The Wonder of Wordplay

I recently had the pleasure of conducting a workshop on Wordplay and its important role in growing writers. Here are some of the messages I was able to share with participants. Trust they add to your thinking around the teaching of writing...

Wordplay is such an omnipotent thing. It is unavoidable. Conversation, songs, TV shows advertisements, literature , greeting cards, brochures magazines and newspapers all employ word play abundantly. Everywhere we go, it leaps out at us.

In many schools however the study of words, has over time, been shrunken down to mean little more than reading and vocabulary knowledge. And yet, I still recall my teachers encouraging me to play with malapropisms, oxymorons, listen for tautology and wonder at the mystery of invented words in Lewis Carroll's poem 'Jabberwocky.' I recall the fun we had creating rhyming couplets and discovering palindromic words. At home, my father regularly engaged me in wordplay and riddles. There were also a fair smatt…

Growing Into Writing

I love to write. I need to write. For me it is a siren voice within. It calls me back if I stay away for too long. I try to write something every day, but it is not always possible. I write most days even if its just a few lines. Other days I write for more extensive periods. The easy flow of words brings an inner rush of contentment.

I keep my writer's notebook close by -always. It travels with me when I leave the house. It is a travelling companion. Wherever I go in this world, it goes with me.  My notebook is my collection zone. A place where I trap and collect potential writing ideas. Ralph Fletcher once wrote that keeping a notebook enables the writer to drag a huge net through their life in order to gather rich details. My notebook therefore contains many ideas. Initial drafts, lists, experiments, quotes, words heard, tentative and fragile beginnings.

I also write on a computer situated in my study. I am surrounded by my favourite books. The support of my fellow writers is clo…

Writers Make Decisions

Nothing influences a child’s attitude to writing more than the choice of topic. If the child is given control over topic choice and if the teacher displays genuine interest in that choice, then there’s usually no limit to the effort the young writer will make. Young writers who are given this power soon develop confidence in choosing appropriate topics for their writing. They are engaged in thinking and preparing for the writing that follows. This represents the foundations of writer agency. It is a demonstrable act of confidence in the child's capacity to think, decide and act as a writer.

Sometimes I hear teachers say, ‘They’re (student writers) not good at choosing something to write about.' 
The logical starting point is, ‘How do we assist  inexperienced writers to develop this aspect of their writing?

Actively teaching student writers how to make good choices, showing them how to identify a suitable focus for their writing, choosing the right genre/s and harvesting ideas are…

Answering Questions Posed by Young POETS

As a frequent visitor to schools I have the great pleasure of working with groups of young, enthusiastic poets and their teachers.

When I arrive in a classroom, young poets are often pre-loaded with questions, and most keen to have them answered.  I try to answer as many as I can, but we frequently run out of time, and the poetry caravan moves on to the next classroom. So I am here to answer some of those questions -right here, right now.
So here goes:

When you were little did you love writing?

The short answer is yes. I have always enjoyed words and language. I can't recall a time when I wasn't doing some kind of writing.

When did you write your first poetry book?

I have had poems published over the years, but it wasn't until 2014 that I had an entire book of poems (an anthology) published. When I looked back through all my notebooks I realized I had hundreds of poems from which to choose. So, 'Searching For Hen's Teeth-Poetry From The Search Zone' became my first c…

A Great Writing Habit: Rereading Your Writer's Notebook

I am forever rereading writing pieces from my notebooks. I greatly appreciate how much rereading older entries assists me in discovering a new idea to feed this writing life addiction. Virginia Woolf defines rereading as a chance to find diamonds in the dust-heap. I find myself frequently covered in dust and constantly looking for precious gems.

I am acutely aware that rereading is vitally important to me as a writer. Apart from the possibility of finding a new writing thread, I am also reliving the moment in time when I first captured a particular entry. On some occasions rereading connects me with previously over looked memories or ideas. So apart from reading to revise or proofread, I would also add rereading for the express purpose of excavating ideas. This rereading is akin to rummaging through a toy box as a child and discovering a lost treasure. It works best when I leave some time between the writing and the rereading. Often i deliberately chose an older notebook to spark my t…

A Dash of Inspiration For Young Writers

Student writers will never be motivated to write if they are simply told to write more. Imploring them to be passionate as writers, or insisting they add more detail to their pieces. Merely hanging charts on the classroom walls and hoping kids notice them, wont do it either. It is difficult to teach writing from a safe distance. 

It is critically important to be involved; to understand both the challenge and joy that writing brings. Writing is a problem solving process. Developing writers need someone who can work with them, to show them how rather than tell them what to write.

To ignite a genuine desire to write within students requires the establishment of a writing community. This community must be seen as a collaborative venture and students must be warmly invited to join. Teacher and students must join together in undertaking a learning journey that aims to develop the capacity and confidence of every writer within that community.

When trust builds among student writers and their te…

The Social Purpose of Writing

Sometimes there is a disconnect between the issues discussed in the classroom, and the writing students choose to devote their time too. Many of these issues have relevance to young writer's lives and would make suitable topics for writing, but are too often not deemed worthy of their attention. Social action writing is therefore rarely chosen.

Writers workshop works best when it is underpinned by student writers having choice of topic and form. Sometimes however the choices they make are informed by their peers, movies, games and television programs and may exhibit all the stereotypes and bias that comes with territory. Sometimes their topic choices are guided by the status it will conceivably attract. Gender stereotypes may also be entrenched in the choices they make. Sometimes their writing choices are limited by experience and a lack of confidence in moving out of a perceived comfort zone.

Researcher, Barbara Kamler, 1993 makes the point- 'Young writers do not operate freely…