Extending Student Writing Beyond Popular Culture Choices

s When the inexperienced student writer chooses to write about topics and ideas that might objectively be viewed as being-lightweight, violent, saccharine sweet or even banal, we must reflect for a moment where these writers draw their inspiration. We tend to write what we know and it is particularly true of our youngest writers. 

Despite our very best efforts to expose and influence students in the direction of quality literature and the mindful use of well-chosen mentor texts, (across different genres) we often find ourselves confronting a battle with the strong influence of popular culture and its heady appeal to impressionable young minds.

Kids who have limited reading experience often have little else upon which to call. We therefore encounter young writers undervaluing their own ideas; their own lives and experiences as potential for writing. They are more likely to defer to films, video games, television shows and pop music for inspirational uptake. 

It is hardly surprising that so…

Some Strategies For Improving Student Writing Outcomes

One of our primary aims as teachers of writing is to assist the inexperienced writer to narrow the gap between their intentions and actions. 

Going forward there are some specific actions we need to focus on such as assisting students to develop writing stamina and experience success. 

Here are some issues that may arise with student writers and some suggestions as to how we might assist them to overcome these obstacles to writing success.

If I see this… I might Strategies A student is just going through the motions with a writing piece. Assist the student to unearth topics to write down that provide genuine reasons for writing that go beyond just writing. Listing, gathering ideas, gathering artifacts. Talking to other writers. Students essentially write about the same topic time after time. Talk with students about other reasons that writers write. Consider writing about the topic in a different genre. Nudge them to try something that will move them beyond the comfort zone they have developed.

Effective Editing In The Writing Classroom

We know inexperienced writers make errors. We also know experienced writers make mistakes. Learning cannot take place without some level of error occurring. The challenge is, how do we equip our student writers to identify errors so they can effect the changes necessary to improve the quality of their writing pieces?

Children do not become better writers by writing less, and this is the possible negative outcome from an over emphasis on correction.

Correction is beneficial when students see the need for it. When they have an authentic purpose for the writing they are doing, they engage in the process with purpose and a desire to make the writing they share, work for the reader. They begin to respect their readers and understand their needs. This awareness of audience is a vital consideration.

The pen that makes the corrections must be in the hand of the writer, not the teacher. When the teacher assumes the total responsibility for correcting errors related to spelling, punctuation or gra…

Gathering Stories-The Writer As Mindful Meanderer

'The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page.' 
This quote is attributed to St Augustine and it sings to me. Especially now.

Following a time of sustained sadness for our family with the death of a close friend, it is time to undertake some travel that is not only informative, but equally, restorative. In the dark times it is important to look out into the world and notice what is human and magical and alive with promise, despite the dark days that may have surrounded you.

So with such true words ringing in my ears, it's time for some mindful meandering. It's time to seek out some brightness and shake things up a bit and embrace any available joy that may present.

As a writer I am very much aware of the special gift that travelling brings a writer. It turns each of us into storytellers. Therefore it is important to take a break every now and then and just go somewhere. Leave behind your life and all its baggage for a short time and travel to a new pl…

Kids,Teachers -Take Your Writer's Notebook With You!

'Writing needs to be seen as a reward, not a duty. I look forward to creating words on the page. This desire to write creates the discipline.'
Igniting Writing- When A Teacher Writes,’ Alan j Wright

When recalling these words, I find myself considering them in the context of the winter term break for Australian schools. It presents as a chance for students and teachers alike to step away from the learning that characterizes classroom time and restore themselves a little. It is time to focus on things that may have been on hold, to take a break, to visit a place or catch up with a friend. It may represent a chance to resume an on-hold project, or you may be planning to relax and indulge in some activity that feels just right. Something that literally slow the pace of your life down for a short period of time. You may go exploring or have an adventure or special trip planned to fit neatly into the break. It also represents a chance to do some reading and writing.

It present a chanc…

The Power of Writing Conversations In The Classroom.

Quite some years ago I found myself talking to a group of enthusiastic grade one students who were keen to commence their writing pieces. As they stood up from the carpet to return to their seats to commence their writing, I realized that the spark of imagination that would fire my own writing ideas had suddenly snuffed out. The students all seemed fired up and ready to create the miracle of meaningful marks on paper. At that precise moment, I was bereft of writing ideas

In that moment I felt completely blank and couldn't conjure up a single thing to write about. I was trying to will my brain into action. Writer’s block had descended upon me like a damp, foggy mist. It was rare for this to happen to me, but suddenly I found myself having to deal with it. I had so wanted to sit among these enthused young learners and write for those initial minutes of their independent writing.

A small boy stood beside me at this critical moment and said, 'I’m going to write about the first time …

When Writers Go Word Gathering

I once told a class of eager young writers that it was important to learn to eavesdrop and gather snippets of conversation and potential writing ideas.

One boy began to frown before telling me how his parents had informed him that listening to other people's conversation was not something he should not be doing. "My parents said it was bad manners to listen to other people's conversations.' 

I pondered his words before offering a response,' Well, your parents have given you very sound advice, however writers have a special license enabling them to listen.' -It was all I had at that precise moment. I wanted him to be assured that I was not advocating eavesdropping for any kind of nefarious reason, rather it was for a very good purpose- improving our writing. He remained unconvinced it seemed.

Eavesdropping can prove a life source for any writer. Ah yes, a word whispered here, an utterance there, and all within the reach of alert ears and a pen poised to write. As …