what he has managed to achieve.

All in all, it’s an inspiring story of how successful teaching approaches can be when the focus is on being creative and imaginative, but is still rooted in developing vital skills – as Lost Pens is.

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